Chess has been with us for hundreds of years but its exact creation is a bit shrouded, it is believed to have originated in India before the sixth century AD, not reaching Europe until the 1500's where the rules have now changed slightly from the original game. The game pieces have more or less remained the same over its history but some of the moves that the pieces are allowed to make have changed over the years until we reach the game that is now played in the present day.
In 1886 the first world chess championships were played and with the invention of computers it is now possible to play against a machine and even play online against fellow competitors.
Chess is played against two players who use a playing board that comprises of 64 squares, eight up the board and eight across, these alternate in colour between black and white. Each player has 16 pieces, 1 King, 1 Queen, 2 Rooks, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights and 8 pawns. One set of pieces are coloured white and the other set are coloured black. To win the game you have to checkmate the opponents King, this means that the opponent cannot avoid the King being captured when moving the piece.
The board is placed so that each player has a white square showing in the bottom right-hand corner. The pieces are set out in the following fashion, along the second row the 8 Pawns are placed across the board, in the first row the Rooks are placed in each of the bottom corners with the Knights placed next to them. The 2 Bishops are placed next to the Knights and then the King and Queen are placed in the two remaining squares, the Queen is always placed on her own colour i.e. the white queen always starts on the white square.
The player with the white pieces always makes the first move, this can be decided by either tossing or coin or the most popular method is for one of the players to hold a pawn from each colour in separate hands and the other player picking a hand, whichever colour is in that hand is the colour of the pieces that player will use.
Each of the chess pieces have their own unique moves, any piece cannot occupy the same square as a piece of their own colour and pieces cannot move through another piece, Knights do have the ability to jump over other pieces.
Strangely enough the King is the most important piece that you own but is very limited as to how it can move, the King can only move one square in any direction i.e. it can move diagonally, up, down, or across the board but you can never move the King into a square where one of your opponents pieces can capture it.
The Queen is the most powerful piece that you use, she can move in any direction the same as the King but the number of squares that she can move is not limited. She cannot move through one of her own pieces but if she lands on a square with the opponents piece she captures that and her move is over.
Pawns can only move one square forward as long as there is not another piece on that square, they can move two squares forward on their first move only, they can capture pieces if a piece is diagonally forward of them.
The Rook can move any number of squares up, down or across either direction but is not allowed to move diagonally, it cannot go through pieces and captures pieces by moving to the same square that the opponents piece is stood on.
Bishops are only allowed to move diagonally up or down in either direction, they cannot jump pieces and can only capture opponents pieces by moving to the same square.
The Knights moves are a little more complicated, they are allowed to jump over pieces and move in an “L” fashion, they can move up one square and two across in all directions or alternatively they can move up two squares and one across in all directions, they cannot occupy the same square as their own pieces but capture opponents pieces by landing on the same square as their pieces.
This may all seem a lot to take in initially but you will soon pick up the moves as you begin to play.
There are some special moves that are used as well, if a pawn reaches the final square at the opposite end of the board, this can then be replaced with any one of your pieces. This does not have to be one of your captured pieces, often they are replaced with a second Queen so that you now have two Queens on the board as long as your original one has not been captured.
One of the stranger rules is “en passant” , basically if you move a pawn two squares on its first move and you land at the side of an opponents pawn you are allowed to capture that pawn, this can only been used once by each pawn and it must be after the first move.
Castling is often used to give your King more protection, it enables you to move the King across two squares to the side and then place your Rook at the other side of the King, there are certain rules though that must be applied to allow you to use this move.
To place the King in check you move one of your pieces so that it is in the position to capture your King, the opponent will then either move the King to safety, block the threat by using another of his pieces or capture your piece that is threatening his King.
Checkmate is where the King is in a position where it can be captured and cannot move or block the threat, this is the end of the game.
It is possible to end up with a stalemate, the game is then classed as a draw, this normally happens when either both players agree or if fifty moves have taken place and neither player has moved a pawn or captured one of their opponents pieces. It could be that there are simply not enough pieces left on the board for either player to win the game.
Always keep your King well protected, often using the Castling move early in the game will help with this.
Always concentrate hard and don't carelessly place your pieces in a position where they can be captured unless it is for a reason to help your game, some pieces are worth more to you than others, this is normally rated on their ability to move around the board. There is a points table for each piece so memorising this will help you decide which pieces are more valuable to you than others as there will be times when you may have to sacrifice one of your own pieces. The points for each piece are as follows:-
Try to control the board from the start of the game, using the centre of the board is often more advantageous than being held back at you rend of the board, in your opening moves try to get your pieces out so that you have more options as to where you can move them to.
Always think 2-3 moves ahead of the move that you are making, this will give you a good game plan to work to, if your opponent makes a move that thwarts this plan then re-think immediately and move again.
Play as much as possible, try to invest in a good chess book that can explain several different strategies or use an online chess game so that you can practice against the computer, these normally have different levels so that you can start at the easiest and progress to higher levels as you improve.
Unless you have reached a high enough standard to play in competitions, treat each game as a learning process, you will lose a few games when you first start playing but don't let this put you off, in time you will start to win games and your confidence will grow.
Chess used to be regarded as a bit of a closed world but nowadays more and more people have taken up this game so give it a go, it can be fun and very rewarding!