Total beginner here. I have a board setup that an app I'm using to learn described as a "checkmate" -- see below (the white pawn just moved below the rook and is threatening the king):

enter image description here

If I were playing black, I know I cannot capture the pawn with the king, as I would placing my king in check.

But: Why can't I use the rook or the queen (right next to the threatening pawn) to capture the pawn and get out of the check?

For example:

  1. Keep the king where it is.
  2. Use the rook to capture the threatening pawn.
  • 19
    Note that there is a specific Stack Exchange site for Chess. Mar 17, 2019 at 17:27
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    Chess is also a boardgame and we welcome these questions here.
    – Pat Ludwig
    Mar 18, 2019 at 4:34
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    @DavidRicherby True but it has long been decided that chess questions ARE still on topic here, as chess is a board game. The same is true for Poker questions which also have their own SE. So long as the questions fit other conditions for being on topic they belong here too.
    – Andrew
    Mar 25, 2019 at 14:23
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    @Andrew I never suggested that the question is off-topic here. All I did was point out the existence of a specialist site. I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition. Mar 25, 2019 at 14:35
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    Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!
    – CT Hall
    Mar 27, 2019 at 21:11

5 Answers 5


Yes, you can capture the attacking piece with any one of your pieces, as long as you get out of the check.

But in this case, the king is also attacked by the rook. So, you are checkmate.

  • 9
    The real question is how did you get into this situation. I almost think the rook was already there but the both of you missed it. By the way, I like it that you try to learn this game. Mar 17, 2019 at 15:27
  • These are simulated cases ;) I'm using a free Android app called "Chess Tactics Pro" which consists of chess "puzzles" on 3 different levels of difficulty. The case I described in this post is level "easy", puzzle no. 14. The idea here was to end the game in a single move.
    – lesssugar
    Mar 17, 2019 at 15:31
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    @ToonKrijthe presumably the pawn got to where it is by capturing a piece (although why it wasn't captured before that point I can't explain ) Mar 17, 2019 at 16:35
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    The position would make some sort of sense if the pawn was previously on g6 and captured something on f7. Black pxg6 on the previous move doesn't fix the problem, since if white retakes with the rook on g1, either black will soon lose his queen or white can play qh5.
    – alephzero
    Mar 17, 2019 at 18:53
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    @PeterA.Schneider You do not want to play until the king is captured because it muddles a key rule of chess: You are forced to move your king out of check and into a safe position if possible. By introducing this new rule, you allow moves that may be otherwise illegal, such as moving the king in to danger or failing to escape from check. It does nothing to clarify the rules for beginners, but would actually introduce further confusion. Mar 19, 2019 at 16:09

This is called a double check. You're checked by both the pawn and the rook. Blocking, or capturing with a piece other than the king would only deal with one of those problems, so the only ways to deal with double check are to capture with the king (which you can't, here, because the pawn is protected) or to move the king some other way (which you can't, because both squares you could move to are covered by the bishop).

Double checks are very powerful, because they can only be dealt with by moving the king, and you don't have to cover much to prevent the king from being able to do that.

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    Capturing with the king moves it, so I wouldn't consider those separate options.
    – jpmc26
    Mar 18, 2019 at 11:25
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    @jpmc26 I they're distinct enough to be worth a separate mention, even though one is a special case of the other. Mar 18, 2019 at 11:50
  • I'm not disputing that. However, the important aspect of the capture is the fact that it moves the King to a safe location. I think that wording it as a separate option de-emphasizes this fact, which reduces the clarity of the answer. I was suggesting being more explicit about the relationship between the two.
    – jpmc26
    Mar 18, 2019 at 16:09
  • @jpmc26 OK -- I've edited to "capture with the king [...] or move the king some other way." Mar 18, 2019 at 16:21
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    Worth noting, I think, that "double check" is not a special concept in the rules of chess. It's rather a useful name players have come up with to describe a situation that falls out of other rules. If the king is attacked by two pieces at once, either it is checkmate or the king must be moved. This is not because there is any specific rule about what to do in double check, but simply because we can show that any other choice would be illegal, based on the usual rules about check.
    – amalloy
    Mar 19, 2019 at 0:03

enter image description here

I've marked up this board a bit to show why this is checkmate, showing all the attacks that make it one. Lets go through them one by one:

