Chess is a great game that just about anyone can play. Age is not an issue; whether you are young or old, chess is a game that is not only mentally stimulating, but also brings a lot of benefits. It is a game that develops focus, concentration and logical thinking. Because of its complex moves and the goal of the game, you will gradually start recognizing patterns. As with any game, winning is the motive and reaching this goal is an exciting process. Chess has specific rules that you are required to follow and when you get better at the game, you will gradually see that the learning is lifelong. Chess gives you a lot of scope to be creative as well as inventive with its infinite number of combinations. Let’s get started.
Chess – the game
Chess is a board game played between two players. It is played on a chessboard, that is a square-checkered board with 64 squares placed in an eight-by-eight grid. Each player starts controlling sixteen pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns. The goal of the game is to checkmate the opponent`s king, where your opponents king is in check and there is no way for your opponent to remove or defend it from attack on the next move.
Getting started with playing chess
Now that you have the full background about how the game of chess evolved, it is time to look at what you need to get started to play.
What you need
It is easy to find a chess set of your choice. Chess sets can be priced as low as $10.00 and go up to several thousands of dollars based on the type you buy. They come in different themes, materials, shapes and sizes. Your chess set can be as decorative or as practical as you want.
As a beginner, you might want to invest in a sturdy plastic set that will stay with you for some rigorous practice, since most people who start learning chess tend to get addicted to the game. You can buy a chess set online easily, choosing from different types of chess pieces and boards.
You can even play chess on your computer with a chess program. However, it does feel good to have a physical set that you can spend time with. It all depends on your comfort level.
How to learn, where to learn
There are several options open to you to learn chess. You can enroll at your local hobby club if you have one nearby. You can also learn from chess software, electronic chess sets, from a DVD or from books.
Computers are accessible to everyone and these days, most beginners get started playing against computers rather than with human players. It is a good idea to browse chess sites. Some of them offer free online lessons with an option for paid advanced lessons. You can play live games on some sites with opponents across the world. If you wish you can also invest in chess videos that teach you to play chess right from the opening moves to the end game.
How to play
Chess pieces – rules for movement
Each chess piece moves in a different manner. No piece can move through another piece, although the knight can jump over other pieces. No pieces can move on to a square occupied by one of their own pieces. But they can be moved to replace an opponent’s piece that can be captured. The chess pieces are mainly moved to positions from which the opponents’ pieces can be captured. Moves are also defensive, guarding their own pieces or controlling important squares.
White always moves first. After the first move, the players alternate and move one piece at a time. Pieces can be moved to an unoccupied square or one occupied by an opponent`s piece, capturing it and removing it from the game.
Now let us look at how each individual piece moves:
The King is the most important piece on the chess board. However, he is also the weakest. You can move him only one square at a time, in whichever direction – be it up, down, sideways or diagonal. You cannot move the king into check as he will be captured in this position. The king moves one square in any direction.
The Rooks are especially powerful when they are working together and you use them to protect each other. The rook can move any number of squares along any rank or file, but may not leap over other pieces. Along with the king, the rook is also involved during the king`s castling move.
The bishop can move any number of squares diagonally, but may not leap over other pieces. Each bishop begins on one color and must stick to that color. Bishops cover up each other’s shortcomings and coordinate well together.
The Queen, unlike the king, is the most powerful. You can move her in any one straight direction, for as far as possible. She cannot be moved through any of her own pieces. If you use the queen to capture an opponent`s piece, her move is over. The queen combines the power of the rook and bishop and can move any number of squares along rank, file, or diagonal, but it may not leap over other pieces.
The movement of the Knights is different from the other chess pieces because they move two squares in one direction, and then another at a 90 degree angle, in the shape of an “L”. This means the knight moves to any of the closest squares which are not on the same rank, file or diagonal, thus the move forms an "L"-shape two squares long and one square wide. The knight is the only piece which can leap over other pieces.
Pawns are unusual chess pieces. They can move and capture by moving forward but capturing diagonally. A pawn cannot move or capture backwards and neither can they move past or capture another piece directly in front of them. The pawn may move forward to the unoccupied square immediately in front of it on the same file, or on its first move it may advance two squares along the same file provided both squares are unoccupied, or it may move to a square occupied by an opponent’s piece, which is diagonally in front of it on an adjacent file, capturing that piece.
Pawns have the exclusive right for “Promotion.” If the pawn reaches the opposite side of the board, it can become any other chess piece. This is called promotion. It is usually promoted to a queen.
En passant, which means “in passing” in French, is another special rule for pawns and this can sometimes make the difference between winning or losing the game.
En passant can only happen when a player uses his option to move his pawn two squares on its initial movement. When she does this, her opponent has the option to capture the moved pawn “en passant” as though it had only moved one square. This option is available for only one move.
