Chess Rules - The Ultimate Guide for Beginners
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Starting Chess? Your Ultimate Rule Guide Awaits

Starting Chess? Your Ultimate Rule Guide Awaits

The Chess Rules

Learning basic chess rules will help you build a strong foundation in chess. Many students do not have a clear picture of these rules at their beginning stages.

That is why I decided to help beginners with basic chess rules.

Chess teaches you administration and to extract work from your subordinates. It is a battle between two monarchs. The king manages the troops. It plans the operation and executes it.

After reading this guide, I recommend you to watch the next video to prove yourself with this chess puzzle.

BONUS: Download the entire guide in pdf (e-book), and read it anytime, anywhere you want. The e-book contains 4 bonus lessons by the GM Igor Smirnov. Download now.

1. Evolution of Chess Rules

Scandinavian Defense

Chess rules have evolved much over the centuries, from the early chess-like games played in India in the 6th century. For much of that time, the rules varied from area to area.

The modern rules first took form in Italy during the 13th century, giving more mobility to pieces that previously had more restricted movement (such as the queen and bishop).

Such modified rules entered into an accepted form during the late 15th or early 16th century.

The basic moves of the king, rook, and knight remain unchanged. Pawns, originally, did not have the option of moving two squares on their first move, and when promoted by reaching the eighth rank, could become a queen only.

2. The Meaning of Chess

Antique chaturanga game board with pieces. It’s an ancient Indian strategy board game from Gupta Empire in the 6th century AD, the ancestor of board games: chess, shogi, sittuyin, makruk, xiangqi, and janggi

Chess has its origin in the game called chaturanga, whose name means “four divisions”, about the four pieces that symbolize the units of the Indian army. These are the oldest in the game and correspond to the current pawns (for infantry), knights (cavalry), bishops (elephants), and rooks (chariots) of the modern version of the game.

There are more than two hundred types of chess pieces. The pieces reflect the military tradition of each place. Chess is played between two players, who each lead the pieces of a color placed on the so-called chessboard.

Each player takes his turn, which consists of moving one of his pieces to a square, according to the rules of the movement of the pieces. In official competitions, the time each player has to think about his moves is limited by a clock and varies for each competition.

3. The Goal of the Game

The basic objective of the chess game is to mate the opponent’s king, and this can only be achieved through the collaboration of all the pieces and the correct game based on strategic plans.

The game ends when one of the players checkmates his rival, but also when a player, seeing himself inevitably lost, does not want to wait for the mate, and declares that he surrenders or leaves.

It can also end when, due to the prevailing equality, and once the majority of the pieces have been eliminated, neither side can achieve mate. In such a case, the game ends in a draw.

4. Name of Pieces, Forms, and Abbreviations

The abbreviation for each piece corresponds to its initial letter: queen (Q), king (K), bishop (B), knight (N), rook (R). The pawns do not have an abbreviation, the square in which they are located is simply written.

5. The Chessboard

Chess is played on a square board divided into 64 squares (eight-by-eight) of alternating colors.

No matter what the actual colors of the board, the lighter-colored squares are called “light” or “white” and the darker-colored squares are called “dark” or “black”.

Sixteen white and sixteen black pieces are placed on the board at the beginning of the game. The board is placed so that a white square is in each player’s bottom-right corner.

Horizontal rows are called ranks and vertical rows are called files.

According to FIDE equipment standards, the length of the side of a square should be twice the length of the diameter of the base of a pawn.

6. Arrangements of Pieces

This is the starting position of the game.

Each player will lead the pieces of one color, and the player who has white is the one who always makes the first move. The king and the queen occupy the two central squares of the first row, so that the queen is on the square of the same color. You cannot place more than one piece on a square at any time.

On each side of these two pieces, a bishop, a knight, and a rook are placed, in this order, completing the 1st rank. In the 2nd rank, the eight pawns of each side are placed.

7. Identification of Squares – Record a Position

Chessboard from White’s perspective
The name of the squares is the product of the intersection between the rank and a file.










