Mastering the Basics: A Guide on How to Play Chess

Chess is a timeless game of strategy and skill that has been enjoyed by millions of people around the world for centuries.

We will explore the basics of chess, from setting up the board to understanding the moves of each piece.

Dive into the rules of the game, including how to achieve checkmate and avoid stalemate.

We provide valuable tips and strategies to help you improve your chess game and outwit your opponents. Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways:

  • Understand the objective of the game and the movement of each chess piece before starting a game.
  • Familiarize yourself with the basic rules of chess, including capturing, check and checkmate, and special moves like en passant and castling.
  • Improve your chess game by practicing essential strategies, such as controlling the center, developing pieces, and studying classic games.
  • What Is Chess?

    Chess is a two-person board game that simulates medieval combat between two armies. The players, who represent army commanders, use 16 pieces each to control the battlefield and try to capture the opponent’s king. The game is played on a 64-square board which is colored in a dark-dyed and light-bleached grid pattern, with each player controlling one-half of the board.

    Chess is a game with mathematical applications and challenging decision-making aspects that is further classified as a strategy game, skill-based game, and a mind or brain game. Strategy games center around how to customize and optimize available resources which in chess would be referred to as pieces. Chess can be seen as being a skill-based game because skill is built up slowly through practice and engagement in opportunities that enhance skill in the game such as tournament play, playing speed games, or solving chess puzzles. Chess is referred to as a mind or brain game because it stimulates and trains the mind, rather than physical abilities.

    How To Set Up A Chess Board?

    To set up a chess board, position the board so that each player has a white square in the right-hand corner. If you do not have a chess board, imagine the diagram in the top-left corner of the white side of the board and position the pieces accordingly. Place your rooks in the corners, from left to right as you look at the board, put your knights inside the rooks, your bishops next to the knights, and your queen on the square of her own color. The king stands next to the queen, leaving one empty square in the back row. Pawns are then lined up in the front row.

    On a standard 8×8 chess board, each half of the board has 16 squares for a total of 16 with white. There are 32 pieces total that alternate in color. Each side has 8 pawns, 2 knights, 2 rooks, 2 bishops, 1 queen and 1 king for a total of 32. In 1575, Adrianus de Amstel, a Portuguese priest and prominent chess team member, together with the master of arms of the Rua Eglantine of the city of Clerks, clarified the design of the chess pieces and their arrangement at the beginning of the game. The standard chess board and setup used today derives from their recommendations. The standard board size began as 8×8 in Persia during the 7th century, spreading to the rest of the world by the 15th century. It is unknown how the arrangement of the pieces developed. Leonard da Cutri mentioned earlier that Paolo and a certain order the pieces as they exist today in the 14th century.

    What Are The Chess Pieces And Their Moves?

    The chessboard layout consists of 32 pieces assigned to two players. The chess pieces for a player’s side generally begin with 8 pawns, followed by a king and queen then two bishops, two knights, and two rooks. Each piece has its own style from each other and move in distinct ways. A piece moves to an empty square that is in the direction of the piece’s style is not blocked by any other pieces. If an opponent-piece is in a legal square, the moving piece is removed from the board.

    The King

    The king is the most important piece to protect in most chess situations. If the king has no legal moves, then his position is called a stalemate and the game ends in a draw. If the king is under attack with no way to escape, as per the rules of chess, the attacked king must be considered under a direct check. Under no circumstances is it normally possible to move the king into an attacked position. This is referred to as a checkmate and the game concludes with a victory for the player who put the king in that checkmate position. The king cannot be put in the line of sight of a bishop, rook, or queen, nor can the player make any move which would justify the attack and move the king out of danger.

    The Queen

    The Queen is the second most powerful piece on the board. It can move in any direction as well as unlimited squares away as long as there is no piece on its path and it does not end its move on its own piece. It may move # to # times during a single turn. It is given a base value of # points in # # of chess identification, but is more valuable than its base because of its unique range and # beyond the range of other pieces.

    The Rook

    The Rook is the third most powerful chess piece. The two Rooks begin in the corners of the board. The a1 and h8 Rooks are considered the queenside Rooks, while the Rooks on a8 and h1 are the kingside Rooks. Rooks are most effective in open ranks where they can control ranks and files. This often means they are most effective after the Queen has moved out of the way. Rooks are fast across a board in open moves. But since they cannot jump their own pieces, they are less mobile when a board is filled. The Rook can capture any opposing piece located on the rank or file in which they are active.

