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Chess Rules - The Setup

The chessboard is made up of eight rows and eight columns for a total of 64 squares of alternating colours. When the board is set up it should be positioned so that a light square is positioned on the extreme lower right hand side of the chess board (as you can see, this works for both players). In photos and movies the board is often set up wrong with the dark square in the right hand corner.

Simple Layout Reminders: Light square on lower right. Queens on matching colours. Armies are mirror images.

The diagram above shows how the pieces should be placed at the beginning of the game. When you find out how all the pieces move you will notice that the front rank (the row where the pawns are) is fully supported by the rank behind (rooks, knights, bishops, queen and king). The weakest spot is the square in front of the kings bishop because it is only supported by the king. When setting up, make sure that the light queen is positioned on a light square and the dark queen is situated on a dark square. The two armies should be mirror images of one another. It is often said, "The queen takes the colour." The light or white side always moves first. This does give white a slight advantage. Each player's side of the chessboard is determined by chance or by pre-arranged tournament rules. In friendly games, one player may place a pawn in each hand and close his fists. Holding forth his fists the opposing player should pick one. The colour of the pawn he chooses is the side he shall command.

General Rules of Chess

The ultimate aim in the game of chess is to win by trapping your opponent's king. (This is called checkmate - more on this later.) White is always first to move. Players take turns alternately moving one piece at a time (except in the case of the castle manoeuvre - more on this later). Movement is required. A player may not opt to skip his or her turn. Each type of piece has its own method of movement (described in the following sections). A piece may be moved to another position. At the end of the move that piece may capture an opponent's piece. This is done by landing on the appropriate square with the moving piece and removing the defending piece from play. The removed piece is said to be "taken" or "captured". With the exception of the knight, a piece may not move over or through any of the other pieces. In tournament play, once a piece has been touched by a player, it must be moved. In sandlot chess this rule is not always strictly adhered to. The game continues until one side or the other traps the opponent's king as described on the end of game page.

Pawn Movement
There are eight pawns situated on each side of the board. They are the least powerful piece on the chess board, but have the potential to become equal to the most powerful. Pawns cannot move backward or sideways, but must move straight ahead unless they are taking another piece. Generally, pawns move only one square at a time. The exception is the first time a pawn is moved it may move forward two squares as long as there are no obstructing pieces. A pawn cannot take a piece directly in front of her but only one at a forward angle. In the diagram, the green dots show where the pawn may move, and the red dots show where the pawn may capture a piece. In the case of a capture the pawn replaces the captured piece and the captured piece is removed from play. Pawn Move Diagram Should a pawn get all the way across the board to reach the opponent's edge of the table, it will be promoted. The pawn may now become any piece that the moving player desires (except a king or pawn). Thus a player may end up having more than one queen on the board. Under normal circumstances a player will want to promote his pawn to be a queen since that piece is the most powerful and flexible. The new piece is placed where the pawn ended its movement. If there is no queen piece available an inverted rook will do or any other token, even a wadded up piece of paper! There is a separate rule regarding pawns called en passant that will be described further on.

Rook Movement
The rook, shaped like a castle, is one of the more powerful pieces on the board. The rooks, grouped with the queen, are often thought of as the "major pieces". A rook may be thought of as being worth a bishop (or a knight) plus two pawns. However, it will be seldom that such an obvious trade will be practical. The rook can move any number of squares in a straight line along any column or row. They CANNOT move diagonally for any reason. In the example shown in the diagram on the upperright, the rook can move or capture in any square that has a blue dot. The simplicity of the rook's movement is indeed what makes it powerful. It can cover a significant area of the board and there are no areas which an opponent's piece - moving one square at a time - can slip through. Note that at all times the rook has the potential to attack 14 squares. This is over 20 percent of the board. Only the queen can cover more space.

Rook Movement Diagram

Because of the rook's position on the edge of the battlefield it usually is not used until the later phases of the game. The rook may also make a move in conjunction with the king. This manoeuvre will be explained in the section called castling.

Knight's Movement
The knight is the only piece on the board that may jump over other pieces. This gives it a degree of flexibility that makes it a powerful piece especially early in the game when the board is cluttered with pieces. Since obstructions are not a bar to movement (unless there is a friendly piece on the square where the knight would move) the knight's path of movement has never been well defined. The knight can be thought of as moving one square along any rank or file and then at an angle, as shown in the diagram. (The yellow dot is the square being passed over and the green dot is the space where the knight may move and may also capture opposition pieces.) The knight's movement can also be viewed as an "L" laid out at any horizontal or vertical angle. Note that the squares to where the knight can move are all of the opposite coloured squares two steps away from his starting square. This may help in visualizing the knight's range of influence on the board. Knight's Movement Diagram

Strategy Tip: Use the knight early on to undermine the opponent's defence, especially the pawns which can sometimes be picked off by a ranging knight. The knight is the piece most likely to sneak in behind "enemy" lines to capture an important piece.