The annotation of the game is essential so that the moves of a game can be preserved. In this way, the games of the great players can then be reproduced, which decisively contributes to perfecting the game itself and facilitates study. There are two notation systems: algebraic and descriptive. The algebraic system is by far the most used.

In the algebraic notation system, each file (the vertical line of 8 squares) is represented by a letter, from a to h, starting with the one to the left of the white ones ( “a-file”), while each rank (horizontal line of 8 squares) is represented by a number from 1 to 8, starting with the rank closest to White (1st rank). Thus, each square has a name, made up of a letter and a number, corresponding to the file and rank to which it belongs.

A move is written by putting first the initial that represents the piece, and then the coordinate of the square where the piece is moving. For example, the move Qf5 means that the queen is played to the square f5. A pawn move is represented only by the square where it moves. For example, b5 means that the pawn plays to the b5 square.

7.1 How to Write a Move?

Chess rules

When a piece captures another, the square where the capture takes place is simply mentioned, and optionally (with great acceptance) it is preceded by an x (capture sign).

For example, Nxd4 means that a knight has captured an enemy pawn or piece that was on d4 (it is not necessary to specify which piece it is). For castling, the special signs O-O are used in the case of short castling (with the rook on the kingside) and O-O-O for long castling (with the rook on the queenside).

In addition, sometimes one of these signs is usually added after the move: “+” to signal the check,”#” to signal the checkmate,”!” to indicate that this is a good move, “?” to indicate that it is a bad move, etc.

7.2 Example

1. e4 c6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 dxe4
4. Nxe4 Nf6
5. Qd3 e5
6. dxe5 Qa5+ (the “+” sign indicates check)
7. Bd2 Qxe5
8. 0-0-0 Nxe4? (bad play)
9. Qd8+! Kxd8 (the queen sacrifice allows White to mate in 3 moves)
10. Bg5+ Ke8
11. Rd8#

8. General Chess Rules

Each player makes a move in turn, with White always starting the game. A move consists of moving a piece to any of the squares that allow its movement.

8.1 Capturing a Piece

Chess rules

When a piece is placed on a square occupied by an enemy piece, it captures it. This capture consists of removing the enemy piece from the board and eliminating it from the game. You are not allowed to capture your pieces.

Neither can it go over another piece, be it its own or an opponent’s, nor can two pieces be placed in the same square in any way.

When a piece has the possibility of capturing another, it is said to be attacking or threatening it. This threat is not mandatory. A special case is a threat to the king, called a check.

The player who is in check must defend himself, and if he cannot do so, then checkmate occurs, which leads to his immediate defeat.

8.2 Illegal Moves

Ilegal moves

Any illegal move must be withdrawn and a legal move made instead, but once such a legal move has been made, the turn of the game passes to the opponent, and it is not possible to rectify it. Thus, as soon as the player’s hand has released the piece, the move is considered over, and it is not possible to go back.

On the other hand, if the piece has not been released, the move has not been finished, and it is possible to make any legal move with the piece that has been touched, but there is an obligation to move that piece and not another. In other words, when a piece is touched, there is an obligation to play it, although the square where it will be placed can be chosen.

8.3 Piece You Touch, Piece You Move

Chess rules

In the same way, if an opponent’s piece is touched, there is an obligation to capture it with whatever piece it is, whenever possible. Otherwise, that is, if it is not possible to capture the opposing piece that has been touched, any other legal move can be made.

9. Piece Movement and Value of the Pieces

9.1 Rook

The rook is always played in a straight line, both horizontally and vertically, that is, by files or by ranks, and any number of squares, always in the same direction. The movement of the rook is shown in the diagram, and it can move to any of the marked green squares.

The next diagram demonstrates the movement of the rook when other pieces get in their way. You can capture the opposing pawn, but you cannot play the squares that are beyond that pawn. Also, their pieces and pawns cut him off.

9.2 Bishop

The bishop moves diagonally, and like the rook, on any number of squares, always in the same direction. As a consequence, a bishop placed on a white square can never be played to any black square.

