What is Castling?

Castling is a special move in Chess which allows players to move their King out of the Centre of the board into a safe place, protected by Pawns and a Rook. This rule has existed in it’s current form since the 1600s.

Kingside Castling

Queenside Castling
(with Kingside castling in the distance by White)

How to Castle?

Castling involves the moving of 2 pieces; your King and either of your Rooks. You should pick up the King first and move it. Then, with the same hand, pick up the Rook and move it; as shown below.

Castling on the Kingside
Castling on the Queenside

How do I prepare for Castling?

You need to have completely empty space between your Rook and King. It will take several moves to clear the space for Castling.

There cannot be any pieces (of either colour) between the Rook and the King. It is NOT possible to capture a piece during the Castling move.

Are there special rules for Castling?

The following 3 rules can stop you Castling temporarily (for a while).

You cannot Castle while you are in Check

The King is in Check so is not able to Castle out of Check

You cannot Castle into Check

Trying to Castle (by putting the King onto G1) in this example would put the King in Check. It is against the rules of Chess to move into Check.

You cannot move your King over a square which would be “Check” if he landed on that square

The F1 square is being attacked by the Bishop. The King is not allowed to travel over that square while Castling.

The following 2 Rules permanently (for the rest of the game) Limit or prevent Castling.

You cannot Castle at all for the rest of the game if you’ve already moved your King.

This is an easy rule to understand. If your King has made ANY move already in the game (including having Castled with the other Rook already), it cannot Castle.

This King has already moved from it’s starting square (E1). White is not allowed Castle for the rest of the game.
Castling is not allowed even if the King is return to it’s starting square.

You cannot Castle with a Rook you have already moved for the rest of the game.

Moving a Rook means you will never be able to Caste with that Rook for the rest of the game.

“Am I Allowed Castle?” Checklist

  • Have I moved my King yet?
    • If the answer is Yes, you cannot Castle for the rest of the game
  • Have I moved my chosen Rook yet?
    • If the answer is Yes, you cannot Castle with that Rook for the rest of the game
  • Am I in Check?
  • Will my King Land into Check when I’ve finished the Castling move?
  • Will my King cross over a square that is being attacked during Castling?
    • If the answer to any of these 3 questions is Yes, then you are not allowed Castle at the moment, but this may change in a few moves

Tournament Tip

Castling is, technically speaking, a King Move. It is essential when you’re playing in any serious game of Chess with a real board and pieces where the Touch-Move rule is in strict enforcement (especially Tournament and League Games) that you remember:

  • Use 1 hand only to perform the entire castling move.
  • You touch the King FIRST and move it, then move the Rook.
  • Touching the Rook first can be correctly claimed as being a Rook move and your opponent can insist that you make a Rook move (instead of Castling)