Beginner’s Guide to Chess

Welcome to your first chess lesson! 

If you complete all of the lessons presented here, you’ll learn everything you need to play a game of chess. Of course, there’s a lot more to know about tactics and strategy. Those topics are covered in more advanced lessons.

Lesson 1: The Chessboard

We’ll start your lessons by taking a look at the Chessboard.

The Chessboard is made up of 64 squares, in a pattern of 8 x 8, alternating black and white, or dark and light, in color.

When playing a game, the board must always be turned so there’s a light square in the lower right-hand corner. The saying “Light on Right” will help you remember this.

The vertical columns (with red arrows below) on the chessboard are called “files”. You might remember this by thinking about a vertical “file” cabinet.

Note that each file is called by a letter (from a to h). We say, for example, that this is the “a” file, and this is the “d” file.

The rows on the chessboard are called “ranks”. You can remember this is by noting that both “row” and “rank” start with the letter R. Note that each rank called by a number. We say this is the 1st rank, and this is the 6th rank.

Each square on the board has a name arrived at by putting together its file position and its rank position. This square (with a green marker) is called “b4” because it’s on the “b” file and the 4th rank. This square (with red marker) is called “h3” because it’s on the “h” file and the 3rd rank. This square (with a yellow marker) is called “e7”.


A series of squares going from corner to corner is called a diagonal. Diagonals are identified by their beginning and ending squares. This is the a1-h8 diagonal.

This is the g1-a7 diagonal.

How to Set Up the Chessboard

Chess is a game of war between the black army at the top of the board, and the white army at the bottom of the board. Although we always call the two sides Black and White, chess sets can vary quite a lot in color.

The darker pieces are always referred to as Black and the lighter pieces are always referred to as White.

Now, let’s put the chess pieces on the board.


Standing solidly at the four corners of the board are the Rooks, looking like the castle towers they represent. The Rooks are also referred to as “Castles”.

Knight (aka Horse)

Next to each Rook, galloping into the castle, are the four knights, which usually resemble horses.

King and Queen

In the center stand the King and his Queen. Note that the White Queen always starts the game on a light square and the black Queen always starts on a dark square.

An easy way to remember this is by saying, “Queen on color,” or “The dress matches the shoes.” You can also say “White queen on white square” and “Black queen on black square”.

King Side and Queen Side

The left and right sides of the board are named for the starting positions of the King and Queen. This is called the Kingside (highlighted in red). And this is called the Queenside (highlighted in green)


Next to the King and Queen go their trusted advisors, the Bishops.


And finally, in front of each of these pieces, stand the Pawns, the foot soldiers of the army.

The board is now ready for a Chess Game to begin. The player with the White pieces always moves first in a game of Chess. Each player moves one piece per turn.

In the next lessons, you’ll learn more about each of the five different chess pieces and pawns, how they move, and how they capture.

Lesson 2: The Rook

This is a Rook. (pictured below)

Different Types of Chess Rooks: Black, white, wooden and glass
Types of Rooks in Chess: Wooden, Plastic, and Glass

Rooks are easily identified in a chess set by the fact that they usually resemble the tower of a castle.

In a chess game, the Rook moves horizontally along ranks, or vertically along files.

From this position on e4, the Rook can move to any of the highlighted squares. For example, it could move to e1, or it could move to a4.

Here’s another black Rook, this time on c6. Note the squares to which it can move. This time its movement is hindered by two of its own pieces, on c4 and e6. A Rook can never jump over one of its own pieces. It can only move to the squares highlighted in red below.

Now, look at this white Rook on f3 and the squares to which it can move (highlighted in green). Its movement is hindered by one of its opponent’s pieces, on f6. When one of your opponent’s pieces lies in the path of your Rook, you may not jump over it, but you can capture it.

When your Rook captures a piece, it moves to the square the piece was on. Let’s capture the Pawn on f6. Rook takes Pawn (denoted as Rxf6). Some people say “Rook kills pawn at f6”

The Rook is considered to be a strong piece because of its ability to travel long distances and attack multiple squares simultaneously.

In a game, the Rook is at its best when there are open files. In this set-up, note how much more space the Rook on b2 controls, compared to the Rook on h8.

Now try moving a Rook and capturing with it on your physical chessboard or on your practice area online.

Lesson 3: The Knight

This is a Knight.

Different types of Knights in Chess: Black, White, Wooden, and Plastic
Different types of Knights in Chess: Black, White, Wooden, and Plastic

Knights are easily identified in a chess set by the fact that they usually look like a horse.

In a chess game, the Knight has a special L-shaped way of moving: it always moves two squares in one direction, then one square to the left or right.

Some people find the Knight’s movement easier to remember if they think of it as one straight, then one diagonal. So from e5 you can either think of going two straight to e7, then one over to d7 (marked in red).

Or you can think of going one straight to e6, then one diagonal to d7 (marked in green). Whichever way you think of it, you’ll end up with the same results.

From this position on e5, the Knight can move to d7…, f7…, d3…, f3…, c6…, c4…, g6…, or g4.

The Knight has another special characteristic. The Knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces, both its own and its opponent’s.

Look at this Knight on d4 and the highlighted squares to which it can move. Note that it can jump over the Pawns on c5 and d5 to get to square c6. However, it cannot move to square f3 because one of its own Bishops is already there.

Now look at this Black Knight on e6. Once again, it can jump over the White Pawn on d5 (see green arrows) and the Black Pawn on e5 (see red arrows) to get to square d4. It can’t go to square g7 (marked with red x) because one of its own pieces is there. But it can go to square g5 (see yellow arrow) to capture the White Bishop – Knight x Bishop (KxBg5)

In a game, the Knight does its best work in the center of the board where it can attack the most squares. There’s a term, “a Knight on the rim is grim,” because a Knight along the edge attacks only four squares.

