One of the most eye catching and jaw dropping manoeuvres you can see on the chessboard during a game is castling. Named after one of its key participants, castle or rook, the manoeuvre involves moving the king two steps to either right or left of the board and moving the rook and placing it a step opposite the king’s final destination.
For castling to happen, neither the rook nor the king should have moved and there should not be any piece in between them. In its quest to move the two steps, the King should not skip a check nor move when under a check threat.
The general feeling has been that the manoeuvre creates a much-needed Berlin wall protecting the King from rouge opponent’s pieces and has been given praises for the length of time it happens. There is a school of thought though, a school of thought that prohibits early castling.
The claim is that it gives the earliest direction and location for the landing of missiles in pursuit of the demise of the King.
The heads side of the castling coin argues otherwise, though their main argument remains emphatic on early King safety, the subsequent benefit of the rooks getting activated earlier and adding to the King’s safety adds some weight to their argument. It is a well-known fact that pieces have more places they can visit when placed toward the centre of the board and for this reason the King becomes prone to attack from over three areas.
When placed towards the edge, the number of sides the attack emanate from gets reduced to three and sometimes under. It must be remembered that for castling to happen, two minor pieces would have been developed to “clear” the path for the King’s travels, the pieces serve as key defence elements of the castled king.
As an example, the short castling done with white pieces offer a great opportunity to the bishop fianchettoed on g2 controlling the f3, e4, d5, c6 and b7 diagonal thus defending the king from any attack from lekhalo leo. A strong defence creates the nicest launch pad for solid chess attacks and castling serves as a version of that.
The tales’ side, or the negative as my debate brothers would eloquently call it, argue that castling creates unnecessary weaknesses in the beginning of the game.
They also argue that some opening principles such as controlling the centre early and freeing pieces quickly can be compromised in pursuit of the castling manoeuvre. Some criticise the drag that is long castling.
The claim is that it does not put the king at a safe place as it leaves the a2-a7 file undefended and a player may waste valuable time making an extra king move to b1 to get to safety for white.
Queenside castling is therefore generally an attacking, tactical move, with king safety a minor benefit. They also argue that though the other version of castling, kingside, is safer in some instances, it is too positional and therefore often takes time to prove its advantages.
Both sides of the castling coin make a lot of sense and most of us have gotten victories and losses from both castling and not castling.
We have helplessly watched the demise of our valuable king which remained exposed to central attacks because we did not castle but in the same breath, have had our king cornered helplessly by a tricky bishop, knight and queen tag team.
Castling like every other chess move should be situational. It should depend on the situation on the board, your style of play as well as the playing style of your opponent. Timing is also of great importance; a well-timed castling gives a player both attack and defence advantages.
When castling is well timed, it creates suspense which sometimes delays fierce and quick attacks by an opponent.