# What is the theoretical limit for the number of consecutive checks?

The known record for the longest sequence of consecutive checks (i.e. white checks, then black checks on the next move, white checks next, and so on) in a legal position without promoted pieces, is 37. See this article on Tim Krabbe's site entitled "Check!"

Is there a theoretical limit for the length of such a sequence, or is a repetition possible, allowing checks forever?

• hebdenbridgechessclub.co.uk/category/problems-and-compositions gives a legal position (with promotion, though) with a sequence of 53 moves. It's not a proof, but given the effort that has gone into it, I'd say there is some hard limit (i.e. no infinite cycle).
– Eiko
Sep 29 '16 at 8:04
• 54 half-moves is far more than I would have expected. It is unlikely that it can be broken. Moreover the other answers deal with pieces that do not exist in chess and one answered missed that neither the fifty-move rule plays a role nor it is not sufficient that ONE side gives checks (which would make the question utterly trivial). Apr 8 '19 at 18:01

37 is the record so far without promoted pieces.

``````[Title "Giuseppe Ponzetto, Torre i Cavallo 1993, 37 Consecutive Checks"]
[FEN "4r1Q1/B2nr3/5b2/8/4p3/4KbNq/ppppppp1/RR3Nkn w - - 0 1"]

1. Nh2+ f1=N+ 2. Rxf1+ gxf1=N+ 3. Ngxf1+ Bg5+ 4. Qxg5+ Bg2+ 5. Nf3+ exf3+ 6. Kd3+ Nc5+ 7. Qxc5+ Re3+ 8. Nxe3+ c1=N+ 9. Qxc1+ d1=Q+ 10. Qxd1+ e1=N+ 11. Qxe1+ Bf1+ 12. Nxf1+ f2+ 13. Ne3+ f1=Q+ 14. Qxf1+ Qxf1+ 15. Nxf1+ Re3+ 16. Nxe3+ b1=Q+ 17. Rxb1+ axb1=Q+ 18. Nc2+ Nf2+ 19. Bxf2+
``````

A comment says that the record with promoted pieces is 53. However, according to Tim Krabbe's Diary Entry #387, the record is actually 54.

``````[Title "Alexey Khanyan Sampsa Lahtonen, Tim Krabbe's Website Diary Entry #387 2013, 54 Consecutive Checks"]
[FEN "5q2/2q1pn1B/R1Q1R3/1B2r1B1/1q1k1Knq/rr5Q/B2NPN1N/3Qb1QQ w - - 0 1"]

1. Qb6+ Rc5+ 2. Qd6+ Nxd6+ 3. Bf6+ Nxf6+ 4. Nfg4+ Qf2+ 5. Nhf3+ Kd5+ 6. e4+ Nfxe4+ 7. Nf6+ Nxf6+ 8. Be4+ Nfxe4+ 9. Qf5+ Nxf5+ 10. Rad6+ Nexd6+ 11. Bc4+ Nxc4+ 12. Re5+ Nxe5+ 13. Nc4+ Qfd2+ 14. Nxd2+ Rf3+ 15. Nxf3+ Qd2+ 16. Ncxd2+ Rc4+ 17. Bxc4+ Qxc4+ 18. Ne4+ Bd2+ 19. Qxd2+ Nd3+ 20. Qxd3+ Nd4+ 21. Nf6+ Qxf6+ 22. Qf5+ e5+ 23. Nxe5+ Rf3+ 24. Nxf3+ Qe5+ 25. Nxe5+ Nf3+ 26. Qd4+ Qxd4+ 27. Qe4+ Qxe4+
``````

I think that the theoretical hard limit is limited by which category you choose of promoted pieces allowed and not allowed. Additionally, the current records can be refined until only two kings and one piece giving check are left on the board.

In the aforementioned Diary #387, Tim Krabbe even remarks that "This is probably not the end to this task. The fact that in Lahtonen's 53 checks only 5 pieces remain in the final position and in the new 54-record there are 6, leads Khanyan to believe that if he could get this down to 5 pieces, too, he could add two checks and make it to 56. "56 checks in a row do not seem to me as being higher than the clouds!"

Additionally, just for fun, there are also records for discovered checks. Tim Krabbe's site is also the source.

