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Beginner: Rules and Basics

NM Alexander King Avg Rating: 800 Beginner

Learn all the rules of chess and how to write, read, and talk about chess moves!

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  • The Royal Game

    This is the starting position of a chess game. Each side has eight PAWNS (in a row in front of the other pieces), two ROOKS (in the corners), two KNIGHTS (next to the rooks), two BISHOPS (next to the knights), and one QUEEN and KING. The White queen starts on a light square, and the Black queen starts on a dark square. Always make sure that the bottom right corner square is a LIGHT square, so that you start with your king and queen on the right squares!
  • Notation: Chess Language

    Every square on the chessboard has a name. A row of squares is called a RANK. There are eight ranks: 1st through 8th. (White's pieces always start on the 1st and 2nd ranks, while Black's pieces always start on the 7th and 8th ranks.) A column of squares is called a FILE. There are eight files: "a" through "h". (The kings always start on the e-file, and the queens always start on the d-file.) A diagonal line of squares is called a DIAGONAL.
  • Meet the Rook

    Now we're going to learn about the ROOK and how to move it. The rook is sometimes called a "castle" but that actually means something else, so we're just going to call it a rook for now.
  • Meet the Bishop

    The next piece we're going to learn about is the BISHOP. The bishop moves diagonally, forward and backward. Just like the rook, it can move any number of squares, as long as there are no pieces in the way.
  • Meet the Queen

    Now we're going to learn about the most powerful piece on the chess board - the QUEEN. The queen moves like a rook and bishop put together. It can move up and down, side to side, and diagonally. It can move forward and backward, any number of squares, as long as there are no other pieces in the way. It is a very valuable piece!
  • Meet the Knight

    The next piece we're going to learn about is the KNIGHT. The knight moves forward and backward in the shape of the letter L. It's also the only piece that can jump over other pieces! Some people call it a "horse" but we're going to call it a knight.
  • Meet the King

    Now it's time to meet the most important chess piece - the KING. The king moves up and down, side to side, and diagonally, but only one square at a time
  • Castling - Part 1

    Now we're going to learn a special move that you can only use once during a game. It's called CASTLING. When you castle, you move your king two squares toward your rook, and then your rook jumps over your king and lands next to it on the other side! You can only do it if your king and rook haven't moved yet, and only if there are no other pieces in the way.
  • Capturing

    Now we're going to learn about CAPTURING enemy pieces. It's very easy - to capture a piece or pawn, you simply move your piece to the square of the piece or pawn you want to capture. Then that piece is removed from the board.
  • Meet the Pawn

    Now we're going to learn about the pawn. The pawn is very different from the other pieces. It only moves one square at a time, and only forward, never backward. However, when it captures, it moves one square diagonally. And every pawn can move two squares forward instead of one, as long as it hasn't moved yet. There are a few other special pawn rules that we'll learn soon, but for now let's practice how to move and capture with the pawn.
  • En Passant

    There is a special pawn move called "en passant", which is French for "in passing". It involves a pawn capturing another pawn which has just moved two squares forward. Let's take a look!
  • Pawn Promotion

    Now we're going to learn about the most important special pawn move, called "pawn promotion". If your pawn reaches the end of the board, it becomes a queen, rook, bishop, or knight! You simply move your pawn to the last rank and replace it with whatever piece you want (except for a king). This means that every little pawn is important, because it may eventually become a much more powerful piece!
  • Check - King in Danger

    Now we're going to learn about one of the most important rules in chess: CHECK. Check is when the king is under attack, and can be captured on the next move. If your king is in check, you MUST get out of check immediately. You can do this in one of three ways: you can MOVE your king to a square where it isn't in check, you can BLOCK the check by moving a piece in between your king and the checking piece, or you can CAPTURE the piece that is putting you in check.
  • Castling - Part 2

    So now that you know about check, it's time to learn three special castling rules. First, you can't castle "out of check" (you can't castle when you're in check), "through check" (you can't castle if your king would be moving through a square where it's in check), or "into check" (you can't castle if your king would end up in check at the end).
  • Checkmate

    Finally, it's time to learn about CHECKMATE. Checkmate is the goal of chess. It is how one side wins. The king is in checkmate when it is in check and has no way to get out of check.
  • Stalemate

    Sometimes one side has no legal moves, but his king is not in check. This is called STALEMATE and is often arrived at by accident when one side is trying to checkmate but makes the wrong move. When stalemate happens, the game is a tie - also known as a DRAW.
  • Insufficient Material

    Another way to reach a DRAW is when neither side has enough pieces to checkmate. This is called "insufficient material". For example, king vs. king with no other pieces is a draw. In fact, king AND bishop (or knight) vs. king with no other pieces is still a draw! White cannot checkmate Black no matter how hard he tries - the best he can do is stalemate. Click "Continue" to see.
  • Draw Agreement / 50 Move Rule

    Sometimes, there are positions that are very even, and neither side has much of a chance to win. If both the players agree on it, the game can reach a DRAW AGREEMENT at any point.
  • Threefold Repetition / Perpetual Check

    The final way that a game can end in a draw is THREEFOLD REPETITION. This means the same exact position is reached three times, with the same person to move. The most common way that this happens is called PERPETUAL CHECK. This means one side keeps checking the other side over and over again, and there is no way to escape. Let's look at an example.
  • A Complete Game

    Now we're going to study an actual game that was played in Paris in 1750, between Kermur Sire de Legal (White) and Saint Brie (Black). This is a very short game, but it is still exciting!

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