According to the current FIDE Laws of Chess:

3.9.1 The king is said to be 'in check' if it is attacked by one or more of the opponent's pieces, even if such pieces are constrained from moving to the square occupied by the king because they would then leave or place their own king in check.

3.9.2 No piece can be moved that will either expose the king of the same colour to check or leave that king in check.

It wasn't always so.

When was it legally possible in a FIDE rated game of chess to have your king attacked by 3 of the opponent's pieces? Please give an example illustrating this.

  • A discussion of whether posts like this should be allowed on Chess Stack Exchange should be held on Chess Meta, not here. – Glorfindel Jun 14 at 9:16
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    @Glorfindel: Stackexchange policy is that it's courteous to explain downvotes. OP (also a moderator) explicitly asked for an explanation of the downvotes. My comment should not have been deleted. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jun 14 at 20:15
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    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft comments are temporary notices. Thanks for posting your motivation; I assumed the OP read it and deleted the entire comment thread before it went south. – Glorfindel Jun 14 at 20:21

On the first and third pages of the post that seemed to make the world go crazy on the subject, there are a few given historical problems that feature the "legal" triple check along with historical details. It even made a recent appearance in Episode 20 of "The Chess Pit" at the 12:13 minute mark.

The dubious wording of the law in question goes back to the 1984 FIDE Chess Congress, where it was put was put in place. This is indicated by the wording "one or two" first appearing in the 1985 laws of chess. (Many thanks goes to user @Stephen for pointing this out in the comments section below)! You can see for youself in a copy of the rules from from 1985 itself in this PDF from the Chess Arbiter's Association website.

Beforehand, the 1980 laws merely stated "The king is in check when the square it occupies is attacked by an enemy piece." Even this could considered an ambiguity if one literally interpreted "an" meaning exclusively one piece therefore making it "legal" to leave your king in a double check, although this arguement is reasonably dismissive. It's no wonder why they later changed it to "one or two," but that still was ambiguous enough, forcing them to later change it still!

Later on in 1988, at least a few people had realized the possible implications of the new wordings, as indicated by a 1988 problem that was sent in to a lettter to "CHESS Magazine", which was briefly called "Pergamon Chess" at the time, that was published in the June, 1988 issue. What's interesting is that the composer Robert Norman is from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, which is far away from the UK in which the CHESS Magazine is created.

[Title "Robert Norman CHESS Magazine June 1988, White To Move And Win"]
[FEN "1n5k/1r6/5K2/4Q1Pb/8/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. g6 Nd7+ 2. Kf7+ Nxe5++ 3. g7+! {White exposes themself to a triple check, therefore not technically being in check at all!} 3... Kh7 4. g8=Q+ Kh6 5. Qg7#

Thanks to Jonathan Bryant over on Twitter, we can actually have a full view of Robert Norman's letter in its original publication.

enter image description here

The EG Magazine reprinted the problem in their 1989 issue, and said this about the problem: "Definitely an oddity. Ridiculous, irrelevant, amusing or disturbing, as the reader chooses."

This problem is a rarity online, it seems. Here are two more links to it.

1-A Dutch blog dedicated tp bizarre problems

2-A Robert Norman obituary

A few years later, the idea again appeared in CHESS Magazine in the column "Addicts Corner" by Richard James and the late Michael Fox. Some of the text from the issue was found preserved in an old Google archived forum, and here is said text. At that time, the magazine was branded as "Maxwell Macmillan Chess."


Right, N. Short, J. Speelman, J. Nunn, and the rest of you clever clogs. Break your heart on this: White: Ke3, Qb2, Ne5 Black: Kh8, Re8, Rg8, Ba7, Nb6, Pg7, h7 Black incautiously played a double check 1...Nc4+?? How did White crash through to victory? Admit it; you're baffled. Deduct one hundred Elo points [and read on]:

Dead easy. White gets out of check by 2 Nf7 mate. Yes, it's perfectly legit. Consult Article 9.1 of the laws: "The King is in check when the square it occupies is attacked by one or two of the opponent's pieces..." It says nothing about a threefold attack, so White's move takes him out of check..."

[Title "Kevin Thurlow, CHESS Magazine Febuary 1992"]
[FEN "4r1rk/b5pp/1n6/4N3/8/4K3/1Q6/8 b - - 0 1"]

1... Nc4+ 2. Nf7#!

It seems that Kevin's problem spread like wildfire and FIDE finally got wind of it, as Tim Krabbe's joke castling problem did, and the wording was soon changed the modern "one or more" as we know it. You can find various references in the English Chess Forum by Kevin Thurlow to his problem. Stewart Reuben, who was part of the rules commision at the time, helped fix the wording after Kevin rediscovered the idea.

So, from 1985, when effect of the 1984 Chess Congress rewording of check was changed to "one or two," a king could possibly be left a in a legal triple or higher check in a FIDE rated game until 1993, when the new laws of chess came into affect with the new wording of "one or more," after being changed in the 1992 Chess Congress, as can be seen in the 1993 laws.

