In the game of Chess, keeping your king safe and checkmating your opponent’s king is the ultimate goal. Castling is a special move in chess and was invented precisely for that. When you castle, your king moves to a safer, inner square and your rook gets developed to an outer square. It is like creating a mini fortress for your king.
Types of Castling
There are two types of castling in chess, kingside and queenside, also called short and long castling. Short castle occurs on the kingside whereas long castle occurs on the queenside.
Learning how and when to castle can be slightly tricky, especially for beginners, if not learnt the right way. But worry not, as I’m going to simplify this concept for you in this article.
Continue reading to learn more about castling both short and long, the rules associated with it, and the positions where you can apply it.
What is Kingside Castling?
King side castling, also known as short castling, s the name suggests, while ‘short’ castling, the rook jumps a shorter distance as compared too long castling. Let us understand with an example.
If you are playing with the White pieces, while short castling, you will move your king to the g1 square and your rook to the f1 square. So after short castling, your position will look like the position below.
Similarly, if you are playing with the Black pieces, you will move your king to the g8 square and your rook to the f8 square when castling short.
As you can see, the rook jumps only two squares in this case – from h1 to f1.
What is Queenside Castling?
When castling Queenside, also known as long castling, the rook jumps 3 squares instead of the 2 square jump in short castle.
If you are playing with the White pieces, then your king will move to c1 and your rook will move to d1 while castling long. The position will then look like the position below.
Similarly, if you are playing with the Black pieces, your king will move to the c8 square and your rook to d8 while long castling.
Now that we have clear knowledge about how the two types of castles are created, let’s learn some rules regarding them that you must know!
Rules of Castling
Here are the rules when it comes to being able to castle in chess, all of which are required to be met in order to be eligible to castle your king.
1. Always move the king first
It is mandatory for the player to move the king first while castling and not the rook. The simple reason behind this is that by moving two squares with the king (which is normally an illegal move as the king can only move one square at a time), you give a clear indication that you are surely going to castle.
2. Neither the king nor the rook should have moved prior to castling
Castling is a special move and there are certain conditions that must be satisfied for you to be able to do it. The most important condition is that you shouldn’t have played a move with the king or the rook prior to castling. If you do so, you lose out on your chance to castle.
3. You cannot castle if your king is under check
According to the rules of Chess, you cannot escape a check by castling. When your king is threatened, you are allowed to move the king according to the normal, legal moves available only.
4. Your king cannot pass through a square that is controlled by your opponent’s piece
Though the king jumps two squares while castling, it is considered that it still passes through the one square in between. So if your opponent is controlling that one square, then you cannot castle. For example, look at this position below.
Here, Black’s bishop on a6 is controlling the f1 square which the White king must pass through to short castle and get to the g1 square. Since the f1 square is already controlled by the opponent, White cannot short castle in this case.
5. The path of castling must be clear
Though it is the most logical rule, it is definitely important to know that while castling, neither the king nor the rook can jump over any piece to get to the designated squares. There should be no pieces in between the king and the rook.
If these rules are not met, then castling wouldn’t be allowed as doing so would be considered an illegal move in chess.
Which is Better – Castling Short or Long?
A very simple and honest answer to this question is, it depends. A lot of factors need to be considered as both the options have their own advantages. Let us look at some of these benefits –
Advantages of Castling Kingside
1. Can be made quicker as compared to long castle
While 3 pieces (queen, bishop and knight) need to move so that the path for long castle is clear, only 2 pieces (bishop and knight) need to move in order to clear the path for short castle. Hence, a short castle can be made at least one move quicker. And we all know that the value of a single move is very high in Chess!
2. King is slightly more safe in short castle
When the king is on g1 in short castle, the three pawns on f, g and h files give a solid protection to the king. However, when you castle long, it is very likely that you have a semi-open or fully open d file just adjacent to your king on c1.
3. Usually undertaken in quiet and positional games
Most of the time, short castle is undertaken when the game has more of a positional nature. Prime examples of openings where King side castling is ideal is the Ruy Lopez and and the Catalan. Both of these openings lead to strategic and closed positions.
Advantages of Castling Queenside
1. Is great for creating an attack on your opponent, especially when your opponent has castled short
When you have done opposite side castling, you can create a pawn storm or launch an attack on the opponent’s king much faster than if both the players had castled on the same side. In such cases, the rook on the semi-open d file especially comes handy as it can just go to d3 and swing to the kingside and join the attack.
2. In the endgame, the king is closer to the centre and can reach important squares faster
Centralizing the king in the endgame is extremely important. When you castle long, your king on c1 is much closer to the centre than if it was on g1 in case you had castled short. And that is really advantageous.
3. Usually undertaken in sharp and dynamic games
Long castling is especially beneficial for those players who like to play open positions with dynamic possibilities. Hence, they go for sharp openings like English Attack against Sicilian or Scandinavian Defense where more often than not, you castle long.
As you can see, both the types of castle have their own advantages. Hence you can’t concretely say which one is better. However, there are some guiding principles that can help us choose between the two!
Tips To Help You Decide On Where to Castle
Though there is no such rule of thumb, following are some guidelines that can help you decide on which side to castle in the game. Like most principles in chess, it all depends on the position on the board.
1. Look for open and semi-open files close to your opponent’s king
If your opponent has castled short and the ‘g’ or ‘h’ file is semi-open from your end, go for long castle so that you can launch an all out attack using that semi-open file especially for your rooks.
2. Castle on the opposite side to create dynamism
If you want to complicate the game and go in dynamic positions, opt for opposite side castling. This is particularly helpful when your opponent is a positional player and doesn’t prefer tricky middle games.
3. If queens are already exchanged, go for a long castle
As we saw above, the king is closer to the centre when you castle long. A centralized king is very useful in endgame and could greatly impact the result of the game.
4. Understand on which side will your king be more safe
Though both types of castling are intended to make your king’s position safer, certain in-game factors can help you choose between the two options. For example, if your opponent’s pieces are particularly active on one side of the board, it is wise to castle on the other side.
5. Make sure you have a strong pawn protection on the side you castle
Pawns act as a shield to the castled king. Hence, it is advisable to castle on that side where you have a good and solid pawn structure. A broken and weak pawn structure will hardly protect your king despite castling.
Be it long or short, the aim of castling is to protect your king. Your decision about which side to castle on should vary depending on the opening that you have selected and the way your opponent responds.
Make sure you choose wisely and according to the needs of the ongoing game. If played rightly, castling can make your king very safe and you can focus all your attention on creating threats for your opponent.
I hope this guide on castling kingside vs queenside helped you.