Playing the game of Chess. The Rules for Beginners

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Getting Started with Chess : The Rules of the European Chess Game

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Opening the box.

A chess set comprises a board, sixteen ‘black’ pieces and sixteen “white” pieces. The actual colours of the pieces could be red, grey, cream, dark brown and light brown natural wood, or even clear and frosted glass, but are always called “black” and “white” for the purpose of the game.

The square board is chequered with light and dark squares, eight rows of eight. Always place the board between the two players so that the corner square on your right is white, or light coloured. Then you will be ready to place the chess pieces on the board.  

Setting out the pieces.
Decide who will be “white” and who will be “black”, bearing in mind that “white” always plays first. Or you can toss a coin, or one player can shuffle two pawns behind his back, placing one in each fist for the other to choose.
As you set out your pieces, think of them as an army preparing for battle. You will sit behind them, planning and making every move that each one will make.

First, gather your pawns. They are the smallest pieces and there are eight of these. You place these in a straight line on the second row of squares.

The other pieces go on the first row, behind the pawns. Work from the corners, and into the centre.

2 castles.  These usually look like little towers with battlements. Sometimes castles are called “rooks” and may look different. Place them in the corners.

2 knights.  Usually a horse’s head. Place these next to the castles.

You have 4 pieces left to place and only 2 of them are the same. These are bishops. Place them next to the knights, so leaving 2 empty squares in the middle of the first row.

The 2 remaining pieces are the king and the queen. You must place the queen on her own colour – white queen on the white square, black queen on the black square. The king is placed next to her. Then the 2 kings and 2 queens will face each other across the board.

The ultimate goal is to win the battle and capture your opponent’s king. Along the way you will need to eliminate some of your opponent’s other pieces. You will have to defend your own pieces as well as attack your opponent. You will also have to sacrifice some of your own pieces.

Here are some rules to remember.
1.    Players take turns to play a piece of their own colour.
2.    White moves first.
3.    A square on the board can have only one piece on it.
4.    If you want to move to a position occupied by your opponent, then you “take” their piece and put yours in its place.
5.    Just because you can capture one of your opponent’s pieces, it doesn’t mean you have to. You might lose a valuable piece, so be careful.
6.    If you move one of your pieces to “attack” your opponent’s king, meaning that on your next move you can take the king, you must say “check” very clearly. If there is no way of escape for your opponent, then you must say “Check mate” – this is the end of the game; the king is never taken.

Learning the moves
When the board is set up, you are ready to play the game, but first you need to practise moving the pieces around the board.

When a pawn makes its first move, it can go forward one square or two. Then it can only move one square. A pawn can ONLY move forward into an EMPTY square. If the square in front is occupied, the pawn cannot move. A pawn moves diagonally to take an opponent’s piece. It cannot move diagonally to an empty square. Practise moving only pawns, and practise taking each others pawns.

Remember that pawns are the only pieces that move differently when they are taking pieces. All the other pieces have the same rule for moving to an empty square, and taking an opponent’s piece.

The knight is the only piece that can “jump over” other pieces. It can move very quickly around the board this way. When you move a knight, think of a shape like the capital letter “L” made up of 4 squares on the board.  This shape can be upside down, back to front, on its side, and inside out. The knight will move from one end of this shape to the other end.
Put all the pawns back in their starting position and practise moving the knights. From the starting position, take one of your knights and jump it over the pawn in front of it (2 spaces forward) then move it one square to the right or the left. It will then be 2 squares in front of either a bishop or a castle.  Then move the same knight forward one square, and 2 spaces to the left or the right. Keep moving it around, so it goes towards the other side of the board, and then backwards. Practise until you learn the pattern, so you can see where the knights can move without counting squares. Remember that if the knight starts from a white square, it will land on a black square and vice versa. The knight takes your opponent’s piece when it lands on the same square – not when it jumps over it.

Just so you can practise moving all the other pieces, take all the pawns off the board.

These only move diagonally.  They can go any distance, forwards or backwards. You will see that you have one bishop on a white square and one on a black square.
These can move forward and back, left and right, and any distance.

The Queen
She can move any distance in any direction, diagonally like the bishops, and forwards, back, left and right, like the castles. The queen is very powerful, and you don’t want to lose her if you can help it.

The King
The King can move only one square in any direction. You must not place your king on a square where he could be taken by one of your opponent’s pieces.

Another important rule
If your king is in ‘check’ you must get him out of check in your next move. You can do this by
1.    Move the king out of trouble, making sure that you move him to a safe square.
2.    If you are able to you could take the attacking piece with your king or with another of your pieces.
3.    If the attacking piece is not a knight, you can move a piece between it and your king.

Put the pieces back in their places and just start to play! The rules of the game may seem complicated at first. The best thing to do is find an opponent who can remind you of the basic moves as you play. They don’t have to be a chess master – they simply need to know the moves and the object of the game, and have played a few games themselves. In fact it is always a good idea to play the game with someone who is bound to beat you but will help you out with a few unbiased hints and tips along the way so you learn a bit more every time you play.

Even quite young children can learn the moves.  It takes time to learn to play skilfully, but they can have lots of fun right from the start. Chess is more than just a game. Children who learn to play chess develop mind skills that can help them to achieve more in other areas.  You develop your ability to concentrate for longer periods of time. You learn strategy – planning, not just your next move, but how you can achieve your win in 3, 5, 10 or more moves, no matter what moves your opponent makes. You learn to work out what your opponent is thinking.

Don’t rush your moves; think carefully; look all around the board – trouble for you could be lurking in a distant corner. Your move could expose one of your valuable pieces to attack. Just do it! And enjoy it.

This guide is a  JDS Toys & Games Limited Production.

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