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 – This offers a small advantage for white, but at beginner level this is insignificant.
How to Setup the Chess Board
Here is a diagram of a chess board at the beginning of every game:
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.
To make a capture, your piece moves in standard fashion, and you remove the enemy piece from the square your piece is going to. Note that you can never capture an allied piece (of the same colour), e.g. a white bishop can’t take a white pawn.
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.
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.
Check is where your opponent is threatening to take your king. You can`t put yourself into check – this is an illegal move. The black and white kings never come into the range of one another, because they would be walking into check. This rule also means that kings cannot be captured, because they can`t stay in check for more than 1 move – If your opponent can’t get out of check, then it is checkmate – and you win.
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).
Also known as castles (less often), 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).
Don’t forget that the pieces don’t have to move their maximum number of squares in any direction, 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. 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).
You might have observed that knights go from light square to dark squares, and vice versa – this is always true.
Bishops move diagonally only, never up and down; and never side to side. They have no limit to how far they can travel in one direction, but they cannot go through pieces that obstruct their way (like all pieces except knights).
If the bishop starts off on a light square at the beginning of a game, then it will never be able to go on a dark square, and vice versa, 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 always capture diagonally forwards 1 square. This could be diagonally left, or diagonally right in the forwards direction.
What is Check?
If you are ‘in check’, then your king is being threatened by an enemy piece. Here is an example:
The white king is being threatened, and has to do something about it. You can’t remain in check for more than a single move, otherwise it would be checkmate and the end of the game. I will talk more about checkmate in the next chapter.
There are 3 ways to deal with check:
- Capture enemy piece that is doing the check.
- Block line of fire of enemy piece.
- Move your king.
In this position, white cannot take the bishop, because none of his pieces are attacking the bishop. There are no squares for the king to move to either, so we must block. We can either put our knight in the way, or our bishop.