Chess Game Information

By Robert Vaux
Chess for Beginners

Chess is one of the oldest and most respected games in the world. It exists as pure strategy, relying solely on the player's wits and ability to counter his opponent's moves to achieve victory. Experts study throughout their lives to master its intricacies. Chess has been compared to everything from classical warfare to an ever-changing form of art. Like all great games, its concepts are simple, yet can expand into an infinite number of possibilities.

Board

A chess set consists of a square board containing 64 squares of alternating colors forming eight rows of eight squares. Each player has 16 pieces. They begin in the two rows closest to him, but extend slowly out onto the rest of the board as the game progresses. The object is to capture the opponent's king by placing it in checkmate, meaning the king is being attacked and cannot get away.

Pieces

Each player has a king and queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights and eight pawns.

Pawns are arranged across the second row from the player and may typically move only one space forward per turn; however, they may move one or two spaces forward on their first move or one space diagonally when capturing another piece.

Rooks are placed on the two end squares in the row nearest the player. They may move any number of spaces horizontally and vertically.

Knights are placed in the two spaces next to the rooks. They may move two squares horizontally or vertically and one in the other direction, or one space horizontally or vertically and two in the other direction. They are the only pieces that can jump over other pieces.

Bishops are placed in the two squares next to the knights. They can move any number of spaces diagonally.

The queen is placed in the middle square of the first row that is the same color as she. She can move any number of spaces horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

The king is placed in the other middle square of the first row. He may move one space in any direction.

Other Rules

If a pawn reaches the far side of the board, it can become any piece the player wishes, except a king.

The king may move two positions to the left or right while simultaneously placing the nearest rook on the space on the opposite side of him. This is called castling, and can only be done if neither piece has moved, no pieces are currently between them, and no enemy piece could attack any space between them.

If a pawn moves forward two spaces and an opposing pawn could have captured it if it had moved only one, the opposing pawn is allowed to do so (removing the other pawn and moving into the space it would have occupied if it had only moved one space). The move is known as en passant.

Draws

Though most games end in checkmate, a few other outcomes exist. A stalemate (or draw) occurs when--during a given player's move--his king is not in check but any given move would place him in check. A draw can also occur if the same pieces occupy the same position on the board three times, or if no pawn has moved and no pieces have been captured for 50 straight moves.

Time Limits

Depending upon the nature of the chess match, players may have a set time with which to make each move. Casual games only infrequently have time limits and may take months to play, as individual players use matching boards that they study for long hours before making their move. Professional chess organizations often use game clocks to limit the time taken between each move. Variants known as speed chess limit the time between moves to a few minutes or less.