Pawn Endgames #2 – Rule of the Square

Some games finish in 20 moves with a checkmate combination, others are decided in the middlegame, but many enter the final stage of the game – The endgame. The difference between understanding these positions or not equates to the result of the game, so it is really important that you don’t dismiss this part of the game. What I like about endgames is that because there are fewer pieces on the board, your analysis can be more complete, and a deeper understanding can be achieved. In this chapter, we will look at the rule of the square, which is both easy to learn and applicable to many positions.

To Push or not to Push

In this position below, if it is white to move, then white will win, but if it is black to move, then it will be drawn:

In this position, the only move that wins is to push the pawn with 1. a4 and so the race begins. …Kf6 2. a5 Ke6 3. a6 Kd6 4. a7 Kc7 5. a8 = Q it should be clear to see that white has won the race, and the game as well. You might still be wondering what the rule of the square is and how can it be used to help make your decisions. Here it is…

The Rule of the Square – A Visual Approach

Below is an example of the square coming into play in the first scenario we looked at:

The idea is that if the black king can jump into ‘the square’ at any point in time, then he will catch the pawn. In this position even if it is black to move, he won’t be able to jump inside the square, and will therefore lose after white promotes to a queen (or rook).

To construct the square, you count how many squares are ahead of the pawn, then make the same length to the side of the pawn. The main idea behind it is that the enemy king can approach from any direction: the side, below, diagonal, but if that king cannot get inside the square, then it won’t catch the pawn.

Different Routes, but the Same Number of Moves

 

An important concept to understand about all endgames is that the king can get to a final destination via several routes in the same number of moves. This is very important when the king plays a dual role – When it has to be able to go in a different direction if that is required to win.

Going back to the first example:

Let`s now suppose that it is black to move in this position. There are several ways to draw this. For example: 1. Kf8 a4 2. Ke8 a5 3. Kd8 a6 4. Kc8 a7 5. Kb7 a8=Q+ 6. Kxa8 draw.

But that is not the only way that black could draw the position. As long as the black king is moving in a leftwards direction – and is able to jump into the square, then it will be drawn. Here is another example: 1… Kf7 2. a4

Visually, it is clear to see that the black king is going to enter the square on the very next move. 2… Ke6 3. a5 Kd5 4. a6 Kc6 5. a7 Kb7 6. a8=Q+ and the queen gets gobbled up again … Kxa8 draw.

You should also note that if white tries to move his king forwards instead of pushing the pawn, this also fails to win, because the black king can just move back and forth.

Reti`s Study – Dual Purpose King Manoeuvers

Now that you are familiar with the simplest version of this idea, I want to show you how it can be applied to a more complicated example, which was a study of Richard Reti – one of the greatest players of the 1920s. White to move:

Reti, 1921

At first glace it looks like white is hopelessly lost, because there is no way to get the white king inside the square, and the white pawn is about to be devoured by the black king. There is one move that saves the day for white though.

1. Kg7! The king goes down towards the black pawn and across to help the white pawn at the same time. …h4 2. Kg6 now the white king is in its perfect position, ready to react accordingly.

In this position, black has 2 logical options.

A) Firstly, he could try to just march his h-pawn down to victory. The white king won’t be able to catch it. While this is true, it does not mean that black can win. For example 2…h3 3. Ke7 the king has now decided which way it must go – to help the white pawn promote. …h2 4. c7 Kb7 (4…h1=Q 5. c8=Q+ also draws) 5. Kd7 h1=Q 6. c7=Q+ Now both sides have a queen, and it will be drawn with correct play.

B) Alternatively, black could try to capture white`s c-pawn and hope that his black pawn will still make it. Let`s see what happens here: 2… Kb6 3. Ke5! (note that 3. Kg5 fails because of …h3! and the pawn is unstoppable) Even at this stage, the king has a dual role. If black now advances the h-pawn, the white king commits to helping the c-pawn promote. 3…h3 4. Kd6 h2 5. c7 h1=Q 6. c8=Q draw.

If black decides to take the pawn with 3… Kxc6 then white goes in the other direction, and enters the square of the black pawn. 4. Kf4 ( 4. Ke4 also works)

The fact that it is black to move in this position does not matter, because the white king is already inside the square. Hopefully you can now see how this concept can be very useful. 4… h3 5. Kg3 h2 6. Kxh2 draw.

To consolidate your learning, I would recommend working through this lesson on chess.com. As always, if you have any questions about the content covered, feel free to ask them in the comments.