  • The pawn - The black king is currently in check by the white pawn on the diagonal. The king would need to move away, or the pawn be taken to remove this.
  • The rook - The black king is in check because of the white rook at the bottom of the same column. The king would have to move out of that column, another piece would need to block, or the rook be taken to remove that check.
  • The bishop - The black king can't move into the corner to get out of check because the white bishop is threatening that square.
  • The knight - The black king can't take the pawn to get out of check by the rook and pawn because the knight is threatening that square.

There's no single move here that will get the king out of check. If the pawn is taken by another piece, the rook is still holding the king in check. If the king moves to the corner, out of check by the rook and pawn, he is now in check by the bishop and if the king takes the pawn, moving out of check from the rook at the same time he is in check by the knight.


There are three ways to get out of check (including checkmate). You can...

  1. Run away
  2. Block the check
  3. Capture the checking piece

There are two checks here (pawn and rook). If the king runs to either empty square, the bishop (and in one case, the rook) can capture. If the king captures the pawn, the knight can capture. That takes away #1.

You can block the rook check (with the queen or bishop) but not the pawn check. That takes care of #2.

You can capture the pawn (with the rook or queen or king), but you can't capture the rook, so that takes care of #3.

So, it is checkmate.

If the white pawn wasn't checking, or if the white knight couldn't recapture, it wouldn't be checkmate (you could block the check or take the pawn with the king). If the white rook wasn't checking, it wouldn't be checkmate (take the pawn with the rook or queen). It takes both checks in this case to produce checkmate.

This is a rather complicated checkmate. In my experience, most beginners would not be able to understand it, nor would they be able to find the move that produced it (the pawn capturing something to give check, which also produces a discovered check with the rook). Don't give up on the game because the app gave you a rather nasty position. Most real life chess is simpler than that.


For total beginners, it may be best to play chess without checks and just play to capture the king. Whoever captures the king first wins, even if your king is being threatened.

I say this because it is difficult to understand check at first and playing until the king is dead is the same as playing chess regularly, except if you were to miss a move that kills the king or someone accidentally puts themselves into check on their move.

In this case, there is no place the king can go or capture that won't be captured next move. King takes pawn, knight takes king. King moves to long black diagonal, bishop takes king, Something else attacks pawn, rook takes king. Something blocks rook, pawn takes king.

  • 1
    While this may not be how chess really works, I also find that, when I coach chess and have beginners (especially kids, but not only kids), the concept of capturing the king does make a lot more sense to them. I do mention that the game stops before the king is captured, but when they ask me if it is checkmate, we look at every possible move to see if the king gets captured or not, and the kids then decide if it is checkmate or not. Mar 19, 2019 at 13:13
  • @DavidRicherby The answer does claim more than that, but he is a new poster here (and on other stack exchange sites), so I'm being nice. Besides, he's a better chess player than I am, and while I can help beginners by simplifying the game, once the question gets too far advanced, it is up to better chess players than I to answer, so I want to encourage him to stick around Mar 19, 2019 at 13:42
  • Kaiwen, your second point was better than the first, and deserves to stand on its own. You may want to edit your answer and cross out the first point so future readers don't get confused, and let the second point be the main point of the answer. Mar 19, 2019 at 13:50
  • Sorry for the misinformation, I haven't played with those rules since I was a kid, and it was not with FIDE (it was either in CFC or USCF) at locals where arbiter's might not exactly follow the rules 100%. I have changed the post to reflect this. Mar 20, 2019 at 12:15

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