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Check and Checkmate in Chess

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What is a check?

In the game of chess, any move of a piece that attacks the opponent’s King is called as a Check. Similarly, if an enemy piece attacks your king, then your King is in check.

One important point worth noting is that of the 16 pieces, any of the 15 pieces only can enforce a check on the opponent’s King and the Chief piece, the King cannot directly enforce a Check on the opponent’s King. If it attempts to do so, the opponent king will simply capture the attacking king immediately and the game is lost at once by the attacking king.

The immediate response for a check enforced on the King should be to protect the King and all other things need to wait before the check is released.

An attack on the King can be tackled in any one of the following three ways.

  • Move the king to a safer square away from the check
  • Place a different piece in between the king and the opponent piece that enforced the check, or
  • Either capture the attacking piece by the king if it has no other consequences or use any of the other pieces to capture the attacking piece of the opponent, wherever possible and feasible.

A check need not be enforced by a direct attack on the opponent’s king all the time.  There are other means of enforcing a check on the opponent’s king.

Discovered Check

A Discovered check results when you remove a piece that has been standing in between an attacking piece or a checking piece and the opponent’s king.  In such cases, the checking piece or the piece that attacks the opponent’s king has not been moved from its position.  Another piece, which was standing between the King and the checking piece, is removed, and thus a Check is enforced on the opponent’s King.

Double check

Another form of check is Double Check.  The double check comes about when the unmasking piece also gives check.  In that way, the opponent king is attacked from two pieces, one by the piece that opens up the check from the other square, and the unmasking piece itself.

When a double check is enforced on the opponent king, the opponent player has to move the King only and the two other options discussed earlier would not become applicable, as the King is attacked from two sides.  As such, Double Check is a unique form of check in which only the King has to move to a safer position.


What is a checkmate?

A checkmate is a stage in chess where, in response to a check, the King has no squares to safeguard and has to succumb to the attack.

When the King could not be moved to any square away from the attack, he is said to be checkmated and that is the end of the game, with one player emerging winner over the other.

Checkmating the opponent is the strongest move in the game of chess as it wins the game for you against your opponent.