Bishop's Movement
The bishop may move any number of squares in a diagonal direction until it is prevented from continuing by another piece. It may then capture the opposing piece by landing on the square. It may not jump over pieces as can the knight. Each player begins the game with two bishops, one originally situated on a light square, the other on a dark square. Because of the nature of their movement, the bishops always remain on the same coloured squares. This can sometimes create difficulties for bishops later in the game and is why they work better in pairs. Together they can cover a large area and severely limit the opponent's pawn movement. Losing one bishop generally lowers the value of the other bishop. Bishop's Movement Diagram The bishop is a powerful piece (though less so than the queen or rook). It is roughly equal in power to a knight or three pawns. Nevertheless, the bishop is a great piece to have in on long diagonals.

Strategy Note: Try moving forward the pawn in front of the knight and then situating the bishop in its spot. This is a powerful position for the bishop.

The Queen's Movement

The queen is, without a doubt, the most powerful piece on the chessboard. She can move as many squares as she desires and in any direction (barring any obstructions). In the diagram on the left, the green dots indicate to which squares this particular queen may move. As you can see, she can cover 27 squares. This is a healthy percentage of the board, 42 percent. This is twice as much as the a rook. (However, performance will vary depending on the queen's position.) She captures in the same way that she moves, replacing the unlucky opposing piece that got in her way. (She must, of course, stop in the square of the piece she has captured - unlike the knight the queen may not jump other pieces.) The queen's power is so great that she is considered to be worth Queen's Movement Diagram more than any combination of two other pieces (with the exception of two rooks). Thus it would be better, under normal circumstances, to sacrifice a rook and a bishop (for example) than to give up a queen. Strategy Note: The queen's power also makes her too valuable to casually risk. Against skilled players, the loss of the queen is nearly equal to losing the game. For this reason, it is generally thought to be unwise to bring the queen out too early. The cluttered board makes her more vulnerable to entrapment.

King's Movement
Though not the most powerful piece on the board, the king is the most vital, for once he is lost the game is lost (more about this in the end game section). As shown in the movement diagram, the king can only move one square in any direction (except in the case of the castle manoeuvre). There is an important restriction on his movement he may not move into a position where he may be captured by an opposing piece. An interesting aspect of this rule is that the two kings may never stand next to each other or capture each other. However, kings may be, and often are, used to help checkmate the opposing king by guarding squares which the opponent might enter. Strategy Note: Guard the king closely. His loss means loss of the game. He is typically not a good piece to use on offense, but will be a help in a carefully constructed defence. It is also wise to position the king so that he has a square to run to if attacked. For example, a king can easily be check-mated by standing behind a straight wall of unmoved pawns.

King's Movement Diagram

Chess Rules: En Passant

Perhaps the most obscure and least used move in Chess is called en passant (pronounced "aw pawsawnt"). It can only occur when a player exercises his option to move his pawn two squares on its initial movement and that move places his pawn next to the opponent's pawn. When this happens, the opposing player has the option to use his pawn to take the moved pawn "en passant" or "in passing" as if the pawn had only moved one square. This option, though, only stays open for one move. Such a move is the only occasion in chess in which a piece captures but does not move to the square of the captured piece. In the example diagram, the light pawn is in position on black's fourth rank. The dark pawn, makes an initial TWO space move. The light coloured pawn can now capture the black pawn "in passing". The light coloured pawn actually moves behind the dark one. The dark pawn is removed. It would then be black's turn. Had white failed to move on that turn, he would have lost the option to capture en passant.

An en passant capture must be made if it is the only move to get out of stalemate. A player must make that move or resign. The same is true if an en passant capture is the only move to get out of check. The en passant move was developed in late medieval times after pawns were allowed to move more than one square on their initial move. This was done to make sure the now faster moving pawns retained some of the restrictions imposed by slow movement, while at the same time speeding up the game. Strategy Tip: It is not always best to take an opponent's piece every time the opportunity arises. Carefully consider what taking this move will do to the mutual support of the pawn structure or in revealing a piece that may be situated behind.

a b c d e f 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 a b c d e f g h g h 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 a b c d e f g h a b c d e f g h 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Initial position of kings and rooks. Kings may be moved to the indicated squares.

White has castled kingside (0-0) and Black has castled queenside (0-0-0).

Castling is a special move in the game of chess involving the king and either of the original rooks of the same colour. It is the only move in chess (except promotion) in which a player moves two pieces at the same time. Castling consists of moving the king two squares towards a rook on the player's first rank, then moving the rook onto the square over which the king crossed. Castling can only be done if the king has never moved, the rook involved has never moved, the squares between the king and the rook involved are not occupied, the king is not in check, and the king does not cross over or end on a square in which it would be in check. Castling is one of the rules of chess and is technically a king move. The notation for castling, in both the descriptive and the algebraic systems, is 0-0 with the kingside rook and 0-0-0 with the queenside rook. (In PGN, O-O and O-O-O are used instead.) Castling on the kingside is sometimes called castling short and castling on the queenside is called castling long; the difference being based on whether the rook moves a short distance (two squares) or a long distance (three squares).

a b c d e f 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 a b c d e f

g h 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 g h 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

a b c d e f

G h 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

a b c d e f

G h

White to move cannot castle kingside because the black queen on g7 is covering g1. However, White can castle queenside, even though the rook on a1 is under attack.

