Rules of Chess
Home The Basics of Chess Checkmate Rules of Chess Chess Openings


I. The Basic Rules of Chess

Chess Party #1

Chess Board

  • The chess board is a battlefield of 64 light and dark squares.
  • A light square is always on the player's right-- White on right!

Chess Party #2

Chess Notation

  • Every soldier has a home
  • Pieces- K=King N=Knight R=Rook B=Bishop Q=Queen
  • Files-vertical up and down (a,b,c...h) Ranks- across (1,2,3...8)
  • Say the letter of the piece first followed by the file and then the corresponding rank.  Ex: Ne5 Kh7
  • It is good to learn chess notation because:
    • it enables students to record games for later analysis
    • if you are giving a lecture on a demonstration board it is easier for students to say their intended ideas rather than shouting "that piece goes over there" or running up to show you.
    • It is good to teach notation early and incorporate it in all subsequent lessons so students can get used to using it.


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  • Pawn
    • the only soldier on foot, it doesn't move as fast as the others
    • moves one or two squares on its first move and then up one square thereafter
    • captures by moving diagonally one square
    • when the pawn reaches the last rank it can turn into any other soldier of the same color except the king
    • the pawn has a value of $1
    • let the kids play the Pawn Game
  • Knight
    • moves in the shape of the letter L- two squares in any straight line on a rank or file and then one square to any side
    • the only soldier that can hop over other men
    • has a value of  $3
    • let the kids play Horse Races
  • Bishop
    • moves along the diagonals of the color it originally started on
    • has a value of $3
  • Rook
    • moves in straight lines- up, down, left and right
    • has a value of $5
  • Queen
    • can move like a rook in a straight line and like a bishop along the diagonals
    • most powerful piece
    • worth $10
  • King
    • most important piece, but not very powerful
    • moves one square in any direction
    • priceless- cannot be captured, traded or kidnapped
    • introduce the games of Cops and Robbers and Fences and Killers

Chess Party #4


  • When the king is under attack by an enemy's soldier it is said to be in check
  • there are three possible ways to defend:
    1. move the king away from the range of the shooting laser of the attacking piece
    2. block the fire with the shield of another soldier
    3. slay the dragon (capture the attacking enemy piece)
  • show examples of each scenario

Chess Party #5


  • the initial aim of the journey
  • when the king is attacked and has no way out of trouble it is said to be checkmated and the battle is over
  • show examples of simple checkmates

Chess Party #6


  • A draw is a tie- when nobody wins and nobody loses
  • ways one can draw:
    1. stalemate- when the player whose turn it is to move is not in check and cannot make a legal move it is said to be a stalemate and the game is tied
    2. when there are no soldiers with which to checkmate:
      • King + Bishop vs. King
      • King + Knight vs. King
      • King vs. King
    3. when both players agree to a draw

Chess Party #7


  • The king is helpless and open to attack in the center.  It must be protected at all times.
  • Castling is one special move that helps you to bring the king to safety.
  • This is the only move that allows you to move two soldiers at once.
  • Move the king over 2 squares either direction (to the right or left) and the rook on that side jumps over the king and lands next to his side.
  • You cannot castle if:
    • your king is in check
    • there are other soldiers in between the king and the rook
    • you've already moved the king, or the rook with which you wish to castle
    • the king, on it's castling journey must pass over or land in a territory attacked by the enemy

Chess Party #8


  • if a pawn moves forward two squares on its first move and lands beside an enemy pawn, the enemy pawn can capture it as if it had only moved forward one square
  • this can only be done on the first chance- take it or leave it

II. General Principles of Chess Strategy

Many beginners assume they know the game by simply being able to move the pieces all around the board.  If that were true, chess would not be considered the most complicated game.  It's not enough just to wander aimlessly around the battlefield and count the number of pieces captured.  Here are a few concepts of each stage of a game that every student must understand in order to start playing strategic chess.

