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All about Castling in Chess

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One of the special moves in the game of Chess is the “Castling”. Not only is “Castling” special in that the King is allowed to move two squares in a single move, it is the only move in Chess where two pieces of the same color are moved at the same time in a single move. Is this not a special case? The other piece involved in Castling is the Rook, either on the queen-side or on the king-side.

Some basic conditions, however, need to be fulfilled in order to effect Castling. The primary requirements for castling are –

  • 1.The king is on the original square and has not moved – White king should be in e1 and black king should be in e8.
  • 2.The rook with which you want to castle is on its original square and has not moved – For white, queenside rook at “a1” and kingside rook is at “h1”. For black, queenside rook is at “a8” and kingside rook is at “h8”.
  • 3.The squares between the King and the Rook with which you want to castle are free and not occupied by any other pieces.

If any of the above conditions are not met, Castling cannot be done during the course of the game permanently.

Once the above conditions have been fulfilled, you can resort to Castling, either on the queenside or on the king side.

If you are using white pieces and prefer to do the Castling on the queenside that is with the rook at “a1”, then the king at “e1” will be moved to “c1” and the rook will be moved to “d1”. In Chess Lingo, this is referred to as “castling long”. The notation records this castling as “0-0-0”.

Instead, if you prefer to do the castling on the kingside that is with the rook at “h1”, then the king at “e1” will be moved to “g1” and the rook will be moved to “f1”. This kingside castling is called as “castling short” in chess lingo. The notation for this castling is “0-0”.

In addition to the above primary conditions, some minor conditions are there that will not allow Castling for a brief period.

  • You cannot castle in reply to a check. That is, if your opponent attacks your King with a check, then you cannot reply that check with a castling.
  • Castling cannot take place if the destination square of the King, upon castle, is under the attack of opponent’s piece.
  • If there are any pieces in between the King and the Rook, castling cannot be done. However, if those pieces are removed, you are free to do castling.

Now comes the vital point. Is castling compulsory or only optional? Why should one castle in the first instance?

Castling is a means of protecting your King. You might be aware that the primary objective in a game of chess is to checkmate the King of the opponent. The greatest mobility in the game takes place at the centre of the board, while the mobility is somewhat less in comparison to the centre. Since the King is at one of the central files, he is likely to find himself in the crossfire of the enemy pieces. By castling, the King is moved to any one of the sides and is adequately protected. Another important reason for castling is that the move opens up the Rook and brings it to the centre.

It is advisable that Castling is done at the earliest possible period, preferably as part of the opening moves, to have better control over the game, while at the same time, providing safety and security to the King from enemy attacks.