Castling is a special defense move that can be used only once and the only move where you can move more than one piece during your turn. It is a great strategy to bring a powerful rook into play, especially when it is restrained behind a wall of pawns. This move lets you gain two vital advantages in the same move: - make your king safe, and release your rook to come back into the game. You can move the king two squares over to one side and then move the rook from its corner placing it right next to the king on the opposite side. Castling has four conditions and they are:
- Castling can happen only if there are no pieces between the king and the rook
- Neither king nor rook should have moved from their original position, which means it should be their first move in the game.
- There must be no opponent’s piece that can capture the king in his original position, or the square he moves through or the square where he ends up in. This means, the king should not be in “check” or pass through check.
If you observe keenly, you’ll see that when you castle in one direction, the king gets closer to the side of the board and this is called kingside. When you castle to the other side through where the queen is positioned, it is called queenside. No matter which side you move him, the king moves two squares during castling.
Check and Checkmate
The main goal of a game of chess is to checkmate the king of your opponent. This can happen only when the king is in check position and cannot get out of it. A king can get out of check in three ways:
1. Move out of the way (no castling here, though)
2. Block the check with another piece
3. Capture the piece that threatens the king
If the king still cannot escape checkmate, it’s the end of the game.
Strategy and tactics
Beginner’s basic strategy
As a beginner, there are four basic strategies you need to bear in mind:
Protect your king at all times. Maneuver your king to safety, to the corner of the board. Don’t delay castling, when you get the chance to do it. Use the castling strategy as soon as you are able to regardless of how close you are to checkmating your opponent. The game is over if your king is checkmated first.
Don’t give your pieces away by losing them because you were careless. Each one of your pieces is precious, and you need all of them to checkmate. Keep track of your pieces by assigning them a value. This may help:
Pawn – 1
Knight - 3
Bishop – 3
Rook – 5
Queen – 9
King – priceless
Of course, when you reach the end of the game, the points don’t carry any value, but it certainly helps to assign values during the game, since it helps you plan your moves.
Control the center of the board using your pieces and pawns. When you do this, you get more room to move your pieces, making it tough for your opponent to move easily.
Make sure you use all your pieces. Develop your pieces’ positions so that you have them around when you try to attack the king.
Some tournament rules you should know
Here are a set of common chess tournament rules:
- If you touch one of your own pieces, you have to make a legitimate move with that piece.
- If you touch your opponent’s piece, you have to capture it.
- If you want to touch a piece only to adjust it, you must say “adjust” before you do it.
Chess - Starting a Game
Your chess game will consist of three stages:
- Chess opening, where you and your opponent bring out your pieces and get ready to compete
- Middle game, which begins as you and your opponent maneuver for the right position and perform your defense and attacks
- Chess endgame, when there are usually fewer pawns or pieces on the chessboard and when it is considered safer for the Kings to join the battle.
It all begins with arranging the chess men. The chessboard is arranged so that each player has a white/light color square in the bottom right hand side. The chess pieces are arranged the same way each time. The pawns are arranged in the second row. The rooks are in the corners, with the knights next to them, followed by the bishops and then the queen, who is placed on a matching square. A white queen is on a white square and a black queen on a black square. The King occupies the remaining square.
White plays first. You can decide who gets white with a coin-toss, or guessing the color of the piece hidden in your hand. White makes the first move, followed by the opponent who plays black, then white and so on until you reach the end of the game.
As you enjoy your journey with chess, you will also come across several variations of the game where you can play with different boards and pieces with different rules. More than two thousand variants of chess are known. Examples are the Chinese Xiangqi and the Japanese Shogi. There is a version called Chess 960 where you choose the initial position by randomly selecting one from 960 starting positions. This can be quite challenging and exciting.
Chess strategy – Quick beginners’ tips
Chess is an amazing game, as you must have discovered by now from the information you have read so far. Here are some quick beginners’ tips that will help you increase your chances of winning the game:
- Always look at your opponent’s move keenly
- Think before you make your move
-Have a plan in mind when you play
- Set values for your chess pieces as this will make it easier to prioritize your moves
-Control the center of the chessboard as this will give you enough space to move
- Safeguard your King well
- Think well and know when it is okay to trade and capture pieces
- Apply some thought to the endgame
- Ensure that you are at your most alert self, mentally
- Always remember the rules
Do not make chess moves on impulse. It is a cerebral game and one that can give you hours and years of enjoyment. Browse examples online – to get an insight into the various complex moves that make chess the wonderful game it is. Practice as much as you can. Getting the basic strategies, tactics and rules is the starting point. What follows is a lifetime of learning. Therefore, play as much as you can and do not worry when you lose a game. The world champions did not get where they are by winning all the time. Have fun.