The Rules of Chess
The Starting Position:
Chess is played by two players beginning in the position shown above. The
White player (the player of the light colored pieces) moves first. Then each
player takes a single turn. In fact, a player must move in turn. In other words
a move cannot be skipped.
When setting up the pieces, keep in mind two things. The light colored square
goes on the player's right, and Queens go on their color next to the Kings on
the center files.
You may not move a piece to a square already occupied by one of your own
pieces. You may capture an opposing piece by replacing that piece with one of
your own pieces, if it can legally move there.
The King (K)
The King is the most important piece. When it is trapped so it cannot move
without being captured, then the game is lost. This trap is called checkmate.
The King can move one square in any direction. A King can never move into check,
or onto a square where it can be captured by an opponent's piece. If a King is
not in check, and no other legal move is possible, then the position is said to
be in stalemate. A stalemated game is a draw, or a tie.
The Queen (Q)
The Queen is the most powerful piece because she can move to any square in
any direction as long as her path is not blocked. Her range and the ability to
attack many pieces an once are the source of her power.
The Rook (R)
The Rook is a very powerful piece because it can move to any square along its
file or row as long as its path is not blocked. Its range is the source of its
The Bishop (B)
The Bishop is a powerful piece because it can move to any square along its
diagonals as long as its path is not blocked. Its range is the source of its
The Knight (N)
The Knight is nearly as powerful as the Bishop not because of its range, but
because it is the only piece that can hop over other pieces in an L-shaped path.
This ability makes it particularly powerful in the early stage of a game when
the board is crowded with pieces.
The Pawn (p)
The Pawn is the least powerful piece because of its poor mobility. It may
move only one square forward if its path is not blocked. However, it may move as
an option one or two squares forward on its first move only. It may capture only
diagonally one square. It may not capture forward. It may not move backward. The
lowly Pawn usually does not last long, but if it is able to reach the 8th row or
rank, then it can promote itself to any other piece except the King. A Pawn thus
promoted is replaced by that piece. Therefore, it is possible to have more than
one Queen, or two Rooks, Bishops, or Knights on the board at one time.
Castling (short OO or long OOO)
Here Black is castled short or on the King side. White is uncastled.
Here Black is castled long or on the Queen side. White is uncastled.
Castling is an important move in chess. It allows a player to quickly move
both the King to safety and the Rook to the center for battle. For this reason,
wise players carefully guard their ability to castle and usually castle early in
the game. Likewise, clever players will attempt to prevent their opponent from
When castling the player moves his King two squares toward one of the
player's Rooks and moves that Rook to the opposite side of the King. A player
may not castle if either the King or the Rook involved have already moved. Also,
the King may not castle out of, through, or into check. There must be no pieces
between the King and Rook when castling.
Capturing En Passant (ep)
A player may capture another player's pawn in passing (En Passant) under very
specific circumstances. This move is designed to prevent a player from taking
advantage of the two-square first move rule for pawns which might allow them to
pass their opponent's pawn(s) without a chance to capture.
The capture is made exactly as if the pawn moved only one square on the first
move. In the picture, Black's pawn moved up two squares as is its right. White
captured the pawn by removing it from the board and placing the passed white
pawn on the square marked ep before playing another move. This move, like any
other, is optional and can occur as often as a similar situation arises between
The Objective in Chess
The primary objective in chess is to checkmate your opponent's King. When a
King cannot avoid capture then it is checkmated and the game is immediately
over. If a King is threatened with capture, but has a means to escape, then it
is said to be in check. A King cannot move into check, and if in check must move
out of check immediately. There are three ways you may move out of check:
- Capture the checking piece,
- Block the line of attack by placing one of your own pieces between the
checking piece and the King. (Of course, a Knight cannot be blocked.)
- Move the King away from check.
If a King is not in check, and no other legal move is possible, then the
position is said to be in stalemate. A stalemated game is a draw, or a tie.
If 50 moves are made without the advance of a pawn or the capture of a piece,
then a game can be claimed as a draw.
If you touch a piece intentionally during a formal tournament game, and it
can be legally moved, then you must move it. This rule is often disregarded in
There is no "perpetual check" rule. See the 50 move rule above.
If the same position occurs 3 times, then a game can be claimed as a draw.
A move is made up of two half moves; one by white and one by black.