Each square of the chessboard is identied by a unique coordinate pair consisting of a letter and a number. The files go up the board and are labelled A through H. Each horizontal row of squares is called a rank. The ranks are numbered 1 to 8 starting from White’s side of the board. The beauty of this grid-like system is that every square on the board has a name of its own, and because every square has its own name, it is very easy to describe a move.
As well as the squares on the board, the pieces also have notation. B is for Bishop, R is for Rook, Q is for Queen, K is for King and N is for Knight. Capturing pieces is also notated. Capturing a piece is represented by an x.
The king is your most important piece. If your king is captured then you lose the game. When your king is under direct attack it is referred to as check. Check is represented on the board as a line of attack in red.
You cannot leave your king under threat. If your king is in check you must leave check with your move. To do this you can perform three key reactions. Move away, block the attacking piece or capture the attacking piece.
The ultimate aim in chess is to trap the opponent’s king. If every possible move results in the king remaining in check then this is Checkmate and the game is over.
A stalemate occurs where one side has no legal moves but is not in check, and results in an automatic draw. Stalemates commonly occur in the endgame, when few pieces are left on the board. Care should be taken to prevent an accidental stalemate.
Perpetual check is where one player checks the enemy king repeatedly. No checkmate or other progress is possible, but the checks could go on forever. If the same position is reached three times in a game, with the same player to move, then a draw by perpetual check is given.
By now you will have noticed that the different chess pieces all have different ways of moving. These differences make some pieces more powerful and therefore more valuable than others. This value is measured in Pawns.
The values are as follows:
Knight = 3 pawns
Bishop = 3 pawns
Rook = 5 pawns
Queen = 9 pawns
The King does not have a value as he is worth the entire game. The values of pieces can be used to inform what moves you should and shouldn’t make. Sometimes you will need to weigh up whether to take an opponent’s piece and in return place your attacking piece in danger of also being taken. This is called sacricing.
Rooks, also sometimes called ‘Castles’ because that’s what they look like, are the easiest of all the pieces to understand. They can move forward or backwards, or side-to-side, and can travel as many spaces as they like as long as the path is not blocked by another piece. Rooks cannot jump over other pieces. The rook is the second most powerful piece. You will begin the game with two Rooks, in each of the corner squares, and they provide a powerful attacking tool due to the distance they can cover.
To capture an opponent piece with a rook you should move your rook to the square in which the opponent piece is situated. Always look for opportunities to place your rooks on open columns also known as ‘ les’. An open le is a le which does not have any pawns on it.
Just once in each game you are allowed to make a special move involving your king and one of your rooks. This is called Castling. It is the only time in chess that you can move two of your pieces together in a single turn. It is also the only time your king can move more than one square in a single turn. If neither the king nor the rook have moved from their starting squares, and the path between them is empty, then it is possible to Castle. The King cannot be in check and cannot move into check. Castling on the right of the board is called Kingside Castling and is written down as 0-0. Castling on the left of the board is called Queenside Castling and is written down as 0-0-0.
Bishops can be moved diagonally in any direction. Like the rook, it can trav- el as many spaces as it likes as long as the path is not blocked by another piece. Bishops cannot jump over other pieces. Each player starts with two bishops. The bishop does very well in open positions on long diagonals, but less well when it is blocked in.
To capture an opponent piece with a bishop you should move your bishop to the square in which the opponent piece is situated.
The queen has the powers of the rook and the bishop combined. She can be moved in a straight line in any direction and can travel as many spaces as she likes as long as the path is not blocked by another piece. The queen cannot jump over other pieces. The queen is the most powerful and versatile piece on the board. You only get one queen at the start of a game so use her wisely and she will serve you well.
To capture an opponent piece with a queen you should move your queen to the square in which the opponent piece is situated. The queen is a very strong attacking piece but early in the game it is best to be cautious. The queen becomes much stronger after some minor pieces have been exchanged.
The king can move one square in any direction. The king cannot move into a position which puts him directly in danger. The king cannot jump over other pieces. The king is your most valuable piece, so protect him at all costs. His downfall will cost you the game. One of your most important jobs early in the game will be to make a safe shelter for your king.
To capture an opponent piece with the king you should move your king to the square in which the opponent piece is situated. In the opening and middle- game stages, getting the king safe is very important. Countless games have been lost, even by very strong players, when they have forgotten this simple rule.
Pawns can only move forward. Their first move can be forward one or two squares. All subsequent moves after their first are limited to one move for- ward. Pawns cannot jump over other pieces. You begin each game with 8 pawns, and they serve as your first line of defence, but as you will learn later they hold a few surprises up their sleeves. It is nearly always a good idea to place pawns in the centre of the board early in the game.
Pawns have unique rules when it comes to capturing opponent pieces. Pawns capture by moving one square forwards, but this time diagonally, to the left or to the right. The pawn is the only chess piece which captures in a different way to its ordinary move.
Pawn promotion is a really important concept in chess. If a pawn reaches the opponent’s back rank, it can be replaced with any piece, except a king. We say the pawn has been ‘promoted’. You can choose any piece you like to replace the pawn. However, it usually pays to promote to a new queen. As the queen is such a powerful and valuable piece.
Even if you are only just starting, you should know about the sneaky en passant rule. You might trick other beginners who don’t notice this pawn capture is possible! Only pawns can capture or be captured en passant, and only then in very special circumstances. En passant is only an option if two pawns are adjacent on the same rank, with the pawn being captured having moved two squares as its first move. The en passant capture is only valid as the very next move or your chance for en passant capture is gone.
The knight hops in an L-shape, in any direction. Remember it as two squares in one direction and then one square sideways. Knights are the only piece on the board that can jump over other pieces. The knight hops around and this special movement makes it a very important and dif cult piece.
To capture an opponent piece with a knight you should move your knight to the square in which the opponent piece is situated. Knights are very useful in blocked positions and are at their best when they are near the centre.
A move which creates two threats is called a fork. When you play a fork, it doesn’t matter if your opponent sees that you are attacking his pieces. Your opponent cannot rescue both of his attacked pieces. All pieces can create forks, but knights and pawns are especially good at it.
A pin occurs when a defending piece cannot move, because it would expose a more valuable piece to attack. Some pins are almost harmless, but others are crushingly strong. Pins can only be carried out by pieces that move in a straight line: bishops, rooks, and queens. Once you have created a pin, look for ways to apply pressure to the pinned piece.
A skewer occurs where two enemy pieces are attacked along a rank, le or diagonal. When the more valuable piece in the front moves out of the way, the piece behind is captured. It is the reverse of a pin. Just like pins a skewer can only be carried out by pieces that move in a straight line.
The first part of a chess game is called the opening. There are many differ- ent possible chess openings, but the objectives are usually the same.
A huge amount of knowledge – opening theory – has built up around the openings. Many players have a favourite opening system and books on opening are very popular. A good tip is not to bring the queen and rooks out into the game too early. You might be giving a target to your opponent's minor pieces.
After 10-15 moves the opening is over and the middlegame begins. The middlegame calls for clever manoeuvring, as both players try and gain small advantages in position. One of the most important things is to think ahead! Try to anticipate what your opponent might play in response to your moves. Also keep a look out for a combination – a series of forcing moves – that might win you pawns or pieces.
A transformation takes place once the endgame is reached. In endgames there are few dangerous pieces left on the board. This means your king can – and should – be used actively. King and queen versus king is the most common ‘simple’ endgame. It is an easy win – but you MUST know how to win it.