Basic Rules of Chess

Welcome to my beginner chess course!

I am going to assume that you know absolutely nothing about chess, to ensure that there are no gaps in your knowledge. By the time you have completed this course you will be able to play a game of chess (without breaking any rules), and you should also have a basic knowledge of some strategies and tactics.

In this first chapter, I will cover the basic rules of chess, which includes: how to set up the board and how the pieces move. There are just a couple of exceptions, which will be given their own post, because there is only so much you can learn in one go.

First of all, I should be clear that chess is a turn based game, so you can only make 1 move on your turn, then your opponent tries to find the best move to play for themself. White always moves first. The advantage that this offers increases as you improve at chess. At beginner level, this advantage is pretty irrelevant, because blunders are all over the place, with each one being 10 times more significant than the starting advantage.

How to Setup the Chess Board

Here is a diagram of a chess board at the beginning of any game:

Blank chessboard

Here are some tips to help you remember how to set up the board correctly:

  • The bottom right hand corner is always a white square.
  • The queen always starts off on her own colour square.
  • The queens face each other – the board is symmetrical. 
  • The pieces (going inwards) are rooks, knights and bishops.
  • The second rank (horizontal row) is filled with pawns – the little guys.

How the Pieces Move and Capture

There are 6 different pieces, each with different moving capabilities, and the opposite coloured counterparts move in exactly the same way. A general rule is that the only piece that can jump over other pieces are knights, and for every other piece, you cannot move your piece further than an obstruction in any direction. The captures of enemy pieces are just like any other move (except for pawns), but you remove the enemy piece from the square on the board that your piece now occupies. Note that you can never capture an allied piece (of the same colour).


The king can move 1 square in any direction, that is to say diagonally, vertically and horizontally (as shown in the diagram below). The yellow box is the area the king controls at this moment in time.

black king and moves.png

For a king to capture a piece, it simply jumps into the square that the piece was in, just like any other move (only 1 square in any direction) and you remove your opponents piece from the board. Your king cannot capture an enemy piece if the king is walking into check. This means that your opponent is able to take your king – this is not possible. A typical example of this is when your opponents piece is guarded by another piece.

The black and white kings never come into the range of one another. This means that one king can never take the other. In brief, kings can`t be captured.


A great many more squares are available to the queen than the king, because the queen can move in any direction like the king, but has no restriction on how many squares she can travel (unless there are pieces in the way). For this reason, the queen is the most powerful piece on the board (in almost all situations).

queen and moves


Also known as castles, these fellows can only move in the horizontal and vertical directions – they cannot move diagonally – ever. They too have no restriction on the distance they can travel, unless a piece obstructs their path (a general rule for all pieces except knights).

wr m.png

Don`t forget that the pieces don’t have to move their maximum number of squares, they can stop off at any point – except in between 2 squares.


Out of all the pieces, the knights are the most unique, because the move that they make is not one that a queen can, which is not something that the rooks and bishops can say.

They move in an L – shape. Which is some combination of 2 squares one way, and 1 in the other. For example 1 up, 2 left. The knights can land on any square that is an L away, unless an ally piece is on that square.

bn m

You might have observed that knights go from light square to dark squares, and vice versa – this is always true.


If a queen is like a bishop and a rook stuck together, then what moves do you think the bishop can make?

You guessed it, diagonal only, but not horizontally or vertically. They have no limit to how far they can travel in one direction, but as you guessed, they can not go through pieces that obstruct their way.

bb m

If the bishop is born on a light square (move 0), then he will die on a light square, hence the terms ‘light squared bishop’ and ‘dark squared bishop’. The two different bishops have very different potentials as the game progresses.


Now, this is where things become a little bit more complicated. Pawns are the only type of piece that do not capture in the same way that they move. I will first of all show you how they move. Generally pawns can only move 1 square forward at a time (by forwards, I mean directly towards your opponent), however on the very first move in a game, pawns have a choice, they may either move forwards 1 square or 2 squares. Pawns never move backwards.

pawns m

Pawns always capture diagonally forwards 1 square.

p c m
Before the capture…
after capture
After the capture…


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