 

 

Chapter Quiz (Beginner)

To test whether you have successfully learned the different parts of this course, you should attempt these questions. This chapter quiz should highlight the areas you need to recap as well, before moving on to the novice course. Solutions are at the end.

  1. It is white to move, what is the outcome of this position is it a draw or a loss?

2. White has not yet moved either rook or the king, is white able to castle in this position, and why?

3. Can black win this position, and how?

4. What is the correct notation for the move played in this position below?

5. What is the correct notation for the move played in this position below?

6. How does white checkmate black in 1 move?

7. How does white checkmate black in 1 move?

8. How does black checkmate white in 2 moves?

9. What is the result of this position, is it won/drawn?

10. CHALLENGE! White to play and win.

Please see the solutions here…

 

Rook Endgames #1 – Pushing the King Backwards

I have witnessed many painful attempts of beginners at the king and rook v. king checkmate. Of all the rook endgames, this is the easiest, because it contains the fewest number of pieces. All you need to know is a foolproof method, which works for every situation, and relies on just 2 key patterns and you will never struggle again.

The method which I am suggesting is not the fastest way to checkmate your opponent, but it is certainly the simplest. The first thing you have to decide is which way you are going to push your opponent back, from left to right, up to down, or the reverse of either of these two. The rook acts as a barrier, cutting off the enemy king from all of the files/ranks behind the line of the barrier:

It is also important to understand the idea of the ‘opposition‘. In this endgame, when the black king grabs the opposition, white checks the black king from the side, and this forces the black king to concede ground. This pattern repeats, until the black king is on the back rank, and when white forces black to move back, the black king can`t go back, because there are no more ranks left, and so it is checkmate. Here is an example of this checkmate:

 

1. Kd3 Kc5 2. Re4 Now we can see that the white rook is cutting off the black king from ranks 1-4.

 

2…, Kd5 3. Rh4 Ke5 4. Ra4 Kd5 5. Ra5+ Kd6 White forces the black king to concede ground. Now the black king can`t go on ranks 1-5.

6. Kc4 Ke6 7. Kd4 Kf6 8. Ke4 Kg6 9. Kf4 Kh6 10. Kg4 Kg6 Now white can force the black king to retreat, by a repeating pattern. 11. Ra6+ 

 

11…, Kf7 12. Kf5 Ke7 13. Rh6 Kd7 14. Ke5 Kc7 15. Kd5 Kb7 16. Kc5 Ka7 17. Kb5 Kb7 18. Rh7+ With this side check, we force the black king onto the back rank… Kc8 19. Kc6 Kd8 20. Ra7 We waste a move, so that the kings are three squares apart and it is our move. If the black king comes back on himself, then the rook check will be mate. Ke8 21. Kd6 Kf8 22. Ke6 Kg8 23. Kf6 Kh8 24. Kg6 Kg8 25. Ra8#

You will now be able to carry out a rook and king v, king endgame with no problems…One last little tip is to avoid putting your king on the same file/rank as your rook, because it will possibly allow your opponent`s king to pass through the broken barrier of a the rook. This is rather frustrating and time wasting, so just keep it simple, follow the recurring patterns, and you should never again have troubles over this endgame. For some practice, you can play this position out against a computer in this drill.

 

 

 

Pawn Endgames #1 – King First, Pawn Second

The endgame is the latter part of the game, where few pieces are left on the board, and there is subsequently lots of space for the remaining pieces to manoeuvre. The kings that were before a burden, and had to be defended well now become attacking pieces, often aiming to escort the pawns to the opponent`s back rank and promote them to queens.

Although there are few pieces on the board, often it becomes harder to select the right plan, because there are many ‘reasonable’ looking moves, and subtleties in the position become glaringly obvious. When you become well acquainted with these typical pawn endgames, then you should be able to recycle them in your own games, and also develop a powerful thought process, by understanding these ideas.

Below is a winning endgame position, but you have to be careful on proceeding, otherwise black might be able to hold a draw:

 What Not To Do…

If you play e3 here, then it will be an immediate draw. Let`s see why (if you have a chess board, you might want to run through the moves on it):

1. e3 Ke4 2. Ke2 (the only move that holds onto the pawn) …,Ke5 white can try a few different ideas here, but none of them work. 3. Kf3 Kf5 gaining the ‘opposition’.

