Chess is an ancient game that traces its roots back to India. Some strategies in today’s top tournaments can also be found in games that happened hundreds of years ago, while others were spawned in the last two or three decades with the advent of artificial intelligence. Let reading this guide be your first step towards learning one of the most popular board games of all time.
How Is A Chess Board Set Up?
A chessboard is a square divided into eight rows, or ranks, and eight columns, or files. The squares alternate between light and dark. A chessboard is always set up so that the square at the bottom right side is light.
The pieces are always set up the same way. At the center of the first rank, you have the king and the queen. (The queen always goes on its matching color, so the white queen should be on a light square, and the black queen should be on a dark square.) On either side of the pair, working towards the edges, you have a bishop, then a knight, then a rook. The second rank is always eight pawns.
How Do The Pieces Move?
Rooks move in a straight line, horizontally or vertically, for any number of empty squares.
Knights move in an L shaped pattern, two squares horizontally or vertically, then one square at a 90 degree angle. A knight is the only piece that can jump over another piece.
Bishops move diagonally, for any number of empty squares. Each bishop starts on either a light or dark square, and stays on that color square for the entirety of the game. In some commentary, you will see reference to a “light” or a “dark” square bishop.
The queen moves horizontally, vertically or diagonally, for any number of empty squares.
The king moves one square in any direction. The king cannot move to a square where it is under attack by another piece. Opposing kings must remain at least one square apart.
Pawns move forward one square at a time. On their first move, pawns may move two squares forward, although they cannot jump over any other pieces. They may only capture diagonally.
White always moves first, and players can only move one piece during their turn. Going first gives the player with the white pieces a slight advantage.
An attack on the king is called a check. When the king is in check, the attack must be blocked, the attacker must be captured or the king must move to a safe square.
Castling is a special type of move, and is the only time a player can move two pieces at once. The king moves over two squares in either direction, and then the rook jumps to the other side of the king.
It allows you to get your king to safety and get your rook to the center of the board, where it is stronger. There are a few rules when it comes to castling. A player cannot castle if they are in check. The king cannot castle if it crosses a square controlled by an enemy, nor can it move onto a square controlled by an enemy. The king cannot castle if there are pieces between it and the rook. It must be the king’s first move, and the rook’s first move.
When a pawn reaches the opposite end of the board, it promoted into a knight, a bishop, a rook or a queen. A pawn can promote into any of these pieces regardless of whether the player has previously captured one.
Pawns can perform a special type of capture called a passer. En passant is French for “in passing.” If a pawn moves two squares on its opening move and lands adjacent to an opposing pawn, the opponent can move to capture the first player’s pawn by moving diagonally behind it.
This can only be done immediately after the first pawn moves two squares.
How do you win?
Winning a chess game is done by putting the opponent’s king into check mate. This is when the king is put into check and cannot escape. The king is not captured like a typical piece; if checkmate occurs, the game merely ends.
In timed chess games, if a players clock runs down to zero, they lose.
A player can also resign at any time.
Sometimes, a game of chess can end in a draw. There are five ways for that to happen.
Stalemate occurs when it becomes one player’s turn and they have no legal moves.
There are not enough pieces on the board for either player to checkmate the other.
If a position is repeated three times, either player can claim a draw. Repetition occurs when the same pieces are on the same squares, and it is the same player’s move. These do not have to occur in a row, so if the same position were to appear on move 23, move 27 and move 30, a draw by repetition could be claimed.
Both players agree to a draw.
Fifty consecutive moves are played where neither player has captured a piece or moved a pawn.