How to Play Chess | Rules + 7 Steps for Beginners
It’s never too late to learn how to play chess, the world’s most important board game! Let’s learn the rules and find out how to succeed in chess!
Step 1: How to Set Up the Board
Before the game, the board is positioned so that there is a white square in front of each of the players in the lower right corner.
The chess pieces are always placed in the same way. The second row (or row) is occupied by pawns. Rooks stand in the corners, knights next to them, bishops after knights, finally queens are placed on a square of their color (white queen on white, black on black) and the king occupies the rest of the square.
Placing pieces on the chessboard at the beginning of a game is very simple.
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Step 2: How the pieces move
Each of the six pieces moves differently. Pieces cannot jump over other pieces (with the exception of the knight) or stand on a field where a piece of the same color is already standing. However they can occupy the place of an enemy piece which is considered as captured. Pieces are usually placed in such a way that they threaten to capture enemy pieces (to stand on the square where a captured piece is standing and replace it), defend their own pieces which are threatened by capture or keep important squares of the board under attack.
How the King Moves in Chess
The king is the most important piece, but also one of the weakest. The king can only move one square in any direction: up, down, sideways, and diagonally. The King can never stand on a broken square (where he can be taken by an opponent piece). When the king is attacked by another piece, it is called check.
How the queen moves in chess
The queen is the strongest piece. He can walk in a straight line in any direction – forward, backward, sideways or diagonally across any number of squares, but he cannot jump over other pieces. If a queen or any other piece takes an opponent’s piece, the move ends. See how the white queen takes the black queen, forcing the black king to make a move.
How the rook moves in chess
The rook can move any number of squares, but only forwards, backwards, and sideways (not diagonally). Rooks are especially strong when they protect each other and act together!
How the Bishop Moves in Chess
The bishop can move on any number of squares connected by angles on the diagonal. Each elephant can only move half of the board (one color, white or black). Elephants work well together, complementing each other perfectly.
How a knight moves in chess
Knights move differently from other pieces – they move two squares in the same direction and then one square at a 90 degree angle, in a “G” pattern. A knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces.
How a pawn moves in chess
A pawn is an unusual piece, it moves and takes differently: a pawn can only move forward, and take only diagonally. The pawn can move only one square per move. but the pawn that has not yet moved can go forward one or two squares. Pawn can take only diagonally one field in front of him. A pawn cannot move or take backward. If another piece is directly in front of a pawn it cannot move forward and cannot take that piece.
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Step 3: Special Chess Rules
Chess has some special rules devised to make the game more fun and interesting.
How to turn a pawn in chess
A pawn has one wonderful feature: when it reaches the opposite side of the board, it can become any other piece (this is called “pawn transformation”).
A pawn can turn into any piece. Some amateurs think that a pawn can turn into only one of the previously taken pieces. This is NOT the case. Usually a pawn is turned into a queen, but it is also possible to turn into other pieces.
Taking on a pass.
The last rule that applies to pawns is called “capture on the pass. A pawn which has made a move on two squares from its original position can be taken by an opponent’s pawn located on the adjacent vertical and on the horizontal just occupied by the pawn. At the capture the opponent’s pawn occupies not that field, which was occupied by the taken pawn, but the one, which it passed.
Such capture is possible only by the move following the advancement on two squares and is impossible afterwards. Let’s study an example to better understand this unusual but important rule.
Castling is another special chess rule. Castling allows you to do two important things in one move: secure (if possible) your king and move your rook out of the corner, bringing it into play. When castling, the player moves his king two squares toward his rook, then that rook occupies the square the king just crossed (see example). Castling can be performed only if the following conditions are met:
- the king has never moved before castling;
- the rook performing castling has never moved;
- There are no other pieces between the king and the rook;
- the king is not under check and does not cross a square attacked by an enemy piece.
Note that when castling on the kingside, the king is closer to the edge of the board. This move is called “short castling”. Castling to the other flank, across the field where the queen was, is called “long castling”. In both short and long castling, the king moves only two squares.
