CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #4 – All About Pieces (Part 2)

In part 1 of “All About Pieces”, we talked about how the King, Queen, and Rook all move as well as how many points each are worth.  Here, in part 2, we’ll talk about the Bishop, Knight, and Pawn.

The Bishop

The Bishop (worth 3 points)  is able to move along the diagonal as many spaces as he wants.  You begin the game with 2 Bishops: 1 on light-colored squares and 1 on dark-colored squares.  The Bishops may never change; that is to say a Bishop that starts on a dark square will always be on a dark square and a Bishop on a light square will always be on a light square.  Here’s an illustration of how the Bishop moves.

The Knight

The Knight, also worth 3 points,  is a little trickier to master. It is the only piece capable of jumping over other pieces (after all, it’s a horse)!  The Knight moves in an “L” shape of 2 spaces (either horizontal or vertical) followed by 1 space (vertical if you moved horizontal first, or horizontal if you moved vertical first).  This sounds tricky, I know, but if you count the spaces in your head, it becomes much easier.  Just count 2 spaces either up/down or left/right, and then move in 1 space in a direction that would complete an “L” or “J” shape.  Here’s an illustration to hopefully make the point clearer (I chose a slightly different type of picture for you so you can see the actual L shapes).

The Pawn

The Pawn is the least valuable piece on the board at a whopping 1 point.  The pawn moves forward in a straight line when it’s moving, but attacks diagonally.  On a Pawn’s first move, it may move either 1 space or 2.  On all other moves (either moving or attacking) it can only go 1 space at time.  All other pieces attack the same way they move, which is what makes the Pawn difficult to remember for some as it breaks the rules all other pieces live by.

It can actually make one more “special” move, but I don’t want to tell you about it now and confuse you further.  So just know that the Pawn moves forward but attacks diagonally, and that on it’s first move it can move either 1 space or 2 spaces, but then only 1 space each time after that.  To illustrate this, here’s a picture where the dots are spaces the pawns may move to and the x’s are spaces they attack (you’ll notice the pawn on d2 is still in it’s starting location so it can move 1 space or 2, while the pawn at f5 has already moved and so it can only move 1 space at a time).

So that’s how all the pieces move.  Try practicing the movements and commit them to memory before you start playing any games (though, I’m sure if you explain to a friend/family member you’re learning how pieces move, they’ll help you if you make a mistake).

Now that you know how the pieces move, you’re about 90% done with learning how to play chess.  Now you just need to learn how to win!  That’s coming in the next blog.

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at [email protected]

CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #3- All About Pieces (Part 1)

In order to become a good chess player (or even just a chess player who knows what they’re doing), you need to know what the pieces are, how they move, what they can and can’t do, and how many points they’re worth

Each player has the same pieces and the same number of each piece to start with.  Each player begins the game with 8 Pawns, 2 Rooks, 2 Knights, 2 Bishops, 1 King and 1 Queen.  Each piece moves in a special way and each is worth a point value (used to figure out if you’re winning or losing at any point in the game, not counting positional advantages).  It’s a lot of information, so to make it more manageable, I’ve split it into 2 parts.  Part 1 deals with the King, Queen and Rook, while part 2 deals with the minor pieces and Pawns.

I’m going to start with the King.  Most chess instructors will begin a lesson on pieces with the Pawn because it’s worth the least amount of points.  However, the Pawn is perhaps the trickiest piece to use for someone just learning how to play.  I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed with the first piece, so we’ll save the Pawn for last and start with the piece that has the least moving power…

The King

The King is the most valuable piece on the board.  He is worth an infinite amount of points if you capture him.  Infact, he is SO valuable, that you can actually win the game just by THREATENING to capture the king, but we’ll get to that in the next blog.  Right now, you need to know 2 things about the king: how he moves and how many points he’s worth.  As stated, the king is worth infinity points! Pretty cool, huh?  To make up for his incredible point value, though, he is the piece with the least amount of movement.  He is able to move in any direction he wants, but only one space at a time.  There is one exception to this called “castling”, which we’ll get into shortly.  To illustrate the his usual movement, here is a picture of a king on the board.  The black dots indicate what spaces the King can move to from the square he’s currently on:

The next valuable piece is the other member of the royal family.

The Queen

The Queen is worth 9 points (not nearly as high as infinity, but still much higher than any other piece on the board). In many cases, capturing the Queen will give you a much more sure victory over your opponent!  However, the Queen is very hard to catch.  Like the King, she’s able to move in any direction she wants. The reason she’s so hard to capture, though, is that she can move as many spaces as she wants (as long as she doesn’t have to go through any other pieces… only the Knight is capable of such a maneuver)!  The diagram below shows the queen in a spot on the board, and all the spaces she can move to in one turn.

