Basic Chess Rules


The game is played on an 8 × 8 chessboard - which means there are eight rows and eight columns distinguished. White and black squares are arranged in each column and each row alternately. In chess, numbering the squares is very important, therefore the columns are marked with a-h letters, and the rows with 1 to 8 digits.

Chess notation

Chess is a royal game and the games played between chess grandmasters raise strong feelings. Habitually, positions on the chessboard in such games are analysed in detail- and thus the game notation is applied. Nonetheless, anyone who takes to chess a bit and wants to play it more frequently, will quickly understand how useful it is to become familiar with chess notation.

In chess notation each square has its symbol, which allows you to determine where exactly a figure or a pawn is on the chessboard. Each figure has also its symbol:

K (King)
Q (Queen)
R (Rook)
B (Bishop)
N (Knight)
  (Pawn – lack of the letter symbol)
How to use chess notation?

If you want to describe to another chess player the current situation on the board, and you can see that the white king has moved to the e2 square, all you have to do is save it as: "Ke2".

If there is a situation when two identical figures can take the same square, you must specify additionally the exact figure, i.e. indicate a column or a row where it is located. We know, for example, that both white rooks could be in h4 square, then it should be added that the rook in column "a" is to make the move, so we will save it as: "Wah4".

Chess players created other symbols as well, which facilitate saving the particular situation on the chessboard:

+ Check
# or x Checkmate
: Capture
o-o Castling short (kingside)
o-o-o Castling long (queenside)
Chess pieces ♚ ♜ ♝ ♛ ♞

♚ King

A key chess figure which can move in any direction, but only one square. There is no such situation on the board when the white and black kings could be placed next to each other - there must be at least one square between them.

The king cannot be captured by any of the opponents' pieces – this figure is placed on the board from the beginning until the end of each game.

♜ Rook

It moves along straight lines, horizontally or vertically, in any number of squares - provided that no other piece is standing on the rook's path.

♝ Bishop

At the beginning of the game, each player has on their side a bishop on a light square, i.e. a light-square bishop (in short: a light bishop), and a bishop placed on a dark square, i.e. a dark-square bishop (a dark bishop).

Each of the bishops can move only diagonally by any number of squares, as long as there are no other pieces on their way. The light bishop can only move along white squares, and the dark bishop along black squares.


It is the strongest chess figure, it can move in the same way as both the rook and the bishop, i.e. vertically, horizontally as well as diagonally. And like the knight and the rook, the queen moves along any number of squares.

How to distinguish squares dedicated to the queen and the king?
The white queen is initially placed on a white square while the black queen on a black square of the board.

♞ Knight

It follows L-shaped moves – i.e. it moves two squares straight along either horizontal or vertical line, and then turns one square to the left or to the right. The knight is the only figure that has the ability to jump over other pieces during the move.


♙ Pawn

It is the weakest piece of chess and it can only move forward. In its first move, the pawn may move one or two squares forward, while in subsequent moves - only one square. Yet, pawns beat only diagonally.

En passant

During a chess game pawns and figures may make special moves in certain situations. One of them is the so called: en passant i.e. capturing in passing.

It can be made by a pawn solely, but under certain conditions:
• the opponent's pawn made the first move two squares forward and as a result, was placed in the square next to the pawn which is to make the en passant;
• the capturing pawn takes this free square, which was detoured by the captured pawn (i.e. the pawn that had moved two squares forward);
• the en passant cannot be postponed, thus it is better to decide on the pawn's promotion or underpromotion, e.g. to a knight.

The pawn’s promotion

If the pawn manages to go through the entire chessboard and to reach the final line on the opponent's side, then its transformation (promotion/underpromotion) to any chess figure of the same colour - except the king, is possible.

Usually, the pawn changes into a queen (promotion) - the queen is the strongest figure, so the player usually strives to have an additional queen in the team. However, there are situations when, from a strategic point of view, it is better to decide to change the pawn into another figure (underpromotion), e.g. a knight, in order to lead to the mate.


This is a unique move by both the king and the rook of the same colour simultaneously, and its purpose is to shield the king, i.e. provide him with the additional protection.

During castling, the king moves two squares towards the rook, and during the same move the rook moves over the king so as to find itself on the square on the king's opposite side.

We distinguish two castles: long or short, depending on how many squares the rook moves across.

Conditions that must be met to perform the castle are as follows:
• the king and the rook participating in the castle, haven't done any move since the beginning of the game;
• there must be no other figure between the rook and the king;
• the entire path that the king goes along during the castle, cannot be attacked by the opponent - that is, the square the king is on, the ones he passes and the square he eventually moves to, cannot be attacked.

Winning and... losing the game

Winning in chess consists in blocking the opponent's king in such a manner that he is not able to defend himself in any way. The attack on the king is called a check, and its goal is to create a situation where the king would be threatened with the capture in the next move.

In such situation, i.e. when the king is in check, the player may try to defend himself and:
• get the king out of the square that is in check;
• shelter the king with another pawn or figure;
• capture the piece or figure which attacks the king.

If the player cannot defend the king, it means that the checkmate follows and the game is over. The one who mates, wins.

Draw and stalemate

Chess does not always end in victory of one of the players - sometimes there is a situation on the board when neither player is able to mate, in particular, if:

  • only two kings remain on the chessboard;
  • there is only one figure apart from the kings, remaining on the chessboard: a bishop or a knight.

It also happens that players jointly decide to end the game in a draw, although they could continue the game and they both have the chance to win.

A special type of the draw is the stalemate. It occurs when one of the parties cannot make any appropriate move while this player's king is not attacked.

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