Chess is one of the oldest games in the world. Even to this day, its level of strategy and mind-battling is unmatched compared to all other games. However, even with its complexity, it doesn’t take long to learn how the game works. Once one learns the mechanics of the game is when one can begin to formulate impeccable strategy. There is no chance or luck in this case; it’s merely a test of one’s individual mind. If you want to learn how to play chess, then you are in the right place.
Let’s explain the foundation: the board.
This is the chess battlefield. It consists of 64 squares with two colors, and no color ever touches (except diagonally, as seen). Understanding this essential concept will help you easily learn how to maneuver your chess pieces and come up with strategies. To refer to a specific square on the board, the letters A through H and the numbers 1 through 8 are used, like so:
Refer to this diagram if you need help identifying a tile.
Now that we’ve covered where the battle will commence, it’s time to explain how the battle is fought. Learning how chess pieces move may take a few games to memorize, but once learned, it will never be forgotten.
Chess is a two-player game, and each player is either white or black. White always has the first move.
Each player starts off with these pieces:
Now we’ll go into how each piece works.
At the start of the game, each player has a wall of eight pawns, starting at file (or row) 2 for white, and file 7 for black. Their movements are simple and easy to remember. If a pawn has not moved yet, it’s able to move either one or two spaces forward. After its first move, it may only move forward one move, or move diagonally once to “capture” an enemy piece. A capture is also allowed if a piece hasn’t moved yet. We haven’t covered capturing yet, but that will be explained later on. See the diagrams below for visual representations of these moves.
Above is a pawn that has moved one space forward on its opening move, to square g3.
Above is a pawn that has moved two spaces forward on its opening move, to square g4.
Above shows that after white has moved forward two spaces with a pawn to g4, black did the same with a pawn to f5. This sets up white to capture the black pawn on f5, meaning that white would move onto the f5 square, and the black pawn would be removed from the game.
Pawns are among the weaker pieces due to their inhibited movement. Their general purpose is to form defensive walls and establish territory on the board. However, they also have a unique feature, called “promotion“.
Promotion occurs when a pawn reaches the other side of the board (e.g. if any white pawn reaches file 8, or if any black pawn reaches file 1). At this point, the player has the choice of promoting the pawn to any other piece in the game (other than the king and a piece of their own color). In almost all cases, it’s most logical to promote a pawn into a queen due to the queen being one of the stronger (if not strongest) pieces.
The king starts out at e1 for white, or e8 for black. As previously mentioned, the purpose of the game is to force the king into a position where they have no legal moves left (otherwise known as “checkmate“). The king is only able to move and capture a distance of one square unless the move would put them into “check“. They are also allowed to move two spaces to either the left or right during “castling” (explained in the “Rooks” section). This is your most vulnerable yet most important piece, reminding a player that while they’re playing offensively, they must also remember to play defensively.
Ah, the queen. We have reached a notorious piece in chess. The queen is the most valuable piece that you can lose. This is due to its maneuverability. A queen is able to move in any direction vertically, horizontally, and diagonally, for as many spaces at it wants (so long as it’s not blocked by a friendly piece). The queen can be used to set up powerful plays. In conjunction with other pieces, it can set up a nasty and unforgivable attack.
Bishops are only able to move diagonally, for as many spaces as they want (so long as they’re not blocked by friendly pieces). As you can see, each player has two bishops, and each bishop starts on a different color square. Given that they’re only able to move diagonally, the color square that they start on will be the only color they’re able to move on.
Knights have the most interesting movement ability. Their movement can be complicated at first, but once learned, it’s actually quite simple. Knights are able to move in “L” shapes. This means that they could move up two squares, then over one square. Or down to squares, and over one square. Or, one could even go down one square then over two squares. Review the diagrams below for visible representation of their movement.
In this diagram, each player have decided that for their opening move, they will move their knight out. As seen, they both moved up two spaces, then over one space to the right.
White then moves up one, over two. This move is a mistake, as it sets up black for a capture without losing anything in return.
The black knight captures the white knight after moving down two, over one.
We have finally reached a fully completed chess board by implementing the rooks. Rooks are able to move vertically and horizontally for as many tiles as they want.
Tip: An easy way to remember the rook, bishops, and queen’s movement is to think of it like this: A queen is able to go vertically, horizontally, and diagonally. A rook can only go vertically and horizontally, and a bishop can only go diagonally. Therefore, a rook’s movement + a bishop’s movement = a queen’s movement.
Rooks also have a neat feature called castling. Castling is able to be completed once there are no pieces in between a rook and your king. Once in this position, one simply moves their king two spaces towards their rook, and places their rook on the opposite side of the king. Review the diagrams below for visual explanation.
Above shows the chess board approximately 5-6 moves for each player into the game. Observe the areas circled in red. Each player is in a position to castle, because there are no spaces in between their rook and their king. At this point, each player may move their king two spaces towards their rook, then place their rook on the opposite side, like seen below:
Castling can be completed for both rooks that a player has; just apply the same rule.
Putting it all together
You have learned how each chess piece works. You have learned the rules of chess. There millions and millions of possibilities in chess, and you have the opportunity to become a master with enough practice. Click here to quickly become a chess master.