White continues 4. e4+ and black calmly takes his position in front of the pawn again     …, Ke5 5. Ke3 Ke6 It doesn`t matter which side white goes, black will calmly take the opposition, and repeat the pattern.

6. Kf4 Kf6 7. e5+ Ke6 8. Ke4 Ke7 

9. Kf5 Kf7 10. e6+ Ke7 11. Ke5 Ke8 another shift back. 12. Kf6 Kf8 13. e7+ Ke8 14. Ke6 Stalemate. The final position shown below is worth memorising:

The Way To Win

As we have just seen, the move 1. e3 is not the right way to go about this endgame, because it results in either stalemate or white losing the pawn and drawing by default. The key to this type of endgame, which is also true to many others is to gain the oppositionThe best move is therefore 1. Ke3 This move forces the black king to go one way or the other, and when it goes one way, you should always go the other way to outflank him. This way, you will soon push your opponent`s king back, and gain control of the queening square.

1…, Kd5 2. Kf4 black tries to keep the king centralised with …, Ke6 Again white gains the opposition with 3. Ke4!

We can just repeat the pattern, to force the black king further back …, Kd6 4. Kf5 Ke7 5. Ke5

Black realises that it is no good to keep conceding ground, so he changes tact …, Kd7 6. Kf6 Kd6

7. e4 Kd7

Just keep on pushing the pawn now, and there is nothing black can do to stop it. 8. e5 Kd8 9. e6 Ke8

 

10. e7 Kd7 the only move 11. Kf7 Kd6 12. e8=Q and black can resign here, because checkmate follows shortly.

To practice this endgame against a computer, I would recommend this drill on chess.com. By doing this, the computer will highlight any mistakes that you are prone to make, and you can learn from this and be sure to win when it is possible.

 

Basic Checkmate Patterns – Tactics #1

In this instalment, I am going to show you the basic checkmate patterns in their simplest form. Once you understand how to checkmate in one position, there will be a vast number of similar positions that you can apply the same idea to.

Once you recognise how to achieve checkmate, then you can start to think about how to get there in a game. This will often involve bringing many pieces into an attack against your opponent`s king, a pawn storm perhaps, to remove the pawns in front of a castled king, or even a sacrifice pieces to prise open the enemy position. Here is the first pattern:

The Back Rank Mate

Typically, this checkmate will be allowed by carelessness on your opponent`s part. However, as you progress, you will notice that what is defined by ‘carelessness’ becomes increasingly subtle, and the back rank problems can arise from a seemingly ‘safe’ position to the untrained eye, when the choice may arise for them whether to forfeit material, and enter a losing endgame or to lose on the spot by an immediate checkmate.

It is white to move and win.

Re8# delivers the back rank checkmate.

Now, I will show you an example where a choice must be made between losing material or losing on the spot… On the board below, black won by the following combination 1…, Qxh7 2. Rxh7 Rd1#

Black can win the white queen. If white recaptures, there is a surprise in store…

… Black checkmates white with Rd1#

The Kiss of Death Checkmate

This one is when the queen lands on a square that is defended by an ally piece (often a pawn or a king) and checkmates the opponent as shown in the diagram below: 1…, Qg5#

Here is another example:

Qb7#

Smothered Mate

Out of all the different checkmates, this one is by far and away the most satisfying one to play. There is nothing more humorous than the situation where one`s king is trapped in by his own men and can`t escape checkmate – it is like an own goal in football.

Ne2#

Here is another example (a purer example). Black can win by the following combination: 1…, Qg1+ 2. Rxg1 Nf2#

The Lawnmower

This is a checkmate that two rooks against a lone king can make. The rooks drive the king to one edge of the board until the king is trapped and becomes checkmated. The easiest way to do it is to be methodical. Move your rooks are far from the enemy king as possible, then start to slide them down the board, and force the enemy king to the edge. If the king attacks your rook, simply slide it across to the other side.

In this position, white could checkmate black by the following sequence of moves:  1. Ra4+ Kd5 2. Rb5+ (figure 2) 

Kc6 3. Rh5 Kd6 4. Ra6+ Kc7 5. Rh7+ (figure 3) 

Kb8 6. Rg6 Kc8 7. Rg8# (figure 4)

You should now have a foundation in understanding these basic checkmate patterns which you will no doubt get a chance to use in your own games. If you want to practice your tactical skills further, then you could use tactics trainer on chess.com. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below…

 

What is Notation in Chess? – Keeping Score

With a view to look over your games again, it is often important to record your games – strong players do this to analyse them (with the aid of chess engines). To spot where their mistakes during the game were, and to learn from them, so as to not repeat them. To do this, you need to answer the question ‘What is notation in chess?