Chess Party #9

The Opening

  • At the beginning of any war, the soldiers leave their homes and join in the fight
  • it is important that they come out quickly and that there are no lazy soldiers left on the first rank
  • knights and bishops usually come out first and then the rooks and queen
  • the center is the most crucial area of the battlefield.  Aim your forces towards the center.  Opening moves such as 1.a4 followed 2. Ra3 are very suspicious.
  • Compare good developing moves with not so good ones.  Ex: A knight moved to a3 can only move to four squares, while the one on c3 has much more horse power and and can move to eight squares.
  • Castling is crucial! The general of the army never joins in the fight until it is safe to do so.  By castling you hide your king behind a wall of pawns so it is safe from attack.  The rook also comes in to join the action.  You must think very hard before making moves that weaken your king.  Remember, pawns can never go backwards, so only break the castle wall when you're sure you won't have any regrets.

Chess Party #10

Common Openings

After the students have grasped the previous concepts of openings, you may show them brief variations of various openings so they they learn a variety of ways to start games.  Don't expect beginnings to memorize lines.  Just familiarize them with different openings and be sure to explain the idea behind each move.

bulletClosed Sicilian Defense- 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7
bulletRuy Lopez- 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4
bulletFour Knights- 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bc4 Bc5
bulletCaro-Kann- 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5
bulletFrench Defense- 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6

Chess Party #11

First Steps in Judging and Planning

Throughout the game there are hundreds of moves to be evaluated and ideas to be planned out.  A chess player cannot play a good game up to the end without thinking about every move.  Here are a few things that every teach should teach each beginning chess scholar:

bulletAlways look at your opponent's moves and predict his intentions.  Although your opponent could be your friend in life, on the chess board he is your worst enemy and cannot be trusted.
bulletAlways play with a plan.  Don't play individual moves all around the board.  Remember, you are the general of your army- get your soldiers organized and working together in the fight for victory.
bulletBefore continuing with your plan, defend against any possible traps set up by your enemy.
bulletBefore moving your piece somewhere, picture it there in your mind.  Can it be captured by the enemy?  Was it defending a soldier before that would not be defending if it moved?
bulletIn the event of any exchanges ask yourself- is it a fair trade?  Always consider the value of the pieces and their importance in your position.  How many defenders are there and how many attackers?
bulletDo Not Hurry!  Think first before you cross the street.  Sit on your hands if you have to before moving.  Once you've touched a piece, you must move it.

Chess Party #12

Fundamental Endgames

  • An endgame arises when there are few pieces left on the board.
  • The king now becomes very powerful and joins the fight, since it has no fear of being checkmated by the enemy.
  • the goal in the endgame is usually to get a pawn to the last rank and promote it to a queen so as to be able to deliver checkmate
  • in order to win the game you must know how to checkmate with just a queen and a king, two rooks and a king, or even and king and one rook:
    • Fences and Killers (2 rooks vs. King)- one rook builds a fence across which the enemy king cannot climb.  Then the other rook goes for the kill, forcing the king to move towards the side of the board.  That rook then becomes the fence and the other one checks, so on until the king is in check on the side of the board, with no where left to run.
    • Cops and Robbers (King and Queen vs. King) - the queen is the police officer and the enemy king is the robber who is armed and dangerous.  The police officer chases the robber all over town, never getting close enough to be shot by the robber.  Once the robber is trapped on the side of the board, the cop calls for backup. Here comes the police chief (the king).  The chief, however, can only move one square at a time since he ate too many donuts and is unable to run fast.  Once he reaches the robber (never coming too close, of course) he gives the cop permission to shoot and it is then checkmate.
    • King and Pawn endgames (Often you only have one pawn and king again king left and you must learn (teach) how to promote that pawn.
      • The pawn may not need the king's help if it can get to the other side without the enemy king catching it.  You must count ahead move by move (if I go here he goes here, etc.)
      • If the pawn can be caught with the enemy king, you need your own king to help.  Remember a few things:
        1. Keep the king in front of your pawn whenever you can
        2. Your king must get to a post where it can attack the square where the pawn will become promoted to a queen.  The pawn can then finish its journey safely.
        3. Opposition- when the kings stand opposite each other with a square between them
          • whose ever move it is, is in trouble
          • if your king is on the 6th rank, opposite the enemy's king, and your pawn is on the 5th rank, you win no matter whose move it is.
        4. If the pawn is on the a or h file and the enemy king can get in front of it, then the game ends in a draw
        5. Show examples.

III. Tactics

Winning material is also one of the most important goals in chess.  After all, if you have more soldiers in your army, you can more easily conquer the enemy.  Tactics is said to be the art of conducting the game.  It requires a player to come up with a brilliant idea in order to gain a big advantage in his or her position which mainly results in winning material or checkmate.  Many times tactics involves a sacrifice- giving up material to win more material or to checkmate.  Chess has been described as a strategic game that is 99% tactical.