    The Bishop

    The bishop (♗ ♝) moves any number of squares diagonally with the limitation that it cannot pass over other pieces except when castling. Bishops and knights are the only pieces that start the game on the back rank next to the rooks. Each side starts with two bishops, a light-squared bishop, and a dark-squared bishop. On average, these bishops control a total of 49 squares each, though the actual number of squares can vary from the control of the fewest when at the board’s edge to the most when positioned near the center.

    The diagram illustrates a bishop that has 13 possible moves. The components of the Bishop’s value include their dynamic mobility representing around 33% of their value as with the knight, and the static value representing 25% of their value as with the queen. They are worth about the same as a knight, both sides start with two, and they are particularly useful in endgames and attacks on the enemy king when pawns have opened up opportunities for increased range. Each bishop start off safely on its own color, but the dark-squared bishop tends to run into complications if the center pawns are moved.

    The Knight

    Knight chess pieces move in a unique way, and not in an L or even Γ shape as is commonly believed. Near each file, knights must jump two steps in one direction and one step transversely, whereas near each of the ranks, knights jump one step in the original direction and two steps approach. The move combines the two, depending on the move of the two by which the piece came to rest in the unsure pattern of a small L. Knights tend to be most dangerous in closed positions where pawns and pieces impair the range of enemy bishops and as they cannot attack one another, resulting in an effective attack.

    The Pawn

    Pawns are the most numerous piece in chess and there are eight of them in each side. In Rolk’s Pawn Movement in Chess (2021), he states pawns may only move and capture forward, moving forward in one direction and capturing forward and diagonally. This reflects the speed in which pawns cross the board with initial moves of only one or two squares and captures only on forward diagonals.

    Pawns possess a special characteristics that no other piece has. When they reach the eighth rank of the opponent’s side, they can transform into any piece the player desires except the king. This is frequently a queen, even though that would result in a net loss of 2-3 pawns against a skilled opponent, due to the high value of the alternatives. This move is colloquially referred to as queening or underpromotion.

    What Are The Basic Rules Of Chess?

    The basic rules of chess include the following:

    • Each side plays every other side of the board. This consists of one player playing the white pieces, and then playing the black pieces later. This alternates until the game is concluded.
    • On each turn, each player is free to move any of their pieces into a vacant square. Or to capture one of their opponent’s pieces. If played in a game judged by a timer, this move must be made within the time period specified for the game.

    Objective Of The Game

    The objective of the game of chess is to place the opponent’s king under attack such that the opponent has no legal move to prevent it from being captured (i.e., they are put in checkmate).

    In principle, there are almost 2.2 million ways to play from the beginning to the end of a game, with White having a 60% chance of winning and Black having a 44% chance of drawing. However, nobody has ever played like this. The highest possible number of turns in a game of chess (when neither player has the opportunity to capture an opposing chess piece or advance their own similar to the fifty-move draw rule) is 5949 turns.

    Movement Of Pieces

    The movement of pieces is the primary part of how to play chess that you should know. Pieces move differently and are explained below with pieces moving into an empty space to take an opposing piece.

    King: Moves to any square next to it. It moves one square horizontally, vertically, or diagonally to take an adjacent square occupied by an opponent’s piece. (This move is called capturing. See below.)

    Queen: The queen is the most powerful chess piece as the movement of the queen is the combination of the tower and bishop and creates a slide on the board.

    Capturing Opponent’s Pieces

    To capture the opponent’s piece in chess, players follow these rules:

    1. To take an opponent’s piece, move one of your own pieces (rook, knight, queen, bishop, king, or pawn) to a square that is occupied by an opponent’s piece (the captured piece).
    2. If you navigate a line of sight by moving a non-pawn piece to a square occupied by an opponent’s piece, you have then captured the opponent’s piece, and that piece is removed from the board. Captured pieces can never be used again during the current game in any circumstance.
    3. Pawns can capture opponent pieces a bit differently from the way they move. To capture, a pawn moves diagonally one square toward the rank occupied by a pawn of the opponent.

    Here is the definition of capture from US Chess:

    A capturing piece stops on the square that the enemy piece is occupying. There it removes the piece from the board before occupying the square.