The good news is that it is very logical and easy to pick up. I am going to focus on the most common notation (algebraic), which is used by FIDE, ECF and chess.com, although I will include a bit about the other type in case you come across an old chess book and you can`t understand a word of it. Here goes:

The chess board is made up of 8 files and 8 ranks. Every file has assigned to it a letter (a-h). For example the kings are on the e-file at the start of the game, and the queens are on the d-files. The ranks are always from white’s perspective, with the closest to the white player being rank 1. Therefore, all of black`s pieces are on rank 8, and all of black’s pawns are on rank 7. Here is a diagram:

 

A general rule for notation is the piece that moves always comes first, and the pieces are described in the following way:

  • Kings – K
  • Queens – Q
  • Rooks – R
  • Knights – N (to avoid confusion for K which is king)
  • Bishops – B
  • Pawns – a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h (depending on which file they occupy). The leftmost pawn is the a-pawn.

If a piece is moving somewhere you can put  ” – ”  after the piece you move, but it is common nowadays to not include this. If a piece is capturing another piece, then it is denoted by ” x ” in between the piece and the square (of destination), the first letter always represents the piece that is doing the action. The second part of the move is which square it is going to, and for this we use the coordinates as given on the board above…Here are a few examples:

  • Na4 – Knight moves to a4.
  • Qe8 – Queen moves to e8.
  • Bxd1 – Bishop takes the piece on d1.
  • Rxb6 – Rook takes the piece on b6.

The question may have arisen “what if there are 2 knights that could both move to a4, how does someone know which one is moving if all I write down is Na4?”

The answer to this question is simple, in these situations, you put a letter or a number after the piece to describe which one it is, for example: Nbd7.
There were 2 knights that could move to d7, but it was the one on the b-file that moved.

before the move

after the move Nbd7

If there are 2 pieces that could move to a square, but they are both on the same file, then you use the rank instead to distinguish the one that moves, for example: R8xb7. There were 2 rooks on the b-file, but the one that was on the 8th rank made the move.

before the move

after the move R8xb7

Exceptions

For castling, there is a unique notation:

  • 0-0 = kingside castling
  • 0-0-0 = Queenside castling

When a pawn promotes, you use an ” = ” to denote promotion, and the last part is what piece the pawn becomes, for example:

  • a1=Q – A black pawn lands on a1 and becomes a queen.
  • e1=Q – A black pawn lands on e1 and becomes a queen.
  • b8=N+ – A white pawn lands on b8 and becomes a knight and checks the white king.
  • h8=Q# – A white pawn lands on h8 and becomes a queen, which checkmates black.

Suffixes

By this point, you could score a game well, but there are a few last things that will give extra detail, which either reinforces what you think or gives further description:

After the move, ” + “ means that it is a check, and ” # “ means that it is checkmate. In the case of a resignation, I tend to put “resigns” on their move, but you can also put “1-0” for white wins, “0-1” for black wins; “0.5-0.5” for a draw.

More descriptive ones, which may also be subjective are as follows:

  • !! – Winning move
  • ! – Excellent move
  • !? – Interesting move
  • ?! – Dubious move
  • ? – Mistake
  • ?? – Blunder
  • +- White has the advantage
  • -+ Black has the advantage

What a Scoresheet looks like

Descriptive Notation: The old Fashioned Way

Note: You might not have to know this unless you have an old chess book.

There is one other main type of notation; commonly used in old English chess books called ‘descriptive notation’. This notation is based on white and black having a different perspective on the chess board, and so all moves are scored from the perspective of the player who moved. This means that black’s 8th rank is white`s first rank, and vice versa. The squares on the board are described not algebraically, but are described in terms of the location of the pieces at the starting position. It is easier to understand with examples:

  • P-K4 – pawn to the 4th square on the king’s file (the file in line with the king at the start of the game) = e4/ e5 (depending on whose move it is)
  • P-Q3 – pawn to 3rd square on the queen`s file = d3/ d6
  • B-QN5 – bishop to the 5th square on the queen`s knight file = Bb5/ Bb4
  • KN-KB3 – king’s knight to 3rd square on the king’s bishop file= Ngf3
  • KxP – King takes pawn = (e.g) Kxd5
  • R(N8)xP – rook on the 8th square on the knight file takes pawn = R8xb7

You may also rarely see Kt being used to represent N for knight, which actually baffled me for several months, when I didn’t know what this t stood for…

To improve your vision of the chess board, and to ingrain the notation, you could use vision trainer on chess.com.

