Chess of Europe,
now considered International Chess
the many forms of chess that have developed, only the Chinese,
Japanese, Thai, Korean and European varieties are commonly played
today. While the Chinese chess, xiangqi, is probably played
by more people than any other board game, the European chess
— what we simply call "chess" — is most
widespread across the globe, and is unique in its extensive
literature of strategic analysis.
are the rules of play that first appeared just over 500 years
ago, in northern Italy and Spain, and quickly spread throughout
Europe. Over subsequent centuries, this chess was carried to
every continent, along with other aspects of European culture.
idea of chess is that two players, commanding armies of equal
strength and composed of variously empowered pieces, compete
to entrap a central figure from the other side — the king.
The players take turns, each time moving one piece according
to its assigned movement pattern, creating a complex dynamic
of attack and defense, until one finally proves most effective.
The king moves one space in any direction, as
shown here on the left.
moves any number of squares straight forward, backward, right, left
or diagonally, as shown at the left.
may move any number of squares straight forward, backward, right
moves diagonally, as many squares as it chooses. Note that one
bishop will always be on the dark “black” squares,
and the other will always be on the “white” squares.
None of the pieces
mentioned so far may move past a piece standing in its way.
goes just two squares forward, backward, left or right, and then
one square at a right angle, making an L-shape, as shown in the
The knight is the only
piece that can not be blocked by another piece — if another
piece stands in its way, the knight simply jumps over it.
moves one square forward, and has the option of moving two squares
forward on its first move. But it does not capture this way. It
captures by moving forward-diagonally (as shown below by the red
arrow). It never captures by moving straight forward.
In the unusual
case where one pawn moves two spaces forward (as the
black pawn shown at the left), and an opposing pawn (the white
pawn shown) could have captured it if it had moved only one square,
the opposing pawn may move to capture it as if it had moved only
The captured piece
is removed from the board (shown here by a green dot). This is
called capturing en passant (French:
“in passing”). This can only be done immediately following
a pawn’s double step. Afterwards, that particular opportunity
to capture en passant is lost.
If a pawn reaches
the far side of the board, it is promoted. So
doing, the pawn is removed from the board and replaced by a piece
of the player’s choosing, either rook, knight, bishop or
(most often) queen.
special move rule:
If the king and a rook have not yet moved, and nothing stands
between the two pieces, the player may castle. This is done by first moving the king
two spaces toward the rook, then, as part of the same move, bringing
the rook to stand next to the king on the other side. It may be
done on the “king’s side” (shown left) or “queen’s
side” (shown below). Castling is not allowed if the king
is threatened (“in check”), or if the square that
he passes through is threatened by an enemy piece.
All pieces capture
by moving onto a square occupied by an enemy piece. The captured
piece is removed for the remainder of the game. Only the pawn
has a special move for capturing (forward-diagonally), different
from its normal move (straight ahead).
When a king is threatened
with capture, it is said to be "in check,"
and the threatened player must move "out of check"
so the king can not be taken. It is not legal to move so that
one’s own king remains in check. If the king is in check
and can not possibly move out of check, he has lost, and is said
to be in checkmate, as shown here.
The game is set
up at the left (and at the top of this web page). Note
that each player has a light colored square in his right hand corner.
In order that the kings face each other across the board, each player
sets his queen on its “own color” (light on light; dark
White makes the first move, and the two take
There are several ways the game can end in a draw:
1) If neither player has enough power to possibly checkmate the
2) If the same position is repeated 3 times, with the same player
3) If one player challenges the other to checkmate within 50 moves,
and in the next 50 moves no capture, pawn move or checkmate occurs;
4) If the player to move has no possible legal move but his king
is not in check. This is known as stalemate (example
shown at the left);
5) If it is otherwise clear that no win is possible.
1) Before the game begins, it is common for one player to hide a
black pawn in one hand and a white one in the other. The other player
picks a hand, and plays the color he has chosen. (White moves first.)
2) When a player removes his hand from a piece, his move is decided,
and it's too late two take it back. Be carefull! It's a very delicate
3) If you are playing in a tournament, or with a bit of a stickler,
the rules of "touch-move" apply. In that case, when you
merely touch one of your pieces, you are obligated to move it. The
idea is that all thinking must be done in the player's head —
not on the board. In actual tournament play, more specific rules
apply regarding time controls, special endgames, and all sorts of
proper behavior — you can learn those when you really need
story tells of the greatest male chess player of all time,
Gary Kasparov, playing against the greatest female player ever born,
Judit Polgar. Judit saw Gary touch his knight — but leave
it in place; Gary said he never touched it. For several years animosity
brewed over that game since, if Gary had been compelled to move
his knight, he would have lost the game, giving Judit an historic
The 17th century chess writer, J. Barbier, tells us most eloquently:
"What man or piece soever of your owne you touch, or lift
up from the point whereon it standeth, that must you play for
that Draught ... according to the ancient saying, Touch man and
goe, Out of hand and stand: Because, besides that the contrary
were Childes play: were you allowed a two-fold study on every
Draught, you would make the Game not tedious onely, but intollerable."
Famous Game Of Chesse-play,
—by Jo. Barbier, London, 1672