The Knight is considered to be less powerful than a Queen or a Rook because of the few squares it attacks. Even though it attacks fewer squares than a Bishop, its jumping ability still makes it a valuable piece.

Now try moving a Knight and capturing with it on your chess board or on your practice area.

Lesson 4: The Bishop

This is a Bishop.

Light and Dark Bishop chess
Light and Dark Bishop in Chess

Bishops can usually be identified in a Staunton-type chess set by the notch in the hat, or top of the piece. The Bishop is often the third tallest of the pieces, next to the King and Queen, and can also be identified by the fact that there are two Bishops of each color in a chess set.

In a chess game, the Bishop always moves diagonally.

From this position on e5, the Bishop can move to any of the highlighted squares. For example, it could move to a1, or it could move to c7.

Note that, at the beginning of the game, both sides have one Bishop on a light square and one Bishop on a dark square.

Because they are limited to diagonal movement, the light-squared Bishops will always remain on light squares, and the dark-squared Bishops will always remain on dark squares.

Here’s a Bishop on c3. Note the highlighted squares to which it can move. This time its movement is hindered by two of its own pieces, on b4 and e5. A Bishop can never jump over one of its own pieces.

Now look at this Bishop on f6 and the squares to which it can move. Its movement is hindered by one of its opponent’s pieces, on c3. When one of your opponent’s pieces lies in the path of your Bishop, you may not jump over it, but you can capture it.

When your Bishop captures a piece, it moves to the square the piece was on. Let’s capture/kill /take the Knight on c3. Bishop takes Knight (BxKc3) / Bishop kills Kight on C3.

The Bishop is considered to be only a moderately strong piece because of the fact that its movement is always limited to only half the board, that is, to only the light squares, or to only the dark squares.

The strength of a Bishop in the game is that it can often sneak behind enemy lines. Note how easily this Bishop on h3 can move into Black’s territory, thus threatening the King on square g8.

Now try moving a Bishop and capturing with it on your chess board or in your practice area.

Lesson 5: The Queen

This is the Queen.

light and dark queen in chess
Light and Dark Queen in Chess

Queens can vary quite a lot in appearance from chess set to chess set, but she’s usually the second in height next to the King, and is also easy to find because there’s only one Queen of each color per set.

The Queen is the most powerful chess piece in your army. She combines the movements of both the Rook and the Bishop. Like a Rook, she can travel vertically along files or horizontally along ranks (red arrows), and, like a Bishop, she can also travel diagonally (green arrows).

From this position on e5, the Queen can move to any of the highlighted squares. For example, it could move to g7, e1, b5, or c3.

Here’s another Queen, this time on c6. Note the squares to which it can move. This time its movement is hindered by three of its own pieces, on e6, f3 and b7. A Queen can never jump over one of its own pieces.

Now look at this Queen on f3 and the squares to which it can move. Its movement is hindered by two of its opponent’s pieces, on c3 and c6. When one of your opponent’s pieces lies in the path of your Queen, you may not jump over it, but you can capture it.

When your Queen captures a piece, it moves to the square the piece was on. Let’s capture the Bishop on c6. Queen takes Bishop.

As previously mentioned, the Queen is the most powerful of all chess pieces because of her ability to attack so many squares at once. In a game, a wise player is careful not to bring the Queen out too early.

Now try moving a Queen and capturing with it on your chess board or in your practice area.

Lesson 6: The King

This is the King.

White King and Black King in Chess
White King and Black King in Chess

Kings can vary quite a bit in appearance from chess set to chess set, but in general, the King can be identified by the fact that it’s the tallest piece. In many chess sets, the King also has a cross on top.

The King is the most important piece in your army. If you allow your King to be checkmated, you have lost the game. Checkmate means that your opponent can capture your King on the next move and there’s nothing you can do about it. On the other hand, if you checkmate your opponent’s King, you have won the game!

The King is a powerful figure, but not a fast-moving one. From any square he occupies, he can move only one square in any direction.

For example, from the e5 square, the King can move straight ahead to the e6 square, right to the f5 square, backwards to the e4 square, left to the d5 square, or diagonally to the d6, f6, f4, or d4 squares.

Here are the squares to which this Black King on b7 can move (marked in green below). Note that it cannot move to the b8 or a6 squares. Neither the King, nor any of your other pieces can move to a square occupied by another one of your own pieces.

When one of your opponent’s pieces lies in the path of your King, you may not jump over it, but you can capture it. The King can only capture an opponent’s piece occupying a square next to him, and he cannot capture a piece if doing so puts him into check.

Here, the King can capture the Knight on c6 and the pawn on d6, but he cannot capture the Rook on e4 because, with the Bishop on c2 guarding the Rook, capturing the Rook would put the King into check.

In most games, the King observes from the back lines. The rest of your pieces fight the battle and protect the King until near the end of the game. Then the King usually moves out to join the fight.

Now try moving the King and capturing with it on your chess board or in your practice area.

Lesson 7: The Pawn

This is a Pawn.

White and Black chess pawns tournament size
White Pawn and Black Pawn

Pawns are easily identified in a chess set by the fact that they are usually smaller than the chess pieces and by the fact that there are 8 pawns of each color.

In a chess game Pawns move one square at a time, always forward – never backwards or sideways.

From its position on e5, this white Pawn can move to only one square – e6.

On the Pawn’s first move of the game, and only the first move, each Pawn has the option of moving two squares forward. In this set-up, the Pawn on f2 can move to f3, or it can move to f4.

However, the Pawn on d3 has already moved once in this game, from d2 to d3, so it can now move only one square forward, to d4. On the Black side, the Pawn on b7 can either move one square, to b6, or two squares, to b5. But the Pawn on e6 has already moved once, so it can now only move one square forward, to e5.