There were actual effects on chess competition though other then these joke chess problems. There exists a chess variant called "Bosma Chess" that was created in 1993 by R. Bosma. The Dutch problemsit also noticed the wording of the FIDE laws, so he incorporated it into fairy chess. In Bosma chess, a king is not in check if it is attacked three or more times. An example problem is given for Bosma chess that utilitzes underpromotion to get the point across.

[Title "Henk Le Grand, 1st Price 151th Thematoernooi Probleemblad 1993, Mate In 2 Moves Under Bosma Chess"]
[FEN "7K/1NRNkP1R/5p2/b1P2B2/2n5/8/8/3q4 w - - 0 1"]

Fast foward to 2008, 30 years after Robert Norman's problem, a variation of it appeared in a heavily obscure and long dead blog in a post entitled "In the twilight zones of chess rules" (a post about many old loopholes in chess) by IM Jens Kristiansen, which was created from vague memory of the problem. that is as beatiful as the original and worth showing.

[Title " Jens Kristiansen, Far Off Chess 12/13/2008, White To Move And Win"]
[FEN "7k/rn6/5KP1/p1p4b/8/8/8/7R w - - 0 1"]

1. Kf7 Nd6+ 2. g7+! Kh7 g8=Q+ Kh6 4. Qg7#

That is the overall known history of the "legal" triple check. Of course it is ambiguous as to whether not it could actually have ever been considered legal since it could be argued that one or two checks are included in three checks under the letter of the law. The aforementioned EG Magazine from 1989 also brought that asepct of the arguement: "The argument is that check by three men is not check. Well, one can easily counter that check by three men includes check by two and is therefore covered (not 'specifically excluded') under the Laws, which do not need to be changed." But it appears to have been enough of an ambiguity to change the wording of the law, which definitely says something about it.

Whether or not you would consider it as legal, the idea was and still is an amusing and hilarious nitpick at the exact wording of the laws of chess.

In the comments below, @bof has pointed has enough affects that the triple check would have on other laws. Although somewhat covered already in a scattered manner ih the English Chess Forum, it doesn't hurt to have a section here that explores it as well.

When the king is exposed to a triple check, it temporarily becomes a normal piece with the special right of castling. That means it can castle out of and into check, along with being able to move next to the enemy king, so long so as it is protected. Otherwise, it could be "captured," since that is one of the three legal ways to get out of check. Here are some examples of each.

The idea of moving one king next to another is fully allowed within the laws in question, and checkmate ends the game right away, so it will be accounted for and luckily, all past problems abide by it as weli,

Castling Into Check

[Title "Mate In 1"]
[FEN "8/8/8/8/8/7n/5Rrp/2k1K2R w K - 0 1"]

1. O-O#

Castling Out Of Check

[Title "Mate In 2"]
[FEN ""]

Moving Next To A King

[Title "Mate In 1"]
[FEN "8/1p6/4r3/RK1kN3/3pp3/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. Kc6#

Here is a fun bonus. On page 3 of the chess forum a user asked if a quadruple check could be done, which I managed to do, but later I found a way to do a quintiple check!

[Title "Mate In 4"]
[FEN "1RnkBB2/8/8/4K1Nr/4N3/6R1/1n5q/bQ2r3 w - - 0 1"]

1. Qd3+ Nxd3+ 2. Ne6+ Kxe8 3. Nf6+ Kf7 4. Rg7#

Additionally, here is a problem where the key is the remove two of the checks for mate as sugggested by @supercat in a comment.

[Title "Mate In 1"]
[FEN "8/7B/3B2NK/8/5k2/6P1/5Q2/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. Ne5#!
| improve this answer | |
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    What would be even more amusing would be a position in which the key move was to checkmate someone from a triple-check or quadruple-check position by removing all but two of the checks. – supercat Jun 13 at 17:48
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    The “one or two” pieces version of Article 9.1 is already present in the 1985 edition of The Official Laws of Chess, so it goes back at least as far as the 1984 FIDE Congress. (The wording of Article 9.1 in this edition is the same as the wording shown in your answer, except that the entire phrase “checking the king” is in quotes, rather than just the word “checking”.) – Stephen Jun 13 at 17:51
  • With white king on f6, black king on h8, black queens on g8 and h7, would 1. Kg7 be mate? Is there a rule that explicitly forbids capturing a king? If not, would it be mate if we added white rooks on a8 and h1 and a white knight on f5, so that black can't capture the king without putting his own king in check? – bof Jun 13 at 23:24
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    @bof Your idea of putting the king by another king is a valid thought that I had earlier in the English Chess Forum, but I do not think that it would stand even if the legality of a triple or higher check stood. This is because the triple check is a clever loophole based on the spirit and goal of the game, while the idea of putting kings next to each other is not. I am open to any counterpoints though. I'll ask a new question regarding it. – Rewan Demontay Jun 14 at 4:31
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    But, well, not putting king next to king isn't a special rule, is it? It's just a special case of not exposing your king to attack. If you can leave your king under attack by other pieces, why can't it be under attack by the enemy king? – bof Jun 14 at 4:48

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