The next piece we’ll look at are the palace walls themselves…

The Rook

You begin the game with 2 Rooks, each one worth 5 points.  Rooks are able to move horizontally or vertically (your choice) as many spaces as they want (again, as long as they don’t have to go through another piece).  Here’s an illustration to show it’s movement potential.

Remember that move I mentioned called “Castling”?  It involves the King and the Rook.  Castling is a way of protecting the King.  It may be done by each opponent only once.  You may castle to either the King side or the Queen side.  When you castle, you will move the King TWO spaces toward the Rook, and then put the Rook immediately to the other side of the King.  It will look like this (the animation demonstrates for both white and black how to castle on the king side and how to castle on the queenside):

I will likely go into more detail of castling (when to do it, when not to do it, how to do it, how not to do it, and why you’d want to do it at all) in a future blog.  But for now, you just need to know what the move is… the King goes 2 spaces toward the Rook, the Rook goes on the other side of the King.

In Part 2 of this lesson, we’ll talk about the “minor pieces” (Bishops and Knights) and Pawns.

CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #2- What is Chess?

Chess is a 2 player game that originated in India sometime in the 6th century.  Over the centuries, the game has been modified and altered as it became more global.  The pieces changed names and form (from infantry, calvary, elephants and chariotry to pawns, bishops, knights and rooks), new pieces were added (the queen), rules were added (castling and stalemate) and other rules were changed (pawns moving 2 spaces on their first move and en passant).  What started as a military game for kings to play morphed into a game that gentlemen would play over tea and then into an international sport.

But what IS chess?

Chess is a 2 player game of strategy that is played on a checkered board of 64 squares of alternating colors between dark and light (usually black and white, blue and white, red and white, etc.)  It looks like this:

This board of checkered tiles is numbered vertically 1-8 and horizontally a-h.  This is for the purpose of taking notation which is how to write down the moves made by you and you’re opponent (we’ll cover notation in a future blog).  So, using this number and alpabet system for columns and rows, a labeled chess board will look something like this:

On this board are pieces.  Those pieces are:

The Pawn

The Rook

The Knight

The Bishop

The King

The Queen

These pieces are also dark and light, usually matching the colors on the board.  One player will have all light-colored pieces and the other player will have all dark colored pieces.  Each player starts the game with 1 King, 1 Queen, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights, 2 Rooks, and 8 Pawns.  the line up on the 2 rows closest to the player.  First row will go Rooks on the outside opposite squares, Knights on next medial squares, Bishops just medial to those and the King and Queen on the two center squares with the queen going on her color (light queen on a light square, dark queen on a dark square).  The second row is all pawns.  The two players’ sides of the boards will be mirror images of one another and when finished should look like this:

Starting with the player with the light-colored pieces, the two chess players will begin moving their pieces across the board to attack one another in an attempt to capture the King (we’ll go over exactly how the pieces movie in the next blog).

When one player is in a position to capture the king on their next move, and there is absolutely nothing their opponent can do to stop it, it is said that the defending player is in checkmate and they lose.

There are 3 outcomes of any chess game: win, lose, or draw.  You may win or lose via checkmate or resignation.  A draw can happen in one of several ways including a draw offer, stalemate, perpetual check, or the 50-move rule (we will go in more detail of ways to draw in a future blog).

A single game of chess can last anywhere from 2 minutes to several months, depending on the time control used in any particular game (time control will be covered in a future blog).

There are numerous variants of chess that players like to play in a casual atmosphere (these variants will be covered in, yep you guessed it, a future blog), but it is a good idea to master a regular game of chess before attempting any of these variants.

Many people enjoy playing chess casually with friends or online.  You can also play competitively in tournaments which are held around the world at various levels of skill.  Playing in tournaments can be a great way to play opponents you may never get a chance to as well as gain the opportunity to win cash and prizes.  In a future blog, we’ll discuss how to find local tournaments, what to expect in tournament play, and how to decipher the postings of how a particular tournament will be run.

In short, what is chess?  A 2-player military tactical board game that’s been played for centuries, is easy to learn but hard to master, will improve your strategic thinking and problem solving skills, and is fun and can be profitable.

Ready to learn the particulars of how to play?  Then bookmark this blog and get ready to learn!

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at [email protected]

CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #1 – An Introduction to a New Blog Series

Greetings to all my fellow chess players and a big warm “hello” to all the would-be/future chess players of the world who’ve come across this blog.  This will be a new chess blog series titled “Chess Noob”, and it will be geared primarily to beginning/novice players (both adults and children and possibly even parents of new chess players).