The next diagram shows that the bishop on e4, being limited by its pawn and knight, cannot move to g2 or d3 and, therefore, to any square beyond those pieces. However, it has freedom of action on the d5, c6, b7, a8, and f5 squares. And you can, if you want to, capture the opponent’s pawn on g6.

9.3 Queen

It is the most mobile piece since it can move as a rook or as a bishop. That is, you can move both diagonally and by ranks or file, and always in any number of squares. The previous diagram shows the movement of the queen.

In the next diagram, we see that the queen can move to a wide range of squares and capture one of the 4 black pieces or even the black pawn on a7 if it wishes. However, it cannot move to d3 or f2 because its pieces prevent it.

9.4 Knight

The knight is the piece that presents the greatest difficulties in understanding its movement. This movement, unlike the other pieces, is not rectilinear: it jumps forming an “L” with two squares on one side and one square on the other.

The next diagram shows that the knight can capture one of the two black pawns or the black knight on f6 if it wishes. We also see that it has freedom of action on the d6, g3, and f2 squares. But it cannot move to c3 or d2 because its pawns prevent it from doing so.

9.5 King

The king, like the queen, moves in all directions. But there is a big difference, as it can only do it from one square away. The king is the most important piece in chess since its loss means the loss of the game.

Example 1: In this position, we see that the white king can capture both knights or even the pawn on d3. It can also move freely on the f5-square. But it can NOT capture the black bishop nor can it move on the d4, e3, and f4-squares. The king cannot capture a defended piece and cannot move on squares controlled by the rival.

Example 2: In this diagram, we see the king surrounded by both opposing pawns and its pawns. We note that it cannot move to any yellow square because it is controlled by the rival; however, it can move to f6 or capture the defenseless bishop on e6.

9.6 Pawn

The pawn moves in a vertical direction, one space forward in the file in which it is located. Contrary to the other pieces, the pawn always advances, it cannot go back.

Exceptionally, when a pawn is on its square of origin (2nd horizontal) it can advance one or two steps, depending on the player’s convenience. From there, it can only advance one step on future moves it makes.

9.6.1 Pawn Promotion

As has been said, the pawn cannot go back, so when a pawn reaches the 8th horizontal (rival’s 1st), it can no longer make any more moves, but rather, at that moment, it is promoted and becomes the piece that is preferred, except for the king, since there can only be one king on each side.

This is also known as the promotion of the pawn; the queen is usually chosen, as it is the most powerful piece. This choice must be made at the precise moment in which the pawn is placed on the 8th, removing the said pawn from the board and placing in its place the chosen piece, which must be of the same color as the promoted pawn.

9.6.2 Pawn Captures

Another peculiarity of the pawn, which differentiates it from the other pieces, is that in addition to not being able to go back, it captures in a different way than the one it advances: It captures diagonally, always a single step, towards the adjacent squares.

On the other hand, if the owner of the opponent’s piece is on the square in front of the pawn (where it could otherwise move), it will no longer be able to move forward. In the diagram, you can see the possibilities of capturing the pawn.

9.6.3 En Passant

This special way of capture applies only to the capture of a pawn by another pawn; and also in a certain situation, when a pawn has passed the middle of the board and the opposing pawn has just moved two steps. If you want to capture en passant, it must be done immediately; otherwise, it will no longer be possible to capture en passant. This chess rule is one of the two special chess rules that confuse beginners.

9.7 Value of the Pieces

Chess rules

9.7.1 Static Value

Static value of the pieces:
pawn = 1, knight = 3, bishop = 3, rook = 4.5, queen = 9

The evaluation of the king is naturally inconsequential since it is not possible to exchange this piece for any. In any case, its theoretical strength would be between the rook and the bishop or knight.

This scale of values is very useful for the beginner as it serves as an assessment when judging the convenience of a change. The advantage in these values receives the generic name of material advantage.

9.7.2 Dynamic Value

One of the first things to learn is that pieces have double value. On the one hand, there is a static and immutable value that establishes that, for example, the queen is more powerful than a pawn, but there is also a dynamic value, valid only for certain moments of the game.

