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How To Play Chess: Rules & Strategies

Chess is one of the most popular games in the world, and is still to this day, despite the fact it’s tough to have originated in Asia many centuries ago.

While learning how to play chess is straightforward, developing any skill in the game requires a lot of practice.

This is because it’s very much a strategy game where the players are to create a situation where the opponent’s King is unable to become captured.

While this requires quite a bit of skill especially if you’re playing against an experienced chess player, the only way to begin is by first learning how to play the game.

This article will tell you everything you need to know!

Chess Basics

A regular chessboard is made up of 64 squares. The chessboard is divided into files (letters) and ranks (numbers). The files on a chessboard are the columns which go up and down on the board, and the ranks are the horizontal rows on the board.

Each piece has a name, a specific location on the board to start off and certain move capabilities. This is the first part to know and understand as these pieces are your keys to success.

To begin understanding the chess pieces, their locations, and abilities, you must first correctly position the board.

You’ll know if the board is positioned correctly if each player has a black or dark square in the lower left corner of their side.

Next, place each piece in its correct position:


Put your rooks on the two far, opposite corners of the chess board

These pieces look like part of a castle, and therefore are also known as “the castle”. The abbreviation for these pieces is “R”.

Rooks can move in any amount of available squares either horizontally or vertically.

If your opponent’s piece is blocking the rook’s path, that piece may be captured simply by moving your rook to the square that’s being occupied and removing the piece from the board. Rooks cannot jump pieces.


Put your knights beside your rooks. The knights are also known as the “horse” pieces or “N” for short.

Knights are the only pieces in chess that can jump over other pieces and therefore are the only pieces that cannot be blocked by your opponent.

These pieces move in an L-shape pattern, which is two squares vertically or horizontally and one square perpendicular.

The knight can jump over other pieces and capture a piece wherever it lands.


Put the bishops besides the knights.

Bishops are the piece with the ball and slit on the top of it. It’s referred to as “B” in notation.

Bishops can move a however number of open squares as you want in any direction that is diagonal. They can capture the opponent’s piece if it’s in its path, then can stop on that piece’s square.

It’s important to note that the bishop does everything diagonally and remains on the same color square as it started throughout the entire game.


One of your most important pieces, the queen is placed near the center of the board or the first rank on top of her color.

So, if you’re playing white pieces, the queen will be placed on the fourth file. If you’re playing black pieces, she will be placed on the fifth file from the left.

The queen is the most powerful piece you have on the board because she can do basically anything.

She can move to any number of open squares diagonally, vertically and horizontally.

Queens may attack an opponent’s piece by moving to that piece’s square if it’s on her path


Now, you can place your King in the last empty square. The king is also known as “K” in notation.

The king can move vertically, horizontally or diagonally one space at a time.

Since the king is so valuable, he is not considered an attacking piece. You must keep him protected at all times.

That being said, he can attack pieces if they come close enough.

But remember, if you lose the king, you lose the game.


Pawns are the little guys. You place the pawns in the line in front of all the other pieces, similar to a shield.

Pawns typically move forward by one square at a time. However, the first time your pawn moves, and only the first time, it’s allowed to move forward by two squares.

The pawn can attack an opponent’s piece if it’s one square diagonally in front of the pawn, not directly in front of it.

Scoring System

For each opposing piece you capture, you can earn points along the way.

Here’s a breakdown of how much each piece is worth:

  • Queen: 9 points
  • Rook: 5 points
  • Bishop: 3.5 points
  • Knight: 3 points
  • Pawn: 1 point

The king has no value because it’s not used as a weapon until the last part of the game.

Strengths of Each Piece

To strengthen your chess strategy, it’s beneficial to know the strengths of each piece and their ideal positioning on the board.

Typically, pieces are stronger in the center of the board. This is for a few reasons.

First,  Bishops and the Queen can control longer diagonals from the center. Also, Knights may lose advantage when placed near the edge and pawns are more useful to you and dangerous to your opponent when they advance further up.

  • Pawns are strongest when they’re placed together in a position such as a chain, which is a diagonal shaped line.
  • Knights are weakest at edges of the board. Remember that the maximum amount of spaces a knight can take on is eight, which is why the center is the best place for these pieces. You’ll also simply waste a move in repositioning the knight closer to the center if you have previously moved it to the edge.
  • Bishops are their strongest when near or on the long diagonals where they can take on the most amount of squares.
  • Rooks are most powerful inside open files. You should put rooks on files that don’t hold any of your pawns.
  • Queens contains the most amount of power when in the center of the board. That being said, they are in the most danger here as well. Keep the queen one move away from the center position and don’t block your queen’s important movements with other pieces.
  • No matter what, your king should always be protected and shielded by pieces that are of lower value.

How to Win

In order to win, you need to checkmate the opposite player’s king.

This involves having to trick or force the king into a situation where he will be captured by your pieces no matter what. It involves making it impossible for the king to escape.

Checkmate is the end of the game.

While capturing your opponent’s king through strategy is the ultimate goal, you could also try to capture the most amount of your opponent’s pieces as possible, which makes checkmate easier.

Remember to always protect your king as well while attempting to take your opponent’s king.

Quick Tips on How to Play Chess

While learning the basics is the best way to start on the road to playing and mastering the game of chess, you should also keep a few tips in mind along the way.

1. Control the Center of the Board

As discussed earlier, if your pieces are at, or near, the center of the board, they’re the most dangerous to your opponent.

The game is typically a fight for the center of the board. Once there, the opposing player has few promising options to choose from, forcing him/her into a defensive mode when you have many squares and space to play with.

Remember that pawns are a great help with this. Keep a pawn or two in the center while other more powerful pieces are busy attacking.

2. Utilize All Pieces

Not using your pieces is wasting potential power. One of the wonderful aspects of chess is that there’s no one piece that wins the game.

Winning involves a team effort.

This is especially important if the person you’re playing against has played many times before.

3. Think Many Moves Ahead

Make every move count, think about a potential attack by using all your pieces, one move at a time.

Your opponent will be doing the same thing. If they’ve moved a piece, they’re planning a potential attack. Think about why they’re doing while trying to set up your own plan as well.

Always be setting yourself up for the ultimate move that will lead to another ultimate move in the future.

Ready to Play? Checkmate!

There you have it! Everything you need to know on how to play chess like a champ. Now, all you need is practice — and a lot of it.

Featured image credit: CC0 Creative Commons, Leo_65 via