    Check and Checkmate

    Check is when the opponent’s king is under threat of capture by one of your pieces and the king’s player must make a move to avoid this. Checkmate means the opponent’s king is in a position to be captured (in check), and there is no legal move to save the king.

    Here is an example of a quick checkmate in two moves. The Queen moves to h5, which threatens the b-pawn. From an ideal starting position, White can quickly acheive checkmate the next turn.


    A stalemate in chess is a position in the game where the player whose turn it is has no legal moves and their king is not in check. Since they have no moves and their king is not in check, the king cannot move, and there are no pieces to move. There are few rules around a stalemate, but the main rule is that a player must end the game if they are in a position to move, but they are stalemated. It is a draw/tie and the match ends with no winner.


    Castling is a special king move and is the only way in which more than one piece can be moved in a turn. Castling was the final chess rule that was additional to the original 1575 rules.

    This move is introduced in step 4.1 of how to play chess. Castling is described as short (kingside) and long (queenside) castling. For both black and white to kingside castle, the requirements are as follows:

    1. The king has not moved during the game.
    2. Neither the king’s rook nor the queen’s rook has moved.
    3. The squares the king crosses must not be controlled by an opponent’s piece.

    For white and black to queenside castle, the requirements are as follows:

    1. The king has not moved during the game.
    2. Neither the king’s rook nor the queen’s rook has moved.
    3. Castling is not allowed if any of the squares the king passes or ends up on is under attack or will be under threat by an opponent piece.

    En Passant

    En passant (sometimes en passant) is a special rule in chess. It is a French term that means in passing. It occurs when a pawn moves two squares forward from its starting position and immediately adjacent to an opponent’s pawn that has just advanced two squares from its starting position. If this happens, the opponent can capture this pawn as if it had advanced only one square. This rule ensures that a pawn does not completely avoid capture by side-stepping.

    En Passant is one of the rules that tends to confuse many beginners, but it is important to understand it to be able to capture a pawn in certain situations where it would be advantageous.

    Check out this video created by about En Passant Rules.

    Overall, En Passant is a useful mechanism that reduces stagnation and encourages healthy aggression in chess. That having been said, it very rarely decides the outcome of a game. Research by Wolfgang Heidenfeld has shown that of over 9,000 games recorded in the 1938 to 1948 Olympiads, En Passant only happens around 0.6 percent of the time. Even eliminating En Passant from the game has very little effect: it occurs in less than 0.07 percent of games in almost all fifty-seven outcomes of play that that match could have produced.

    What Are Some Strategies And Tips For Playing Chess?

    Strategies and tips for playing chess include taking the center of the board first, developing your minor pieces before the major pieces, king safety in the endgame, a safe pawn structure, active play, spatial awareness, effective opening strategy, visualization, avoiding passive play, and preparing your future actions.

    If you encounter an unfamiliar scenario, pause, count pieces, and analyze the differences that give useful information that will aid your actions


    Control The Center

    Controlling the center is a fundamental opening strategy in chess. The four central squares provided by the white d2, d4, e4, and e2 pawns (d,4 e,4 d,3 and e,3) define the central area. Starting with the pawns and proceeding to the knights and bishops on the second rank, you should move your pieces to occupy and put pressure on these squares. By this, you both help protect and allow mobility for other pieces. According to studies from Wisconsin School of Business, players who control the center longer are more likely to win chess. In the image shown, pawns are shown clustered around the center square.

    Develop Your Pieces

    Developing your pieces in chess is the process of moving your pieces from their starting squares to squares where they participate in the battle. Developing pieces is strategically important to attack or counterattack where needed and to increase tactical opportunities. In general, you should try to develop your knights and bishops first, including those knights and bishops involved in castling. Move these pieces to the center so they control the board. Once they are developed, work on the development of your rooks. Refrain from moving the queen unnecessarily during the opening phase of the game. Move them tactically to center or keep them in the starting position, such that they help the other pieces to secure and control the center of the board. Move your pawns to clear a path for your pieces. It’s that easy. Developing your pieces is crucial in chess and is the first part of good general chess opening principles. Chandra, author of Chess Opening for Beginners, defines good general opening goals and rules as follows:

    1. Develop Your Pieces: Develop your knights and bishops within first two or three moves of the game, and then follow up with your rooks which should be placed on open files, partially open files, or half-open files.
    2. Control the Center: The four central squares (d4, d5, e4, and e5) are the most important squares at the start of the game (and yet vast strategic scope is left open for the entire game). Pieces and pawns should be centered to control those central squares, and they will naturally exert pressure on the rest of the board, giving your opponent fewer options.
    3. Connect Your Rooks: Try to keep all your minor pieces and the queen so they control the center of the board, and create harmony between the two half open or open files by placing a rook on them. Castling early – particularly with (y)our king placed safely and two central pawns fortified – as an important element of king safety. Break the central pawn blockade that the opponent has set up (by pawns placed on e4 and d4) by making a well-calculated attack with your own pawns.
    4. Know the lines: Get familiar with chess openings enough that you know the lines and opening plays that help in achieving the above objectives.