Step 4. the first move
The chess player who plays white always moves first. To decide who plays white, the chess players usually flip a coin or one of them guesses the color of a pawn hidden in the opponent’s hand. Then white makes a move, then black, then white again, then black, and so on in turn until the end of the game. Being able to move first is a small advantage that gives White the opportunity to attack immediately.
Step 5: How to Win a Chess Game
A chess game can end in several ways: checkmate, draw, surrender, and time loss.
How to checkmate in chess
The aim of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king. Checkmate is on the board when one of the players can’t defend against a check,
There are three ways to defend against the check:
- retreat to another square (but not castling!),
- by covering himself with another piece
- or capture a piece that has attacked the king.
If the king cannot avoid the checkmate, the game is over. Usually the king is not taken or removed from the board, the game is simply declared over.
If you are inattentive, a checkmate can be received at any point in the game. Here is an example of the Fastest Mate, which occurs as early as the second move.
When the chess game is drawish.
A chess game ends not with a win but with a draw in five cases:
- A “stalemate” occurs on the board if the player has no possible moves on his turn and his king is not under check.
During the queen’s move to c7 Black is not in check, but he also cannot make a move. The board is stalemated, and the game ends in a draw.
- Opponents can simply agree to a draw and end the game.
- There are not enough pieces left on the board to checkmate (e.g. king and bishop against king).
- A player declares a draw if the same position on the board is repeated three times (not necessarily three times in a row).
- There have been no captures or pawn advancements during the last 50 moves.
Step 6: Basic Strategy Techniques
There are four simple things every chess player should know:
Defending your king.
Move your king to the corner of the board, usually where it is more safely located. You shouldn’t put off castling. Usually you should castling as early as possible. Remember: no matter how close you are to calling checkmate on your opponent’s king, as long as your king is called checkmate first!
Don’t yawn your pieces.
Don’t give away your pieces for nothing! Every piece is valuable. You can’t win a game without pieces, or you won’t have anything to checkmate with. There is a simple system that allows you to determine the relative value of each piece:
- A pawn is a basic unit – 1 point.
- Knight is worth 3 points.
- Bishop is worth 3 points.
- Rook is worth 5 points.
- Queen is worth 9 points.
- King is priceless.
These points have no influence on the result of the game. It is just a reference point for making decisions during the game. This system helps you understand when it is better to capture an opponent’s piece, to make a change or to make another move.
Control the center of the chessboard
Try to control the center of the board with our pieces and pawns. If we have the center in our hands, we will have more room to maneuver our pieces, and it will be more difficult for the opponent to place his pieces comfortably. In the above example, White, trying to control the pieces in the center, makes strong moves, and Black makes weak ones.
Use all own pieces
In the above example white used all of his pieces in the attack! The pieces are of little use, as long as they stand on the first horizontal. Try to develop all of your pieces to gather more strength to attack the enemy king. In a game with a worthy opponent, an attack on the king with one or two pieces is not useful.
Step 7: Play as many pieces as possible
To improve at chess, the most important thing is to play! Whether we play at home with friends, or with relatives, or online, the more we play, the stronger we become. It’s easy to find opponents these days at Chess.com!
How to play variations of chess
Although most people play chess with standard rules, some people like to play chess with modified rules, or “variants of chess.” Each variant has its own rules.
- Chess-960: In Chess-960 (Fischer Chess) the initial arrangement of pieces is chosen at random. The pawns are arranged as in ordinary chess, and the other pieces behind them are placed randomly.
- King of the Mountain: In this version of chess you can win by having your king occupy one of the squares in the center of the chessboard, the so-called “top of the mountain”.
- Swedish Chess: This game is played in pairs. When one of the players takes an opponent’s piece, his partner can use it. For example, if I’m playing white and my partner, playing black, takes my opponent’s white knight, then with any of my future moves I can put it on any open square on the board.
- Crazyhouse: A very interesting game where you can use pieces taken from your opponent. For example, if I play white and take a black pawn, it turns into a white pawn that I can put on the board as my piece with any of my future moves.
- Up to Three Checks: In this game, the one who first gives three checks to the opponent’s king wins.