Like all of the pieces except the Knight, Pawns cannot jump over their own pieces. In this set-up, the White Pawn on d3 is blocked by its own Bishop on d4, so the Pawn can’t move at all.

Only pawns have a different way of capturing than moving. To capture, Pawns always move one square diagonally.

Note the Pawn on e4. It can move forward to e5, but it can also capture the Black Bishop on d5, or the Black Knight on f5.

Now look at the Black Pawn on f6. It’s blocked by its own Knight on f5, but it can capture the White Bishop on e5. The White Rook on h4 is two squares away, so it cannot be captured.

Pawns are the weakest member of the chess army because of their limitations in movement. However, when the pawns work together, they are an important part of your army.

Pawns are very important to the game strategically, and sometimes, a single Pawn can make the difference between winning and losing.

Now try moving a Pawn and capturing with it on your chess board or in your practice area.

Lesson 8: Check and Checkmate

Cornered King chess piece in chains
King in chains

What is a Check?

If your King is in a position where it could be captured on your opponent’s next move, it is said that your King is in Check. Here, the White Queen threatens to capture the Black King, so Black is in Check.

If your King is in Check, you must remove the threat on the very next move.

There are three ways to remove a threat from your King:

  • The first way is to move your King to a square that is not under attack by your opponent.
  • The second way is to capture the piece that is threatening your King.
  • The third way is to block the threatening piece by moving one of your other pieces into its path so it can no longer take the King.

What is a Checkmate?

If there is no way to bring your King to safety, that is, you can’t move it away, capture the threatening piece, or block the threatening piece, then your King has been Checkmated and you have lost the game.

In this set-up, there is no way for Black to save its King. It is therefore a Checkmate!

The King is never actually captured in chess. When one of the Kings is Checkmated, the game is over. The object of chess is to Checkmate your opponent while avoiding Checkmate yourself.

By the way, you may not ever move your King into Check. In other words, you cannot move your King into a position where your opponent could capture it.

For example, this White King cannot move to e2, d2, or f2. All of those moves would let Black’s Rook capture the White King immediately, so they are not allowed.

What is a Fool’s Mate?

Here’s a very simple example of a Checkmate known as the Fool’s Mate. Pay attention to the moves! You don’t want to have your opponent perform a Fool’s Mate on you!

Lesson 9: Basic Chess Concepts

Basic Chess Concepts
Basic Chess Concept


As you know, the King is the most important piece in your chess army. Protecting your King from attack is how you keep from losing the game.

Because it’s so important, there’s a special move, called Castling, which you can use to put your King in a safe place. Castling is the only time in which you are allowed to move two of your pieces, a King and a Rook, in one move.

Here’s a board set-up with only the White King and the two White Rooks. You can Castle either to the Kingside, which is called Castling Short (in green), or to the Queenside, which is referred to as Castling Long (in red).

To Castle Kingside, first move the King two spaces toward the Rook, to g1, then move the Rook to the other side of the King, on f1.

To Castle Queenside, do the same thing. Move the King two spaces toward the Rook, to c1, and move the Rook to the other side of the King, on d1.

From Black’s point of view, this is Castling Kingside.

And this is Castling Queenside.

In a game, Castling moves the King away from the center of the board where it’s more vulnerable to attack. Note how much safer the two Kings are after they Castle. Here, White Castles Queenside, and Black Castles Kingside.

It is usually a good idea to Castle early in a game, both to protect the King, and give the Rook a chance to control the center files.

Rules that Govern Castling

There are four important rules that govern Castling:

Rule #1: The King and Rook may not have moved from their starting squares. In this board set-up, White cannot Castle to either side, because both Rooks have moved from their starting squares. Even if one of the Rooks moves back, White still cannot Castle.

Rule #2:All of the spaces between the Rook and the King must be unoccupied. In this diagram, White cannot Castle Kingside because the Knight is in the way. But he can Castle Queenside, because all of the spaces between the King and the Rook are empty.

Rule #3: The King cannot be in Check. On this board set-up, it would appear that White can Castle Kingside, because neither the King nor Rook has moved from its starting square, and the spaces between the Rook and King are empty.

However, the White King is currently in Check from the Black Bishop on b4, so he cannot Castle.

Rule #4: The squares that the King passes over cannot be under attack, and since you can never move your King into Check, the square to which it’s moving can’t be under attack either.

In this diagram, the spaces between the King and Rook on the Queenside are open. However, two of the squares are under attack. The d1 square is under attack from the Black Bishop on g4, so the White King cannot pass over it. And the c1 square is under attack from the Rook on c8, so the King cannot land on it.

Again, the four rules governing Castling are:

  1. The King and Rook may not have moved from their starting squares;
  2. All spaces between the King and Rook must be empty;
  3. The King cannot be in Check; and
  4. The squares the King will pass over may not be under attack, nor can the square on which the King will land.

En Passant

En Passant is a special type of capture move for Pawns only. The term “En Passant” is French for “in passing.” In Chess, it means capturing one of your opponent’s Pawns if he sneaks it past yours by moving two squares.

Here’s how it works. Suppose you just moved your White Pawn to e5. Now, your opponent moves a Pawn two squares forward to f5, landing next to you. Normally, you wouldn’t be able to capture this Pawn.

However, in this case, you can capture the Black Pawn EN PASSANT by moving your Pawn diagonally behind Black’s pawn on your very next move. You capture it as though he had moved only one square on his previous move.

There are two very important rules governing En Passant:

  1. You can only capture En Passant if your opponent moved his Pawn two squares forward; and
  2. You MUST do the En Passant capture on your VERY next move.

Here’s an example of Black capturing White’s Pawn En Passant. White moves his Pawn two squares, from d2 to d4. On his very next move, Black can capture the White Pawn, En Passant, by moving diagonally behind the White Pawn.

This is a useful move when your opponent tries to sneak a Pawn past yours by moving two squares. But remember, if you want to capture En Passant, you must do so on your very next move.


