Chess Rules
Chess rules

Chess Rules

Chess Rules

Still learning chess and you are not yet familiar with the game and its rules?

Don’t worry, in this article, we will list down some of the essential rules you need to know to familiarize yourself with the game of chess.

Chess rules are a set of principles or procedures that all chess players must follow when playing the game.

You can use this guide together with this other about chess terminology and the guide about how to play chess.

Chess Pieces

Each player starts with 6 different types of pieces, namely:

  1. King: This is the most important piece in a chess game. Each side only has one king.
  2. Queen: This is the most powerful piece in a chess game, and it’s worth nine points. Each side initially starts with 1 queen. It is possible to promote pawns into queens within the match.
  3. Rook: This is the second most powerful piece on the chessboard, and is worth five points. Each side initially starts with 2 rooks.
  4. Bishop: Bishops are worth three points. Each side initially starts with 2 bishops; namely, the light-squared and dark-squared bishops. The light-squared one only moves on light squares and the dark-squared one only moves on dark-squares
  5. Knight: The knight is worth three points, just like the bishop. It is the only piece that can jump other pieces.
  6. Pawn: A chess pawn is worth a single point. Each side starts with 8 pawns in total, which move straight up or down the board.

Chess Board

The square at your right side must be white

The chessboard has a total of 64 squares. It has 2 alternating colors, usually black and white.

The horizontal line of squares on a chessboard are ranks. While the vertical lines are files.


Notations are coordinates that help you to identify the position of pieces from the start till the end of the game.

These coordinates are important to analyze games in the future. Usually, they are found on a notation pad or in computer software.

The ranks are the numbers from “1” to “8“. The number “1” is closer to the player using White, while the number “8” is closer to the player using Black.

The files are identified with letters from the letter “A” to the letter “H“. The letter “A” is on the left side for the player using the white pieces while it’s on the right side for the player using the black pieces.

The letter “H” is on the right side for the player using White while it’s on the left side for the player using the black pieces.

  • King: The king letter is “K
  • Queen: The queen letter is “Q
  • Rook: The rook letter is “R
  • Bishop: The bishop letter is”B
  • Knight: The knight is represented by the letter “N“, mainly because the letter “K” is used by the king
  • Pawn: The pawn doesn’t have any letter, rather it is represented by the square it moves to. So if “e4” is showing on a notation pad, then it’s clear that a pawn moved to e4.
Location of the Pieces

Before the game starts, all specific pieces have squares where they start from. Here are the specific squares:

  1. King: The white king is located on e1, while the black king is located on e8.
  2. Queen: The white queen is located on d1, while the black queen is located on d8.
  3. Bishop: The white bishops are located on c1 and f1. while the black bishops are located on c8 and f8.
  4. Knight: The white knights are located on b1 and g1, whilst the black bishops are located on b8 and g8.
  5. Rook: The white rooks are located on a1 and h1, while the black rooks are located on a8 and h8.

Stages of a Chess Game

The chess game is divided into three stages, namely the opening, middlegame, and endgame.

We will look at each stage in detail and what to expect when you enter that specific stage.

Chess Opening

This is the initial stage of a chess game. The main goals of this stage are

  • Develop minor pieces (bishops and knights)
  • Control the center (e4,d4,e5 and d5)
  • Castle for king’s safety

These goals are usually achieved by a sequence of moves. The majority of these sequences have now been given names. As an example, playing 1.e4 c5 is called the Sicilian Defense, and it’s one of the most played chess openings.

Professional level players tend to have a specific sequence of moves that they prefer so that they can have a comfortable position going into the middlegame.

You can begin to choose your preferred opening sequences by learning about chess openings for White here and learning about chess openings for Black here.

In the video lesson from the RCA guest coach FM Coto Mederos, he will present to you 3 interesting chess opening traps and an opening trick.

Chess Middlegame

This is the stage that shortly follows after the opening. This stage starts when the rooks are connected.

The main goal of this stage is to better position your pieces and also try to win your opponent’s pieces.

It is also possible to win a chess game in the middlegame as long as your pieces are better positioned.

