How to Play Chess

Chess Overview

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Chess is a board game for two players. Chess pieces are symbolic of a medieval army. Each player starts with a King and a Queen, two Rooks, two Knights, two Bishops, and eight Pawns. Players take turns moving one piece at a time to weaken their opponent’s position and to strengthen their own. When a player is able to land on a square occupied by the opponent’s piece, he “captures” his opponent’s piece. The captured piece is then removed from the board.

Chess Rules and Strategy

Check and Checkmate

The object of chess is to Checkmate your opponent. Checkmate occurs when the King is attacked by one or more opposing pieces and cannot escape from that attack on the next move. When a King is threatened by a “Check” (when the King is attacked but may be able to escape), the opposing player must call out the word “Check,” and the player whose King is threatened must move his King out of Check if possible. If not, that game is a Checkmate and is over.

Pawn Movement

The Pawn piece can only move forward, except to capture (see below), normally one square at a time. However, on its first move from its original position on the second row, it can move one OR two squares. After its first move, the Pawn can advance only one square at a time.

Pawn Capture and Promotion

The Pawn moves differently to capture an opponent’s piece. The Pawn captures on a forward diagonal, one square on the right diagonal or on the left diagonal. The Pawn CANNOT capture moving straight ahead, only on the diagonal. The Pawn cannot move diagonally without capturing a piece, so if the diagonal square is empty or is occupied by a piece of the Pawn’s own color, the Pawn cannot move to that square. Another feature of the Pawn is called the “Pawn Promotion.” When a Pawn travels all the way across the board to the last row, it is eligible for “Pawn Promotion.” That Pawn can now be promoted into any piece besides another Pawn or a King. The most logical choice is to promote it to a Queen.

Knight Movement

The Knight moves two spaces forward/backward and one space to the side, or it can move to the side two spaces and forward/backward one. Many players describe the Knight’s movement as an “L” shape. The Knight is the only piece that can jump or move OVER other pieces.

Rook Movement

The Rook, also called a Castle, can move across any number of squares along its row or its column. The Rook only moves straight up and down or left to right.

Bishop Movement

The Bishop can move across any number of squares along its diagonals. The Bishop can only move diagonally.

Queen Movement

The Queen is the most powerful piece. Essentially the Queen combines the moves of the Rook and the Bishop and can move any number of squares along her row, her column, or her diagonals. So the Queen can move straight up and down, left to right, or diagonally. However, like all pieces except the Knight, the Queen cannot jump over other pieces.

King Movement

The King can only move one square per turn. He can go one square in any direction. Like the other pieces, the King can capture the opponent’s pieces.The King does have one special move however, and it is allowed just once during the game. It is called “Castling.” Castling is the only situation where you can move two pieces at the same time. These pieces are always the King and one of the Rooks. Castling has several restrictions.

First, the King and the Rook to be moved must be on their initial squares, having yet to move during gameplay. The second restriction is that all board pieces between the King and Rook must be empty. Castling is executed by moving the King two squares toward the Rook, then hopping the Rook over the King. Another restriction on Castling is that you cannot Castle if your King is under attack. You cannot remove your King from the threat of an attack by Castling, even if Castling is available to you at that time. You also can’t Castle if your King moves through a square that is under attack. You also can’t Castle if your King ends up on a square that is under attack. However, if the Rook is under attack, or moves through a square that is under attack, you CAN still Castle.

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Related Chess Articles

Over the years we have posted quite a few articles about how to play Chess. Read on to learn additional tips and strategy for how to play Chess.