When a Pawn reaches the opposite side of the board it can be PROMOTED to any piece except a King.

Normally, chess players choose to promote the Pawn to a Queen, because that’s the most powerful of all chess pieces.

Theoretically, if all of your Pawns made it to the other side of the board without being captured, you could actually have a total of 9 Queens on your side!

However, in some situations, a player may choose to Promote his Pawn to a piece other than a Queen. This is called UNDERPROMOTION.

In this set-up, when White’s Pawn reaches f8, he chooses to promote it to a Knight, thereby achieving Checkmate.

Because of promotion, an opponent’s Pawn that is unopposed is a dangerous threat. Here, the White King is too far away to capture the Black Pawn. Black can now win the game with ease.

Remember, only Pawns can be promoted. This makes Pawns more valuable than they seem at first glance. A promotion can instantly change the balance of power in a game.

Piece Value

By now you’ve probably figured out that the different Chess pieces vary in strengths and weaknesses.

The Queen is the most powerful. She can move any number of squares in any direction and controls 27 squares from a position at the center of the board.

The Rook is not as powerful as the Queen, but can still travel long distances. From the center of the board, a Rook controls 14 squares.

The Bishop is limited in its movement by the fact that it can only travel on dark squares or light squares. From the center of the board, a Bishop controls 13 squares.

The Knight is very limited in how far it can move per turn, but it has the advantage of being the only piece that can jump over other pieces. From the center of the board, a Knight controls 8 squares.

Last, and least, is the Pawn. The weakest of all, the Pawn can move only one or two squares at a time, and in only one direction.

We use the Pawn as the basic unit against which we measure all of the other pieces.

In relation to a Pawn, the Knight is worth 3 points, the Bishop is worth 3 points, the Rook is worth 5 points, and the Queen is worth 9 points. No value is assigned to the King because if you’re about to lose your King, you’ve lost the game. Try to memorize these values as they will be very useful to you throughout your Chess career.

Based on these values, if you allow your Queen to be exchanged for one of your opponent’s Pawns, you’re losing 8 points in the exchange. This is called a LOSS OF MATERIAL.

Bishop = Knight?

You may be curious about the fact that the Bishop and Knight are valued the same. Both pieces have strengths and weaknesses, but many Chess players have come to believe that a Bishop is slightly more valuable than a Knight, though not as valuable as a Rook.

Using both Bishops together, so that both light and dark squares are covered, can be a powerful combination.

Material superiority can often determine the winner of a Chess game. The Chess Piece value is something you should keep in mind when you consider your moves.


If one of your pieces is under attack, there are four ways to defend against the attack. The first way is to simply move away.

The second way to defend against an attack is by capturing the attacking piece. Here, Black attacks White’s Queen with his Bishop. Not a very smart move by Black, as White can capture the Bishop on his next turn.

The third way to defend an attacked piece is by interposing another piece in the path of the attacker. Here, when Black attacks White’s Queen with his Bishop, White can deflect the attack by moving his Pawn to d4.

The last way to defend the attacked piece is by protecting it. On this set-up, the Black Bishop is under attack from the White Rook. Instead of moving away, Black can protect the Bishop by moving his Knight into position. Now, if the Rook takes the Bishop, Black can take back with his Knight.

Now, let’s look at defense from the point of view of the attacker. If you’re attacking one of your opponent’s pieces and he protects it with another piece, you’ll want to know how to get rid of the defender.

On this set-up the White Rook is attacking Black’s Bishop. Black defends the Bishop with his Knight. To get rid of the defender, White attacks it with his Bishop. If Black doesn’t move any of his pieces away, White will win the exchange with Bishop takes Knight, Pawn takes Bishop, and Rook takes Bishop.

Here’s another situation where an attacked piece is defended. White would like to take Black’s Knight, but it’s protected by the Rook on a7. White can move his Bishop to d4, thus attacking Black’s Rook. Black will now have to decide whether he wants to save his Knight or his Rook. Knowing how to defend your pieces and attack your opponent’s defenders will make you a stronger player.


The Pin is a very important tactic in your Chess playing repertoire. Here’s how a Pin works:

In this diagram, the Black Pawn cannot move because if it does, the King will be under attack from the White Bishop. We say that the Pawn is Pinned to the King.

There are always three elements to a Pin:

  • the piece that does the Pinning;
  • the piece that is Pinned; and
  • the piece to which the Pinned Piece is Pinned

The most powerful type of Pin involves the King. On this set-up, there are two pieces pinned to the Black King. The Pawn on g7 can’t move because of the White Queen on c3, and Knight on h5 can’t move because of the Rook on h1. If either the Pawn or the Knight moves, the King will be in Check.

The second type of Pin involves a piece. On this set-up, Black can’t take the Pawn on e4, because if it does the White Queen on d2 can take the Black Queen on d8 and Check Black’s King.

The last type of Pin involves a square. On this diagram, the Black Knight can’t move, because if it does, the White Rook can move to c8 and deliver Checkmate (back rank mate) to the Black King. So the Black Knight is Pinned to square c8.

If one of your pieces is Pinned, there are four ways to get out of it. On this set-up, the Pawn on d5 is Pinned to the Queen on d8 by the Queen on d2. However, this is not a very strong Pin, because the White Queen can be captured by the Black Knight on b3. Knight takes Queen. So, the first way to remove a Pin is by taking the Pinning piece.

The second way to remove a Pin is by attacking the Pinning piece. On this diagram, Black can remove the Pin on the Pawn by attacking the Rook with the Queen, a7 to b7. White must now move the Rook or risk losing it.

The third way to remove a Pin is to place another, less valuable piece in the path of the Pin. Here, the Queen is Pinned to the King by the Black Bishop. To get rid of the Pin, White can interpose by simply moving his Pawn to d4.