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Discovered Attack

  • Sometimes your own men get in the way of your attack.  A discovered attack occurs when your piece moves out of the way of another piece which then threatens one of the enemy's soldiers.
  • A discovered check is a form of a discovered attack except that the piece that has been "discovered" is checking the king after his own soldier steps out of its way.
  • A double check is also a form of a discovered attack which is often deadly.  In such cases the piece that moves out of the other soldier's shooting range also checks the king.  If there is a defense against it, it has to be a move with the king because you cannot block against two missiles at once, nor can you take them both at once.
  • Examples:
    position 1position 2

Chess Party #14

Double Attack

  • Double Trouble
  • When you attack two of the enemy's soldiers at once, it is said to be a double attack.  You are sure to capture one man since it is extremely difficult for your enemy to be in two places at once.
  • Sometimes, however, your opponent can escape by checking you with one piece and then running with the other, so beware!
  • Look for unguarded pieces
  • Examples:
    position 3

Chess Party #15

The Fork

  • A fork is a form of double attack- you attack two pieces.
  • Any piece can fork, but it's usually done with a knight.
  • Examples:
    position 4position 5

Chess Party  #16

The Pin

  • A pinned piece is one that cannot move because doing so would expose one of its fellow soldiers to attack.
  • A pinned piece is not a good defender because it is tied down.
  • Pinning is a common way to win material
  • It is a good idea to attack a pinned piece as many times as you can, until your enemy runs out of ways to defend it.
  • A pinned soldier cannot run away, especially if it's pinned to its own king.  In such circumstances it is not necessary to capture the pinned soldier immediately.  You can wait until the absolute perfect moment to capture.  Sometimes the threat is stronger than the execution.
  • Examples:
    position 6position 7

Chess Party #17

Distracting the Defender

  • Look for overworked soldiers.  They have too many chores to do and often cannot successfully accomplish everything.
  • Think, what do I want to do and who is stopping me?  You will then be on the right track.
  • Examples:
    position 8position 9

Chess Party #18

Attacking the Enemy King

  • Winning material is of course pleasant, but not the most important thing!
  • Always keep an eye out on both your enemy's king and your own.
  • Just because your opponent castled, doesn't mean you can't work up a plan of attack on the king.  Also, don't think you are safe by castling.  Your enemy is always out to get you.
  • When you have an attack going, look for sacrifices.  How many squares can the enemy escape to and how can I eliminate those.  Who is the king's main defender?
  • Examples:
    position 10position 11

Ways to Improve Skills in Tactics

  • Set up numerous example problems for your students.
  • Recommended books:
    • Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games
    • 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate
    • 1001 Winning Combinations
    • Secrets of Chess Tactics
    • Visit Chess Dominion

IV. Illustrative Games

  • Show your students various games of famous chess players.  Be prepared to explain every move.
  • Look over your students' games too to point out their mistakes and praise their genius ideas.

V. Practice Games

Most people would agree that playing chess is more exciting than studying.  Let your students play and enjoy the game.

VI. Tips for Teachers

  • Notice that we have used the word Party instead of Lesson through out these lessons.  That is because we want to make this sound fun.  Each little thing can make a difference.
  • The values of the pieces are in dollars.  This is an easier concept to understand than something abstract like points.  Change the currency to one appropriate for your country.
  • Do not attempt to introduce too much new material in one lesson.  It is far better to have one concept engraved in the students' minds in a lesson than for them to see all but remember none.
  • Young chess scholars have very low attention spans and often cannot sit still for long during a lesson.  Have them practice among themselves what you showed them or simply let them play any other chess related game they enjoy.
  • Always listen patiently to your students' suggestions no matter how silly they may be.  Remember, you are there to encourage them so don't interrupt or criticize their ideas.  Instead, say things like "That's an excellent idea, but there is an even more brilliant one and I know you can find it."
  • Give your students the satisfaction of finding the correct answers.  You may hint, but let them make the final decision.
  • Be enthusiastic! If you are not having fun, your students won't either.  But, if they enjoy it, they'll be back to learn more and then they'll teach their family and friends too.