Black cannot castle on either side because he is in check from the white queen on c6

Castling Requirements
Castling is permissible if and only if all of the following conditions hold: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. The king has not previously moved. The chosen rook has not previously moved. There are no pieces between the king and the chosen rook. The king is not currently in check. The king does not pass through a square that is under attack by enemy pieces. The king does not end up in check (true of any legal move). The king and the chosen rook are on the same rank.

Conditions 4 through 6 may be summarised with the more memorable phrase "One cannot castle out of, through, or into check." It is a common mistake to think that the requirements for castling are even more stringent than the above. To clarify: The rook involved in castling may be under attack. In queenside castling, the square next to the rook involved may be under attack. (Kingside castling is not legally possible when the square next to the rook involved is under attack: Because only two squares separate the king and the king's rook, the king would be moved to that square and thereby be placed in check.)

Castling is an important goal in the early part of a game, because it serves two valuable purposes: it moves the king into a safer position away from the centre of the board, and it moves the rook to a more active position in the centre of the board (it is even possible to checkmate with castling). The choice as to which side to castle often hinges on an assessment of the trade-off between king safety and activity of the rook. Kingside castling is generally slightly safer, because the king ends up closer to the edge of the board and all the pawns on the castled side are defended by the king. In queenside castling, the king is placed closer to the centre and the pawn on the a-file is undefended; the king is thus often moved to the b-file to defend the a-pawn and to move the king away from the centre of the board. In addition, queenside castling requires moving the queen; therefore, it may take slightly longer to achieve than kingside castling. On the other hand, queenside castling places the rook more effectively on the central d-file. It is often immediately active, whereas with kingside castling a tempo may be required to move the rook to a more effective square. It is common for both players to castle kingside, and rare for both players to castle queenside. If one player castles kingside and the other queenside, it is called opposite castling. Castling on opposite sides usually results in a fierce fight as both players' pawns are free to advance to attack the opposing king's castled position without exposing the player's own castled king. An example is the Dragon Variation of the Sicilian Defence. If the king is forced to move before it has the opportunity to castle, the player may still wish to manoeuvre the king towards the edge of the board and the corresponding rook towards the centre. When a player takes three or four moves to accomplish what castling would have accomplished in one move, it is sometimes called artificial castling, or castling by hand.

Tournament rules
Under the strict touch-move rules enforced in most tournaments, castling is considered a king move. But under current US Chess Federation rules, a player who intends to castle and touches the rook first would suffer no penalty, and would be permitted to perform castling, provided castling is legal in the position. Still, the correct way to castle is to first move the king. As usual, the player's mind may change between all legal destination squares for the king until it is released. When the two-square king move is completed, however, the player has formally chosen to castle (if it is legal), and the rook must be moved accordingly. A player who performs a forbidden castling must return the king and the rook to their original places and then move the king, if there is another legal king move, including castling on the other side. If there is no legal king move, the touch-move rule does not apply to the rook. It is also required by the official rules that the entire move be completed using only a single hand. Neither of these rules is commonly enforced in casual play, nor commonly known by non-competitive players. The right to castle must be the same in all three positions for a valid draw claim under the threefold repetition rule.

End Game
The game ends when one of the players captures his opponent's king, when one of the player's resigns or there is a stalemate. When a player's king is threatened by an opposing piece, it is said to be "in check". When a player places the opposing king in check he should announce, "check". The object of a player is not merely to place his opponent's king in check but to make certain that every square where the king has a possibility of movement is also covered. This is called checkmate. The king is considered captured. Either player may resign at any time. This generally happens when a player loses a major piece and the outlook for victory in his case appears bleak. Stalemate is considered a tie. A stalemate occurs when a player's only move is to place his own king in check, but its current square is not threatened. As long as he can move another piece or the king can move to an open square, stalemate may not occur. A draw also results when the only two pieces on the board are Kings, regardless of their position. If the pieces remaining on the board make check mate impossible, for example one cannot checkmate an opponent with only a king and a bishop a draw would also result.

Further Reading
There are many sites dedicated to the wonderful game of chess on the Internet. There are also different variations on the rules used in different countries, chess clubs and tournaments. If you intend to play in a local chess club then it would pay to obtain a copy of their rules to familiarise yourself with their particular rules on things such as: once a piece is touched, then that one has to be moved; time restrictions and the use of chess clocks; etc. Here are a few sites that may be of interest for further study, club/tournament rules, examples and fun. Chess Links - Instructional and Scholastic Chess Links