How to Play Chess
Chess is a historic game that has entertained many millions of people through the ages. Are you new t the game? Here, is a beginner’s guide to this fascinating and engaging game.
The game is played by a pair of opponents across a chessboard. The board has 64 squares in alternating black and white colors, and each player plays with 16 pieces. Players aim to checkmate their opponent’s king. Checkmate refers to the king being stuck in such a position that capture cannot be evaded – the king cannot move or be protected by a different piece.
If you “check” the king, you could have captured it in the next move, but the king can still flee to safety or be protected by a different piece. Once you have checked the king, say “check” out loud. A player however, cannot put themselves in check, meaning they can’t make a move that leaves their own king open to capture on the next turn.
There are only three ways a king can get out of check. Firstly, it can avoid the piece by moving out of the way, though it is against the rules to castle at this juncture. Secondly, they can block the check by putting a different piece in the way. Or they can capture the attacking piece with one of their own. If a king cannot escape the check, it is checkmated and the game is over.
There is a secondary goal of removing as many of your opponent’s pieces as possible, which will ease the process of checkmating their king. Simultaneously, the player protects their own king and pieces.
How the Game StartsTop of Form
There is a specific layout for each game of chess, and there is a particular arrangement of pieces that has to be followed for every game. Both players should have the white square on the bottom right hand side. Eight pawns fill the second rank, or row. The last row is filled in this order: 1 rook in each corner, followed by knights on the adjacent squares, the bishops next to the knight, and then the queen on the square that matches her color. The king occupies the last square left. Players using white pieces will always make the first move.
There are six different kinds of pieces, each with their own style of movement. A piece cannot move on a square that has another one of its own pieces. Neither can it move through pieces, although the knight is a bit of an exception, as we will see. A player moves their pieces in order to capture the other’s pieces, by moving them to take the position of the opponent’s piece. Opponents continually move their pieces into squares that allow them to capture each other’s pieces, and also to defend themselves from capture.
An Introduction to the Pieces
Who decided to make the central piece of the game the weakest as well? We may never know the answer to that, but the king can move in any direction during the game (up, down, left, right, or diagonally), but only for a single square. As mentioned above, a player cannot move the king into a position where it is in check. A player protects their own king at all times.
As the most dominant piece in chess, the capture of the queen has resulted in many an overturned chessboard. The queen moves in a straight line in any direction – up, down, left, right, or diagonally, so long as the piece does not pass through any pieces of its own color. It’s a deadly piece, especially when used in conjunction with the knight.
Rooks move as much as needed, up, down, left and right, so long as they don’t move through their own pieces. They are valuable pieces that the player can easily utilize to great effect in the game when using them in conjunction with each other.
Bishops move as far as they want diagonally. This means that each bishop will always remain on the square color that they started on.
The knight has the most unique style of movement on the chessboard – what is referred to as the L movement. First, they move a couple of squares in one direction (up, down, right or left), and then a third step at right angles. Knights are especially valued during strategic moves, and they are also unique in that they that can move over others.
The front-line infantry in any game, pawns also have a unique mode of movement. They always only move ahead, or forward, but they capture other pieces diagonally. When moving forward to an empty square, they do so one square at a time, but during the initial move from the second last row, they take two steps. Pawns can only move forward, never backwards, and they only ever capture pieces ahead of them on the board. Since pawns capture diagonally, any piece right ahead of a pawn cannot move forward until it is removed.
Additionally, pawns have a feature that allows them to be promoted to a different chess piece if they reach the opponent’s side of the board. This means that paws are often promoted to the most powerful piece on the chessboard – the queen! It is commonly believed that the pawn can only be promoted to a captured piece, but this is, in fact, not so. The pawn can actually be promoted to any piece at all.
Basic Maneuvers: Castling and En Passant
These are two special moves that involve the rook and the pawns, respectively. Castling allows the player to move the king to a safe position while priming the rook for play. It works like this: the player moves their king two squares to a side. Then the rook is moved from the corner in that side to the opposite side, directly by the king. Whatever direction the player castles in takes the king closer to that side in that direction. Castling through where the queen was initially positioned is referred to as casting queenside, and castling in the other direction is castling kingside.
