Chess for Beginners

By Katie Johnson
Chess for Beginners
Sierra Entertainment, Inc.

People have played chess for centuries all over the world, and it continues to be one of the most popular games of all time. The chess board might seem a bit daunting to a beginner's eye, but this two-person game is not difficult to learn with simple step-by-step instructions.

The Object of Chess

A White Pawn, a Black Pawn

The chessboard, which features 64 squares of alternating colors, is essentially a battlefield for two sets of armies. The armies are traditionally divided into white and black, each with 16 game pieces. Players move one game piece per turn. If a piece is moved into an opponent's square, the opponent's piece is captured and removed from the board. The attacking piece then occupies the square.

The object of chess is to capture your opponent's king.

The Game Pieces

The Knight's moving pattern

Each player has eight pawns, two knights, two bishops, two rooks, one queen and one king. Each piece has a different set of moving rules. No piece, except for the knight, can jump over other pieces in its path.

For the most part, the pawn is only allowed to move forward vertically, one square at a time. There are two exceptions to this rule. First, the pawn can move either one or two squares vertically on its first turn, depending on the player's wishes. Second, the pawn can capture an opponent's piece only by moving one square diagonally. It cannot capture a piece directly in front of it. Despite being the weakest piece on the board, a pawn is not without merit. It can be used to protect higher-ranking pieces, and it can be promoted to a queen (or any other game piece except for a king) if it reaches the last row on the opposite side of the board.

The knight has a somewhat unusual moving pattern. It creates an L-shape, moving two squares vertically then one square horizontally or vice versa. The knight is the only game piece that can jump over other pieces in its path, though it cannot capture any pieces along the way. The opponent's piece must be occupying the final square of the "L" in order for the knight to capture it.

The bishop can move diagonally, both backward and forward, across as many squares as the player chooses.

The rook can move vertically or horizontally, both backward and forward, across as many squares as the player chooses.

The queen is the most powerful piece on the board. It can move vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, both backward and forward, across as many squares as the player chooses.

The king is, ironically, one of the weakest pieces on the board, second only to the pawn. The king can move in any direction, but only one square at a time.


Castling the White King

There is only one maneuver within the game of chess that involves two game pieces moving within a single turn. It is called castling, and its purpose is to better protect the king. It is a good idea to do this early on in the game, as it requires the king, three pawns and one rook to be in their original positions. For this maneuver, the king is allowed to move two squares horizontally toward its closest rook, provided there are no other pieces in the way. This will place the king in the square next to the rook. The rook is then allowed to hop over the king into the adjoining square. The king is now well-protected behind a wall of three pawns at the side of the board. You can only castle once during a game of chess, and you cannot do it while the king is in check.

Check and Checkmate

The White King in Check

When the king is in danger of being captured by an opponent's piece, it is in check. This does not necessarily mean the game is over. There are three ways to prevent the king from being captured. One, move the king to a square where it will no longer be threatened. Two, block the path of attack with another game piece. Three, capture the attacking piece.

If not one of these maneuvers is possible, your king is now in checkmate and you have lost.

Outthinking Your Opponent

The biggest strategy in chess is out-thinking your opponent. Do not only focus on your game pieces. Watch every move your opponent makes and try to deduce why she has made that particular move. Figuring out your opponent's plan of attack will give you a decided advantage. Do not forget, however, that your opponent will also be trying to deduce all your strategies as well. Distraction is often the key to winning a game of chess. For instance, if you can trick your opponent into believing that your queen is up to something, you will have a greater chance of putting her king into check with the bishop she was never watching.

About the Author

Katie Johnson is a native of Los Angeles and has been writing professionally since 2009. Her published work on and includes several articles relating to health, science and travel. She is a graduate of UCLA's Writers' Program, which provided her with extensive studies in novel, short story and essay writing.