How to Play Chess for Beginners

There are 32 pieces in a chess set.
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Beginning chess players need to understand how each of the six different pieces moves, how a game is won and some basic strategy. Chess is a complicated game and it takes years to gain a good understanding. As Vladimir Kramnik said: "Chess is an infinitely complex game, which one can play in infinitely numerous and varied ways."

The Pieces

Learn the pieces and how they move. There are eight pawns that form the front row of pieces on each side of the board. Pawns only move forward. On its first move, the pawn can move one or two spaces, as long as the spaces are unoccupied. A pawn can capture an opposing piece by moving forward one space to its right or left diagonal, where the other piece is. If a pawn makes it to the back row of the other side, it can be upgraded to any other piece except a king.

Move the knight in an "L" pattern, one or two spaces in one direction and one or two spaces in another, for a total of three spaces. It is the only piece that can jump another piece.

Move the rook any number of spaces in a straight line, but not diagonally. It must stop if another piece blocks its way. If the piece is an opposing piece, it can capture it and take the space; if it is not, it must stop before the space.

Move the bishop any number of spaces diagonally. It, too, must stop if blocked by another piece, and may capture or land before the other piece.

Move the queen any number of spaces in any direction. It follows the same rules as the bishop and rook as far as being forced to either capture or stop if another piece is in its way.

Move the king one space in any direction. It, too, must stop or capture if blocked, but cannot land in a space that would put it in check.

The Board and Play

Turn the board so that a white space is at each player's right hand corner. Place a rook in that space. To the left from the rook and in this order, place a knight, a bishop, the king, the queen, a bishop, a knight, a rook. Place each of the pawns in the spaces directly in front of each of these pieces.

Let white play first. On its first move, white may move any of its pawns, either one square or two, or one of its knights. These are the only options because only the knights may jump the pawns, which currently block all other pieces.

Let black go next. Black has the same options as white.

Continue in this pattern, alternating turns and opening spaces for other pieces to move by moving out pawns.

Take pieces in the manner described in the first section. Your goal is to put the king in check or checkmate. Checkmate wins the game. Check means that one of your pieces is directly attacking the king, but that your opponent has a way to either move the king to safety or block the attacking piece. Checkmate means the king cannot get out of check.


Once you have the basics down, you'll need to learn about some special moves called castling and en passant, as well as stalemates. These are important facets of the game, but for beginners, understanding the way pieces move, how to attack and how to win are the first steps.

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