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A typical chess set and tournament clock.

Chess is a turn-based board game for two players, and is generally considered the most popular game in the world.[1] The goal of the game is to place the opposing king into checkmate, that is, a position in which the king is attacked and cannot escape from this situation.

Modern international chess has a powerful, sweeping queen who was not in the original game. The long reach of bishops today was also lacking at first. Maneuvers such as castling or capturing en passant have been developed within the past few hundred years.

Today, chess is one of the most popular board games in the world. International competition, including world championship events, is organized by an organization called FIDE and American competition organized by the USCF (United States Chess Federation). The only American world champion was Bobby Fischer. The current world champion is Russian Vladimir Kramnik.


Chess has its roots in India, where locals played a game called Shaturanga. The earliest extant description of the game is contained in the Bhavishya Purana, which dates from A.D. 300 to A.D. 600. Shaturanga used dice, but Hinduism bans gambling. As a result, the game of chess developed free from any dice or chance. European travelers visited India in the 15th century, and brought back knowledge of the game, and modern chess was developed in southern Europe.

The Board

The chess board is a square, divided into 64 smaller squares aranged in eight rows of eight. The squares are alternating light and dark, with a light square in the bottom right hand corner. A chess board is the same as a checkerboard.

The horizontal rows of squares are refered to as "ranks" and the vertical rows are refered to as "files".


Staunton Style chess pieces. From left to right: King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, and Pawn.

Each player has a total of 16 pieces; 8 pawns, 2 bishops, 2 knights, 2 rooks, 1 queen, 1 king.


The most popular style of pieces are known as Staunton style pieces, the tournament standard for chess pieces, although other types exist. Often, popular themed chess sets will appear with characters from popular culture or fiction taking the places of the more common Staunton style pieces. These novelty pieces are not tournament sanctioned however, and can sometimes cause confusion during gameplay as to which piece is which.

Although chess pieces can come in a variety of materials, marble and glass tend to be very popular, but for most chess tournaments, simple plastic pieces are usually favored. Also, while many home chess sets use heavy boards made out of wood or stone or some polymer material, tournament boards are actually roll-able mats with the board printed on it.


The object of the game is to checkmate the other player's King before he checkmates your king. When a pawn reaches the far side of the board, it may be promoted to any other piece (except a King).

  • The players alternate moving until the game has ended.
  • The player with the White pieces always moves first.


The pieces move as follows.

  • The pawn moves one square forward, except when moving from it's opening position, when it can optionally move two. The pawn is the only piece that captures in a way different from the way it moves. It captures opposing pieces by capturing one square diagonally forward. When another piece is on the square directly in front of a pawn it cannot move unless it is making a capture.
  • The bishop can move as many squares as desired diagonally.
  • The knight, which is the only piece that can jump over other pieces, moves one square in one straight direction and two in the other.
  • The rook can move as many squares as desired in a straight direction.
  • The queen is the most powerful piece in the board. It can move as many squares as desired (without jumping over another piece), either straight or diagonally.
  • The king, which is the most important piece on the board, moves one square, either straight or diagonally.


All pieces except for the pawn capture along their lines of motion. A capture is made by moving a piece to a square occupied by one of the opponent's pieces, and removing the opponent's piece from the board. If a piece can move to occupy the location of an opponent's piece, it can capture that piece. The pawn, can only capture by moving diagonally forward one square. A piece is said to be undefended if it has no piece "supporting" its position - i.e., preventing an opponent from capturing it by threat of losing his attacking piece.

Special Moves

  • Castling- When a player has no pieces between a rook and his king, and he has not moved either piece, he can move the king two squares in the direction of the rook, and then place the rook on the square that the king passed over. A player cannot castle if the King is currently in check, would be in check after castling, or would move through a square which is under attack.
  • en passant- French for "In passing." In chess, if a player pushes his pawn far down to the end of the board, and his opponent pushes a starting pawn 2 spaces ahead, to put the pawn on the same row to avoid confrontation, the player may choose to invoke the "en passant" move, which treats the enemy pawn as though it had only moved one space. The player may capture diagonally on the square behind the enemy pawn, and remove the enemy pawn. The principle is that the two space rule for a pawn's first move cannot be used to avoid confrontation between two pawns. However, the player may only invoke "en passant" on the first turn after the opponent pushes his pawn. He cannot make it after than turn.

