How to Play Chess: A Step-by-Step Guide

The game of Chess, earlier known as 'chaturaṅga' was originated in India before the 6th century AD.

NOW, chess has become a part of our lives. From small children to senior citizens, millions of people across the globe play chess daily! 

Do you know how to play chess?

No matter how old you are, it's never too late to learn chess...

We have created a step-by-step guide to teach you - How to Play Chess (rules of chess, how chess pieces move and basic strategies of chess)

Introduction to Chess 


Chess is a two-player strategy board game played on a checkered board with 64 alternating color squares arranged in an 8×8 grid.

Chess is one of the oldest & most popular board game, the world has ever seen! It is a game of planning, determination & commitment!

The goal of the game is to checkmate the opponent's king. Checkmate happens when the king is under attack (in check) and cannot escape from it.


How to play Chess?



Chess Pieces –

The chess set is made up of 32 pieces, 16 for black and 16 for white. Each player starts with - 1 King, 1 Queen, 2 Rooks, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights, and 8 Pawns.

The fun part?

Every chess piece has it's own standard numbered value except 'The King' which is priceless!!

  1. 1
    King (Infinite)
  2. 2
    Queen (9 Points)
  3. 3
    Rook (5 Points)
  4. 4
    Knight (3 Points)
  5. 5
    Bishop (3 Points)
  6. 6
    Pawn (1 Point)

These values help players to make beneficial decisions during the game & plan accordingly!

Setup the Chessboard –


In the beginning, the chessboard is laid out so that each player has the white (or light) squares in the most-right corners!

The second row for both players is filled with pawns.

In the first row, Rooks go in the corners, Knights next to them, following Bishops next... The Queen is placed according to her color.

Ex - White queen is placed on the white square, similarly for black.

Last but not least, The Mighty King is placed on the remaining square in the first row!


Who makes the first move in chess –

The player with the white pieces always starts the game.

White makes the first move then black, then white, then black and so on till the game is over.

Therefore, players generally decide who will get to be white by chance or luck such as tossing a coin, etc.

Moving first is an advantage for the white player as he can start attacking right away!!


How to move the chess pieces –

There are a total of 6 pieces in a chess game - King, Queen, Rook, Bishop, Knight & Pawn

Each of them moves differently.

Basic Rules:

Pieces can -

  • Move on the empty squares
  • Move on the opponent's piece square by capturing it

Pieces can't -

  • Move pass through other pieces (except Knight)
  • Move onto a square with their own pieces


1. Pawn

Green Color - Possible Moves | Red Color - Possible Capture Moves

Do remember these colors & what they stand for as we will use it many a times in this guide!


A Pawn can move forward but capture diagonally. Pawns can only move forward one square at a time, except for their very first move where they can move forward two squares.

Pawns can only capture one square diagonally in front of them.

Pawns can never move or capture backward.

If there is another piece directly in front of a pawn he cannot move past or capture that piece.

Special Moves - En-passant & pawn promotion (we will talk about it later)


2. King 


The king is the most important yet the weakest piece of a chess game.

If your king gets captured (checkmate) you lose the game no matter how many pieces you have or how better your position is...

The King can move only one square in any direction - up, down, sideways & diagonally!


A king can never move himself to the squares where opponent pieces can capture him.

Special Moves - Castling (will talk about it later)


3. Queen 


In the game of chess, Queen is the most powerful piece with 9 points.

The Queen can move - forward, backward, sideways and diagonally as far as possible until her own piece comes in the way.

She can capture the opponent's pieces in the same direction.


4. Rook


Rook is also a powerful piece with a total of 5 points.

It can move as far as it wants but only forward, backward and sideways as well.

Pro Tip - The Rooks become more powerful when they both work together (attacking together and protecting each other).


5. Bishop


Bishop is a powerful piece with 3 points. Bishops are mostly used with queens in a game of chess.

Bishop can move as far as it wants but only diagonally. Bishops can only move diagonally on squares of the color they start on.


6. Knight


Knight is somewhere different from other pieces in a chess game, due to its moves.

A knight can move 2 squares in one direction and then make a move at an angle of 90 degrees. Just like L shape move.

A knight can move over any other piece as well.

Pro Tip - Beware of the knights! Calculate the moves of the knight as it moves toward you, as he can produce amazingly dangerous threats that can turn the whole game at any point!!


Special Moves 

Chess is not an ordinary game! Some chess pieces have superpowers, you can call it special moves -

1. Pawn Promotion 


At the surface, Pawns are the weakest piece of all but one should not under-estimate the power of a single pawn!

Pawn Promotion is a special move where a pawn is promoted to a piece - Knight, Bishop, Rook, and even a Queen (except King) when it reaches the opposite side of the board (8th rank/back rank). 

