Chess is a classic game that symbolizes war: white vs. black. The game is simple to learn, yet can take a lifetime to master. The goal is to overtake your opponent’s King. Queens, rooks, bishops, knights and pawns have different movement and attack abilities.
- Number of players: 2
- Materials required: Chess board, white pieces, black pieces, chess clock (optional)
- Ages: All
- Time: Typically 30 minutes to a few hours or longer.
How to Play Chess
Pieces and Moves
Each piece in chess has different way of moving around the board and capturing pieces.
- The Rook (also known as castle). Rooks may move any number of vacant squares vertically (up and down) or horizontally (left and right). If an opponents piece blocks the path, that piece may be captured by moving the rook into the occupied square.
- The Bishop – Bishops may move any number of vacant squares in any diagonal direction. Like rooks, they may capture an opponents piece within its path.
- The Queen – Generally considered the most powerful piece. The Queen moves much like a rook and bishop combined. Queens can move any number of vacant squares diagonally, horizontally, or vertically. Attacking with a queen is the same as with rooks and bishops, taking an opponents piece that lies within its path.
- The King – The King can move exactly one space in any direction and can attack any piece except the opponent’s king and queen (it cannot go near it or else it would result in check).
- The Knight (looks like a horse) – The knight is somewhat special in that it is the only piece that can “jump” over other pieces. They move to the nearest square not on the same rank, file, or diagonal, i.e. two squares horizontally or vertically and then one square perpendicular to that in an “L” shaped pattern. For example, a knight may move two spaces horizontally and one space vertically, and vice versa. The knight cannot be blocked, and only captures pieces that it lands on. In other words, you can “jump” over all the pieces blocking the knight, and capture a piece as you land.
- Pawn – The pawn only moves forward one space with the exception of the first time it is moved, when it may move forward one or two spaces. If another piece is in front of the it, the pawn may not move or capture that piece. Pawns may only attack a target if the target is one space diagonally forward from the pawn. i.e. Up one square and one square to the right or left.
Other Special Moves
- Castle. Castling is used to get your king out of the center early in the game, where it is most vulnerable. To castle, you move your king 2 squares to the left or right, and your rook at the corner square jumps over the king. You cannot castle if: (1) There are pieces between the king and rook; (2) The king is in check, or it will have to go through check or into check to castle; (3) The king or rook has already moved in the game; or (4) The rook is not on the same rank as the king (prevents castling with a promoted pawn).
- En passant (means “passing” in French). En passant is a special kind of capture move de immediately after a player moves a pawn two squares forward from its starting position, and an opposing pawn could have captured it if it had only moved one square forward. In this situation, the opposing pawn may, on the immediately subsequent move, capture the pawn as if taking it “as it passes” through the first square; the resulting position would then be the same as if the pawn had only moved one square forward and the opposing pawn had captured normally. En passant must be done on the very next turn, or the right to do so is lost.
- Promotion. If a pawn reaches the 8th rank (or 1st rank if you are black), it can be promoted to a Knight, Bishop, Rook, or Queen. It cannot stay as a pawn or be promoted to another king. To indicate pawn promotion in chess notation, write the square that it moves to (i.e. C8). Then you put an equals sign (i.e. C8=). Then put the abbreviation for the piece that you want it to promote it to (i.e. C8=R)
How Do You Play Chess?
- Set up the chess board by placing all the white and black pieces in their proper starting locations.
- Start the Game. White goes first. The player with white pieces moves any piece legally, as as described above. Then it becomes Black’s turn.
- Continue play with each player moving one piece per turn until the game ends. A player must make a move; one cannot “pass.” The game continues until a King is checkmated or a stalemate occurs.
- Capture an opponent’s piece by moving a piece into an occupied square. The captured piece is then removed from the board and is permanently removed.
- End the game.
“Check” and “checkmate”:
A player is in a situation known as a “check” when their king at risk of being captured the next turn. The player who is in check must urgently get his king out of check on their next turn. To accomplish this, he or she must either:
- Capture the piece threatening your king. You can do this with another piece or take it with your king directly (if the piece is not protected).
- Move your king safely out of the range of the piece that is attacking it.
- Block the piece threatening your king with another piece (note that this doesn’t work for knights, as they can’t be blocked).
If a player is unable to get their king out of check, this is known as a “checkmate” and the game ends with the other player winning.
Also, a player can not put himself or herself into check, i.e. to make a move that exposes your king to capture on the next turn.
There are two other situations that are possible, though less common:
- Stalemate. A stalemate is a special case where a player does not have any legal moves, but is not in check. A stalemate is a draw. The Fifty-Move rule is a special case where each player has made fifty moves without a pawn move or capture. This is a draw.
- Resign. Either player can resign (give up) at any time and accept a loss.