The Rules of Chess

A lot of chess players are just starting out, and that’s great: Chess has it’s upsides and downsides, but all in all, chess is a very fun and cool game.

So; let me teach you how to play!

A chess board consists of 64 squares, 32 light, 32 dark.

See full size image

Above: An example of the standard chessboard.

You play the game with 16 pieces against your opponent. One side controls the white pieces, while the opposite side is in charge of the black.

There is one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns.

Above: An example of the White pieces.

The king is the weakest piece in the game, and needs to be protected (I was very surprised at this when I first learned), with the exception of certain cases which I won’t get into here. His point value is infinity, as the object of the game is to checkmate him. When the king is in checkmate, he cannot move anywhere, another piece cannot block or take what is checking him, and is being checked.

Chess Position: Checkmate

Above: An example of checkmate.

When the king is in check, it means he is being attacked by an enemy piece. For example, the pawn can attack diagonally:

Chess Position: Check

Above: An example of check

The king can move in all directions: Up, down, to the right, left, and diagonally. The problem is he can only move one space at a time, making him incredibly vulnerable to enemy attack:

Chess Position: Movement of the King

Above: An example of the different ways the White king can move (demonstrated by the arrows) from e2.

Luckily, to protect, the king, he can castle. Castling is where the king moves over two spaces towards the side of the board (king-side or queen-side) it’s castling to and the rook on that side jumps over the king.

Chess Position: Before a King-Side Castle

Above: An example of a position before a king-side castle by White and how he will achieve it (demonstrated by the arrows).

Chess Position: After a King-Side Castle

Above: An example of a position after a king-side castle by White and how he castled (demonstrated by the arrows).

Chess Position: Before a Queen-Side Castle

Above: An example of a position before a queen-side castle by White and how he will achieve it (demonstrated by the arrows).

Chess Position: After a Queen-Side Castle

Above: An example of a position after a queen-side castle by White and how he castled (demonstrated by the arrows).

Castling is a great tool that can really help you protect your king and develop your rook at the same time. But be careful! There are a number of situations when castling is impossible:

  • If the King or Rook has already moved
  • If there are Pieces in the Way
  • If the King is in Check
  • If the King Moves through Check on his way to Castling or is in Check on the Square which he lands on when the Castling is Complete

Note: It is legal to touch the rook before the king when castling before the king (despite popular belief), according to the current version of the USCF rules. However, it is illegal by the rules of FIDE.

The Queen

The queen is a bit more straightforward. Like the king, she can move in all directions, but is much more mobile, and can move an unlimited number of spaces in those directions.

Chess Position: Movement of the Queen

Above: An example of the different ways the queen can move (demonstrated by the arrows) from e4.

For that reason, the queen is the exact opposite of the king: It is the ultimate king hunter, and is usually the one playing checkmate. It’s point value is nine.

Chess Position: Checkmate by the Queen

Above: An example of a checkmate by the queen.

The Rook

The rook is the second strongest piece behind the queen, and has inherited some of her powers: He can move any number of spaces both vertically and horizontally. But not diagonally.

Chess Position: Movement of the Rook

Above: An example of the different ways the rook can move (demonstrated by the arrows) from h1.

The rook is the piece that castles with the king, and it is the piece which most commonly gives back-rank checkmate (checkmate on the back-rank).

Chess Position: Back-Rank Checkmate

Above: An example of checkmate on the back-rank (demonstrated by the arrow).

The Bishop

Like the rook, the bishop also gained some of the powers of the queen–the difference is that the bishop moves diagonally instead of horizontally or vertically.

Chess Position: Movement of the Bishop

Above: The different ways the bishop can move (demonstrated by the arrows) from e4.

Unfortunately, because it moves diagonally, each bishop is limited to only it’s own color (half of the board), which is a big part of the reason it’s worth three points.

The Knight

The knight may be the coolest piece on the board. It’s the only piece that can jump over other pieces, and can move in an L. So it can move one space horizontally and two spaces vertically or two spaces horizontally and one vertically. Let’s take a look:

Chess Position: Movement of the Knight

Above: The different ways the knight can move (demonstrated by the arrows) from e4.

One of the best things about this type of movement is “smothered-mates.” Because the knight attacks in such in odd way, if the king is surrounded by pieces in the corner, has no way to get out, and a piece can’t take the knight when it checks, it will be checkmate.

Chess Position: Smothered Mate

Above: An example of smothered checkmate delivered by the knight (demonstrated by the arrow).

The Pawn

Unsurprisingly from the name, the pawns are the weakest pieces in the game; they can only advance one space at a time forward, in normal situations. However, there are several cases where the rules are changed.

Chess Position: Movement of the Pawn

Above: An example of how a pawn moves (demonstrated by the arrows).

  • Pawns Attack Diagonally

Even though they only move forward, pawns can only attack diagonally.

Chess Position: The Pawn's Attack

Above: An example of how a pawn attacks as contrasted to how it moves (demonstrated by the arrows).

  • The First Move

The first time each individual pawn moves, it can move two spaces forward.

Chess Position: The Pawn's First Move

Above: An example of how a pawn can move two squares the first time it moves.

  • Promotion

Because the pawn is so slow, there is a great reward for getting it all the way to the other side of the board: You can promote it to queen, rook, bishop, or knight.

  • En-Passant

En-Passant is a very special move that can only happen on rare occasions. If you’re pawn is on the fifth rank for White or the fourth rank for Black and you’re opponent pushes their pawn two spaces forward so that it is next to your pawn (thus bypassing your pawn), you are allowed to take it. Let me show you:

Chess Position: En-Passant

Above: An example of the en-passant maneuver (demonstrated by the arrows).

The Starting Position

So now that you know how the pieces move, it’s time to show you the starting position:

Chess Position: Starting Position

Above: The starting position in the game of chess.

If you feel overwhelmed by all this information; don’t worry. You can read it over and over again or copy it and print it out.

Now that you know how to play chess, it’s time for you to explore the website further to learn how to play better and win your games!

Note: Moves in chess are shown through notation, and without knowing it, the information on this site and any other training resource won’t make any sense. There are two main types of notation, Algebraic Notation and Descriptive Notation. I highly recommend the former as it’s much easier than the latter (in my opinion), and it is the most common, although since both are still used, it is best to know both.

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One response

10 04 2010
Mumble

I read a article under the same title some time ago, but this articles quality is much, much better. How you do this?

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