Also, it is a misconception that a pawn can only become the piece that has been already captured. This isn’t true.

Note - Only pawns can be promoted.


2. En-passant


Except promotion, Pawns have one more super-power: En-passant!

Rule - If a pawn moves 2 squares forward, and lands to the side of your pawn (jumping pass through the ability of your pawn to capture it), then you can capture the opponent's pawn by placing your pawn diagonally-forward in the direction of your opponent's pawn move!

This type of pawn capture is known as En Passant!

Note: This special move must be done immediately after the first pawn has moved past, otherwise the option to capture it is no longer available.


3. Castling -


Castling is a special move of The King!

The motive behind 'castling' is to ensure safety of the King while bringing out the side Rook into the game!

Castling is done by moving the king 2 squares over to one side (left or right) and then move the rook 2 or 3 squares left or right respectively!

Castling happens only when -

  • It is the King’s first move
  • It is the Rook's very first move as well
  • There is no piece between the King & the Rook
  • The king is not in check
  • None of the opponent's piece is covering/attacking the two squares of king move

When you castle in the direction the king is closer to the side of the board. That is called castling "kingside".

Similarly, when you castle through where the queen sat, it is called castling "queenside".

Note: Regardless of which side, the king always moves only two squares when castling. But the rook moves 2 squares in kingside castling and 3 squares while doing queenside castling!


How to win the Game/Battle Of Chess - Checkmate!!


A Classic Checkmate

The main purpose/goal of chess is to checkmate your opponent!!

Checkmate happens only when the king of one player is put into check and there is no way for the king to get out of the check.

There are mainly 3 ways a king can get out of check–

  • Move out of the way,
  • Block the check with another piece, or
  • Capture the piece who is threatening the king!

If the king can’t escape by any of the ways mentioned above, then it is called a checkmate!!

Note: The king is the only piece in a chess game that can’t be captured or removed from the board. When a checkmate happens, the game is simply declared over with a clear winner.


Draw Conditions (1/2 - 1/2)

Over 34.10% of all the games played since resulted in a draw!

Top-level chess players - International Masters (IM), Grandmasters (GM) & Super Grandmasters (SGM) have a draw rate approaching over 60%

Overall, the chances of the chess game ending in a draw are pretty high!

So, let's understand the reasons why a chess game may end in a draw -

  • By Agreement: Players agreed to draw & simply stop playing
  • Insufficient Material: Not enough pieces left to force a checkmate
  • Stalemate: No possible/legal move of the player whose turn it is, and his king is not in check
  • Threefold Repetition: If the same exact position is repeated 3 times
  • Fifty-move Rule: If 50 moves are played without any progress (nothing has been captured nor any pawn has moved a step)


Basic Chess Strategies

There are mainly four basic chess strategies a chess player should know:

1. Protect your king –

King is the most powerful as well as the most important piece of a chess game. To protect the king, get him to the corner of the board where he is usually safer.

Do not delay castling. You should do castling as soon as possible.

Note: It doesn’t matter how close you are to checkmating your opponent if your own king is checkmated first.


2. Control the center of the board –

The player who has control over center squares usually enjoys a massive advantage!

Try to control the center squares with your pieces and pawns. It will help your pieces to move freely & form an attack and at the same time, will make it harder for your opponent to find good squares for their pieces.


3. Use all of your chess pieces –

Chess pieces are like the organs of our body...

The more they are developed & active, the better!

So, try to develop all of your chess pieces as soon as possible & place them on good squares where they can contribute when you start attacking the opponent's king!

Note: Attacking the opponent's king with 1 or 2 pieces never works against any decent opponent. You will have to develop more pieces & use them in the attack.

These are the most basic strategies a chess player should know. Hope you liked them


Conclusion - Start Playing Chess

Practice makes a man perfect!

To get better at chess, you need to play lots of chess, learn from your mistakes & continuously improve!

You can play chess at home with your friends & family or play chess online or maybe try playing chess against the computer.

What's next?

  • Try Solving Chess Tactics
  • Take Chess Coaching Classes Online or near you
  • Participate in a Chess Tournament near you

Chess will be more fun with friends! Make new chess friends and start practicing with them.

Remember, Chess is more than a game! It can teach you priceless life & business lessons and develop you overall as a leader if you truly devote yourself to chess 🙂

5 thoughts on “How to Play Chess: A Step-by-Step Guide”

  1. Happy to learn about things found here.

    I am not a regular player, though I always thought I knew all chess moves. But I learned many new things after I read this article, Thanks

  2. To truly become a chess master one must be very good at strategy. Your article has been tremendously helpful and I am grateful so thank you for sharing.


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