Skills Game Guide to Chess
Two players, 16 pieces each, and a 64 square board. That’s all you need to go to battle in chess, the Game of Kings.
Six hundred million people around the world know how to play the game with the goal of putting your opponent’s King in peril with no escape possible.
The greatest players in the world have made millions by defeating their opponents, and only .3% of all registered World Chess Federation (FIDE) players hold the title of grandmaster. That’s currently only 1,500 players.
If you don’t know how to play, it can seem daunting. Even more experienced players are continuously trying to come up with new and efficient strategies and an elevated mastery of the game.
Despite its earning potential, chess is a skill-based strategy game. It requires excellent proficiency and patience. You always have to be thinking several moves ahead and anticipating what your opponent is about to do in addition to your gameplay.
Chess is a game based on war. When you’re battling your opponent, you need to be ready for anything.
The First Chess Battles
Let’s start with a quick look at the origins of chess, and how the game has evolved over the years.
The Beginning of Chess
The first game of chess dates all the way back to the 6th century in Northern India and quickly made its way to Persia. In 800 AD, the Moors brought the game to Europe by way of Spain and Sicily, and 200 years later, Russian players were battling for chess supremacy.
The 15th Century European Transition
It wasn’t until the 15th century, though, that the game took on the look of our modern game of chess. Europeans altered the pieces and created new moves for the Queen and Bishop.
Before that time, the Queen was a Minster, the Bishop was an elephant, and the Rook was a chariot. The previous pieces had no equivalent in a more modern-day Europe, so it made sense to transition them to the more relatable battle characters.
The 19th Century Chess Innovation and Tournaments
In the 19th century, chess picked up speed with innovation and the first scheduled tournaments.
The first tournament was held in 1849, but in 1883, chess clocks entered the picture. In 1886, the first ever World Chess Championship was played, and it made use of the new two side clocks keeping players in check — with their time, anyway.
The 20th Century – FIDE Is Born
The 20th century ushered in the World Chess Federation (FIDE), which is still in existence. The organization governs all international competition and maintains a list of the top-ranked players at any given time.
The rating board includes the following.
- Top Players
- Top Women
- Top Juniors (under 21)
- Top Girls
- Top Countries
- Top Countries – women’s list
China and Russia are battling it out for the top spots, with Russia claiming the top spot overall. China is second. But in the women’s list, Russia is in the number-two spot following China.
2018 – Magnus Carlsen
Heading into 2018, Norwegian Magnus Carlsen has held the World Champion position for five years running. He’s just 27 and has been a Grand Master since 2004. Carlsen has been an FIDE-ranked world record holder 70 consecutive times from 2011 through 2017.
In chess, the game board is the battlefield, and the pieces are the warriors.
The chessboard is an 8×8 grid that you can think of having an intersecting x- and y-axis.
The x-axis or the horizontal line is called the “file” and is lettered from A through H. The y-axis represents the “rank” and is numbered from one through eight.
The set-up makes it easy to identify the exact position of a game piece. For example, you could say that your queen is now occupying C-4. The rank and file are also used to describe moves. For example, “queen from C-4 to D-5.”
The rank and file are determined by the position of the competitor who controls the white pieces. In addition to playing “right side up,” white always plays first.
Statistics have shown that white has consistently won more often than black, although only by a few percentage points overall.
The Chess Pieces
If we’re discussing how to play chess, it boils down to just two primary things.
- Strive for checkmate – attack the King, so he has no escape
- Know the ins and outs of each piece
Each chess piece moves and captures differently. Chess is a back-and-forth game where you make one move and then your opponent makes one.
Your battle objective is to capture the King, and your soldiers are your chess pieces. While professionals are well-versed in different strategies using those pieces, an overall understanding of them is essential as it is your “how to play” guide.
If you want to get started in the game of chess, you need to know the ins and outs of the game pieces and then just declare war and give it a shot.
There are 16 game pieces delegated to each player. These are as follows.
- Eight pawns
- Two rooks
- Two bishops
- Two knights
- One queen
- One king
Not all of the pieces move the same. Some are restricted to horizontal and vertical movement. Some can only move diagonally, and the Knight is an oddity with 2×1 or 1×2 progression.
Now, forget the “chess” master concept for a bit. One of the essential things you can do to get started playing chess is to become a master of the pieces. You need to know what each one is, where it’s positioned, how it moves, and its value.
A good comprehension of the pieces is more than half the battle – pun intended.
- The Rook
- Starting positions: In each of the starting corners
Point value: 5 points each
Rooks can only move vertically or horizontally and can move multiple spaces at a time but cannot jump over any other pieces.