As Krabbe first shared in Diary Entry #125, and later in #308,, the record without promoted pieces is 11 discovered checks.

``````[Title "Ottavio Stocchi, L'Echiquier 1930, 11 Consecutive Discovered Checks"]
[FEN "2R4B/3r2P1/4P2b/2N5/3k2BR/2N1n3/r1nK2bq/2Q5 w - - 0 1"]

1. g8=B+ Kc4+ 2. Nd3+ Bc6+ 3. Be2+ Nd4+ 4. Nxa2+ Nec2+ 5. Nf4+ Nxe2+ 6. exd7+
``````

In Diary Entry #366 the record for with promoted piece is given. The author's full name and source date from the Die Schwalbe Chess Problem Database.

``````[Title "Werner Frangen, Feenschach 08/1974, 17 Consecutive Discovered Checks"]
[FEN "B3R2B/1R1q3b/b4R2/RrNkPR2/4N3/1NbK2nr/B1rn3B/1b1r3Q w - - 0 1"]

1. e6+ Nxf5+ 2. Ng3+ Nf3+ 3. Nd2+ Rb3+ 4. Nxa6+ Bxa5+ 5. Rxb3+ Rc6+ 6. Rxb1+ Ke5+ 7. exd7+ Ne7+ 8. Ne4+ Nxh2+ 9. Rf3+
``````
• According to Tim Krabbe's website, Alexey Khanyan first acheieved 53, and then improved it to 54. The comment you mentioned may be about the first one. Jul 2 '20 at 6:48
• @RewanDemontay: The Stocchi game file misses at least a move Se3-c2, please correct! Also, I can provide you with my attempt at crosschecks, i.e. even no captures. Feb 5 at 9:19
• @HaukeReddmann Fixed! As for crosschecks, Khanyan has already done 9 discovered crosschecks, and 12 with all types, on SuperProblem.ru. Just scroll down a bit: superproblem.ru/archive/S_record-X.html Feb 5 at 15:11
• @RewanDemontay: THX for the info. I did 10 (w/o promoted): bambam42.de/problem/problem3.html Look under "feenschach" - or did I violate a condition? Or miscounted? Feb 5 at 17:29
• Post-Edit Edit: Somehow the diagram was botched, Bg5 Rh5 must be Bg4 Rh4. Also note I optimized crosschecks, NOT discovered checks, two moves are non-battery crosschecks. Feb 5 at 18:06

Another way to get an infinite series of checks is by using a fairy piece. Consider this position, except that the black piece on e5 is not a knight but a camel (a (3,1)-leaper). Then the given sequence of four crosschecks restores the diagram position with White to move. (Unfortunately the PGN-viewer can't display it because of the fairy piece.)

``````[Title "Infinite series of checks"]
[fen "1k1b4/8/8/KN2n1r1/8/6B1/8/1R6 w - - 0 1"]
[StartFlipped "0"]

1. Nc7+ Cb6+ 2. Nb5+ Ce5+
``````
• Nice position. Is it your own composition or did you find it somewhere? Sep 27 '16 at 9:54
• It's my own composition, but it has been known before that such a construction is possible. I saw one on the web somewhere, but it is not on the Tim Krabbé web page cited above. Googling for it failed to locate anything suitable, so I constructed this one myself. Sep 27 '16 at 13:27
• @RosieF: To my best knowledge, it was done first by Noam Elkies and it's even somewhere here on StackExchange (maybe math, not chess). Feb 6 at 10:13

Edit: This doesn't work because I forgot about discovered checks. However, I think this progress is notable, so I'll leave the answer here.

Repetition is impossible.

First, there obviously cannot be any pawn moves, castling or captures.

Next, I claim that there cannot be any king moves. To prove this, note that a king move can give check only if it is a discovered check. So, in order for a king move to give check, the two kings must be in a line, whether vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. Given the position of one of the kings, the set of squares the other king can be on so that it can give check is the set of squares in the same line with the king and not the same square as the king or the squares next to that square. No two of these squares are adjacent, so the king cannot move from one such square to another in one move. Note that squares A and B are in a line if and only if squares B and A are in a line, so once one of the kings moves, they are no longer in a line, so no further king moves can give check. So, there is at most one king move in the cycle, but if it were a cycle the king would eventually have to move again, so there cannot be any king moves.

Therefore, there cannot be any knight checks, or else the king would have to move or the knight would have to be captured.

Therefore, all moves are moves by pieces, which means they must all block the previous checks.

For any metric on the set of squares of the chessboard, suppose it is true that, for any set of positions for the kings K1 and K2 and any square A which is in some line (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal) with the king, any blocking square B cannot increase the sum of the distances from the square to each of the kings (that is, d(A,K1)+d(A,K2)>=d(B,K1)+d(B,K2)). Then the sum of the distances to each of the squares of the kings must remain constant throughout the cycle.

It is easy to check that the following metrics satisfy that property: d(A, B)=|row(A)-row(B)| d(A, B)=|column(A)-column(B)| d(A, B)=|slope1diagonal(A)-slope1diagonal(B)| (By this I mean number the diagonals that are parallel to the A1H8 diagonal from 1-15) d(A, B)=|slope-1diagonal(A)-slope-1diagonal(B)| (Same as the previous, but parallel to the other diagonal)

In fact, it is easy to see that, for any of the above metrics, if the blocking square is not within the two parallel lines of those metrics (e.g. for the first metric, within the rectangle with sides made by the rows of each of the kings, and columns the sides of the board), then the sum of the distances will decrease with the next blocking square. Which would be a contradiction, so the blocking squares are restricted to be within each of the bounding parallel lines.

