The Basics of Chess

Once you've understood the basics of chess, you can begin working on your technique, with the intention of eventually mastering the game. However, having a good foundation and a basic understanding of how the game works (in detail) is essential to you progressing. This the first step for beginners, and one that should not be taken lightly.

Most beginners will learn how pieces move, and begin playing immediately after. However, there are certain basic strategies that will help you begin playing at a more advanced level, and that are worth consulting before you jump in. Below, we've compiled a list of essential basics that will help improve your game, even before you start playing.

How each piece moves

Most people will have a very simplified understanding of how each piece moves. However, knowing where your pieces can be placed is not only critical to you playing correctly, but also key to you being able to plot your next step. Each piece has a set of directions it's allowed to move in, and some pieces are more limited than others.


Pawns are the small, round tipped pieces. You have 8 of these, and you can only move each pawn one square forward, although on its first move- you can move the pawn two squares forward if you so choose to. Pawns are also able to knockout an opponent's pieces, by moving one square diagonally. Pawns are only able to move forward, and can not move back at any point during the game.


Bishop are pieces with a notable slit on the top, and each player is given 2. They can only move diagonally, although they can move an unlimited number of squares (until they reach an adversary's piece). If you're struggling to remember what way the Bishop moves, try and associate the diagonal slit with diagonal movement.


Knights are commonly referred to as 'horses' by beginners, and each beginner is given 2. These pieces can move in an L-shape, using any number of valid combinations. Players can move one square forward and two to the side; two squares to the side and one backward and so forth. The important thing to remember is that the Knight must move in a two-one or one-two motion.


Each player receives 2 Rooks, which are the tower-like pieces, that move any number of squares in a straight line. This means that they can move up and down, or side to side, providing your opponent's piece isn't in the way. All of your pieces (aside from the Knight) will be blocked by your adversary's pieces, which you must 'knock out' before progressing.


Queens can move any number of squares, in any direction, along ranks; files and diagonals (different areas of the grid). Each player is given 1 Queen, and beginners should look to hold onto their queen, as losing it will put them in a very vulnerable position.


The King is the most famous piece in Chess, prone to 'checkmate', and can move any direction on the board. However, the king can only move one square at a time and you, naturally, only have one king.

Check and checkmate

The aim of the game is to force your opponent into 'checkmate'. This is a term you'll hear every match, and it refers to one player having the adversary's King in a position where they cannot move. 'Checkmate' therefore means that a player has lost. Ultimately, to put the other player in 'checkmate, you'll have to first put them in 'check'. This means that if they do not move, they will be put into checkmate on the next turn.

In order to progress from check to checkmate, it's recommended that you dominate the middle of the board, allowing you to corner the opposing King more easily.

The power of the Queen

The Queen is a very powerful, and arguably the most valuable, piece in the game. Other than your King, you should seek to defend this piece very aggressively throughout. The reason this piece is so important, is that it has the most mobility, and can move the most across the board. Therefore, having your Queen will allow you to play on the attack if you so need to.

More experienced players will also opt for a Queen tradeoff, on the basis of the fact that it's so powerful. A tradeoff involves sacrificing your Queen while taking your opponents. This isn't recommend for beginners, as playing without a Queen means playing much more strategically, and maximizing each piece. Most new players won't have the foresight and knowledge to do this successfully.

Pawn progress

Advancing your pawn or pawns to the opposite side of the board, at the far row, will give you the option to swap it for a piece of your choosing. This is a definite benefit for players, and one that you should actively strive for. If a Queen tradeoff has taken place, for example, then you'll be able to replace your lost queen with your pawn.

While this is definitely a move that you should aim for, it's also an unlikely occurrence, and one that you shouldn't depend on too heavily. Don't sacrifice better moves in order to progress your pawn, and remember to leave some pawns in the middle of the board, in order to defend your side from any potential attacks. Pawns make great defensive lines, so it's important that you don't undervalue this.

Don't disregard the Knight

While the Queen can move in any direction; Pawns can progress and Rooks can move from one side of the board to the other- the Knights are one of the most tactical pieces in the game. As Knights have the ability to jump over other pieces, they have a wider range of the board. If you're playing aggressively, and looking to knock out your opponent's pieces, then the Knight should be your weapon of choosing. This is because your Knight will claim whatever piece is on the square that it landed on, which gives you a major strategic advantage.

More advanced players will actively look to capture your Knight in the first few moves, so be wary of this, and try your best to protect at least one.

Practice makes perfect

As Chess is a tactical game, players will thrive only if they practice. A combination of reading and learning the strategies, alongside actual practice, is recommended. However, simply playing the game for enjoyment and learning as you play is just as effective.

As you practice, you should also seek to experiment, and vary your openings. Every new match, you should try a different opening, with the intention of understanding your strengths and comparing each strategy. Many beginners fear losing, but loss is part of the process, and a stage you should embrace and learn from.

There are now many virtual hubs for chess players to take advantage of. Many websites, such as LiChess, will allow you to play against humans or computers- and the software will then critique your moves after. As computers are very logical, rational machines- they are adept at finding the best move. Therefore, using a computer can definitely help you improve as a player.

Learn from other players

While chess is based on intuition and logic, it's also based on strategy and technique. Therefore, watching other players can prove very useful, particularly for beginners. There are plenty of tutorials and chess games on YouTube and other hosting sites, and these are worth watching. New chess players that watch real matches unfold, can observe the moves that chess masters and prodigies have made, and incorporate some professional techniques into their own play.

As a new player, you may consider either watching videos or finding real chess championships nearby, in an effort to improve your own skills by learning from other relatable players. If you're competing against more experienced players yourself, who have the patience to help you, then you may ask them to walk you through a game. However, don't be tempted to mirror your adversary, as this will put you at a significant disadvantage.

Basic chess

As a beginner, who may be looking to play purely for recreational purposes, the above information will allow you to play a basic chess that complies with official regulation . However, if you're looking to advance in the future, and maybe want to compete on a more professional level- then you may consider reading about the psychology of chess. This is a very powerful tool than many advanced players use.

Likewise, there is more to chess than just the game. Many experienced players will supplement their game with tips, tricks and subtle behavioral techniques in order to play the actual player (as well as the board game). In order to train for chess, you may consider doing some relevant reading, and also in engaging in other activities that test your logic and reasoning. This may, for example, include Sudoku or a similarly challenging brain game.

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