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How To Play Chess

The Rules of Chess

Setting up the Board

Chess is a game for two players and is played on a square board of 64 squares. Half are white and half black alternately. The bottom right square is white. The squares are referred to using letter and number coordinates. Beginning on white's bottom left corner we have letters a-h along the bottom and 1-8 up the side. Each player has 16 pieces. One player's pieces are white the others black. The pieces are named. In order of size from smallest to largest on a standard Staunton set they are pawn, rook, knight, bishop, queen, king. The pieces are arranged as follows: From left to right along the row of squares a1 to h1; (all white) rook, knight, bishop, queen, king, bishop, knight, rook. On the row of squares, a2 to h2; (all white) pawns. Black's pieces are placed at the opposite side of the board simply reflecting the white ones (such that the black queen stands on a black square).

How the Pieces Move

The pieces can move as follows: The king can move one square in any direction (horizontally, vertically and diagonally). Check is when a piece threatens to take the king. He cannot move into check. If he is in check he must move to a square on which he is not attacked, or another piece must block the attack, or the attacking piece must be captured ('obviously' knights cannot be blocked). The queen can move any number of squares in any direction. The rooks can move any number of squares horizontally or vertically. The bishops can move any number of squares diagonally. The knights can move in an "L" shape which means that they move two squares in one direction then 1 to the left or right (of the direction they were moving in). The knight is the only piece which can jump over other pieces. The pawns can move one square, forwards only. They can capture one square diagonally, forwards only. On its first move a pawn can move 1 or 2 squares, forwards only. All pieces except the pawn capture in the same way as they move. You cannot capture your own pieces.

Special Moves

Special moves: Castling; if the king and rook are both unmoved, if the king is not in check, if no pieces are between them, and if none of the squares between them are attacked (except b1 and b8) then the king may move two squares towards the rook and the rook may jump to the adjacent square to, and on the other side of, the king all in one go. En passent: If a pawn is on its fifth rank (ranks are rows of squares across the board) and an enemy pawn moves two squares forward to either of the adjacent squares to the pawn then the pawn on its fifth rank may (on its very next move, but not after its very next move) capture this enemy pawn as if the enemy pawn had only moved one square. Promotion: When a pawn reaches the eighth rank it must be exchanged for another piece (not a pawn or a king).

The Object of the Game

The object of the game is to deliver checkmate. This is when a king is threatened and it cannot avoid capture. The side whose king cannot avoid capture has lost and the other has won. Stalemate occurs when a player's king is not in check but that player has no moves available to him, this is a draw. A draw can also occur if 1) both players (want a draw and) agree to a draw, verbally, 2) fifty moves occur without a pawn move or a capture, or 3) the same position occurs three times. Victory can also be obtained with your opponent's resignation.

Now you know how to play chess! Congratulations! Why not print this page for future reference?
Chess Books for Beginners

The following books are excellent resources for those new to chess. The Pocket Book of Chess is a very fine way to become acquainted with the game, including all sorts of interesting sections including chapters on openings, computers and world champions. How to Beat Your Dad at Chess is a good way of improving your play once you have learnt the rules of the game. It features typical winning tactical combinations which can be used in many different kinds of positions. Chess Tactics for Kids is the sequel to How to Beat Your Dad at Chess and is also excellent. Norwood's effort uses a more course-like approach to improvement. It too is an excellent stepping stone for players who have learnt the moves and a few tricks and are ready for some more advanced ideas. Note that of these books only the first (the one by Raymond Keene) is suitable for people who don't know the rules of chess (i.e. for people who can't be bothered to print out this page!). If any of the links are not showing properly please try refreshing the page.

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