If the two kings are on the same row, column, or diagonal, using the argument from the paragraph above shows that all blocking squares must be in that row, column, or diagonal, clearly impossible.

Therefore, if we view the king positions as two opposite vertices of a rectangle with sides parallel to the sides of the board, by using the first two metrics, all blocking squares must be in or on the bounding rectangle. Using the other two metrics allows us to shrink this to a bounding parallelogram.

Note that the only possible blocking squares are those that are intersections of the rows, columns, and diagonals through each of the squares of the kings because they must give check to the other king and block a check. It is easy to see that there are always 2 possible blocking squares in the bounding parallelogram: the other two vertices of the parallelogram. But then, if we have one checking piece in each (which is necessary), then there are no squares from them to move to to give check, contradiction.

With Nightriders (NN) (a classical fairy piece) and Rooks, there are positions with mutual perpetual check. A position was given by Arthur J. Roycroft in 1976.

(Formerly, I attributed it to this comment on chessvariants.org by H. G. Muller in 2012. The position is Black: Rb1, Rc1, Kb2; White NNa6, NNd6, Kb4; Black to move. Thanks to @RosieF for finding the reference to Roycroft, it was very recently added to the Schwalbe Problem Database.)

It is also possible to construct a mutual perpetual check with Nightriders and Bishops: Black: Ba2 Bb1 Kb3 (two Bishops of the same colour); White NNf8, NNh6, Ke6; Black to move.

• There has been a whole article on fairy perpetual check (grasshoppers work fine too, Circe also), but I don't remember where and when (I guess in "feenschach"). Feb 5 at 9:14
• Problem P1385725 at PDB shows this; its credit is Arthur John Roycroft, The Problemist, Jul 1976, p. 57, no. 3 after T. R. Dawson. Feb 13 at 11:05
• @RosieF Thanks for the reference, added it to my answer. Feb 13 at 23:33
• @jk-ReinstateMonica It so happens that I put it into the database. You're very welcome, ;). I also shared it here: chess.stackexchange.com/a/33883/15543 Feb 13 at 23:42

A player could be checked much more than 50 times in a row. The 50-move rule counter resets to zero after a pawn move or capture. If White was checking Black, then a pawn move could be used to deliver a check every 50th move. The other 49 checks would be delivered by some other piece.

Since each of White's 9 pawns can move 6 times, that's a potential of 6x8 50x8=2400 checks in a row. Similarly, Black could escape checks with pawn moves, leading to another 2400 potential checks. 30 pieces are capturable, you need one left to check, so maybe another 29x 50=1450 checks.

So how about 6,250 checks in a row being possible? I think I could contrive a very boring game with that number of checks in a row. As mentioned in a previous answer, you'd have to guard against threefold repetition as well, but I think that it would be possible.

Infinity is definitely possible because of the fifty move rule, which can only be wound back to zero by finite material leaving the board or finite pawn moves. Chess itself has a longest possible game.

• It wasn't spelled out in the question itself, but from the linked example, it seems the OP is interested in sequences of moves where both sides are checking each time, and is wondering whether it is theoretically possible to construct a position allowing an infinite loop of such mutual checks back and forth.
– ETD
Apr 9 '15 at 22:55
• @etd you got it! Apr 12 '15 at 22:46
• Do not consider the 50-move-rule. The question is a theoretical one. Apr 12 '15 at 22:47
• I see no reason for downvoting this answer. The question is vaguely worded that I couldn't get the OP's idea until after reading some of the answers. Anyone would understand "consecutive checks" as checks by the same side on every move. This has to be clearly stated in the question. Dec 18 '18 at 21:31
• It was the usual story: some people had a bad day and tried to make themselves feel better by downvoting a hapless SE newcomer. Who of course we never saw again. Pathetic Feb 6 at 13:14

Because of the fifty move rule, the limit is 50. If you ignore the 50 move rule, then there still is a limit because there is a finite number of chess positions. The fifty-move rule allows a player to claim a draw if no capture or no pawn occurred in the last fifty moves. For this purpose. a "move" consists of a player completing his turn followed by their opponent completing his turn. Threefold repetition is also an option, wherein if the position on the board repeats three times, a player can claim a draw.

• The question is clearly of a more combinatorial nature. I don't think the practical rules of tournament chess are relevant to the answer. Or to put it differently: There is no player who would claim a draw. Only a chess problem composer trying to construct a position with no relevance for tournament chess whatsoever. Apr 1 '15 at 14:59
• well, then isn't the answer trivial because of repetition that we have allseen in games? I might be missing something. Apr 1 '15 at 15:17
• @CognisMantis I don't remember seeing a repetition where each move by both players is a check.
– JiK
Apr 1 '15 at 16:05
• ok, i see where I went wrong. Apr 1 '15 at 16:37
• Easy mistake to make. I think I misunderstand every second of Peter's questions … at least initially. Apr 2 '15 at 8:24