How to play chess

One of the most popular games in the world, chess is notoriously hard to master. Nevertheless, learning the basics of this game isn’t that difficult. Here are the key rules you’ll need to get to grips with if you dream of being a grandmaster someday.

The basics of the game

On the chessboard, each player starts with an identical setup: 16 pieces, laid out in two rows. One player is black, the other white. There are 6 different kinds of pieces on a chessboard, and each of them moves differently. Every piece has the same power, though: it can “take”, or capture, a rival piece, by moving into its square. This eliminates the other piece from the game.

During the course of the game, the players have the same objective: they must try to take the other player’s King.


The most common piece is the Pawn. You will have eight of these, filling the front row of their setup. Pawns are the weakest piece on the board. They can only move forwards by one square(except for their very first move, when they can move forward two squares). They can only take other pieces by moving forwards diagonally one square. They can never move backwards or sideways.

One unique feature of a pawn is that, if it reaches the other side of the board, it can be promoted and change into any other type of piece. This is not very common, though.

Knights, Bishops and Castles

There are two Knights, which look like horses, in each player’s lineup. These are unique because they are the only piece which can jump over other pieces. They move in an L shape by going two squares in one direction, then one more in another.

There are also two Bishops. They can move as many squares as you want each turn – but only diagonally.

The Rook, also known as the Castle, cannot move diagonally. Instead, it goes forwards, backwards, or sideways. These pieces are often used for protecting the King.

Kings and Queens

The King and Queen are the most important pieces in the game, and each player has one of each. The Queen is the strongest attacker on a chessboard. She can move as many squares as you like, in any direction. The King, on the other hand, can only move one single square at a time, again in any direcion. The King is a very weak piece offensively, but must be defended, as a player will lose if he is captured.

Strategy and playing

There are some other, more complex rules that you’ll get to know as you practise chess. For the moment, though, let’s focus on the basics.

The white player always goes first. Each player takes in turns to move one piece at a time. A key thing to look out for is “check”. Check means that your King is in danger of being captured, and your next move must prevent that from happening. If it’s impossible to prevent your King from being captured, the situation is called “checkmate”, and you lose. Chess games can also end in a draw, if you reach a stalemate where neither player can take the other King.

Chess can seem mind-boggling at first, but with a bit of practice, you’ll find that this game is seriously addictive. Computer chess is a good way to get to grips with the rules of the game. Good luck!