Before we deal with the question ‘How common is castling in chess?’ let’s look at what castling is and the rules of chess concerning castling.
What is Castling in Chess?
Castling in chess is known as a ‘double move’ where you move both the king and the rook simultaneously. Castling is one of the three special moves in chess, besides pawn promotion and capturing en passant. And yes, casting is a legal move in chess today.
An explanation of Castling rules
A chess player must meet these requirements in order to be allowed to castle.
- The king and the rook have not yet been moved in the game
- The king is not in check
- The squares between the king and the rook are unoccupied.
- No square the king castles through is under attack.
If you meet these requirements, then you can castle or move both king and rook simultaneously.
To castle, you have to move the king two squares toward the rook or bring the rook over the king and be placed directly next to it.
One important thing to note is that you can never castle out of check. And you can castle only once in the game.
You can also never castle vertically. One of the main purposes of castling is to keep the king safe, just like a king is kept behind armed guards during a war.
There are two types of castling; castling long and castling short. Let’s look at what they are.
A castling short is also called a kingside castle or short castle. This is because the king castles together with the rook that is closest to him.
A long castle is done with the king and the queenside rook. This is the rook on the a-file. There are three squares between the rook and the king, and that’s why it’s called a long castle. The king moves two squares toward the rook, and the rook jumps over the king to land right next to it.
Why castle in chess?
There are two main benefits of castling; protecting the king and activation of the rook.
Moving the king to the outside helps keep the king safe from a checkmate. The king needs extra protection as its comparatively less movable and thus vulnerable. And at the same time, by centering the rook, we are able to make use of more strong pieces at the center.
Sometimes castling is seen as an offensive move because it places a strong piece like the rook at the center of the board where most of the action happens and protects the king at the side. Often, the more centralized a long-range piece is, the more squares it can control.
Manual castling in chess
There is also something called manual castling in chess. This is when you have lost the right to castle because you have moved the king already. So in order to protect the king, you move him square by square behind a wall of pawns for protection.
This may have its benefits, like giving protection to the king, but it’s not advisable as it makes you lose valuable time and movement. It’s always best to castle early in the game.
So How common is castling in chess?
Castling is done quite often by chess players, whether in tournaments or otherwise. According to statistics, kingside castling is done by 80-81% of chess players, and queenside castling by 8-9% of players. Most chess grandmasters have castled in many of their games. As long as they have the right to do so (if they have all the requirements), any chess player can go ahead and give their kings some extra protection. After all, protecting the king is what chess is all about.
But castling in chess is not always the best strategy. Sometimes players make the mistake of castling too early. If you castle before other pieces have been developed or too early, you may find yourself in a cramped position with less mobility for the remaining pieces. If you castle first and then move your pieces, then the opponent may take advantage of the lack of protection for the king and try to attack.
It is best to always develop the pieces, assess the situation and decide if it’s best to castle.
Chess grandmasters have used castling in the past, but not always. It is generally considered a good move, but in some instances, professional players decide not to castle. If they think that the risks of the castle outweigh the benefits, they may not castle at all.
So whether castling is a good move for you or not always depends on the situation of your chess board.
Castling in chess is usually done within the first six to seven moves, except when there is a threat of an attack. Otherwise, castling helps you make use of the rook better while protecting the king.
How common is castling in chess: Summary
Chess grandmasters have castled in many instances. But despite castling being considered a good move, they don’t always castle. They assess the situation, and if there is a risk involved in castling, then they choose not to do it.
Also Read: What is the Stalemate rule in chess, and how to avoid it?
*All pics are taken from Unsplash.com