How to Play Chess for Beginners: A Complete Guide

6 min read

Chess is a game of strategy and skill that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. Chess can help you improve your memory, concentration, logic, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Chess can also be a lot of fun and a great way to make new friends. In this article, we will teach you how to play chess for beginners, from the basic rules and setup to the common moves and tactics.

What is Chess?

Chess logo

Chess is a board game that is played by two players on a square board that has 64 smaller squares of alternating colors (usually black and white). Each player controls 16 pieces of their own color: one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns. The goal of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king, which means to trap it so that it cannot escape from any attack. Chess is one of the oldest and most popular games in the world, with origins dating back to the 6th century in India[^1^][1]. Chess is also recognized by the International Olympic Committee[^2^][2] and has its own World Championship and other prestigious tournaments.

What You Need to Play Chess

Chess equipment

To play chess, you need the following equipment:

  • A board: This is the surface where you place the pieces and move them during the game. The board should have 64 squares of equal size, arranged in eight rows (called ranks) and eight columns (called files). The squares should be alternately colored in light and dark shades, usually white and black. The board should be oriented so that each player has a white square on their right-hand corner.[^3^][3]
  • Pieces: These are the objects that you use to play the game. Each player has 16 pieces of their own color: one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns. The pieces have different shapes and sizes, and each type has its own way of moving on the board. The pieces are usually made of wood or plastic, but can also be made of metal, glass, or other materials.[^3^][3]
  • A clock: This is an optional device that is used to measure the time that each player takes to make their moves. The clock can be analog or digital, and can have different modes and settings. The clock can be used to make the game more challenging and exciting, or to enforce certain rules and regulations.[^3^][3]

How to Play Chess

Chess gameplay

Once you have your equipment ready, you can start playing chess by following these steps:

  1. Set up the board and the pieces. Place the board on a flat surface between you and your opponent, with a white square on your right-hand corner. Arrange the pieces on the first and second ranks (rows) of your side of the board as shown in the diagram below. The queen should be on a square of her own color (white queen on white square, black queen on black square), and the king should be on the remaining square in the center. The rooks should be on the corners, the bishops next to them, and the knights next to them. The pawns should be on the second rank.[^3^][3]
  2. Decide who will play with which color and who will make the first move. You can do this by any fair method, such as tossing a coin, drawing lots, or playing rock-paper-scissors. The player who plays with the white pieces usually makes the first move.[^3^][3]
  3. Make your moves alternately with your opponent. On your turn, you must move one piece of your own color to a different square on the board, following the rules of how each piece moves (see below). You can capture an enemy piece by moving your piece to the square where it is located and removing it from the board. You cannot move your piece to a square that is occupied by another piece of your own color. You cannot skip or pass your turn.[^3^][3]
  4. Check and checkmate your opponent’s king. The king is the most important piece in chess, as the game ends when it is checkmated. To checkmate your opponent’s king, you must attack it with one or more of your pieces, and prevent it from escaping to a safe square. To check your opponent’s king, you must attack it with one of your pieces, but allow it to escape to a safe square. When you check or checkmate your opponent’s king, you must announce it by saying \”check\” or \”checkmate\”. If your king is in check, you must get out of check on your next move, either by moving your king to a safe square, capturing the attacking piece, or blocking the attack with another piece. If you cannot get out of check, you are checkmated and you lose the game.[^3^][3]
  5. End the game by winning, losing, or drawing. You win the game when you checkmate your opponent’s king, or when your opponent resigns (gives up) or runs out of time (if using a clock). You lose the game when your opponent checkmates your king, or when you resign or run out of time. You draw the game when neither player can checkmate the other’s king, or when both players agree to a draw. There are also some special rules that can result in a draw, such as stalemate, threefold repetition, fifty-move rule, and insufficient material.[^3^][3]

How the Chess Pieces Move

Chess pieces

Each type of chess piece has its own way of moving on the board. Here are the basic rules of how each piece moves:

  • King: The king can move one square in any direction: horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. The king cannot move to a square that is attacked by an enemy piece, or that would put him in check. The king has a special move called castling, which allows him to move two squares to the side and switch places with a rook, under certain conditions.[^3^][3]
  • Queen: The queen can move any number of squares in any direction: horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. The queen cannot move through other pieces, but can capture an enemy piece on the square where she stops.[^3^][3]
  • Rook: The rook can move any number of squares horizontally or vertically. The rook cannot move through other pieces, but can capture an enemy piece on the square where it stops. The rook is involved in the special move of castling with the king.[^3^][3]
  • Bishop: The bishop can move any number of squares diagonally. The bishop cannot move through other pieces, but can capture an enemy piece on the square where it stops. The bishop always stays on the same color of square that it started on.[^3^][3]
  • Knight: The knight can move two squares horizontally or vertically, then one square perpendicular to that direction. The knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces, but can only capture an enemy piece on the square where it lands.[^3^][3]
  • Pawn: The pawn can move one square forward (towards the enemy’s side of the board) on each turn, except on its first move, when it can move two squares forward. The pawn cannot move backwards or sideways. The pawn cannot capture other pieces by moving forward, but only by moving one square diagonally forward. The pawn has a special move called en passant, which allows it to capture an enemy pawn that has just moved two squares forward next to it, as if it had moved only one square. The pawn also has a special rule called promotion, which allows it to change into another piece (except a king) when it reaches the last rank (row) of the board.[^3^][3]

Basic Chess Strategy and Tactics

Chess strategy

Chess is not only a game of rules and moves, but also a game of strategy and tactics. Strategy is the long-term plan that guides your decisions and actions during the game. Tactics are the short-term moves that exploit opportunities and threats in specific situations. Here are some basic chess strategy and tactics that you should know:

  • Control the center: The center of the board (the four central squares and their surroundings) is the most important area in chess, as it allows you to access all parts of the board and launch attacks more easily. You should try to control the center by placing your pawns and pieces there or influencing it from a distance.[^4^][4]
  • Develop your pieces: You should try to bring your pieces into play as soon as possible, especially your minor pieces (bishops and knights), as they are more effective in the early stages of the game. You should also try to develop your pieces to active and safe squares, where they can attack, defend, or control more squares.
  • Protect your king: You should try to protect your king from attacks by moving it to a safe corner of the board, usually behind a wall of pawns. This is called castling, and it also activates one of your rooks. You should also try to avoid exposing your king to checks or threats, as they can limit your options and waste your time.
  • Coordinate your pieces: You should try to coordinate your pieces with each other, so that they can work together and support each other. You should also try to avoid placing your pieces on the same line or square, as they can block each other or be captured by the same enemy piece. You should also try to avoid losing your pieces for nothing, as they are valuable resources that can help you win the game.
  • Attack and defend: You should try to attack your opponent’s pieces and weaknesses, such as isolated or backward pawns, undefended or overloaded pieces, or exposed king. You should also try to defend your own pieces and strengths, such as advanced or passed pawns, defended or active pieces, or protected king. You should also try to balance your attack and defense, as too much of either can leave you vulnerable or passive.
  • Use all types of moves: You should try to use all types of moves that are available in chess, such as captures, checks, threats, sacrifices, forks, pins, skewers, discoveries, double checks, interpositions, deflections, decoys, and zugzwangs. These moves can help you gain material, time, space, or position advantage over your opponent.


Chess is a fun and challenging game that anyone can learn and play with minimal equipment and rules. By following this guide, you can learn how to play chess for beginners, from setting up the board and pieces to playing the game and winning it. All you need is a board, pieces, a clock (optional), and some enthusiasm. So grab your board and pieces and start playing chess today!

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