The last way to get out of a Pin is to move the more valuable piece out of the path of the Pin. Here, the White Knight is Pinned to the King by the Black Bishop. White can escape this Pin by moving the King away, King to g2.

A tactic that’s similar to a Pin is called a Skewer. In this situation, the Rook can’t move because it’s Pinned to the King. In a Pin, the piece behind the Pinned piece is usually the more valuable of the two. In a Skewer, the piece that’s in front is the more valuable piece.

In this Skewer, the King must move, and when it does, White wins the Rook.


The Fork is a Chess tactic in which one of your pieces simultaneously threatens two of your opponent’s pieces. Since he can’t save both of them, you win a piece.

Here’s an example of a Fork. In this situation, White can create a Fork by moving his Knight to d4. From this square, he is attacking both the Queen and the Rook. Black can save only one of his pieces, so White wins the Rook

Knights are very effective in creating Forks because they’re able to attack other pieces without putting themselves in jeopardy. On this board, the White Knight attacks eight of Black’s pieces, but none of them are attacking the Knight in return.

Forks can be created using Queens, Knights, Bishops, Rooks, and even Pawns.

In order to create an effective Fork, you must take care that the pieces you’re attacking are undefended. In this situation, the White Queen is attacking Black’s Knight and Bishop.

However, the Knight is protected by Black’s Rook, so if the Queen takes the Knight, the Rook will take the Queen. Black can move the Bishop out of harms way, knowing that White won’t take the Knight and thereby risk his Queen.

Here’s another Fork. In this situation, White is attacking Black’s Bishop along with the f7 square. If Black allows the White Knight to move to f7, White will achieve what’s called a “Smothered Mate”. The Knight is attacking the King, none of Black’s pieces can take it, and the King has no way to escape. If Black makes a space to which the King can move, White can take Black’s Bishop.

On this set-up, it would appear that White has many options for Forking Black’s pieces. However, not all Forks are created equal. If the White Knight moves to a6, thus attacking the King and the Rook, Black can take the Knight with his Pawn.

If the Knight moves to d7, attacking Black’s King and his Knight, Black can take the Knight with his own Knight. The only Fork White can create in which he will gain material is by moving to d3. Now, the Knight is attacking both of Black’s Rooks, and Black will have to decide which one to save and which one to lose.


A Discovery is an attack that’s Discovered when an intermediate piece moves out of the way. In this set-up, if the Knight moves away, the White Rook is now attacking the Black Queen. This is a Discovered Attack.

Unfortunately, the Black Queen is also attacking the White Rook, and it’s Black’s turn, so this is not really an effective Discovery.

Here’s the same set-up, but with the Black King added on h6. Now, if White moves his Knight to f5, he’s attacking two pieces at once. Black must save his King, so White wins the Queen.

Here’s an example of a Discovery involving a Pawn. When the Pawn moves to e5, the Bishop’s attack on the Queen is revealed. Black saves his Queen, but loses his Rook.

On this diagram, White’s most obvious Discovery occurs by moving the Rook to g7. The King must move away, and White wins the Rook. However, there’s another move for White. Can you find it?

Look what happens if you move the Rook to e2. Now, the Bishop is attacking the Black Rook, and the White Rook is attacking the e8 square. Black must act to save his King, and White wins the Black Rook.

Here’s another example of a Discovered Attack. White moves his Knight to b6, attacking Black’s Rook. This move reveals a Discovered Check on Black’s King. Black must move the King, and White wins the Rook.


Stalemate is a special situation that occurs when a player’s King is not in check, but on his turn, every move he can make would put his King in check.

You may recall that it’s illegal to move your King into check, so the player can make no moves. Since the other player’s King is not in check either, neither player wins the game. This is called Stalemate.

Here’s an example of Stalemate. It’s White’s turn to move. He moves Rook to g2. White has put Black in check, but it was still a very bad move for White. Let’s continue.

Black is in check, so he must get his King out of danger. King to h1.

Now, White makes another mistake. King to f2. It’s Black’s turn, but look at his options. The only moves he can make are King to h2 or King to g1. Either move would put Black’s King in check, which is illegal. Since Black cannot move, but is not in check, the game is stalemated. Black was very lucky. Instead of a loss, he got a stalemate, which is considered a draw.

Let’s look at how White could have won the game. White starts by moving Rook to g3. Black responds with his only legal move, King to h1. Now, white plays Rook to h3. Check! Again, Black has only one legal move. King to g1.

Here’s the tricky part. White needs to waste one move so that Black will be forced into a desired position. He plays Rook to h4. Black is forced to move King to f1. And now White wins with Rook to h1. Checkmate!

A good chess player needs to keep an eye out for both Checkmate and Stalemate. If you work only at placing your opponent’s King in Check, he might slip a Stalemate past you.


Throughout Chess history, players have been studying the various ways to start Chess games. There are hundreds of possibilities, and variations on those possibilities, each affecting the outcome of the game.

Experienced players eventually develop favorite moves, and many of these Openings, or Opening Books, have names. In this tutorial, we’ll introduce you to several of the most popular Openings. But you can also go to library and study other variations. You’ll find thousands of Openings and Opening lessons there.

Sicilian Defense

This opening, you’ll notice, is called the Sicilian Defense. It’s characterized by White playing on the e-file and Black playing on the c-file, so pieces are not exchanged as quickly as they would be if the Pawns were played on adjacent files. This is one of the oldest and most popular Opening systems, and there are a number of continuing variations on it. Many players, including Bobby Fischer, have played it.

French Defense

In contrast to the Sicilian is the French Defense. The Opening moves in the French are: e4; and e6. The lack of open files in this position will result in fewer pieces being taken early in the game. This means it’s considered to be a closed position. One of the disadvantages of this Opening for Black is that the light-squared Bishop will have a hard time getting developed.