    Protect Your King

    Protecting the king is paramount in how to play chess properly. The end of the game comes quickly if the king makes too early an appearance during the game. Stratagems should be made to shelter him behind a wall or screen of pawns, knights, and bishops, and to do this earlier in the game. If at the end this is impossible, the king must be passed quickly to the other side of the front where pawns are not attacking him.

    Protecting the king is important during the three critical stages of center opening, transition to midgame and endgame. In the endgame, it is best to have the king active and protected at the same time. For example, if the opponent is threatening to queen a pawn, the king needs to be active in stopping it. Simultaneously, if checkmate by the opponent is a large threat, then the king needs to be protected.

    The endgame is the real test of strategy, tactics, and ability to use the power invested in the several little men in concert. The relationship of the king, knights, and pawns in the center of the board differ in different phases of how to play chess properly. Walter Scott once penned, The game of chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it…. While protection is important for the king in all phases of the game, it is important to note the special conditions when he needs special protection in the middle.

    Plan Ahead

    Planning ahead can help prevent putting yourself in a position to lose points and ensure you are playing in a way that maintains the calculated win probability. Good planning involves predicting the sequence of moves the opponent is likely to make in response to your moves. Choose moves that will have a good range of responses that you have planned for or are prepared to make up responses as you go.

    Study Classic Games

    Studying classic games is one of the truly fun ways to play chess. Classic games are those which were played in the 19th and 20th centuries by famous chess players such as Paul Morphy, Lewis Steinitz, Frank Marshall, and Akiva Rubinstein.They provide a deeper understanding beyond textbook explanations of chess terminology and strategies. They are easily available in numerous books such as My Great Predecessors series by Garry Kasparov, and on websites such as Peter Griffin’s Chess Viewer, Gingergm’s YouTube channel, or in Foundations of Chess 1944-1962 by Reuben Fine.

    Chosing the right classic game can give you a deeper understanding of a chess opening or a particular middle game position. Paying attention to historic mores at the time of the game aids in avoidance of those modern chess errors. At the time of writing, for example, attacking formations involving one Rook against a King are now considered primitive and usually ineffective.

    One example of studying classic games is the famous Opera Game (Paul Morphy vs Count Isouard and the Duke of Brunswick) in which Paul Morphy introduces the idea of Bishop x h7 and sacrifices rooks and knight to pay off with a forced checkmate in the 17th move. “Blackguard Named” is the title selected for the impromptu game played by Paul Morphy at the Paris Opera House and won on his own terms in a single night.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How to Play in Chess?

    What is the objective of chess?
    The objective of chess is to checkmate your opponent’s king, which means trapping their king in a position where it cannot escape capture.

    How to Play in Chess?

    How are the chess pieces set up at the beginning of the game?
    The pieces are set up in a specific pattern, with the queen on her color (white queen on white square, black queen on black square) and the king next to her. The rooks are placed in the corners, followed by the knights, bishops, and pawns in front.

    How to Play in Chess?

    What is the value of each chess piece?
    The queen is the most powerful piece and is worth 9 points, followed by the rooks (5 points each), bishops and knights (3 points each), and pawns (1 point each).

    How to Play in Chess?

    How do you move the pieces in chess?
    Each piece has its own unique way of moving, but generally, pieces can move in any direction as long as there are no other pieces in the way. Pawns can only move forward, but can capture diagonally.

    How to Play in Chess?

    Can pawns ever move backwards or sideways?
    No, pawns can only move forward, but they can move two spaces on their first move and can capture diagonally.

    How to Play in Chess?

    How do you win in chess?
    You win in chess by putting your opponent’s king in a position where it cannot escape capture, known as checkmate. You can also win if your opponent resigns or runs out of time.

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