Only in this way it is possible to understand that, in certain situations, the modest pawn can be worth more than the powerful queen. As these last values are exceptional and more difficult to understand, we limit ourselves for the moment to taking their existence into account.

10. Check and Checkmate

King's Indian Defense

The king is the most important piece, as its fate decides the game. Therefore, when an opposing piece threatens to capture you, there is an obligation to avoid this threat. In such a case, the king is said to be in check (threatened).

If this threat or check cannot be avoided by any legal move, the check is said to be mate, and the game has ended with the victory of the player who said, mate. It is forbidden to put one’s king in check, so any move by the king to a square threatened by an opponent’s piece will be illegal.

10. 1 Check Rules

In this position, the black bishop on b4 is checking the king (that is, it is threatening it) because the white king is on the same diagonal that the bishop controls. If we find ourselves in check, there are 3 possible alternatives:

1) Move the king to any square where it is not threatened.

2) Capture the piece in check, thereby avoiding the threat. In this case, the bishop can capture the rook.

3) Intercept the action of the aggressor piece, interposing another piece between it and the king. To do this, Black can place his knight in front of the king, covering the check.

Any other move that does not fulfill this purpose is illegal.

Returning to the position of the diagram, here White cannot move the king to another square as it cannot escape the black diagonal, nor is it possible to capture the bishop on b4. It is only possible to put one piece in the path of the bishop, which can be achieved by playing for example Nc3 or Nd2 or even Bd2.

On the contrary, in this position, we see that it is not possible to escape from check in any way. Therefore, the check is mate and the game ends here with the triumph of Black.

The checkmate in the diagram is known as the Fool’s Mate.

In the next example, we see that the black king is checkmated because the bishop on f5 is pinned and the king cannot escape via e7 or f7 because White’s minor pieces prevent it.

10.2 Basic Checkmates

In all these cases, it is observed that the common pattern consists of taking the opponent’s king to one of the board’s edges, activating our king to support our piece and mate with the piece. The only case in which the activation of our king is not necessary is in mate with 2 rooks.

11. Draw-Perpetual Check and Stalemate

In the situation in the diagram, Black is threatening to mate on the next move. Such mate cannot be avoided, so White’s only chance lies in a counterattack on the black king; and, as the only recourse to not receive immediate mate, White must give perpetual check.

  1. Qb5+ Ka8 2. Qa6+ Kb8 3. Qb5+ Ka7 4. Qa5+ Kb7 5. Qb5+ Ka8 6. Qa6+ Kb8 7. Qb5+

The draw can also happen by mutual agreement between both players or by the 50-move rule, that states that if in a certain position there are no captures of pieces or movements of pawns; that is, if it is shown that the position cannot progress, after 50 moves, the game can be declared a draw by the referee or by claim of one of the players showing with his scoresheet that 50 moves have been played.

When one of the sides, having to play and without its king in check, has no possible legal move, it is said to be in a stalemate situation, and the game ends in a “draw”. This can be seen in the next diagram, where Black, if it is his turn to play, cannot make any valid moves, since any of the possible moves with the king are illegal because they leave it in check.

Chess rules

Stalemate draws can occur even if the stalemate side has other pieces, as long as they have no legal move. For example, in the next position, if it is Black’s turn to play, he is also in a stalemate, since there is no valid move at his disposal.

12. Castling

Castling is a special move, which is made with the king and a rook. It is the only move in which two pieces are allowed to move in the same move. It is done with the king and any of the two rooks, always in the initial position of both pieces, in the following way: the king moves two squares in the direction of the rook with which it intends to castle. Next, and forming part of the same move, such rook passes over the king and is placed next to it, right on the next square.

12.1 Types of Castling

Castling is short or long, depending on which side the king is facing.

12.2 Rules of Castling

4 circumstances make castling impossible:

1) When the king is in check. Thus it is not possible to counter a check by castling. However, later, check avoided, if castling will be possible.

2) When one of the two participating pieces, the king or the rook, has been previously moved, even if they have later returned to the original position.

3) When there is a piece between the king and the rook, both own or the opponent’s, since it is not possible to jump over them.

