Chess is wildly popular in India for a while. There is a report suggesting that during lockdown sale of chess sets went up. Also, there are changes in All India Chess Federation suggesting adding chess as a subject in schools. Now if you are new to the game and wondering what is this game and how to play it? Well in this post we will cover the basic rules of chess to begin with and we will in future post more in depth about the game.
Starting with the chessboard it is a flat square board (16 inches to 20 inches) with 64 squares (2 inches to 2.5 inches). The 64 squares are divided into 32 light colored squares and 32 dark colored squares. Each light square (or dark square) is adjacent to a dark square (or light square) either horizontally or vertically and each light square (or dark square) is adjacent to a light square (or dark square) diagonally.
As you can see in the picture above, every row (1,2,…,8) and every column (a,b,…,h) on the board has unique notation. In chess, rows are called ranks and columns are called files. Thus, every square has a unique notation.
There are a total of 32 pieces on the board at the starting of a game (16 light colored and 16 dark colored). At starting both sides has one King, one Queen, two Bishops, two Knights, two Rooks, and eight Pawns. Initial position of pieces is as follows,
- On a1 and h1 we have light colored Rooks
- On b1 and g1 we have light colored Knights
- On c1 and f1 we have light colored Bishops
- On d1 we have the light colored Queen
- On e1 we have the light colored King
- From a2 to h2 we have light colored Pawns lined in front of the pieces
- On a8 and h8 we have dark colored Rooks
- On b8 and g8 we have dark colored Knights
- On c8 and f8 we have dark colored Bishops
- On d8 we have the dark colored Queen
- On e8 we have the dark colored King
- From a7 to h7 we have dark colored Pawns lined in front of the pieces
Pawns are valued as one point in chess. These are least valued pieces when compared to other pieces. A pawn moves one square forward at a time and only from initial position it can move two squares at a time. A pawn captures the pieces diagonally and can also capture pawns passing by (this rule is called En passant which we will discuss later). This might make you think that pawn doesn’t worth much in a chess match, but these are the most valuable pieces when you are in an endgame. Giving away pawns without any strategic advantage is a big mistake and one should avoid it all costs.
Knights are horse-shaped pieces. They value three points in the game. They move in an L-pattern i.e. two squares forward or backward and one square either side. They can also move two squares on either side and one square forward or backward depending on players choice to move. These are the only pieces which can jump over other pieces which makes them very tricky as no one know where they can land and what trouble they can create.
Each side has one dark squared and one light squared bishop. Bishops move diagonally and captures pieces in the path. As we know that, every diagonally adjacent square has same color a bishop can never move on the square of a color different than its initial position square. A bishop also worth three points which makes it similar to knight in material weightage but is often considered to be a much powerful piece because of the advantage of it covering a long range for attack.
Rooks are very powerful pieces which worth five points in a game. They move horizontally or vertically and captures pieces in the path. Rooks on the either side can be used for a very special king move called castling about which we will discuss shortly.
Queen is the most powerful piece on the board with combined power of a rook and a bishop. That means that a queen can move diagonally and vertically or horizontally and captures pieces in the path. It worth nine points. Generally, any player avoids losing it from board because of its ability to win a game.
King is the most important in the game. It has no material weightage i.e. it does not carry any points in the game, but entire game is based on this piece. The entire point of game is to prevent the king from getting checkmated (checks and checkmate will be discussed shortly). King usually moves one square in any direction accept while castling. In castling king moves two squares instead of one and rook jumps over. Rules for castling are,
- King should have not moved since the game begin i.e. white king should stay on e1 and black king on e8 to castle.
- King moves two squares on either g-file or c-file provided that king is not under check and a square in king’s path to castle is not controlled by any piece of the opponent.
Game begins with white playing first. There are like more than a thousand theoretical openings in chess but the key is with an opening a player tries to control the center of the board. On first move no pieces can move other than pawns and knights. After first move players try to develop or bring more pieces in the game. Generally, after few moves when the bishops, knights and Queen is developed a player castles either side to safeguard the king from threats in the center and bring rooks into the game. Game ends when either of the player resigns or gets checkmated or a draw occurs. A check is a move which threatens to capture the King. When your king is in check you are forced to get him out of it and if there is no legal move to save your king from check then it is a checkmate (derived from Persian ‘Shah-mat’ which loosely translates to ‘The King is helpless’). You can come out of check by moving the King or by blocking it with some other piece or by capturing the piece that threatens check.