How to Play Chess for Dummies

Chess has been around for hundreds of years, and the game is only rising in popularity. Since the 6th century, people from all over the globe have taken an interest in chess.

That’s because the game can help you develop your critical and strategic thinking skills. So, if you’re wondering how to play chess for dummies, we can help you out.

To play chess as a beginner, you can start out by learning the layout of the board. After that, it’s time to dive into the roles of each chess piece. Once you have those down, all you need are a few basic rules and you’re ready to play.

In this article, we’ll walk you through what it’ll take to start playing chess. Plus, we’ll cover the standard layout of the board and the role of chess pieces.

Playing Chess for Dummies

Whether you just found out about chess, or you’ve been in love with the game for a while, learning to play is a breeze.

All you need are a few basic rules and you’ll be on your way to winning your first game. Although, you have to remember chess isn’t a game of luck.

It involves a lot of calculated thinking and planning. So, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with a couple of standard strategies.

That way, you’ll be calling out checkmate in no time.

To help you out on your chess journey, we’ll give you all the information you need to crush your opponents.

Chess Piece Movements

The first aspect of the game we’ll discuss is the role of each chess piece. In a standard game, you’ll have six types of characters to play with.

Each side of the board starts out with 16 pieces. In this section, we’ll cover how each one moves and captures other characters.

1. Pawn

Pawns are the footsoldiers of any chess game. They’re crucial pieces that can help you determine the fate of a match from the get-go.

At the start of a game, each player should have eight pawns. This makes up their first line of defense.

During their first move, pawns can advance one or two squares. After that, players can only move them one square forward at a time.

For that reason, pawns usually travel in a straight line during a game. Yet, there’s one exception to this rule.

If the pawn is capturing another piece, it can move one square diagonally, to the left or right.

Because of their limited range of motion, most people think of pawns as the weakest pieces. So, they’re quick to offer them up to the chopping block.

That’s where the term “sacrificial pawns” came from. Although, these pieces can be quite useful if you know how to use them.

On top of that, players can promote their pawns to different characters. When a pawn crosses from one end of the board to another you can swap it out with a more powerful piece.

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2. Bishop

The bishop has many names across the world. For instance, the French refer to it as the fool, while Russians call it the elephant.

That’s probably because the piece moves in a distinct way that can lead to an element of chaos in the game.

Bishops travel in diagonal lines, which means they can move back and forth and to the right and left.

Yet, they can’t pass through occupied squares. So, if there’s another chess piece in their way, they won’t be able to advance.

This freedom of motion makes this piece one of the most useful in the game.

Moving on, bishops can only move on one square color. Sadly, that means more than half the board is off-limits to them.

At the start of a match, each player will begin with two bishops, one on a white square and the other on black.

3. Rook

Rooks have a restricted range of motion at the start of a match. Although, as the game progresses, they’ll be able to move more freely.

That’s because these pieces can only shift in straight lines. They can travel horizontally or vertically through the board.

Plus, they can move forward or backward. On top of that, there’s no limit to the number of squares they can travel in a single move.

The only thing that can stop them in their tracks is another chess piece. Just like bishops, these pieces can’t move through occupied squares.

Finally, each player will start with two bishops on their side of the board.

4. Knight

Knights are the pieces that resemble horses, and they can be incredibly helpful. That’s because they move in two directions at once.

The pieces travel in an L-shape pattern. This can be a little tricky to understand, so we’ll break it up into two sections.

First up, a knight can move two squares forward or backward. Then, the piece will stop in position and change directions.

At that point, it can move one square to the left or right.

However, you can go about shifting the knight’s position in a different way. In this version, the piece will begin by moving one square forward or backward.

After that, it’s free to move two squares to the left or right.

In addition, this piece has a unique ability. It’s the only character on the board that can jump over other pieces.

This creates a wide radius of attack around a knight.

Lastly, chess players will begin a game with two knights on either side of the board.

5. Queen

Many people argue that the queen is the most important chess piece on the board. This is due to its almost unlimited range of motion.

The queen’s movements are a mix between that of rooks and knights. That means they can travel horizontally, vertically, and diagonally.

Although, the moves are restricted to straight lines. Unfortunately, you can’t shift the queen in more than one direction in a single turn.

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On top of that, this piece can’t jump over other characters.

Moving on, at the start of a game, each player should have one queen on their side.

