Chess is one of the most famous strategy board games across the world. It is a 2-player game played on a checkerboard with 64 squares arranged in an 8×8 grid. Derived from the ancient Indian game ‘chaturanga’ back in the 7th century, chess requires high involvement of all the 6 sections of the brain which helps in proper exercise and growth of mental health. It is never too late to start learning something and being an indoor tactical game, chess has no physical risk. One can start playing it at any age. To make your job easy, here’s a beginner’s guide on how to play chess.
How to Play Chess
Before talking about the how to play chess, you must know the pieces involved in a game of chess. There are 6 different types of pieces in both black and white colour. Each participant plays a game with 16 pieces of one colour. The 6 pieces (number in the bracket denotes the number of that piece in a colour) are:
- King (1)
- Queen (1)
- Bishop (2)
- Rook (2)
- Knight (2)
- Pawn (8)
Step by step guide to begin a game
How to place the chess board
The chess board is always set up such that a white (light) coloured block appears on the extreme right side of the first row. Although this seems to make no difference in the game it is better to start the right way when learning how to play chess.
How to place each piece on the board
The pieces of both colours are arranged on the last 2 lines of opposite sides (one colour on each side). First, the 2 rooks are positioned at both corners, followed by 2 knights next to each rook, followed by the 2 bishops next to each knight. The queen is then placed on the same colour block i.e black(white) queen on black(white) block. The kings are finally placed on the remaining block.
How each piece moves on the board
The game always starts with the movement of a white piece. Then both participants move one piece at a time on alternate turns. In professional games, white colour selection is decided by a toss while in friendly games, the less experienced player can be given the benefit of the first move.
There are some common rules of movement that are followed by all the pieces and some rules specific to each piece. The common rules are:
- Only one piece can reside at one square at a time.
- Pieces cannot move through each other with an exception of Knight which can jump over other pieces.
- Pieces cannot take place of the same coloured piece but can take place of the opposite coloured piece by capturing (explained later) it.
Now that we know the common rules, let’s get into specific rules involved in each piece’s movement while playing chess.
The King is the most important piece in the game but at the same time one the weakest too. It can move only one square at a time in all directions (vertically, horizontally or diagonally). But a king cannot move to a square that is under check (explained later) by the opponent.
The Queen is considered as the most powerful piece among all. She can move in all directions (one at a time) as far as she desires, provided she follows the common rules.
Rooks can move both vertically and horizontally as far as possible, following the common rules. Both Rooks are powerful when used together, protecting each other.
Bishops move diagonally on the board. They always stay on the same coloured block due to its diagonal movement. Both the Bishops start from a different coloured block.
Knights move 2 blocks in one direction followed by one block in the other without any diagonal movement. This kind of movement makes an L shape on the board. Knights can also jump over other pieces in its movement.
Pawns move one block forward at a time. It can also move 2 blocks but only in its first move. Pawns can change their direction only while capturing another piece which is discussed in the next section.
How to capture an opponent’s piece
All the pieces except Pawn capture an opponent’s piece when it comes in its path. After capturing a piece, the capturing piece takes the position of the captured piece. A piece cannot capture another piece of its own colour. Once a piece is captured by the opponent, it cannot be used further in the game so it is removed from the board.
In the case of Pawn, the capturing is possible only when an opponent’s piece is placed on the diagonal front block with respect to the Pawn. So while capturing the piece, the pawn will move into the diagonal front block. Hence its direction of movement changes.
How to win a game of Chess
A King is said to be in check when it is threatened by an opponent’s piece i.e when an opponent’s piece is in a position to capture the King in its next move. A player can only do these 3 things to come out of check:
- Move the King to a safe block
- Use another piece to block the check
- Capture the piece checking the King
A player cannot move the king to a position that will cause a check on it.
A King is in checkmate if:
- It is under check.
- It cannot move to a safe block that is not under attack.
- No other piece can capture the checking piece of the opponent.
The player forcing checkmate on other player’s king wins the game.
Checkmate does not happen in all the games. A game can be declared a draw in the following scenarios:
- Stalemate (Explained later)
- In 50 consecutive moves, no player has either captured a piece or moved a pawn.
- Pieces on the board are not enough to force a checkmate.
- The exact position is repeated in a game.
- Players agree to a draw.
There are some unique moves and some different rules in the game of chess that needs separate mention.
Promotion of the Pawn
When a Pawn reaches the last row (row 8), it can be replaced with any other piece except the King. The new piece will take the exact position of the Pawn. According to FIDE chess rules, it is compulsory to exchange the pawn with a new piece. Queen is the strongest piece in the game so it is the best choice for anyone in such a scenario.
If Pawn is moved up 2 blocks in its first move and it happens to be next to opponent’s pawn. Then the opponent has the option of capturing the pawn by moving it to the diagonal empty block. But the option is open only for that move.
If the King and the Rook follow certain conditions, then the King moves 2 blocks towards the Rook and the Rook comes directly to the block on the opposite side of the King. The prerequisites for the move are:
- Both King and Rook must be unmoved.
- No other pieces should be present between them.
- The King should not be under check or surpassed a check before the move.
Castling can be done in either horizontal directions if it follows the above conditions. Castling in the direction of Queen’s position is called Queenside and the opposite direction is called the Kingside. The King only moves 2 squares regardless of the side and the Rook jumps straight to the opposite side block next to the King. This is a great move since it harbours 2 moves in one.
While playing the game of tactics, one needs to keep in mind the value of each piece to prioritize the moves. General order (decreasing) of the value of the 6 types of pieces are:
- Knight, Bishop
Do not move the same piece
You should develop a strategy from the beginning of the game. Moving the same piece, again and again, is a strong sign of uncertainty. It exposes your vulnerability to the opponent. You lose those moves and develop the unnecessary pressure by letting the opposition rally ahead.
Castle the King
As the name suggests, castling will protect the King much better than its general position. Always try to castle the king as soon as possible.
Dominate the Centre
Centre of the board has access to the whole board. One who has control over the centre tends to control the game.
The pawns are least powerful when it comes to versatility in movement. But the placement of each of those 8 small pieces on the board determines the fate of a game. Always think twice before moving your pawn as they cannot move back.
Practise Practise Practise!
Chess is a game of tactics and strategy. The more alert you are while playing the board game, the better you perform. To get familiar with strategies and moves in the game, you must spend time and practise more.
Now that you have learnt how to play chess, here are the 15 reasons you should for you to start playing chess today itself!