Chess is played on a square board of eight rows (called ranks and numbered from 1 to 8) and eight columns (called files and labeled from a to h) of squares. The colors of the sixty-four squares alternate and are referred to as light squares and dark squares. The pieces are divided into two matching sets, by convention called White and Black. Each player, referred to by the color of his or her pieces, begins the game with sixteen pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights and eight pawns. The chessboard is placed with a light square at each player's right on the nearest rank, and the pieces are set out on the two ranks closest to each player, as shown in the diagram. Each queen stands on a square of its own color.
The player who is chosen to be White makes the first move. The players then alternate moving one of their own pieces (with the exception of castling, when a rook and the king are moved simultaneously). Each type of piece has its own unique method of movement. Pieces are moved to either an unoccupied square, or one occupied by an opponent's piece. Except for captures en passant, an opponent's piece is captured and removed from play by moving a piece to the square that the enemy piece occupies. When a piece can be captured on the next move, it is said to be "threatened" or "under attack".
When a player's king is under immediate threat of capture, it is said to be in check. A player is not permitted to make any move that would place the player's own king in check. If a player's king is in check, the player's next move must take it out of check. If this is impossible, the player has been checkmated and loses the game.
Chess games do not have to end in checkmate – either player may resign if the situation looks hopeless. Games also may end in a draw (tie). A draw can occur in several situations, including draw by agreement, stalemate, threefold repetition of a position, the fifty move rule, or a draw by impossibility of checkmate (usually because of insufficient material to checkmate).
Chess can be played with a time control. This involves assigning each player a set amount of time to make moves. If a player's time runs out before the game is completed, he loses on time. The timing ranges from up to seven hours for long games to shorter rapid chess games usually lasting 30 minutes or one hour. Even shorter is blitz chess, with a time control of three to fifteen minutes per player and bullet chess, in which the allotment is under three minutes.
The international rules of chess are described in more detail in the FIDE Handbook, section Laws of Chess