So what will a chess blog for novice players entail?  “Chess Noob” will start out simple (the rules of the game, how to play, etc.) and work through everything you need to know to learn the game of chess or (if you already play) how to get better.

WARNING: This blog is not at all geared for intermediate or advanced players, so if you fit in one of those categories you may be very bored…  However, since we’ll be working our way up we may eventually get into the intermediate work.

My goal with this blog is to get someone from the point of going “what’s chess?” to having them play at a level that they can do well in chess tournaments (although this blog alone won’t get you there, you’ll need to actually practice playing as well!)  I won’t be turning anyone into a world champion with these blogs (as I’m nowhere near that advanced myself), but together we’ll coach you into someone that can, at the very least, beat all your friends (unless you’re friends with the Polgar sisters… then you’re on your own!)

I’ll be taking you through everything (literally) from the start.  The first blog after this you see will be to tell you what the game actually is and it’s rules.  After that we’ll talk about the pieces and how they move, a few openings, tactics (starting off simplistic and increasing in difficulty as we go), what to expect at chess tournaments, how ratings work and what they mean, how to help your chess-playing child improve their game while still having fun, and more topics (to be honest, I only know my plans for the first 10 or 12 topics so far… after that I’m going to just wing it).

So please, I invite you, bookmark this blog so you can come back every week to see what’s new to learn and let’s grow together as chess players.  And if there are any topics you want me to cover, feel free to leave a comment telling me!

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at [email protected]

CategoriesChess For Beginners

Basic Checkmates

As a beginner it’s important to learn which material imbalances lead to a clear win. In this post I’m going to show two very basic checkmates that every beginning chess player should know. The first is checkmating a lone enemy king with your own king and queen. The first concept to understand is that you cannot checkmate the enemy king in the middle of the board. The king must be driven to the edge of the board. The way you do this is by using your queen to cut off escape squares. Take a look at the graphic below:

In the above diagram, white has two moves that will lock the enemy king on the edge of the board. Do you see what they are? They are Qg7 and Qb7. In this case however Qg7 is superior, can you see why? Once the enemy king is driven to the edge of the board it’s a simple matter of moving your own king to support your queen as she gives checkmate. The final position usually looks like this:


Notice how the king is supporting the queen while she is delivering checkmate.

The second basic checkmate a beginner should learn is checkmating a lone king with a king and rook. This checkmate is a little bit harder because it requires the use of temporizing moves. Once again the king must driven to the edge of the board. Let’s take a look at the diagram below where it’s white turns to move:

Notice how if it were black turns to move and our opponent played Ke8 we could play Ra8#. It is however our turn to move. If we play an immediate Kf6 black will escape via Ke8. The key in this position is to make a waiting move. Either Rb7 or Rc7 work fine. Then if black plays Ke8 we checkmate by either Rb8 or Rc8. More likely black will play Kg8, and then the winning sequence is:

1. Rc7 Kg8

2. Kf6 Kh8

3. Kg6 Kg8

4. Rc8#

The final position is in the diagram below.

Although these positions are basic for most chess players, do not underestimate their importance. A good way to practice is to set up the position against a computer and keep practicing until you win every time. Good luck!

CategoriesChess GamesChess MidgameChess PlayersChess Puzzles

How To Improve Your Tactical Vision

It’s been said that chess is 99% tactics. Whether that is true is a matter of debate. Nevertheless, if you fail to see the tactical possibilities on the chess board you will most likely lose the game. The great thing is that studying tactics and combinations is fun! Combinations are a big part of what gives chess its artistic flair. So now that we know tactics are important how do we get better at them? Here I’ll outline a simple but effective plan of study.

1)      Solve Chess Diagrams Every Day. Get a book of chess problems and combinations that is on the market. Practice solving the problems for around 30 minutes a day. Try to work through the problems slowly. Don’t rush; make sure you see why the move you are making wins. Visualize the series of moves to the end, which brings us to…

2)      Work to Improve Your Visualization Skills. Try closing your eyes and visualizing the board. Try mentally dividing the board into parts. Is e4 a white square or a dark square? What about d4? Don’t worry if it’s difficult at first, just keep practicing.

3)      Analyze Your Games. Look for spots where you had trouble and analyze them afterwards. Try to remember how you were thinking at that time. If you made a mistake try to think why you chose that particular move. Did you not see what your opponent was threatening? Were you just so caught up with your own moves that you had a blind spot? These are common errors that chess players make.

4)      Study Games from Great Tactical Players. Pick a player with a highly tactical style, maybe Alexander Alekhine or Gary Kasparov. Play over and study their games.

Try sticking with this study plan long term. Thirty minutes each day is over 180 hours a year you will have spent improving your tactics!