5 Rules of Chess Every Player Must Know

Chess has over 290 rules. Luckily, you don’t need to know all of them before playing the game.

Still, there are 5 rules of chess that no chess player can afford to miss.

These rules include the basic movements, check and checkmate, draws, resigning, and promoting pawns.

This post will cover these fundamental rules in detail, giving you all you need to know about them.

What Are the Five Must-Know Rules of Chess?

The following are the five rules that any player needs to know before their first-ever match:

1. The Basic Movements

Undoubtedly, one of the first rules chess players need to know is how to move each chess piece. Fortunately, this is quite easy to learn.

Here’s how you can move your pieces in chess:


Pawns can move one square forward at a time, except for their first-ever move in the game. In their first move, pawns can move two squares forward at once.

In addition, pawns may move diagonally forward to capture an opponent’s piece if it’s positioned one square diagonally from them.


Knights only move three squares at a time in an L-shaped pattern. They move two squares in any open direction and the third square perpendicular to the first two.


You can only move your bishops diagonally, but your movement isn’t limited to a specific number of squares.

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Bishops can travel through as many open diagonal squares as possible.


Rooks can travel freely across the board in a horizontal or vertical straight line.

The Queen

The queen has the most potent movement ability in the game. It can move freely through as many open squares as possible in a diagonal, vertical, or horizontal direction.

The King

The king can only move one square each turn in any direction, yet it must land in a safe space. In other words, the king isn’t allowed to move to a square where it’d be in danger.

Nonetheless, the king can travel more than one square at a time during a castling maneuver.

In addition to these basic moves, there are other special moves like en passant and castling. Make sure to take a look at them once you’ve mastered the basic moves.

It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the chessboard setup.

2. Check and Checkmate

Every chess player enters the game with the ultimate goal of checkmating the opponent’s king.

That’s why understanding the rules of check and checkmate is essential for any player. Here’s a simple explanation for them:

Check Rule

A check occurs when one player’s king is endangered by one of the opponent’s pieces. In other words, a king is in check if it stands in the movement path of any of the opponent’s pieces.

When one player checks the other’s king, they should say “check” out loud.

On the other hand, the player whose king is in danger needs to find a way to move the king from the check position. They can achieve this by moving the king to a safe square.

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Alternatively, they can protect the king by placing another piece in the path of the opponent’s threatening piece instead of the king.

Checkmate Rule

Checkmate occurs when one player uses their pieces to trap the opponent’s king in a way that leaves no available safe moves for that king.

In this case, the player who trapped the opponent’s king immediately delivers a checkmate and wins the match.

3. Resigning

In many chess matches, one player can achieve significant dominance over the other. If a player realizes that it’s impossible for them to win the game, they can ask to resign.

By resigning, the player confirms that they’ve lost the match to their opponent.

Despite being an established rule, a lot of players dislike resigning. They argue that regardless of the position a player is in, there’s always a way to achieve a draw or win.

Others argue that resigning is an excellent option as it’s a great alternative to continuing to play against impossible odds.

That said, in numerous games, one opponent may seem confident of achieving victory, only to end up in defeat or a draw.

That’s why resigning should be the last resort for a player in a disadvantageous position.

4. Draw

The two opponents can reach a position where neither can win the game. In this case, any of the players can request a draw.

Each player receives half a point when a match ends in a draw. Given that, there are five common scenarios that lead to draws. Here they are:

  • The 50-move rule: This type of draw happens when the two players make 50 moves without moving any pawn or capturing any pieces.
  • Stalemate: This occurs when the player whose turn it is has no legal move available. In addition, the king of this player shouldn’t be in check.
  • Dead position: This occurs when neither player can legally deliver checkmate to the other due to the lack of sufficient pieces
  • Threefold repetition: This is when a particular position is repeated three times during a game. The rule is also called repetition of position.
  • Mutual agreement draw: As the name suggests, this is the situation when both players reach an agreement to end the game in a draw.
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5. Pawn Promotion

Despite its significance, many new chess players are unaware of the pawn promotion rule. Promoting pawns can dramatically help you gain a better advantage in the game.

To promote a pawn, you need to advance it from the starting point to the farthest row on the board.

When you achieve this, you can promote the pawn to any higher-ranking piece except the king.

Still, most players choose to promote their pawns to a queen as it has unlimited movement ability.

Wrapping Up

The 5 rules of chess every player should know are the basic movements, check and checkmate, resigning, draws, and pawn promotion.

You can refer to the information mentioned above anytime you want to review them.

After mastering these rules, it’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the touch-move and the 75-move rules.