How To Play Chess: A Beginner’s Guide

Chess is one of the most popular board games in the world but many people find it to be too difficult to learn due to all the strategy and rules you have to know to have a chance of winning.

However, with enough time and dedication, you can quickly rise up to an advanced level – but first, you have to begin with the basics.

How To Play Chess: A Beginner’s Guide

So, if you want to learn how to play chess, then this is the guide for you.

We are going to be covering all the basic stuff you need to know to play chess so check out the information below to start your chess journey!

What Is Chess?

First up, you need to know what chess is and what the whole point of the game is!

Chess is a board game that is traditionally played with two players on opposite sides of the board.

It is a strategy game with the object of ‘checkmating’ the opponent’s king piece with one of your own pieces.

Each player is given sixteen pieces and each piece has the ability to move in different directions across the board.

If you land on the same square as your opponent, then you ‘capture’ their piece and remove it from the board so it is out of play.

The more pieces you have in play, the better your chances of winning the game are – but it’s not impossible for a player with less pieces than their opponent to still win.

The players need to be cunning, strategic, and use tact to try and attack their opponent’s king and block their escape using their own pieces.

Once this is done, the attacking player is declared the victor.

Chess is known as an ‘abstract’ strategy game which means that it follows no narrative theme and that the outcome is completely determined by the players and their choices.

This means that every move you make has an effect on the outcome of the game, as does your opponent’s moves.

Because of this, a typical game of chess can last for as little as a few minutes or extend over hours of gameplay, especially in professional tournaments.

So, now you know what the object of a game of chess is – let’s move onto the pieces and how they work.

Chess Pieces: What They Are And How They Work

Each player in chess is given sixteen pieces at the start to set out on their board.

In total, there are six types of pieces and each type has the ability to move in different directions across the board. Thus, this makes some more ‘valuable’ than others.

The six types of pieces are the king, the queen, bishops, knights, rooks (or castles), and pawns.

They all also have their designated starting positions on the board so not only do you need to know how you can move each piece, you also need to know where they start out and how many of them you have.

So, let’s take a closer look at each piece in detail.

The King

Despite being the most important piece on the board, the king is also considered to be the weakest.

Each player has only one king and in some games, the king never moves at all. It can only move one square in any direction (be it up, down, side to side, or diagonally).

However, the whole object of chess is to checkmate your opponent’s king so rarely do players ever try to use the king to attack or capture other pieces.

Due to this, most players defend their kings by keeping them away from attacking pieces and rarely do they ever cross the half-way mark of the board.

When the game starts, your king should be in square 1E, between the queen and a bishop.

The king will always start on a square that is the opposite of the color you are playing e.g. a black king on a white square.

The Queen

The queen is considered to be the most powerful chess piece on the board because it can move in any direction in a straight line for as long as possible without going through any other pieces.

This means that – if the path is clear – a queen piece can travel from one end of the board to the other in a single move.

Due to this power, most players use their queen as a great weapon to capture their opponents pieces with single swift movements but losing your queen can be disastrous and put you at a huge disadvantage.

So, many players view using the queen as a double edge sword – you want to use it because it’s the most powerful piece on the board but every time you use it, you are also risking it being captured by your opponent.

You only have one queen so once it is captured, it’s gone for good.

When the game starts, your queen will be placed on 1D and will always start on a square that is the same color as the pieces you are playing e.g. a white queen on a white square.

The Bishops

The Bishops

Each player starts out with two bishops placed on either side of their king and queen piece in squares 1C and 1F.

This means that you start out with a bishop on each color and they will always stay on that color. This is because bishops are able to move in diagonal lines.

They can move for as long as they want as long as the path is clear so it’s possible for a bishop to completely travel the board in as little as two moves.

Because they can only move diagonally, they cannot cross over into a square that is a different color.

Bishops work well in pairs because they cover each other’s weaknesses.

While one bishop can only move and capture pieces on white squares, the other can move and capture pieces on black squares.

The Knights

Knights are always the pieces that most players struggle to get to grips with when they begin learning chess. This is because knights move in a very unique way.

They move in a kind of ‘L’ shape – so two squares in any direction and then one square 90 degrees in either direction.

This can be tricky to visualize but the more you practice, the quicker you will pick it up. Just try and follow an L shape whenever you want to move one of your knights.

They can move forward and backwards and side to side as long as they follow the L shape rule.

Each player starts out with two knights beside their bishops on the row closest to you. This means that you will have a knight starting in 1B and one in 1G.

The Rooks

Rooks are the pieces that look a little like a castle tower and thus, they are sometimes called castle or tower pieces.

They start out in each corner of the board and thus, each player is given two rooks to begin with (in squares 1A and 1H).

Rooks are handy pieces because they can move in straight lines both forwards, backwards, and side to side in any direction as long as their path remains clear; they cannot move diagonally.

This makes them very easy to move around the board and to quickly remove from danger too.

They also work great in their pairs to protect valuable pieces like your king or queen.

The Pawns

Finally, we have come to the most common and yet one of the weakest types of pieces on the board – the pawns.

Each player begins with a total of eight pawns that completely fill in the B row on your board.

They are the ‘common soldier’ of your chess army so they aren’t very valuable. However, pawns do move in very specific ways.

A pawn can move one square at a time but on their first move, they are allowed to move two squares forward if the player chooses.

Pawns cannot move backwards or side to side. However, if their forward path is blocked by another piece, then the pawn cannot move forward to capture it.

Pawns can only capture pieces that are in either of the forward squares directly diagonal to them.

Pawns have a special ability that allows them to be ‘promoted’ once they reach the other side of the board.

They can become any other piece other than a king or another pawn.

This means that if you have lost your queen, then there is a way to get it back – via promoting a pawn.

However, pawns are very slow to move and easily taken by other pieces which makes getting your pawn to the other side of the board super difficult – but the reward is often worth it.


So, now you know the very basics of chess. You know what the object is, what each piece does and how it moves.

You can now set up a chess board and find an opponent to play with until you are confident to move onto the next step – learning strategies and tactics to improve your chances of victory!

Jenna Ostria
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