- The Knight
- Starting positions: In each of the starting corners, one position in and next to each rook
Point value: 3 points each
The Knights are the only pieces that can jump over others. They’re also the only pieces that require both a horizontal and a vertical move all at one time. Knights move in an “L” formation by 1×2 or 2×1 spaces.
- The Bishop
- Starting positions: The 3rd space in from each corner flanking the Queen and King
Point value: 3 points each
Bishops only move diagonally. They can move multiple spaces at a time but cannot jump over any other pieces.
- The Queen
- Starting position: In the middle, next to the Bishop on her own color
Point value: 9 points
The Queen can move in any direction – horizontally, vertically, or either way diagonally. The Queen can move multiple spaces at a time but cannot jump over any other pieces.
- The King
- Starting position: In the final space, between the Queen and the Bishop
Point value: Priceless
The King moves in any direction, just like the Queen. However, the King cannot move more than one square at a time.
- The Pawn
- Starting positions: Across the entire 2nd rank immediately in front of each of the eight other pieces
Point value: 1 point each
- Pawns are unique and have the following traits.
- Can only move straight ahead – not sideways or backward
- They can only capture diagonally, though
- A pawn can be moved one OR two squares on its first move
- After the first move of a pawn, it can then only move straight ahead one square at a time
Please note that point values of each piece have no “formal” role in the game of chess. They are, however, useful to players when it comes to strategy and evaluating the current state of play.
As you become more practiced, you may want to start studying the grandmasters and the different strategies and plays. As a novice player, though, it’s just too overwhelming to come up with intricate tactics until you get the basics.
Three special moves do come up even for beginners, though, so adding them to your chess repertoire will be helpful.
If your pawn reaches the last row on the opposite end of the board, you are now open to something called “pawn promotion.” It’s an advantageous position to be in, as your pawn can now turn into a Queen, Knight, Bishop, or Rook.
En passant (French for “by the way”) is another chess move involving the pawn. As you now know, pawns move straight ahead, but they capture diagonally.
En passant is only available when Player A initially moves a pawn two squares ahead (as it’s the first movement for that piece). In doing so, it’s going past the position where it could have been captured by Player B’s pawn. It’s now resting side by side with the enemy pawn.
The en passant move allows Player B an immediate opportunity to capture Player A’s pawn anyway. That decision has to be made directly with the next play. Player B can’t go back a few steps down the road and then capture it. It’s a one-time offer – take it or leave it.
Castling involves the King and a Rook moving simultaneously. The King moves two squares toward one of the Rooks, and the Rook then jumps over the King into the next position, so they’re now positioned side by side.
Castling has the following three requirements.
- The King and Rooks must be in starting position – and have yet to move during the game
- The King can’t be in “check”
- The positions can’t already be guarded (occupied) by enemies
Castling may provide more protection for your King, and your Rook may now be in a better position. But it could also put your King in a risky position depending on the position of your pawns.
Setting Up the Chessboard
You now know the basic moves of all of the pieces and how to announce your plays as you use the rank and file system as in “Knight moves to D-5.”
The following is a diagram of the starting positions. As you can see, the pawns are all lined up in front of the other pieces just like an army protecting royalty.
Check and Checkmate
Even if you’ve never played chess before, you may already know that checkmate is your ultimate goal. You want to attack the opponent’s King and to corner him so there’s no way out. Do you know the difference between check and checkmate, though?
A check is different than checkmate in that it’s a warning that your King is vulnerable. It means that if you don’t move him out of the way immediately, he’s a goner.
With checkmate, there is no escape. It covers all of the following three criteria.
- The King can’t move out of the way
- The King can’t capture the enemy threat
- The King can’t block the enemy (or checking piece)
Once you or your opponent is in checkmate, the game is over.
Basic Chess Strategy
There are so many different strategies in chess that we could never adequately convey them to you. There are expert guides and materials that you’ll find helpful along the way as you become more proficient in your basic moves.
If you are an absolute beginner, there is one fundamental tactic that you can employ so you’re not clobbered your first time on the battlefield.
It’s as simple as that. The more you can get your pieces in the middle of the board and control the center, the better the advantage over your opponent.
Now, of course, you want to keep your King protected at all times, but focus on the center, and you should be putting up a good fight.
Chess Organizations, Tournaments and Resources
It doesn’t matter where you live in the world, you should have access to chess tournaments, and plenty of them. Even if you don’t have an event scheduled in your vicinity, there are online competitions that you can enter.
