How to Play Chess

The very first game of chess was played thousands of years ago. From the ancient Egyptians to the Indians, to the Persians, the chessboard was constantly gaining new ground.
Since then, the game never seemed to slow down or become dated. Players around the globe are still keen on excelling in chess and perfecting their strategies. But most of all, they simply enjoy playing that highly challenging game.
You might’ve come across an inspiring world-class chess tournament that inspired you to play the game. Or maybe you just need a quick refresher to join your friends in their newfound activity. There are various reasons why you’d be interested in learning how to play chess.
In this article, we’ll talk about the basic rules, in addition to recommending the best ways to excel in playing chess and move on to the ranks of the pros.

Setting the Chess Board

Chess boards represent battlefields with ‘ranks’, or squares, that the chess pieces of both opponents use in that mini-war. The board consists of eight squares across and eight squares along. Its proper placement is with a white square at the right hand of each player.
The chess pieces take up the two rows right in front of each player. It’s a totally fair game, so the number of chess pieces, inherent power in each piece, and board setup are identical for both sides.
The pawns are the easiest to place, as they take up the whole of the second row. Usually, players set them up in their ranks, then move on to the upper echelons of the first row.
The two castles, or towers, are pretty easy to place as well. They’re at extreme ends of the first row, which seems to match their solid protective nature. The knights stand right next to the castles, and the bishops beside them, closest to the king and queen.
Some people are a bit hesitant as to where exactly the king or queen should be placed. The answer is pretty simple: The queen always stands on the square matching her color. Which leaves the opposite color for the king.

Starting a Game of Chess

The player with the white pieces always opens up the game. And once then, the next player moves a chess piece. Typically, they both move pawns, as they’re the ones with available space and possible positions.
The two players take turns in moving their chess pieces. Usually, there’s no timer in beginner’s games. So people can take their time thinking up what their next moves should be. No one gets a repeat, and no one can pass on a turn.

Moving the Chess Pieces

Chess pieces were not created equal for a reason. Much like modern-day computer games, each piece has a special power and certain limitations. This variety is what gives maneuverability and richness to the game. And in their totality, they do their absolute best to protect the king.

The Pawns

Even though they’re the smallest pieces, pawns have a complicated profile of movement and capture. Typically, a pawn moves a single square forward. Unless it’s an opening move, where it can take two steps forward.
A pawn doesn’t capture the pieces right in front of it, but rather, the ones across.

The Castles

Castles are heavy structures, and so they only move in clean straight lines, horizontal or vertical. They can’t jump over other pieces or dilly dally in twisted routes.
The castles capture the pieces that lie in their paths.

The Knights

Knights are complicated and resourceful. They’re the only pieces that can jump over other chess pieces, and perform their signature L move. Quite often they surprise their opponents and capture whatever lies at the end of that L.

The Bishops

Bishops are the protectors of the king and queen. They seem to zoom at their targets from opposite ends of the board. While they’re not as stealthy as the knights, the bishops are among the most powerful pieces on the board.

The Queen

The queen is a mighty chess piece that can move in diagonals and straight lines, both forward and backward. That’s why losing a queen is a huge hit to any player.

The King

The king can only move a single square in any direction, including diagonally. It’s only limitation is that it cannot be used for a checkmate.

Capturing the Opponent’s Pieces

While exciting and fun, capturing the opponent’s pieces shouldn’t be the only target of the game. Chess players are known to win games after a few moves and a minimal number of captures. It’s the strategy that matters.
Interestingly, the king is never captured! That’s because the game ends when a player declares a checkmate. Additionally, draws, stalemates, or timeouts, also have nothing to do with capturing the king.

Winning, Losing, and Other Things!

A player wins without a shred of a doubt when the king is in a legit checkmate situation. That’s when a player sets up all the pieces so the king would be captured no matter which direction he turns to.
Winning and losing aren’t the only outcomes of a chess game. Sometimes, other oddities happen, and the game ends in a draw. A rare occurrence is when both players are left with only the kings on the board. In such cases, winning is impossible, and that’s called a dead position.
Another unique situation is the stalemate. That’s when one player is much too clever and stacks the chess pieces so that the opponent doesn’t have anywhere to go. In the absence of legal moves, the games simply end.
Some players end the game even while every chess piece still has a fair fighting chance. If a player resigns, then the game ends, and the opponent wins. It’s an easy victory of sorts, but not really as exciting as calling a checkmate.
Finally, in tournaments, timers are extensively used to add more suspense. A game could end when a player runs out of all available time. Also in these professional games, if there are no captures after 50-75 moves, then the game simply terminates. There are many other interesting rules for the pros.

Some Advanced Moves

One of the most astounding moves in chess is promotion. This is a privilege a player gets upon taking a pawn all the way to the opponent's ranks. As the pawn reaches the first row, the play is granted the option of promoting an extra chess piece.
This could be a captured piece or a repeated piece. For example, a player could choose to have an extra queen on the board. It’s always interesting to see what two queens can do on the battlefield!
The Queen’s Gambit is a famous movie that became more so after the Netflix show by the same name. Similar openings are the King’s Gambit and the King’s Pawn. There are a few more historic moves that are known to grant players a clean win in a couple of minutes! But that’s for the advanced games.


Playing chess has always been associated with intelligence and the ability to plan multiple moves ahead. The grandmasters and prodigies, like Garry Kasparov, were known to think 27 steps ahead.
This might be a bit too ambitious, but part of the charm of playing chess is getting so much better at the game whether one wins or loses. In all cases, it’s an amazing game that people can never get enough of.