Ruy Lopez

Another of the most popular Openings is called the Ruy Lopez, or Spanish. The moves of the Ruy Lopez Opening are: e4; e5; Nf3, attacking the Pawn; Nc6, defending the Pawn; and Bb5, attacking the defender. Memorize the look of the board in this position and you’ll always be able to recognize the Ruy Lopez Opening.

King’s Indian

The next Opening we’ll look at is called the King’s Indian. The moves of the King’s Indian Opening are: d4; Nf6; c4; g6; Nc3; and Bg7. There are other variations of Indian Defenses as well.

They are usually characterized by the development of the Bishop toward the side. When a Bishop is placed on b2 or g2 for White, or b7 or g7 for Black it’s called a fianchetto. Getting your Bishop to one of these squares means it’s poised to take advantage of the long diagonal.

Queen’s Gambit

The last opening we’ll look at is called the Queen’s Gambit. A gambit is an Opening in which you plan to lose material in exchange for fast development of your pieces or control of the center. The moves of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted (QGA) are: d4; d5; c4; and, since Black will have a difficult time holding onto his d5 Pawn, he plays dxc4. In another version of the Queen’s Gambit,

The Queen’s Gambit Declined (QGD), the moves are: d4; d5; c4; and in this version, Black opts to support his Pawn rather than sacrifice it, so he plays e6.

Algebraic Notation

There are a number of methods Chess Players use to write down the moves of their games. The most widely used method is called Algebraic Notation.

To describe a move in algebraic notation, start by writing down the letter of the piece that is moving. K is for King; Q is for Queen; R is for Rook; B is for Bishop; and N, not K, is for Knight. Remember, K is already being used by the King. If a Pawn is moving, don’t write down anything.

Next, write down the file (a-h) and rank (1-8) of that piece’s destination square. Here’s how you’d write the notation on the first few moves of a real game:

White begins by moving his Pawn to e4. Since you don’t use any piece names for Pawns, you write only the destination square: e4.

Black responds by moving his Pawn to e5. This is written: e5.

Next, White moves his Knight to f3. You write: Nf3.

Black moves his Knight to c6. So you write Nc6.

White attacks by moving his Bishop to b5. And you write: Bb5.

Algebraic Notation uses the letter “x” to indicate a capture. So, when the White Bishop takes Black’s Knight on c6 you write: Bxc6.

When a Pawn makes a capture, you write down the file on which it starts. So when Black’s f-Pawn captures White’s e-Pawn, you write: fxe4.

White moves his Pawn to d3: d3.

And Black responds by Checking with his Bishop. When a move places the other side in check, put a “+” at the end of the move. So this move would be written Bb4+.

Sometimes, identical pieces can move to the same square. For example, White can remove the threat to his King by moving either of his Knights to d2. Here’s how you define which piece is moving:

If both pieces start on the same File, put the starting Rank (1-8) right after the name of the piece. Otherwise, put the starting file (a-h) right after the name of the piece. In this case, the two White Knights are on different files, so if you are moving the Knight on f3 you would write: Nfd2.


Castling Kingside is written: O-O.

Castling Queenside is written: O-O-O.


When a Pawn promotes to another piece you write: h8Q. The Q indicates that, in this case, the Pawn is promoting to a Queen.


When a move causes Checkmate you write a “++” after the move, so if White moves his Bishop to e6, you write: Be6++. Some books use the “#” for checkmate. For this case it will be: Be6#


Sometimes a Chess Player will include commentary in his notation. If you see an exclamation point (!) after a move it means that the move is considered to be a good one. A question mark (?) after a move means that the move is a questionable one.

Tournament Play

After you’ve played Chess for a while you may be interested in expanding your selection of human opponents. One place to start is, the largest and most popular online chess website. Another popular alternative is You might also want to check out the Chess Clubs in your area. And if you’re feeling more confident in your skills, you might want to enter tournament play.

There are two organizations that govern the world of Chess. In the United States, tournament play and ratings are certified by the United States Chess Federation (or USCF). Internationally, ratings are governed by the Fédération Internationale des Échecs, which is abbreviated FIDE (pronounced fee-day).

Types of Chess Tournaments

There are three types of tournaments:

  • Match Competition,
  • Round Robin,
  • Swiss System.

Match Competition is when two players compete head-to-head, as in matches for the world championship.

In a Round Robin Tournament, every player plays against every other player. These tournaments are used in international competitions and to determine most national championships.

In the Swiss System, all players are ranked by rating, or alphabetically if unranked. The ranked list is then split in half, and the best player in the top half is matched against the best player in the bottom half, the second-best player in the top half plays the second-best player in the bottom half, etc. Winners receive one point, losers get no points, and with a draw each player receives one-half point. In the continuing rounds, the winners play winners and losers play losers.

Chess Ratings

Chess ratings are earned in USCF or FIDE tournament play against other rated players. In general, the USCF rating scale is a bit higher than the FIDE scale. On, you can enter tournaments with either human or computer players.

You can also approximate your rating, which is similar to the USCF rating system, by playing rated games against computer players.

USCF Ranked Players are divided by the classifications shown below:

2400+Sr. Master
2200 – 2399Master
2000 – 2199Expert
1800 – 1999Class A
1600 – 1799Class B
1400 – 1599Class C
1200 – 1399Class D
<1199Class E
USCF Player Ranking & Classification

You may have heard the term “Grandmaster” used when talking about a highly ranked player. The Grandmaster title is awarded by FIDE and is earned by achieving a certain number of norms, or good performances, against existing Grandmasters.

Next lower, FIDE awards the title of “International Master” to players who earn enough norms against Grandmasters and International Masters in tournament play.

And last, FIDE gives the title of FIDE Master to players who maintain a rating of 2300 or above in FIDE tournaments.