Draw in Chess – The 6 Different Ways

With the white pieces, I think you should always play for a win, because you have the first move, but with black a draw is okay. In the Russian school of chess they said “With the black pieces just aim to get an equal position”. This is a reasonable statement, because black has the disadvantage of not having the first move.

In this post, I will outline all of the possible ways in which you can get a draw in chess. There are 6:

Drawn by 3-fold repetition

The reason I put this one first is because it is the preferred way for grandmasters. No words have to be spoken, all you have to do is move your pieces back and forth, until the same position has occured on the board 3 times. Often top players deliberately repeat the position a couple of times, then play on for the win. Psychologically, this can have an effect on the opponent, because of numerous reasons.

A rather amusing article was written on chess.com about this subject.

 Drawn by Perpetual Check

This one can be confused with the one above (they are closely related), but basically the idea is that one players king cant find a safe square from checks. By this I mean a square where the king can’t be checked. One side checks their opponent on every move. When no progress can be made by either side it will be a draw. The technicality of this draw is that it will either be a 3-fold repetition, or a 50 move rule.

The piece that often does the checking is the queen, because it covers many squares. If you find yourself in an inferior position (at least, one that you believe to be) then you might be able to draw the game by sacrificing material, such as a knight or bishop to remove the protection of the king (the pawns in front of a castled king) and obtain a perpetual check position. This is a sensible option. Here is an example:

White is ‘in check’ and the only legal move is moving the king to the right The black queen can then check, by moving the queen right one square. This will lead to a 3-fold repetition.

 Drawn by Stalemate

If you have heard of none of the above ways to draw, then I am sure that you will have heard of this one. The famous stalemate is really both the worst nightmare of every chess player and the superficial delight of a hustler. In time troubles – when the chess clock says that you have used up more time than your opponent, it is easy to make mistakes…

Stalemate: The position where a player cannot make any legal move, otherwise they would be walking into check. Here is an example of one such position:

It is black to move, but there is no legal move for black to make, therefore it is a draw by stalemate.

Drawn by Agreement

One player offers the other a draw, by simply saying something like “Do you want a draw?” or perhaps just “draw?”. In some tournaments, you have to get beyond a certain move number before you draw; aimed at preventing draws happening immediately for strategical reasons, which is both boring and also borderline cheating.

Many grandmasters stay clear of this method, because they fear the draw being rejected, when they might start playing badly – a psychological factor.

In response to the draw being offered, to decline, you can either say “Not yet” or “No thanks”, or anything else reasonable, just don`t be rude, because that is disrespectful. If you want to accept, then shaking hands should be enough.

Drawn by 50 move rule/ 75 move rule

This rule is a bit more obscure, but also 100% valid. The idea is that you can move around the chess board, without making a 3 fold repetition but also without making any progress, and to avoid the game going on indefinitely the game is drawn.

If there are 50 consecutive moves that do not make any ‘progress’* then either player can claim a draw.

If there are 75 consecutive moves that do not make any ‘progress’* then an arbiter can step in and declare the game drawn.

*Progress is defined as either a capture or a pawn move.

There is also some controversy, brought about by Averbahk, who discovered some positions where one side is winning, but it takes more than 50 moves to maneouver your pieces in the right places – for example a king and knight versus a king and pawn, but that is a topic for another post.

Drawn by Insufficient Material

It is what it says on the tin. If you don’t have enough material, then you might not be physically able to win, even if your opponent makes the worst moves possible.

One very obvious example is king versus king. Draw.

Here are a few more examples of drawn situations. The king can always escape against these combinations of pieces. You can try for yourself as an exercise to checkmate with these material relations – You won`t be able to!

  • King and bishop v. King
  • King and knight v. King
  • King and 2 knights v. king

 

You can test out these insufficient material relations, by trying to checkmate your opponent. If you have any questions about these different ways to draw in chess, then do feel free to drop a comment below.

What is en passant? – And Other Extra Rules

The first post outlines the really basic rules, but to become a fully equipped chess player, there are some other things you need to know…

This first extra rule is perhaps one that many beginners dont know, and I would say that for every 100 games, it occurs just once – this does vary depending on what openings you play. The question is what is en passant? It is essentially another pawn move, which can be played only in some positions.

