CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #6 – Castling

Before we get started talking about a few special moves you can do in chess, let’s give you the answers to the quiz from the last blog on if each position was a Check, Checkmate, or Stalemate.


1) Checkmate!  This sort of Checkmate is also referred to as a “smother-mate”.  Notice how the black King is completely blocked in by his own pieces?  This allows white to Checkmate black using nothing but his Knight!  These are always fun because your opponent is almost helping you to beat him.

2) Checkmate!  The white King is in Check by black’s Pawn at e2.  He cannot take this attacking pawn because then the white King would capture him.  He also cannot move to any other square because he’d be under attack by other pieces (a Bishop at e1, a Rook at c1 and c2, and the opposing King at c2 and d2).  There is also nothing that can intercept.

3) Stalemate!  Well… at least if we say it’s black’s turn!  If it’s black’s turn, black is unable to move his king anywhere without being attacked by either the Pawn at g7 or the opposing King.  And his other pieces are blocked and unable to move.  If it’s White’s move, he can win very easily in a couple of moves.  But for the sake of this quiz, we’ll say it’s black’s move and he’s been stalemated.

4) Check! The white Queen threatens the black King, but black can simply intercept with the Knight.

5) Checkmate!  This is a NEARLY identical position as 4.  The only change is that now black cannot use the Knight to intercept the white Queen, because then white’s Rook at c8 would be able to capture the King.

How’d you do?  If you missed any, go back and look at the position again to figure out why you got it wrong.

Moving on… Today, we’re going to talk about 3 special moves: Castling, En Passant, and Pawn Promotion.  These are moves that can be done, but I didn’t include them in our initial discussion of how the pieces move (with exception of Caslting) because they’re special circumstance moves.  But we’re going to talk about them now that you have a better understanding of what’s going on.


As mentioned before, when you Castle, you are giving your King a little extra protection.  Thank of it as moving him from the courtyard to the nearly impenetrable tower!  You can Castle either to the kingside or queenside by moving the King 2 spaces toward the Rook, and then placing that Rook immediately to the other side of the King.  This is demonstrated n this illustration:

You may Castle only once per game, and there are a few rules about Castling you must obey.

1) The King must not have moved from his starting square before you Castle.

2) The Rook that you Castle in-tandem with the King must not have moved from its starting location.

3) You cannot Castle while in Check.  If a piece is attacking your King, you can’t escape it by Castling.

4) You cannot Castle THROUGH Check.  If a piece is not attacking your King, but it’s pointed sniper-style at one of the spaces your King would have to go through for a Castle, then you cannot Castle.  This last rule may seem a bit tricky, but it’s very simple.

In this picture, you can Castle:

In this picture, you cannot castle because the King would have to move through a space that’s being targeted by black’s Bishop:

Castling is usually a good idea because it gives the King extra protection by placing it behind a wall of Pawns one one side and the Rook on the other, as well as getting it further out of reach of the opposing Queen.  ONLY Castle, though, if it puts your King in a more protected area.  For instance, in the following image, you would NOT want to Castle kingside, because the King would actually become MORE exposed to danger.

Do you see how Castling now would cause problems for white?  If  white castles, then black will bring his light-square Bishop to h3, which threatens a 1-move checkmate by the Queen taking the pawn at g2:

White can try to stop this mate by pushing the g-pawn, but then he loses a rook for a bishop:

Or if he moves the Knight to h4, he’ll lose a Knight and a Pawn for a Bishop and a torn open king side:

So while Castling is USUALLY a good defense, keep your eyes peeled to make sure it actually protects you.

CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #5 – Check, Checkmate, Stalemate

Now that you know how the pieces move (at least, you do if you read the last 2 blogs… if you haven’t read them, please go back and do so now), you need to learn how to win!  There are two ways to win: 1) get your opponent in checkmate, 2) your opponent realizes it’s futile for him/her to continue and simply resigns.  Be careful though, as your opponent could try to force a draw from a stalemate.

So what do “check”, “checkmate” and “stalemate” mean, and what are the differences?  Well I’m glad you asked!  Let’s start with the one that’s not a game-ender…


In “All About Pieces (part 1)” I made the comment that the King is worth so many points you can actually potentially win the game just by threatening to capture him.  Well, that’s if the threat is so powerful there’s nothing the opponent can do.  If the opponent CAN stop the threat, the threat is simply called Check.

Check is when a piece is placed in a position where it threatens to capture the King on its next move, BUT the side being threatened is able to put a stop to the threat.  Let’s look at a couple examples.  (Please forgive the numbers and letters not being as neat as they should be.  My chess software doesn’t have the board labeled, so I have to do it myself in MSPaint).

In this position, the black bishop has the white king in Check- it is threatening to capture the King on it’s next move.  Black does not win, however, because White can easily block the check by pushing his c-Pawn (the pawn in front of his queen-side bishop), or by moving his Knight to c3.

There are 3 ways to get out of Check.  1) intercept- this is the example I just used, where you put something in the way of the check. 2) capture the attacking piece. 3) move the King out of Check.  Here’s one more example of a check, which the threatened side has the choice of doing all 3 options:

The white Bishop has the black King in Check.  Black has numerous options here.  He can capture the white bishop with his h-Pawn, he can block the Bishop’s path with either one of his Knights, he can block with his light-squared Bishop, he can block with his Queen, or he can simply move the King out of the way at D2.

So what’s the difference between Check and Checkmate?


Checkmate is when you put your opponent in Check (threatening the King), and there is nothing they can do to stop it! For instance

In this position, the white Queen has the black King in Checkmate.  Why?  Well, the King is obviously in Check because the Queen threatens to capture the King on her next move.  With the Queen so close to the King, there aren’t any spaces for any piece to intercept. There are no pieces that can take the Queen (do you see that if the King captures the Queen, white’s Bishop will then capture the King?), and anywhere the King tries to flee to, the Queen will capture him.  The Queen threatens the King and there’s nothing black can do to stop it, black is therefore in Checkmate, and has lost the game.

So then, what’s the difference between Checkmate and Stalemate?


A Stalemate is a draw.  It’s where one side is NOT in check, but anything he does will cause him to BE in Check.  Let’s look at an example.

In this diagram, it’s currently black’s move.  He is in Stalemate.  Sure, it looks like white wins because he has a King and a Queen left where as black has only his King.  But, like I said, it’s black’s move… and he can’t go anywhere!  In his current position, the black King is NOT in check!  However, anywhere he moves, he would be placing himself in check (he’d get taken by the Queen at d1, d2, c2 and b1; he’d get taken by the white King at c2 and b2).  This is therefore a Stalemate and counts as a draw!

Let’s end this blog with a little Quiz.  Below are 5 positions.  See if you can figure out if each position is a Check, Checkmate, or Stalemate.  I’ll post the answers in the next blog, where we’ll talk more in depth about that special move I told you about once before: Castling.




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]