Chess Clocks

And now, a word about Chess Clocks. In general, when you play a casual game of Chess against a friend, no Chess Clocks are used. Both players will study a position for a reasonable amount of time, and play will go forward. When playing against a computer, however, time limits are necessary.

Classic Chess Clock

The computer has infinite patience and will continue searching until it finds a checkmate solution for any given position. Keep in mind that the computer thinks much faster than a human can, so when you select your time controls during game set-up, you’ll probably want to make the computer’s time controls shorter than yours. In general, the longer you give the computer to think, the stronger it will play.

In chess tournaments, Chess Clocks are always used. The most common time controls are gradual, with each player required to make 40 moves within the first two hours, then 30 moves within the next 30 minutes, and fifteen moves within the next 15 minutes. Failure to make the required number of moves within the specified timeframe will lose you the game.

There’s a special form of timed Chess called Blitz, or Speed Chess. In Speed Chess, each player must make all of their moves within 15 minutes. If Checkmate is not achieved, the first player to run out of time loses.

Lesson 10: Beginning Strategy

Chess strategy is the methodical planning of a game, from the first move to the last. It consists of many different elements and is divided into seven parts described below:

Planning Concepts

The most difficult, yet basic problem that confronts all chess players is coming up with the right plan for a given position. At the beginner level, the concept of a plan simply doesn’t exist.

The first way you can improve your game is by learning to look at the whole board. Now look at the starting position…

Imagine yourself on an ancient battlefield with equally matched armies ready to fight. With differently skilled weaponry, it is important to see the whole battle as it takes place. With common foot soldiers, cannon, cavalry and archers, each movement has to be coordinated.

A supply line may become vulnerable and a would-be hero is vanquished. Trading an archer for a few foot soldiers may seem sensible, but what if the opposing army’s archer picks off a number of your foot soldiers from a distance without loss? Perhaps the decision wasn’t as good as you thought.

From the starting position, it is clear that battles can begin at once all over the board. Just as our ancient battle analogy suggests, it is very useful to know the terrain of the battle – all the dips and curves of the land.

Drawing an imaginary line between the fourth and fifth ranks neatly divides the chessboard in half, with thirty-two squares for each side. These thirty-two squares each belong to the White and Black army. White has his space, Black has his space.

When one player controls or attacks one of his opponent’s squares this is called gaining space. It stands to reason that, as we control more and more squares of the board, our opponent will have less room to move and become more restricted. The effort to control space is a time-honored strategy.

The central files are most often controlled by the Rooks. After the opening is over, we are all sagely advised to “control the center with our Rooks.”

The four central squares in the middle of the board, e4,e5,d4,d5 are the key central squares. A great amount of the action takes place around them. They make marvelous outposts, particularly for the Knights. The player who effectively controls these squares is usually in charge of the game.

Besides ranks, files, flanks and center squares, another way to look at the board is along its diagonals. The long diagonals a1-h8 and a8-h1 run right through the center of the board. Bishops love to control these diagonals, while being deployed to the Kingside or Queenside.

Opening Principles

The first and foremost thing that the aspiring chess player must understand is that chess is a game of coordination, a team game. Your pieces and your pawns are your team. In fact, they are your army. You are their leader!

Once this association is clearly understood, you will realize the need for coordinated actions. If your army is not working as a team, having an overall plan of action, you will lose. Further, you will not even have a clue as to why you are losing. You will continue to be savaged by better-skilled army captains. The principles have been proven.

Chess is well over 1,400 years old. It has been said that there are more books on chess than on any other sport. While this may be hard to prove, the point is well-taken. There has been a huge amount of written wisdom on chess.

A lot of this wisdom can be boiled down to a few well-honed principles of play – principles that you should know and take to heart. The most important principles of play are those for the opening. Let’s face it, if you don’t know how to open the game, you’re liable to be crushed.

The following principles don’t guarantee safety, but will act as a guide. They are:

  1. Open the game with a center pawn.
  2. Develop your Knights before your Bishops.
  3. Don’t move your Queen too soon in the opening.
  4. Castle early in order to protect your King.
  5. Develop your Rooks to central or open files.
  6. Look to develop an attack after you have fully mobilized your pieces.
  7. Capture towards the center.
  8. If you violate the above, your opponent will swiftly deal with you!

These Opening Principles, taken as a whole, all talk about planning and coordination. You aim to control the center, mobilize and then, with coordinated motion, you go for the thrust and win.

By using and understanding these opening principles, you will stop being a beginner. You may even win a few games.

Pawn Structure

You are now ready for your next step on the road to real chess understanding. How to plan!

This section will focus on the strategic concept of the PAWN STRUCTURE and using space. What does the term ‘pawn structure’ mean? Some chess teachers also use the term ‘pawn skeleton’, which is more illustrative.

What both of these terms mean is that, if you strip the position of pieces and leave only the pawns on the board, you will clearly see how to plot your strategy.

Taking the starting position and removing all the pieces reveals the pawn skeleton.

Remembering the ancient battlefield analogy, it stands to reason that if an ‘opening’ of the ranks can be forced upon the opponent, then our army could flood into that breach and quickly capture the opponent’s pieces or, even worse, the King! What do I mean?

The Open File

We remove both White and Black d-pawns. The d-file is open because there are no pawns on it.

Why are open files important?

Well, can you think of any piece that will benefit by sitting on an open file? If you said Rook or Queen, reward yourself with a cookie and send me one too.

Rooks Love Open Files. This strategic principle only stands to reason. Look at the next example:

Both sides have the same seven pawns as before. I’ve just added a Rook to each side. If it were White’s turn to move, he should do himself an important strategic favor and move his a1-Rook to the d1-square as quickly as possible.


Because, on the d1-square, White’s Rook would be mobilized or developed to a position which would allow penetration into the opponent’s camp.

