The Rules of Chess - Quick and Simple

by Omar Syed
co-inventor of Arimaa

Have you ever tried learning how to play chess and found the rules to be long and complicated?

When I was about 7 years old I taught myself to play Chess by looking at the instructions on the back of my dad's chess set. So I'm a firm believer that the basic rules are not too hard for anyone to learn; and that's really all you need to get started and enjoy the game.

So lets get started.

Lay down your chess board and separate the white and black pieces. Make sure that the corner of the chess board close to you on your right side is a light colored square.

Here's what the pieces look like and their names.

The king is the piece with the crown that has a cross. It is the tallest of all the pieces.

The queen also has a crown and is the second tallest piece.

The knights are easy to tell because they look like horses.

The rooks are also easy to tell because they look like the towers of a castle.

The bishops are the pieces with the pointed hats.

The pawns are the eight shortest pieces.

Now here's basically how a chess game is played out. You take the pieces of one color and your opponent takes the pieces of the other color. Let's say you're going to play with the white pieces. You both setup the pieces on the board; I'll tell you how in a minute. Then you take turns moving the pieces. Since you are the white player you get to move first. Then your opponent makes a move and so on. The main goal is to try and capture your opponent's king and not let your king get captured. The first one to capture the opponent's king wins the game. Got it?

Now let's setup the pieces. Put the rooks on the corners. The knights go next to the rooks. The bishops go next to the knights and the king and queen go in the middle with the queen on the square of it's own color. So if you are playing white, the white queen goes on the light colored square. Now put all the pawns on the second row. We're ready to play.

Now to start playing you just have to know how the pieces move. It so happens that each pieces moves in a different way. At first it's a little hard to remember, but after a little while you get used to it.

The pawns basically can only move forward and one step at a time. So if you want to move a pawn on your turn you can only move it one square forward. But you have to remember that the pawn is a special pieces and it can sometimes do other things; I'll tell you more about that later, but for now just remember that a pawns moves only one step forward at a time.

The king can also only move one step at a time, but he can move in any direction; left, right, forwards, backwards, and in all the diagonal directions.

The queen can also move in any direction just like the king. But the queen has no limit on how far it can move. So it can continue in any of the eight directions as far as it wants. Well actually it can't go through other pieces. So it can only go as far as there are empty spaces in that direction.

The rook can only move in four directions; forwards, backwards, left and right. And like the queen it can move as far as it wants as long as there are empty spaces in that direction.

The bishops can also move as far as they want; just like the rook and the queen. But the bishop can only move in diagonal directions.

The knight is a little special. It doesn't move straight like the other pieces. It hops in all eight directions and lands on a different colored square that is two steps away. A knight doesn't have to worry about something being in it's way; it just hops over it.

If one of your pieces wants to move somewhere and your opponent's piece happens to be there then you just pick up your opponent's piece and put your piece in it's place. This is called a capture. You just captured your opponent's piece. If that piece happens to be the king then you won the game. But actually you are not supposed to capture your opponent's king in a sneaky way. If your opponent's king can be captured on the next move you are supposed to announce it by saying "check". As in "check the board carefully because your king is about to get captured". Now suppose that situation is so bad that no matter what move your opponent makes the king can get captured, then you have just placed your opponent in a position called a "checkmate"; and you are the winner.

Now back to those special pawns. Remember I said they can only move forward one step per turn. Well there are some exceptions. If a pawn has never moved before, it can move two steps the first time it moves. Also a pawn cannot capture an opponent's piece that is in front of it. But if there is an opponent's piece diagonally in front of it, then it can move there to capture the opponent's piece. Strange rule huh. You will get used to it. But the strangeness doesn't end there. Let me tell you about a rule called en passant. If the opponent's pawn moves two steps forward and comes to the side of your pawn, you can pretend that the opponent's pawn took only one step and capture it by moving your pawn diagonally to where the opponent's pawn would have been had it taken only one step. You can only do this on the turn right after your opponent moved the pawn two steps. You can't decide to delay it and do the capture a few moves later. One final thing about the pawns. If they reach the other side of the board where they can't move forward anymore, they must be replaced by any of your other piece (well except a king or another pawn). You can choose any of your own pieces even if it means having more pieces than normal; like 3 knights. This is called pawn promotion.

There is also one more special movement that involves the king and the rooks; it's called castling. If the space between the king and rook is empty then you can move the rook next to the king and put the king on the other side. But you can't do this if either the king or the rook have already moved before or if your king could be captured on the next move (your opponent has put you in "check") or if either of the two pieces can be captured after your turn is over. You can only castle once during the game.

That's it you're ready to start playing. Have fun as you explore the nature of this royal game.

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