Enjoy these amazing chess variations.
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How to play Chess-960
Chess-960 uses standard rules except for the initial position of pieces on the last horizontal line where they are placed in any of 960 possible ways chosen at random. Castling is the same as in regular chess: the king and rook stand on the usual squares (g1 and f1, or c1 and d1). Chess-960 differs from ordinary Chess-960 only in the greater variety in the opening.
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How to play by the rules of chess tournaments
Many tournaments use the same rules. They differ from These rules do not apply to games played at home or online, but you may still want to use them.
- Touch – move – If a chess player touches his piece he is obliged to make a move with that piece if it’s possible. If the chess player touches an opponent’s piece he is obliged to take it. A chess player who wants to touch a piece to correct it must first state his intention by saying “correcting”.
- Chess Clock – Most tournaments use a chess clock that allows you to set the time for the game, not the move. Both opponents get the same time for the whole game and decide for themselves how to spend it. Having made his move, the chess player presses the button or lever that starts the opponent’s clock. If the player runs out of time and the opponent says so, the one who ran out of time loses the game (if the opponent has enough pieces to checkmate, otherwise a draw is awarded).
Questions about chess
So many new things are hard to remember at once, so we give answers to the questions most frequently asked by those who are just beginning their journey into the world of chess. We hope you find them useful!
Answers to many questions about Chess.com can be found in the Help section.
How do I improve my chess skills?
Knowing the rules and the basics of strategy is only the beginning: chess is so complex that a lifetime is not enough to master everything! To improve, you need to do three things:
- Play a lot – just keep playing! Play as often as you can. Learn lessons from every game, won or lost.
- Learn Chess Lessons – If you really want to make quick progress, you should take some interactive lessons. You can find chess lessons here.
- Have fun – Don’t get discouraged if you can’t win every game in a row. Even world champions fail. If you enjoy the game and can learn from defeats, you’ll keep chess forever!
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What is the strongest first move in chess?
Although there is no universally recognized strongest move in chess, it is important to fight for the center of the board from the beginning. For this reason, most chess players make the first move one of the central pawns (from the king or queen) two squares forward: 1. d4 or 1. e4. Others prefer 1. c4 or 1. Kf3. Most other moves are not so good. Bobby Fischer considered the best move of the king’s pawn to be 1. e4. You can learn more about openings from our interactive lessons – Debut Principles course .
Who moves first?
The player with the white pieces always moves first.
Can a pawn move back?
A pawn cannot move backward. It can turn into another piece (a queen, for example) when it reaches the opposite side of the board. The piece that the pawn has turned into can, of course, walk backwards.
Can I move more than one piece per move?
You can only move one piece during your move, but there is one exception! When you castling, you move the king and rook in one move.
What is the most important piece in chess?
The king is the most important piece in chess. If you lose the king, you lose the game. However, the strongest chess piece is the queen.
When was chess invented?
The origin of chess is not fully known. The most popular version of chess arose in India nearly two thousand years ago from other similar games. Modern chess is known since the 15th century, when the game became popular in Europe.
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What was the longest game in chess history?
The longest tournament game (by number of moves) in chess history was played by Ivan Nikolic and Goran Arsovic in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1989.
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What is chess notation?
Notation was invented to make it possible to analyze chess games played. Thanks to it we have the possibility to record all the moves of the game and play it as many times as we wish. It is only necessary to record your own moves and those of your opponent correctly.
Chess notation will allow you to store all of your games.
Each box has coordinates, and each piece is denoted by a capital letter (K – knight C – bishop, F – queen, L – rook and R – king).
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What is the purpose of chess?
Chess is a game between two opponents on opposite sides of a board divided into 64 light and dark squares. Each player has 16 pieces: 1 king, 1 queen, 2 rooks, 2 bishops, 2 knights and 8 pawns.
A board, two chess players and 32 pieces are all you need to start a game.
The goal of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king. The king is checkmate when it is under the opponent’s piece (or they say under check) and it is impossible to close from the check, retreat or take an attacking piece.
Ready to start playing chess? Sign up at Chess.com for free and enjoy the game!