From Black’s perspective, he should try to use the same idea, too. If he could play …Ra8-d8, then Black’s Rook would be developed on the open d-file and he would be primed to shoot down the d-file and invade White’s position.

Here is the same diagram with a slight change. The c2-pawn has moved a file over to become a d2-pawn. Are there any open files?

There are no files that are clear of all pawns. Thus, the answer is no, there are no open files.

From White’s perspective, he has a half open c-file. What this means is that White has no pawns sitting on the c-file. This makes the c-file open to White. Since Black has a c7-pawn, the c-file is closed to Black.

The presence of only one pawn means that the c-file is half open. White should move his Rook from a1-c1, grabbing his half open file. Although the Rook isn’t as powerful on a half open file as it is on an open file, White has to make do. Not every position has an open file. In this case, White’s Rook is best placed on the c-file.

Here is a pawn skeleton with Rooks. What are the open files? There are none. What are the half open files? White’s half open file is the c-file. Black’s half open file is the e-file.

Pawn Chain

Do you notice how White’s f2, e3, and d4 pawns are linked together? (one the diagram above) Pawns that are linked together are called PAWN CHAINS.

In this pawn chain, the base pawn is the f2-pawn. The base pawn is quite important since it is the foundation upon which the entire pawn chain rests.

The strength or weakness of the pawn chain is determined by the base pawn. If it is strong, the pawn chain will remain powerful and intact. If weak, the entire chain is in danger of collapse.

Let’s now turn to Black’s pawn structure. His pawn chain of b5, c6 and d5-pawns has an unfortunate disadvantage.

His base pawn is the c6-pawn, which sits on White’s half open file. This means that White’s Rook will shift over to the half open c-file and put a lot of pressure on Black’s c6-pawn.

If the base pawn falls to the moves 1.Rc1 and 2.Rxc6, you can bet that the next move will be 3.Rc5. Then Black’s pawn chain will be wiped out, as the b5 and d5-pawns both lack protection.

Look again at the last diagram. With the limited information we now know, we can already perceive that White should start with the move 1.Rc1!. I reward this move with an exclamation mark to note its excellence.

White understands that, by bringing his Rook to the half open file, he firstly develops his Rook and secondly puts pressure on Black’s pawn structure, forcing him to respond.

Black, aware that his pawn chain is in immediate danger, is quick to respond with 1…Rc8.

This marks a concession. Both army leaders know that Black’s Rook would prefer to go to the half open e-file, but, Black has no time! If he were to play 1…Re8 in order to defend his c6-pawn with 2…Re6, he would be too late!

After 1.Rc1! Re8? (I place a question mark after this move to denote it as a mistake.) 2.Rxc6, White carries out his operation and wins Black’s base pawn. Soon the rest of Black’s pawn chain would fall.

Black’s decision to play …b7-b5 has weakened his pawn structure. Thus, the moves 1.Rc1! and 1…Rc8 have been played. This brings us to our next example.

Backward Pawn

Here, we can see that Black’s c8-Rook is tied down to the defense of his c6-pawn. Now, why is this?

The problem with the c6-pawn is that it can’t be protected by another pawn. The pawns that flank the c6-pawn, the b5 and d5-pawns, have both shot past the c6-pawn. The result is that the c6-pawn has been left behind.

In chess parlance, the c6-pawn is identified as a BACKWARD PAWN. Backward pawns tend to be weak, because they need the protection of other pieces. That is, such pawns as backward pawns can’t count upon the protection of other pawns. As a result, backward pawns are a liability for their owners!

Pawn Islands

Several other points about this pawn structure should be clarified. The first thing is that White’s pawns are separated into two PAWN ISLANDS.

What do I mean?

Well a file, in this case the c-file, separates White’s pawns into two distinct groups.

The first group, the a2 and b2-pawns, forms its own pawn island. The second group, the d4, e3, f2, g2, h2-pawns, forms the second larger pawn island. This concept of different pawn islands is important. The more pawn islands a player has, the weaker his position becomes.

Once again, the reason for this is that pawns – being the weakest team members – require protection. If our pawn islands are broken up into smaller and smaller groups, their need for protection increases. Sometimes our ability to protect them doesn’t equal their need!

Black also has two pawn islands. The a7,b5,c6 and d5-pawns make one. The f7, g7, h7-pawns make up the second.

In the question of Black’s first pawn island, it is important to note that Black’s a7-pawn, while not touching or in connection with the b5-pawn, is still a part of the pawn island. If Black didn’t have a b-pawn, the a7-pawn would constitute a pawn island of its own.

By looking at the pawn islands of a given position, a principle on how to play that particular position becomes clear. The player with more pawn islands will have more difficulties in the ending than his opponent will.

Remember that pawns and pawn islands require protection. As more pieces are exchanged, our ability to protect our pawns becomes less and less. Soon the player with more pawn islands will have more to worry about.

Passed Pawn

A new position is created.

Visually, it seems this position is fairly balanced. It is not. White has a near-decisive advantage.

The pawn structure tells us that White has a PASSED PAWN. The d5-pawn is a passed pawn because its path to promotion is not blocked by a Black pawn. Also, its march up the board cannot be stopped by a Black pawn.

As chess great Aaron Nimzovitch said, ‘A passed pawn is a criminal who should be put under lock and key.’ Yes, but who will play guard? A piece. This means that the d5-pawn, a passed pawn, has grown in value. Once he was equal to other pawns, but now a piece will have to be assigned to watch him.

Protected Passed pawn

Analyzing this pawn structure also gives us an additional secret. The d5-pawn is a PROTECTED PASSED PAWN. The fact that it is protected by the e4-pawn raises the status of the d5-pawn even more.

A passed pawn would quickly promote itself if not watched by an opposing piece.

Rook Development

Bishop Development

Knight Development

Queen Development

Effective Play Based on Pawn Structure