How to play
Standard Chess

Orthodox chess played with standard castling and en-passant rules.

Introduction

A standard chessboard is defined by 64 squares, 32 colored white and 32 colored black, arranged in 8 ranks (rows) and 8 files (columns). Each file is labelled A to H and each rank 1 to 8, so that every square can be identified by combination of file and rank. Similarly, every move can be recorded. For example the first move in a game could be the pawn on the 'e' file moved from rank '2' to rank '4' and could be recorded e2-e4.¹

The objective in a game of chess is to win by Checkmating an opponent whilst avoiding being checkmated yourself. This is not always the outcome though, and games can end in a Draw through a number of possibilities.

¹This is actually The King’s Pawn opening and commonly just recorded as 'e4'.

Starting Position

Be sure to align the board correctly in front of you - the board should have a lighter square in the bottom right corner of the board (H1 square is white or lighter in color.) If not, rotate the board. The white pieces are placed on ranks 1 and 2, whilst black pieces are placed on ranks 7 and 8.

The Rooks are placed in each corner, then knights next to the Rook, and then Bishops next to the Knights. Then the Queen is placed on the square that matches her color. For example, a white Queen is placed on the light square, and the black queen vice versa. Finally, the King is placed on the remaining file.

Pawns are then placed on each file (rank 2 for white, 7 for black) in front of the already populated home rank.

White starts play by making the first move. In response, black will make a move, and so on until the games conclusion

The starting position. Selecting white pieces will show available opening moves.
Board is interactive - make a move

Moves of the Pieces

King
King

The King maybe the most important piece on the board, but his movements are very limited. The King can move in any direction – but only one square each turn. The one exception is during castling.

Move the white King to see all legal moves
Board is interactive - make a move
Rook
Rook

The Rook can move freely both horizontally and vertically to any unoccupied square.

Move the white Rook to see all legal moves
Board is interactive - make a move
Bishop
Bishop

The Bishop is confined to diagonal movements, but can move freely to all unoccupied squares. The game starts with 2 bishops, each starting on a different color square. The bishop will remail on the same color as it started from for the rest of the game.

Move the white Bishop to see all legal moves
Board is interactive - make a move
Queen
Queen

The Queen, the most powerful piece on the board, combines movements from both the Bishop and Rook, resulting in unmatched mobility. The Queen can move an unlimited number of squares horizontally, vertically, and diagonally.

Move the white Queen to see all legal moves
Board is interactive - make a move
Knight
Knight

The Knight is a unique in the game of chess – a jumping piece which moves in an “L” shape. A Knight can move vertically two squares, then one horizontally, or, two squares horizontally and one square vertically.

Move the white Knight to see all legal moves
Board is interactive - make a move
Pawn
Pawn

The Pawn has very limited movement, but also has some unique traits. The Pawn can only move one square forward unless it is the Pawn’s first movement, in which case it can optionally advance two squares at once. The Pawn is unable to retreat - only advance - and is therefore unable to return to a square it has visited previously.

The Pawn cannot capture by moving to a square occupied by an opponent’s piece – it can only do so by advancing one square diagonally. If a pawn cannot advance forward due to an opponent's piece occupying the square ahead, then the pawn is blocked.

¹The Pawn can also can capture by a special move, En Passant.

Move the white Pawns to see all legal moves
Board is interactive - make a move

No move can leave the King in check.

Pawn Promotion

As a Pawn reaches the 8th rank (the opposite side of the board) it is promoted to either a Queen, Rook, Bishop or Knight. A player will commonly choose the Queen, and in some circumstances, a Knight, but very rarely a Rook or Bishop. Promotion to a Rook or Bishop is called underpromoting, as the Queen can perform as both of these pieces combined.

After promotion, it is common to have more than one Queen on the board. This is legal, and the reward for a Pawn advancing so far into the opponent's half of the board.

You cannot promote to a King, and the promotion is mandatory.

Promotion happens when a Pawn moves to the 8th rank
Board is interactive - make a move

Castling

Castling is the only move that involves two pieces moving at once. Once per game the King can move two squares kingside (castling short) or queenside (castling long), and then place the rook on the opposite side of the King, protecting the King .

You can only castle if the squares between the King and Rook are empty, the King and Rook have both not moved, and the King or the squares it will move through are not under attack.

Move the King 2 squares horizontally - long, to the left, or short, to the right.
Board is interactive - make a move

Whilst the King cannot move through an attacked square when castling, the Rook can.

The King is unable to castle short, but can long. Only the King must not pass through an attacked square.
Board is interactive - make a move

En Passant

French for 'In Passing', this special pawn capturing move results from Pawns being able to advance two squares on their initial move. If an opponent's Pawn should do so, and pass your own Pawn, then you can optionally capture your opponent's Pawn as if it had moved only one square.

Black has advanced two sqaures, and white can choose to capture by En Passant.
Board is interactive - make a move

Check and Checkmate

Check is an attack on your King. If you attack an opponent’s King, then they are in Check, if they attack your King, then you are in Check. Once in Check, a player must immediately attempt to escape Check, either by capturing the attacking piece, blocking the attack or moving away to escape the attack.

The white King is in check - attacked by the black Rook at E8- and can only move out of the line of attack.
Board is interactive - make a move

If you are unable to escape Check, then it is Checkmate. To win, your opponent’s King must be placed in Checkmate.

Black is to move, but it is in check and unable to escape - this is Checkmate¹ and white wins.
Board is interactive - make a move

¹Scholar's mate shown - a common Checkmate for new players.

Stalemate

If you or your opponent are unable to make a further legal move, despite not being in Check, then this is a Stalemate and a Draw.

Black is not in check but is next to move. White has more pieces but black is unable to move from H8 resulting in a Stalemate.
Board is interactive - make a move

Draw

A game may end in a draw because of a Stalemate, insufficient material (for example, only two Kings remain in play), or a threefold repetition of a position where an identical board position recurs three times.¹

¹Not only the placement of the pieces need to be considered, castling availability must also be the identical too.

Winning

The game is won by Checkmate, an opponent failing to complete their moves in an agreed time, or an opponent resigning once they accept their disadvantage is too great.

Footnote

Chess has a long history running back at least 1500 years, from India, Persia, Arabia, and subsequently, in to Europe where the rules we know now developed. The rules described here describe the most popular and orthodox form of chess.

Further variants of the game can be played, some which aim to fix perceived problems with the classic game, and others just to create a unique game to play using similar pieces and boards.

All Chess Variants will have a modification of the above rules, so a familiarization with the standard Chess rules are important before progressing to Chess variants.

Enjoy your games!