For new players, it’s advisable to join a local chess club as well as practice online. You want to play as often as you can and put yourself into different scenarios. Chess requires you to think ahead, and you need to be practiced and ready for what can happen next.
FIDE – World Chess Federation
The FIDE oversees the international competitions. It’s the primary governing body and maintains all of the standings for the top players and countries. It connects all of the national agencies around the world, so it’s at the top of the chess organizational list.
One service of the FIDE that may pique your interest is the “Online Arena” for web-based play.
It is a member-only service that requires annual membership dues. However, you can use some of the services as a guest.
If you do decide to join, different membership levels are available for 25 or 50 Euros. You can receive benefits such as the following.
- FIDE online official rating
- Premium chess play zone
- Private and group lessons (Platinum service only)
- Events including daily tournaments and sit and gos
The Platinum membership also includes a National Federation online membership.
US Chess Federation
The United States Chess Federation maintains the national events calendar, as well as all kinds of helpful information for kids and adults. You can find chess clubs and other tournaments, as well as resources for new players.
The Internet Chess Club
The Internet Chess Club, or ICC, is a comprehensive online resource for all things chess.
It’s $9.95 a month or $69.95 for a year, but you then have access to online play, as well as videos, instructional materials, an online forum, and merchandise. There’s even a “job board” where you can hire a skilled chess instructor to provide you with one-on-one classes.
Chess for Cash
As chess is a real skill-based game and no randomness is involved, you won’t find it widely available for actual gambling purposes.
However, you will be able to play online, as well as participate in tournaments, whether you prefer live events or you want to stick to web-based competition.
BetConstruct, a casino software company, has developed a video slot game called “Chess Round.” It’s based on chess and has a 3D chessboard, but you wouldn’t consider it to be an actual chess game. Chess Round is built on a random number generation platform and features wild chess pieces, free spins, and substitution symbols.
Those enhancements alone throw skill and strategy right out the window. But players do think it’s a technologically savvy representation of a chess game, and it’s something different than your typical slot reels spinning.
Frequently Asked Questions About Chess
What is the score that I see attached to professional chess players?
That score is their FIDE rating, and it’s based on the ELO scale taking into consideration all past performances in tournament play. Magnus Carlsen is currently the all-time highest rated chess player.
How do you become a Chess Master or a Grand Master?
Your designation depends on the FIDE rating referenced above. There are different scoring ranges for each level. For example, a beginner starts out with a 1300 rating. A few others include:
- Club player: 1700 – 2000
- FIDE Master: 2300 – 2399
- Grand Master: 2500 – 2500
- Top Grand Master: above 2600
At the start of 2018, Magnus Carlsen’s rating was 2843.
How many different openings are there in chess?
We wouldn’t advise trying to sit down and learn them all, as there are over 1,000 different variations.
What is a chess clock?
The chess clock was introduced in 1883 as a way to limit the time each player takes to make a move. It’s a double-ended clock, so each player sets it for the next. For example, Player A finishes up a move and then starts the clock (the countdown) for Player B.
Different times are used depending on the tournament. Five minutes is on the faster end, but speed chess would require even faster play.
What was the longest chess game based on the number of moves?
The I. Nikolic – Arsovic match in Belgrade in 1989 lasted 269 moves and resulted in a draw. However, in theory, the longest game could last 5,949 moves.
What’s the fastest possible way to get to checkmate?
There are actually eight different ways to get to checkmate in two moves from the starting position.
Are there variations on the original game of chess?
You wouldn’t think that there would be, as chess seems like such a cut and dry game when it comes to the rules. However, there is a wide range of twists on the original.
Some include Hexagonal Chess, Tri-D Chess (3D chess that was depicted in Star Trek and was featured in an episode of The Big Bang Theory), Circle Chess, and Los Alamos Chess (played on a 6×6 board without bishops). The list goes on and on, as there are various boards, pieces, and configurations.
How do I get better at chess?
The best way to improve your skills is just to keep playing. The more you play, the more you know. However, there are also plenty of other tools available to you, from books to videos.
You could join a chess club or get a membership to the Internet Chess Club and not only play but participate in their forum. You can ask questions, as well as learn from others.
If you’re looking for a real hobby, something you can devote time to and develop your skills, chess is a great option.
There are so many resources and opportunities for gameplay online, as well as chess clubs and organizations probably right in your own hometown. So, even if you don’t have an opponent ready to play at any time, it won’t stop you.
It’s an excellent way to focus your mind and develop your ability to plan and strategize.