In the middlegame, your plans should include the following:

  • Ensuring the king is safe
  • Making sure that all your piece mobility is maximized
  • Attacking when there are attacks possible
  • Avoid having a pawn weakness structure(doubled pawns and isolated pawns)

To learn more about the middlegame in chess, study the video lesson What exactly should you do in the middlegame? and go in-depth with How to Play the Middlegame (The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide).

Chess Endgame

This is the last stage of a chess game. While it isn’t clear where exactly the endgame starts, it’s visible when the king becomes active.

What to do when faced with the endgame:

  • Activate the king by either centralizing it or playing it towards the battlefield where the pawns are.
  • Advance passed pawns
  • Avoid getting checkmate

Chess rules: Special Moves

These are moves that can occur within a chess game and for specific reasons. The moves and reasons are as follows:

Chess rules allow you to castle in either of the two sides
You can castle on the kingside or the queenside

This move occurs mainly between the rook and the king. The reason for doing this move is to ensure that the king has protection.

There are two types of casting namely:

  1. Kingside Castling: This is when the king castles with the kingside rook. The rook is on h1 for White and h8 for Black.
  2. Queenside Castling: This is when the king castles with the queenside rook. The rook is on a1 or a8.

These are the following rules apply when you are trying to castle:

  • The king must not have moved before this move
  • The rook must have not moved before making this move
  • There must be no pieces on the same file between the king and rook
  • The king must not be under a check when castling
  • The king must not pass through a check when castling
  • And it is also illegal for the king to land in a check when castling.

Once you know you can castle on the queenside just as you can castle on the kingside, you should be interested in knowing which is the best side to castle your king.

En Passant

This is one of those rules that many chess fans are not aware of.

En Passant is a special move where a pawn moves two squares from its initial position. It can be captured if an enemy pawn is positioned next to it on the same rank.

In the en passant capture, the attacking pawn stays on the adjacent file just as it would if the opposing pawn only moved one step.

En passant is one of the strangest chess rules

In the position above, if Black is to play and they play g5, then White can capture the pawn with en passant, by playing fxg6.

If White is to play then they play e4 then Black can capture en passant by playing dxe3.

This move typically occurs amongst beginners and amateurs. If it is to occur amongst top-level games, then it will be a strategic move that helps improve the position.


This is one of the rules that makes chess fans love this game so much. ☺

This is a special move that occurs when the white pawn reaches the eighth rank or when the black pawn reaches the first rank.

Once a pawn has reached the end of the board, it is eligible to change into any major or minor piece the player wishes for it to turn into (king, queen, bishop, or knight).

Promotion is one of the rules that makes chess fans love this game so much.
Get a new queen and win!

In the diagram above, the white pawn on e7 can promote when it moves to e8 on White’s next move.

The black pawn on h2 is not eligible for promotion as the white king on h1 is preventing that.

Chess rules at the end of the Match

A chess match can either end in a win, loss, or a draw. Here are all three in greater detail as to how they can occur:


Chess rules say you win when you have:

  • Checkmated the King: meaning you have attacked the king and it has no squares to move to, neither does it has any friendly pieces to block or capture the attacking piece.
  • Illegal Move: This is when your opponent plays a move that isn’t part of the chess rules.
  • Resignation: This is when an opponent has decided to give up on the game as they don’t see any possible moves that can help them save the game going fourth

A loss can occur when you have:

  • You are Checkmate: This is when your king is under attack and you have no squares to move to nor do you have any friendly pieces to block or capture the enemy pieces.
  • Made an Illegal Move: This is when you have made a move that is not part of the chess rules
  • Resigned: This is when you give up on the position as you have no possible moves to make to save you from losing

A draw occurs when:

  • Both players have only kings.
  • When both players have pieces, but those pieces cannot deliver a checkmate (insufficient material)
  • Stalemate: When a player who is to move is not in a check but, at the same time, has no possible move to make.

People use to say that you don’t lose but learn. It would be great to be able to include this in the chess rules. ☺


Being a beginner in chess can be hard, especially if you don’t know the rules to follow…

The above rules are some of the basic chess rules that will help you to play proper chess. For a more in-depth guide, we recommend you to read Chess Rules: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners.

Players who implicate these rules in their games stand a chance of understanding chess faster.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want GM Igor Smirnov to help you get better at chess, watch this Masterclass.

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