En Passant

This phrase originates from French I believe, and translates literally as ‘in passing’. The general idea is that the price of bypassing an enemy, and not confronting them, is that you are stabbed in the back. I could hardly imagine William the Conqueror leading his army round Harold Godwinson`s by the cover of night. He would have found that further inland there would be more armies, and being surrounded like that is not much fun.

The rule: When one player has a pawn on the fifth rank (that is to say advanced 3 squares forward of the starting position) and the opposing player moves a pawn on an adjacent file (vertical column) the maximum advancement, then the fifth rank pawn may capture the enemy pawn as if it had moved just 1 square.

It is easier to understand with diagrams:

white has a pawn on the 5th rank.

black advances an adjacent pawn 2 squares.

white is able to (and does) capture en passant

However, this move – en passant – may only be played immediately after your opponent`s move. If you are white in the diagram above, and when you reach position 2, you play a different move, then on your next move you want to take en passant, that is not allowed.

For further reading, I would recommend this article on chess.com.

Castling

Now after learning an obscure rule, it is time to learn a very practical one that you can use in almost all games. The king is the one piece that you are trying to defend, and if it is in the middle of the board, then it will be subject to attacks from all angles, so we want to keep him safe. One easy way of doing this, is to tuck him away in the corner. Now, first of all we have to have moved our pieces off the back rank, so that there is just empty space between the king and the rook, and then you have the option of performing this move.

The king always moves 2 squares towards the rook, and the rook jumps over the king. When you make this move in a game, you should use only 1 hand, and move the king first, then the rook, otherwise your opponent will say “aha, you touched the rook! Now you have to move that piece…” This is unfortunately a very valid statement.

Kingside Castling

before castling

after castling

Queenside Castling

There is also another way of castling – Castling queen-side. This is often a riskier option, and can lead to more aggressive games, because if you castle one way, and your opponent castles the other, then it is a real race to see who`s attack comes first. Who delivers the first blow. Anyway…

before castling

after castling

When You Can’t Castle

There are however certain positions where it is not okay to castle, even though you have moved all the chess pieces out of the way. Firstly, you can`t castle when you are in check. You also can`t castle into check, or through check.

You can’t castle when you are in check

You can’t castle into check

You can’t castle through check

It is okay for your rook to move through the line of fire, but your king can’t. The only other time that you can`​t castle, is if the rook has already moved in the game. You can`t move your rook up the board, then a few moves later move it back, and try to castle – it is just not allowed. Here is an article on a grandmaster game, where they castled incorrectly. Yes, even the best players sometimes have a mental block.

Pawn Promotion

When a pawn has ran all the way down the board, and can go no further without dropping off the board, the pawn in question becomes a piece of higher value – almost always a queen, although you can promote a pawn to any piece you want to as long as you are not currently in check. 

The vast majority of the time, you will be promoting to a queen, because it is the best piece. However, there are certain stalemate themes, where promoting to a knight or a rook is the way to win.

When a pawn reaches the end of the board it is promoted…

…to a queen

… or a knight

… or a rook or a bishop (but this is less common).

How the game can end

At the end of every game, there are 3 possible outcomes: You either win, lose or draw. To win, you can either checkmate your opponent, or they might simply resign (give up), because they don`t want to waste time and energy fighting a losing battle. Below is a position where black can checkmate white next move, and win the game:

It is black to move and checkmate white.

Ne2# checkmate is the end of the game.

 

In the second position, the white king is in check – it is being threatened by the black knight, but there is no way of white getting out of check. There are three ways to deal with check, you either move your king, block the line of fire or take the enemy piece.

  1. In this position, white can`t move his king anywhere, because there are white pieces in the way, and the h-file is controlled by a black rook.
  2. White can`t block the line of fire, because naturally knights can`t be blocked.
  3. The knight cannot be captured by any white piece.
  4. Therefore it is checkmate.

Moving on, there are many ways to draw a game of chess, so  I think that topic deserves its own post. If you have any questions about how these rules work, then please do leave a comment below, and I will respond within a couple of days.

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 – 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.

Kings

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.

Queens

 

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).

Rooks

 

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.

Knights

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

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.

Pawns

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.

before capture

after capture

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:

  1. Capture enemy piece that is doing the check.
  2. Block line of fire of enemy piece.
  3. 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.