How to play chess

Master the basics of chess and learn some top tactics to checkmate your opponent 

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The game of chess is a tactical skirmish waged on a 64-square battlefield, in which the object is to capture the opposition’s king.

Setting up a chess board

Set the board up with a white square in each player’s right-hand corner. Centre the king and queen on the back row – black queen on a black square, white on white. On either side place a bishop, then a knight, with the rooks (castles) in the corner. Line up the pawns in front.


How the chess pieces move

PAWNS can move only forward (one or two squares with the first move, one thereafter), except to capture, when they move one square diagonally.  
KNIGHTS move one or two squares vertically or horizontally; two or one at right angles (that is, one straight hop, one diagonal).  
ROOKS (aka castles) can move back or forth in straight lines over any number of unoccupied squares vertically or horizontally.  
BISHOPS can move back or forth in straight lines over any number of unoccupied squares diagonally.  
QUEENS can move back or forth in straight lines in any direction and over any number of unoccupied squares. 
KINGS can move one square in any direction – but not to a square menaced by an opposing piece. A king can therefore not attack a king.

White starts
by moving either a pawn or a knight (the only ranking piece that can pass over occupied squares, to land on an empty one or to capture a square). The players then take it in turns to move, picking off each other’s pieces by landing on squares they occupy and trying not to put their own pieces in jeopardy.

The aim is to put the square occupied by your opponent’s king under direct threat of being captured by your next move (putting the king ‘in check’). If you can target the king in such a way that your opponent can neither move him away from the threatened square, block the line of attack nor capture the attacking piece, you have achieved ‘checkmate’ and win the game. A draw, when a win for either player is deemed by both to be either impossible or unlikely, is called a ‘stalemate’.

Chess tactics to help you win!

■ Gain control of the centre of the board to optimise your access to other squares.

■ Don’t underestimate pawns. They can form powerful blockades and take more ‘valuable’ pieces – and if one makes it to the back line it’s ‘promoted’ to a ranking piece.

■ When there are no pieces between a king and one of his rooks (and neither piece has yet moved), a king can ‘castle’ – that is, move two squares towards the rook, which then moves to the space directly to the other side of the king.

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