6. King

The king is the star character of any chess match. To win the game, you have to capture your opponent’s king or check it three times.

For that reason, all the other pieces will spend the entire game trying to protect this character.

Although, this is a lot tougher than it sounds. That’s because of the king’s limited range of motion.

The piece can only move one square in any direction. This includes diagonally, vertically, and horizontally.

So, the king won’t be able to make a quick getaway if any enemy pieces get too close. That makes it one of the most vulnerable characters on the board.

Finally, each player starts with one king on their side.

Chessboard Setup

Now that you understand how each piece moves, we can jump into the board setup. Yet, before we do that, there are a few aspects you should be aware of.

First off, a standard chessboard is an 8✕8 grid with 64 equal squares. Each one of them has a specific designation and can only house one chess piece at a time.

Moving on, the squares come in two shades, black and white. We alternate between the two colors to create a checkered pattern.

Other than that, let’s talk about the orientation of the board. To start a game, the side of the board should be directly facing you. Plus, ensure that the bottom right square is white.

Once you have the correct orientation, you can begin naming the individual squares.

Ranks and Files

To understand where the square names come from you should know what ranks and files are.

Ranks refer to the rows that go from side to side across the board. Each one of these will get a number from one to eight.

You’ll start counting from the row that’s closest to you.

Moving on, files are the columns that go up and down the board. Each one of these will get a letter from A to H, starting on the left side of the board.

We use a combination of ranks and files to name all the squares. For example, the square at the bottom left corner will be A1. Plus, the square at the top right corner will be H8.

While you don’t need to know these names to play, they can be quite useful. They’ll come in handy when you’re figuring out where each piece goes.

Piece Setup

As we mentioned, every player will start a chess game with 16 pieces. These include:

  • 8 pawns
  • 2 bishops
  • 2 rooks
  • 2 knights
  • 1 queen
  • 1 king

In this section, we’ll tell you where each character goes.

Start off by placing the rooks on squares A1 and H1. Most of the other pieces will go in between.

Once that’s done, grab your two knights and place them on B1 and G1. Moving on, the bishops are next.

These pieces will occupy squares C1 and F1. Next, the queen goes to D1, and the king starts in E1.

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Lastly, add a row of pawns in front of the pieces. That means A2 through H2 should have pawns.

At this point, you should have one side of the board all set up. With that out of the way, all you have to do is copy the exact same layout on the other side.

Basic Chess Rules

Once you’re done setting up the board, you can start playing. Yet, you have to remember that chess is a two-player game.

So, you’ll need a friend to make the match as fun as possible.

Starting the Game

Most people know that the white side of the board always gets to make the first move in a game of chess. Besides that, there are a few rules you should know.

For starters, the players will alternate turns. Once the white side has completed its move, the black one can jump in on the action.

Plus, each competitor can only move one piece per turn. Other than that, you’re not allowed to touch a piece unless you’re going to move it.

In addition, after you make a move, there are no take-backs. The piece will have to stay in position until your next turn.

So, be sure to take your time and think before you make any sudden decisions. Lastly, to win, you have to capture your opponent’s king.

Capturing a Piece

To remove one of your opponent’s pieces from the board, you have to capture it. This means moving one of your chess pieces onto a square with an enemy character.

You can do that in many ways, depending on the piece you’re using. For instance, pawns can only capture enemies that are one diagonal square away.

Once you’re familiar with the basic capturing techniques, you can move on to more advanced ones. An example of that is En passant.

Check, Checkmate, and Stalemate

When an enemy piece tries to attack your king, we call this check. In that event, you have to make one of the following moves:

  • Shift the king out of the line of fire
  • Move another piece in front of the king to protect it
  • Capture the attacking enemy piece

Given that you manage to complete one of these, then the game can continue normally. However, if you check your enemy’s king three times, you win the game.

Moving on, when your king is under attack, yet you can’t make any of the previous moves, we call it a checkmate.

In that case, your opponent wins the match.

Finally, a stalemate happens when one of the players no longer has any legal moves left on the board. When that occurs, neither competitor wins the game. Instead, it ends in a draw.

Wrapping Up

If you’re wondering how to play chess for dummies, there are a few factors you should be aware of. Start out by learning the different pieces of the game.

There are six distinct characters, each one with a unique movement pattern.

Once you have those down, you can move on to the setup of the board. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the ranks and files.

After that, place the pieces in their designated positions and you’re ready to play.