How to Play Chess (for Beginners)
Contributor(s): Vitaly Neimer. Vitaly Neimer is an international chess master and certified professional chess coach with over 15 years of coaching experience. He was a member of the US national chess team SPICE (Webster University) and was twice Israeli champion.
Number of sources used in this article: 7. You will find a list of them at the bottom of the page.
Number of views of this article: 337 603.
Chess is an incredibly interesting and appealing game that requires skill and strategic thinking. For centuries it has been popular among intellectuals and scientists. Nevertheless, you don’t need to be a genius to play chess: even children can play and often beat adults. Read this article and learn how to play chess, one of the best board games.
- Pawn: the most basic piece in the game (there are 8 of each player). With its first move it can go forward one or two squares, but after that it can go forward only one square. Pawns can hit pieces that are in front of them on the adjacent square on the diagonal. The pawn cannot move backward and is the only piece that moves and hits differently.
- The rook looks like a fortress tower. It moves horizontally and vertically for any number of cells. The Rook can hit enemy pieces at the end of its move.
- The knight looks in accordance with its name and is the most cunning piece. It moves with the letter “G” two squares horizontally and then one vertically or one square horizontally and two vertically in any direction. The knight is the only piece that can “jump” over other pieces, both own and foreign. He can only take enemy pieces that are on the last square of his move.
- The Bishop only moves diagonally and can move any number of cells. At the end of his turn he can capture enemy pieces.
- Queen : the strongest piece (usually with a more feminine crown than the king). He can move any number of squares horizontally, vertically or diagonally and capture enemy pieces in any of these directions.
- The King can walk or take pieces one cell away from himself in any direction. This piece cannot be given away at any price, as it would mean losing the game. The King cannot be placed under check. If as a result of an opponent’s move the king is under check, it must be taken back or covered at once. If one of the players checkmates the king, he wins the game.
- Remember that each piece has a relative value.
- The king is the most valuable and must be protected.
- The queen is the most versatile piece that is great for attacking and double-striking. The queen combines the strength of the bishop and rook. He is considered the most valuable piece after the king.
- The knights are great for surprise attacks and “forks”. Their unusual way of walking often comes as a surprise to newcomers.
- Elephants are excellent at showing their strength in open positions. Beginners often underestimate bishops and do not use all their capabilities.
- Rooks are strong long-range pieces. They show their full strength in open verticals.
- Pawns may seem insignificant, but they are great for sacrificing them to capture a stronger piece. Sometimes a pawn can checkmate the king himself!
International Master of Chess
Vitaly Neumeyer is an International Master of Chess and a certified professional chess coach with over 15 years of coaching experience. He was a member of the US national chess team SPICE (Webster University) and was twice Israeli champion.
Determine the purpose for which you want to learn to play. Maybe you want to join a club, or maybe you want to become a master. How long you have to learn depends on your goals. If you want to become a master or world champion, you need to find a coach to guide you. There are also books, YouTube channels, and you can even watch games on Twitch.
- To move the king to a square where no one is attacking it, that is, where it is not under check;
- Beat a piece that has declared check;
- to block from check by one of own pieces – this way is not good if check is declared by pawn or knight;
- If the King can’t escape from check with his shortest move then he’s checkmate – in this case the game ends and the one who checkmated wins.
- Chess is an intellectual strategic game. There are a lot of moves and rules that beginners won’t be able to see and understand right away. Be patient! The fun part starts with practice.
- Place all the pawns on the second row in front of you so that you are separated from your opponent by a wall of pawns.
- Put each rook in the corner on your side of the board.
- Place a knight next to each rook and a bishop next to each knight.
- Put the queen on the left square of the remaining two according to its color (black queen should be on the black square, white on the white one).
- Finally, put the king on the last remaining square. Make sure that your partner has the same arrangement of pieces. The queens and kings should be facing each other.
If you’re serious, study chess notation. Each square on the board has a letter and a number. If someone says “knight to c3,” c3 means a specific square on the board. This makes it easier to write chess games. Chess notation is described in this article.