The end of the game

The game ends either with one player winning by checkmating his opponent's king, or in a draw with niether player winning.


Checkmate is achieved when the following conditions are met.

  • The King is directly attacked by an opponent's piece. (Check)
  • Every square that the King can move to is also attacked by an opponent's piece.
  • The Piece that is attacking the King cannot be captured.
  • Another Piece cannot be moved in between to cut off the attack on the King.

When the King is checkmated, The game is over, and the player who checkmated the other player's king is the winner.


There are several ways that the game can end in a draw. One of these is stalemate, which is described below. Additionally, the players can mutually agree to a draw, or a draw can be claimed if each player has made fifty consecutive moves without a pawn move or a capture, or if the same position has appeared on the board three times.


A player is stalemated when he cannot make a legal move, and is not in check.


Chess notation is used to record the moves of a chess game. This has several uses. Notation can be used to record games for review at a later time. There are two major methods of chess notation, Algebraic and Descriptive.


Algebraic is the more commonly used method of notation.



Moves which win material

There are several basic types of moves that win material.

The Fork

When a player makes a move which attacks 2 of his opponent's pieces simultaneously with one piece of his own, it is called a fork. This forces his opponent to essentially, choose which piece he will lose. Knights are especially adept at Forking because their method of movement allows them to attack any other kind of piece without being under attack from that piece. Forks in which the enemy King is one of the pieces under attack are especially effective because they force the opponent to move the king, leaving no choice as to which piece to move. While the knight is the most adept at forking, all of the other pieces are capable of it.

One example of the fork is called "The Pickle". A inexperienced player can be tricked into losing one of his rooks in the following manner. You move your king pawn forward 2 squares. Your opponent pushes his kings pawn up 2 squares as well. (the most common response) You move your queen out diagonally to the right all the way to the edge of the board. If the other player is ambitious, they will most likely advance the knight's pawn 1 square to attack your queen. At that point, you move to capture your opponent's king pawn with your queen. This will place the king in check, forcing him to block the check with a piece. Then, since he moved his knight's pawn, the path will be clear for you to capture the kings rook. this sets you up with one of his rooks out of the way, and you have control over the center of the board.

The Pin

When a player makes a move so that an opponent's piece is in between his attacking piece and another more valuable enemy piece, the move is called a "pin". Pinning creates a situation in which the opponent cannot move the piece in question without losing the more valuable piece behind it, effectively "pinning" the piece. A pinned piece can be easily taken.

The Skewer

The Skewer is the opposite of the pin. When a player makes a move so that an opponent's valuable piece is directly between his attacking piece and another of the opponents less valuable pieces it is called a skewer. The Skewer forces the opponent to move his more valuable piece out of the way which allows the player to capture the less valuable piece behind it. This especially effective when the King is the skewered piece because the it leaves the opponent with no choice.

Other Strategy

Doubling Rooks

Placing both Rooks together in a rank or file with no pieces in between is a powerful method of attack, because each rook defends the other.


When a player intentionally allows one of his own pieces to be taken in exchange for better position, this is called Sacrificing. Often, the piece is offered in an attempt to get the players opponent to weaken his own defenses by capturing with a piece that had been in a good defensive position.

Relative Value of Pieces

There are several different ideas about the relative value of the pieces. It is important to note that the "points" used to assign a value to each piece are hypothetical and do not constitute a score.

The method most often used is:

  • Pawn--1
  • Knight--3 (some say 2.5)
  • Bishop--3
  • Rook--5
  • Queen--9
  • King--Priceless (although in an endgame, the King has an attacking power of about 3)

External links

FIDE - World Chess Federation
USCF - United States Chess Federation
ICCF - International Correspondence Chess Federation
ACP - Association of Chess Professionals
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