Ever since I was a kid this has felt kind of odd to me. Victory in chess is achieved by "cornering" the king, and not by taking him outright, like what you do to all the other pieces. I always wondered why that is.

Of course the distinction between taking the king and "cornering" him is very minute, and upon achieving checkmate you can confidently assume that a capture will occur next turn, but somehow it feels odd that this next step is forbidden by the official rules. What if the player who achieved check-mate is inexperienced or distracted and doesn't realize that he did so? What if he's really experienced and wants to continue taking material for sadistic purposes? Why do the rules of chess disallow such moments? These moments probably wouldn't end up happening in tournament games (since most seem to end up in resignation anyway), but nevertheless they could, and I think chess would be more fun like that. So why was the checkmate created?

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    Note that the game would be slightly different if the game proceeded until king-capture, as almost all positions that are currently classified as stalemates would instead be a loss for the "stalemated" player.
    – dfan
    May 21, 2015 at 17:45
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    Sure, the losing player would then end up putting his king in a vulnerable position. Maybe then players could opt not to move, but that's enough rule-bending for one day :)
    – bpromas
    May 21, 2015 at 17:50
  • This would, in most cases, turn stalemate into a loss. Would make the game simpler, and don't we love chess because it's complex? May 21, 2015 at 21:04
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    Opting not to move is yet another idea worth exploring. I mean, I like classical chess as it is, but for different variants I'd like to have that options.
    – downhand
    May 27, 2015 at 10:29
  • Yeah. Sometimes the rules of chess sort of dissonate from what you expect if the game of chess was happening in "real life". I think the rules as they are are very fair and they create a more balanced and strategic game and that's great for tournament reasons where chess is a complex puzzle to be calculated and solved, but sometimes we're playing just for fun, where chess then becomes about two kingdoms duking it out on the battlefield and then these rules become kind of heavy handed and senseless in that context
    – bpromas
    May 27, 2015 at 11:57

1 Answer 1


Per wikipedia, citing Henry Davidson's A Short History of Chess (1949):

In early Sanskrit chess (c. 500–700) the king could be captured and this ended the game. The Persians (c. 700–800) introduced the idea of warning that the king was under attack (announcing check in modern terminology). This was done to avoid the early and accidental end of a game. Later the Persians added the additional rule that a king could not be moved into check or left in check. As a result, the king could not be captured, and checkmate was the only decisive way of ending a game.


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