How to Play Chess – The Rules

by Chess Guides

Chess is an old classic game for two players and is known all over the world. It is a game full of strategy, tactics and skill involving a lot of thought and concentration. Therefore, learning to play chess can be an enriching adventure, both socially and intellectually. Although the chess rules are not too complicated to learn, mastering the game can take a lifetime. In this article, I will show you the basic rules of how to play chess.

Getting Started

To play chess, you need a special board with 64 squares, 8 rows and 8 columns. Each player has 16 pieces at the beginning of the game. These include a king; three major pieces – a queen and two rooks; four minor pieces- two knights and two bishops; and eight pawns, which are the least powerful. The white pieces are placed on one side of the board and the black pieces on the other in a specific configuration. Each player must have a white square of the board on their right-hand side. The pieces should be set up so that the rooks are in the corners, then the knights should come in, with the bishops right next to them. The queen stands on her own color and the king on the other color. As for the pawns, they should be placed in the row in front of the other pieces.


Chessboard Start Configuration


Basic Rules and Moves

The game of chess is played in turns. The player with the white pieces always goes first. During each turn, a player can move one of their pieces to any other square on the board. However, each piece has its own specific rules for how it can move. Pawns are limited to one space at a time, except on the first turn when they can be shifted by two squares.


Pawn's Moves Directions


Rooks can move in a straight line either horizontally or vertically. Knights can move in an L-shape, two spaces in one direction, then one space at a ninety-degree angle and they can even jump over another piece. Bishops can only move diagonally. The queen is the most powerful and can move in any direction and any number of spaces. The king can also move in any direction, but only one square at a time.


King's Moves Directions


Capturing Pieces

Players can attack or capture their opponent’s pieces by moving one of their own pieces to the square occupied by the opposing piece. Pawns capture diagonally. The enemy’s piece is then removed from the board. Note that a player cannot move one of their pieces to a square occupied by one of their own pieces and, except for the Knight, cannot jump over other pieces either.

Special Rules

The first special rule is castling, which is the ability to move the king two squares towards a rook and then move the rook to the square the king has just passed over. The second special rule is en passant, which makes it possible for a pawn to capture an opponent’s pawn that has just been moved two spaces forward. This is done by moving own pawn to the square directly behind the enemy’s pawn and capturing it. The third special rule is the promotion of a pawn. When a pawn reaches the other side of the board, it can be promoted to any more powerful piece, except for the king.

Check and Checkmate

The objective of the game is to checkmate your opponent’s king. If a player moves any of their pieces in such a way as to endanger the enemy’s king, the king is said to be in “check”. The player in check must move their king out of danger in the following turn. If the in-check player is unable to move their king, the game is over, and the opposing player becomes the winner. This is called “checkmate”.


In some cases, the game can end in a draw. This can happen if both players have the same number of pieces, or if neither player can checkmate the other. Stalemate is a specific situation when a player is not in check but is no longer able to move any piece. In some cases, a player can also offer the other player a draw. If the opponent accepts, the game ends and the result is a draw.


Chess is a phenomenal game to learn and play. Not only is it a great deal of fun, but your mind gets a workout along the way. It is also an inviting social game that brings people of all ages and skill levels together. You can enjoy it casually or even competitively.

In case you have decided to buy a chess set, you might like to check out my other article in which I have explained how to choose the right chess board.

Credits: The images of the chess board configurations featured in this article have been created using Black Vectors by Vecteezy.



Chess enthusiast. Playing chess since I was 5 years old. When I’m not playing chess or writing an article about chess, I’m probably riding my bike. You can read more about me here.