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How to Play Chess

by Lindsay Woodland

Chess is an endlessly fascinating board game which requires strategy, planning, foresight, and cunning. Although becoming a chess master can take years, it is a relatively simple game to learn, at least on the surface. All you need to memorize are the characters or chess pieces and the simple moves associated with each, and you're ready to start learning how to play this fascinating board game and developing your strategic abilities through practice.

Steps to Playing Chess:

  1. The pieces: There are five distinct characters and 16 total pieces on a chess team: eight pawns, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, a queen, and a king. Each chess piece has a different function and home base.

  2. The board layout: Chess is played on a standard 8-square by 8-square checkerboard. The two rows closest to you are the starting rows for your pieces. The row closest to you holds the rooks, knights, bishops, king, and queen. The next row holds eight pawns, which are your first line of defense against your opponent.

  3. The objective: Chess matches are won by cornering the opponent's king, which is referred to as "checkmate." As you move your pieces, you capture your opponent's pieces, thereby removing some of the defenses. You must simultaneously protect your king from attacks. When you have moved your pieces in such a way that your opponent's king could be taken with one additional move of one of your pieces, this is referred to as "check." Your opponent must then move the king to safety on the next move. If there is no safe place for your opponent to move the king, you have achieved checkmate.

  4. The basic moves: Each piece has its own specific move, which you must memorize.

    Chess Piece Movements:

    • Pawns may only move forward and only move one square at a time, except for when they are in their starting position, when they may move two spaces. However, a pawn can only capture other pieces by moving one space diagonally.

    • Rooks can only move horizontally and vertically, but they may move as many spaces as desired.

    • Bishops may move diagonally as far as desired.

    • Knights move in an L shape, two spaces in one direction and one space in a perpendicular direction. Knights are also the only piece that can jump over other pieces.

    • Queens and kings may move in a straight line in any direction, but queens can move as far as desired, while kings may only move one square at a time.

  5. Your strategy: Chess strategy takes time to learn and develop, and the only way to do so is to practice. However, there are some good tricks that will help. For instance, there is a special move for rooks (called "rooking"), whereby you are allowed to swap your rook and your king even though other pieces may be in the way. These moves may only be utilized under certain circumstances, but they are key to building a winning strategy.

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