The rules of Chess – The starting position
Chess is a very appealing game that is played by millions of people all around the world.
Chess is a game for two players and is played on an 8×8 checkered board, with a dark square in each player’s lower left corner. White, the player of the light colored pieces, moves first. Then Back has to move a piece. Each player has to move in turn and a move cannot be skipped.
Each game starts in the position shown in the diagram above in which each player has 1 King, 1 Queen, 2 Rooks, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights and 8 pawns. Please note that in this starting position the Queens are placed on their own color next to the Kings on the center files.
The goal in the chess game is to checkmate the opponent’s King. Checkmate happens if the king is under attack (in check) and no legal move can be made to solve this. When you have checkmated your opponent’s king you have won the game.
More about the (movements of the) chess pieces and the rules of chess can be found in the next lesson.
The rules of Chess – The Chess Pieces
During this lesson all the moves of the chess pieces are shortly explained.
The King can move one square in any direction. The King can also capture an opponent’s piece if it is on one of those squares as long as this piece is not defended. The King is not allowed to move himself into check. The following figure illustrates how the King moves. The King can move to any of the marked squares.
Sometimes a special move with the King is allowed which is called castling. This is the only chess move that actually involves two pieces at the same time as we will see at the end of this lesson.
The Rook can move any number of squares in a horizontal or vertical straight line, but the Rook may not jump over a piece of either color. The Rook can capture an opponent’s piece by placing the Rook at the same square.
In the castling moves in which two pieces are moved at the same time apart from the King the Rook is involved as we will see at te end of this lesson.
One final remark about the possibility to move a Rook (or any other piece): A move may never result in a placement of the own King in check.
The Bishop can move any number of squares diagonally as long as it doesn’t jump over another piece. At the beginning of the game each player has a Bishop on a white square and a Bishop on a black square. Because of their move possibilities these Bishops will always remain on the same color.
The Queen is the most powerfull piece and combines the powers of both the Rook and the Bishop. It can move horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. However, even the Queen is unable to jump over another piece.
The following diagram gives an overview of these possibilities to move and capture. The white pawn is blocking the path of the Queen. A black pawn on the same place can be captured, but the Queen is still unable to jump over it.
The Knight’s move is unusual among the chess pieces. It is the only piece that jumps. The move is most of the times described as two squares horizontally and one square vertically, or two squares vertically and one square horizontally. It may be easier to say that the Knight may jump to any of the outer squares with a different color of the 5 by 5 area around the Knight.
Let’s look at the diagram.
Please note that both the white as the black pawn, as well as any other piece, doesn’t influence the move possibilities of the Knight, as long as the move doesn’t place the own King in check.
The pawns are allowed to only move one square forwards at at time. However, in their first move, they can move two squares if they want. They can only move straight forward and never backwards. And they can only capture one of the enemy pieces diagonally. A pawn that makes it to the other side will be promoted to another piece: a Knight, a Bishop, a Rook or even a Queen! Most of the time the player exchanges his pawn at such a moment for a Queen, but it may be useful to remember that another piece may be choosen.
In the diagram above the normal moves are indicated by the cross marks, while the capture moves of the white pawn are indicated by the black dots. However capture is only possible when one of the opponent’s pieces is located at one of these squares.
As mentioned a pawn is able to move two squares forward when it has not moved before, but there is a special rule to prevent them to pass an opposite pawn.
On the very next move and only the next move, this pawn can be captured on the field that has been skipped.
On the left diagram the white pawn has just been moved two squares forward as indicated by the red arrow. It has been passing a square that is attacked by the black pawn. At the next move Black takes the pawn by placing his pawn on the square. The situation after this move is shown in the diagram at the right.
In the next diagram, the white King can castle on either side of the board. To castle, move the King two squares toward the Rook, and then move the Rook to the square immediately on the other side of the King.
Castling is only allowed when:
- The King and castling Rook have never moved during this game
- The King is not in check at the starting square
- The King is not in check at the destination square
- The King is not in check on the squares is passing through
- All the squares between the Rook and the King are vacant
Please note that in the diagram above Black is not allowed to castle on the King-side. (Look at the white Bishop on c4.)
King-side castling is also called short castling. Queen-side castling is called long castling.
One final rule
One final rule about the moves of the chess pieces. According to the official rules a piece that has been touched has to be moved. A move is completed as soon as the piece has been released and may not been taken back.
The next chess lesson is about the end of the game.
The initial moves of a chess game are called the opening. There are a lot of different openings (with their own names) and we will pay more attention to some of these openings later on.
For now the most important thing to know about the chess opening is a set of general guidelines that can be used for almost all chess openings. In general learning a sequence of moves doesn’t help to understand the game of chess.
- Begin the game with a centre pawn.
- In fact beginners should only consider 1.e4 as their first move.
- Make only one or two pawn moves in the opening, not more.
- Develop the minor pieces so that they influence the centre.
- Move pieces not pawns.
- Keep your queen safe.
- Do not bring your rooks out in the opening.
- Develop knights before bishops.
- Move the knights toward the center (and not on the side) of the board.
- Don’t attack if you haven’t completed your development.
- Don’t move a piece twice before all pieces are developed unless it is necessary.
- Move your king to safety
- Pay special attention to the vulnerable f2 and f7 squares (before castling)
- Castle king’s-side or when this seems to be unwise queen’s-side.
The chess lessons continue with the Discovered Attack.
The rules of Chess – The end of the game
As we have seen in one of the previous lessons the game is decided with a Checkmate, but not every game ends with a Mate. One of the players often resigns before the actual Mate is being acomplished.
Furthermore if no legal move can be made, but the King is not checked, the game necessarily is at an end. This situation is called Stalemate and the game ends in a Draw.
A draw can also be reached by mutual agreement, when both players assume they are not able to win the game.
It is also a draw when during these fifty successive moves no capture nor the advance of a Pawn has been performed. or if exactly the same position (with the same player to move and the same castling possibilities) occurs three times in the game, the player to move can also claim a draw.
Chess clocks and time
Especially for the more official games the game is often played with chess clocks. These clocks count the time that each player separately takes for making his own moves. The player who has used all his available time also looses the game. Some additional rules especially with respect to these chess clocks but also for some more complex situations can be found in the FIDE handbook.
Now that we know the rules it is time for some tips about winning at chess.
Knowing the rules: Some tips
Knowing all the rules, moves and starting position isn’t enough to become a good chess player. More chess lessons will follow, but this may be a good moment to emphasize that you also have to move this theory into practice. Nobody can learn to play chess without playing chess games.
Here are some tips especially targeted at junior players.
Most of these tips are based on the fact that in almost all beginner’s games one of the players is able to win pieces because they weren’t protected.
Think before you move and make sure that you don’t leave a piece unprotected, because
– you place the piece on an unprotected attacked square
– or because the piece was protecting another piece that becomes unprotected
Furthermore if a piece is touched you have to move this piece, but you may decide to place it on another square (than originally intended) as long as the piece has not been released.
Think before moving: Is this realy the best move or is it possible to capture an unprotected piece of the opponent?
If you are about to capture a piece: realize that chess isn’t about capturing pieces. Is it possible to capture a more valuable piece or is it possible to checkmate?
You have to be aware of the value of the pieces in order to be able to determine if an exchange is profitable.
If you manage to reach a simple endgame that is known as won, you have to be able to finish it off. You have to be able to win a game with a King and Rook against a bare King, and certainly with a King and Queen against this bare King. Practice this with a friend or with a computer.
In order to make it easier to communicate the concepts of chess I will now continue by learning you the Algebraic chess notation.