Castling can only occur under a set of conditions, however. The king’s move to the side must be its first, and so must the rook’s. Additionally, if there are any pieces between the rook and the king, the move cannot occur, since neither the rook nor the king can pass through other pieces of the same color. The move also cannot be put into effect if the king is in check.
En passant, on the other hand, involves pawns. In their first move, pawns move forward by two squares. If, during this move, a pawn lands next to an opponent’s pawn, that opposing pawn can capture the first player’s pawn as it passes by. However, this move has to be utilized on the very first try. If the opponent does not immediately avail of the move, they will not have the option to capture it on their next try.
Chess games customarily end when the king is checkmated. However, at times, there can be a draw. This could happen if a stalemate occurs, when it is the player’s turn, but while the king has not yet been checked, they are unable to make another move. A draw can also occur if one player has taken all of the other’s pieces except the king. Players can also call for a draw when the exact same position keeps repeating itself three times, although this does not have to be consecutively in a row. A draw can also be the result of five consecutive moves being played without either player moving their pawns or capturing a piece.
Of course, the players may just agree to a draw if the game gets too tiring or time-consuming!
Strategy: The Basics
Protect the king at all times
Castle as quickly as you can in order to get your king to relative safety. The king may be weak, but it is the most important figure on the board. Once it’s checkmated, it’s game over. This is the player’s highest priority, taking precedence even over checkmating their opponent’s king. After all, if you’re getting checkmated yourself, you can’t very well checkmate!
Be careful with your pieces
It’s true that sometimes players have to make sacrifices in order to pull off a strategy, or to save more important pieces. But every piece has its own value in the game (a pawn has the ability to capture the queen, after all), and so it isn’t worth your while to lose the “less important” pieces carelessly. Of course, each piece has relative value compared to the others, and this is subjective to the player’s own preferences. But losing pieces is a blow to the player, and should be avoided as much as possible.
Utilize your pieces
Players often tend to favor a few certain pieces that they have become comfortable using. This can mean that quite a few pieces are simply waiting idle and useless in the back row! It is important to develop all the pieces in the game. Even if you prefer the knight over the bishop, move the bishop forward into positions where it is poised to inflict some actual damage. When facing a decent opponent, it is never enough o only use a couple of pieces in attack.
Be in control of the center
The player who has more pawns and pieces in the center of the board also has more room to maneuver their pieces. This player will be able to position their pieces more strategically than their opponent. It will also be more difficult for the opponent to find squares that allow for decent moves.
There are some general rules that apply to a tournament style of play. Of course, when playing a friendly match, players are free to agree upon their own version of the rules.
One rule is that of touch-move. When a player taps one of their own pieces they need to make a legally acceptable move using that piece. When a player taps an opponent’s piece, they mean that they will capture said piece. If the player only wants to adjust their piece, they must verbally say “adjust” to signify their intention.
Additionally, many tournaments employ timers that control how much time each game can take. Keep in mind that the total amount of time is regulated, not the time spent for every move. Players receive an equal amount of stipulated time whose utilization they need to make decisions about. After making a move, the player touches a lever or button that signifies the opponent’s clock has started. A player whose time runs out automatically loses, unless the opponent cannot checkmate due to a low number of pieces, which will make it a draw.
Improving at the Game of Chess
Even grandmasters are constantly learning new strategies and methods throughout their lifetimes. It is impossible to completely learn the game altogether, but it is important to know the initial rules and basic strategies, at least at first. Players can continually improve by keeping at the game. Practice makes perfect in any field or hobby, and so it is with chess. You should keep playing a great deal, and learn from the games that you win, as well as those that you lose.
It is also important to study the game thoroughly. Online resources are vastly helpful in this regard, but if you want a thorough guide, invest in a couple of recommended books on chess strategies.
Thirdly, be patient and have fun! The whole point of a game is to enjoy yourself, even if you’re taking it as a serious passion. You won’t start winning every single one of your games the moment you start playing, and that should not discourage you from leaving the game altogether.