4) When the square that the king must cross is threatened by an enemy piece, and even more so if the square where the king is placed is threatened, since that would be leaving it in check.


In this position, White is in check, and therefore, he cannot castle. For his part, Black cannot castle on any flank.

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13. The Three Stages of the Game

A game of chess is divided into three stages:


While not every single chess game goes through these three stages (some games might end in the opening or middle game), it is important to recognize at which stage of the game one is in while playing.

Chess is similar to war. You don’t just jump right into the battle. You first expand your territory (move chess pawns), then prepare your forces for battle (develop your pieces), and lastly, start fighting. In chess, moving pawns not only help you obtain space, but also frees up your pieces to move freely.

13.1 Opening

The opening stage is the first phase of the game. This is where both sides develop their forces and “prepare” themselves for the middlegame.

In chess, developing a piece means placing a piece in a square where it is more active. At the start of a chess game, all the pieces are behind pawns and possess limited mobility. When we move or develop our pieces, we’re improving their activity and preparing them for battle.

While there is no clear-cut move that defines the end of the opening and the start of the middlegame, it is usually considered the middle game after both players have castled and developed their queens.

Here is an example of a game in its opening stage:

Chess rules

Nowadays, thanks to the analysis of computers and many strong players, there exists a vast amount of opening theory. In other words, after millions of chess games, players have realized which opening moves score better and which ones are less powerful.

At the highest level, players memorize hundreds of chess opening variations. This allows players to obtain the upper hand and make 10+ moves without much effort. Chess players have also given names to specific “openings” or sequences of moves. For example, the diagram above is commonly referred to as the French Defense.

At this point, it is not important to memorize different chess openings, but it is important to recognize What a player must do in the opening stage.

In the opening you should:

  1. Develop your pieces!
  2. Protect your king. In part number two, we discussed an important move called “castling”. You want to castle in the opening stage.
  3. Avoid, if possible, moving the same piece twice. You want to develop all of your pieces.

If you want to know more about the opening or opening traps, I invite you to watch the next video, which has more than 2 million views on YouTube!

13.2 Middlegame

After both sides have developed their forces, the middlegame phase begins. This is where the central battle of the chess game happens. Both sides develop a plan and attempt to execute it. Many chess games are determined in the middlegame.

Chess rules

We can see from the diagram above that both sides have castled and developed their queens. Both sides should create a plan and do their best to execute it.

In the Middlegame you should:

  1. Look for a plan! It does not matter if your plan is good or bad. A bad plan is better than no plan at all.
  2. Maximize the activity of your pieces. In the opening, you developed your pieces; however, in the middlegame, we may look for the optimal square for our pieces. Maybe we want to place our piece in a strong square or exchange it. It is important to know what you want to do with your pieces.
  3. Protect your king. The ultimate goal in chess is to checkmate your opponent. Always make sure your king is safe and avoid weakening your king’s defense.
  4. Think of your opponent. You’re not the only one playing chess: Your opponents have a plan they also want to execute. Always try to figure out what your opponent is planning to do next. This applies to all stages of the game.

13.3 Endgame

Most chess games average around 40 moves, which means not all games reach the endgame. Throughout the middle game, many pieces and pawns are exchanged.

We can define an endgame by the fact that the kings are very involved in the fight. Usually, we want to protect our king in the opening and middlegame stages; however, because many pieces have been traded, the king is usually safe.

In the endgame, the king plays a crucial role in determining the outcome of a game.

Chess Rules

In the endgame game you should:

  1. Activate your king: This may seem counterintuitive, but the king is a very powerful piece in the endgame. Since both players have exchanged a vast amount of pieces, the king is usually safe.
  2. Promote your pawns. In the endgame, it is easier to promote pawns because both players have fewer pieces.
  3. Protect your pawns. Pawns are more valuable in the endgame because they can become queens easily.

BONUS: Download the entire guide in pdf (e-book), and read it anytime, anywhere you want. The e-book contains 4 bonus lessons by the GM Igor Smirnov. Download now.

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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