Learn About Chess in 5 Minutes
May 10, 2020


By allin5minutes

What is Chess?

Chess is a strategy game for 2 players and it is played on a chessboard consisting of 64 squares of alternating colors.

Each player begins with 16 pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns. The most powerful of them is the queen, while the least powerful is the pawn.

The objective of a game of chess is to checkmate the opponent’s king by placing it under an inescapable threat of capture. There are also several ways a game can end in a draw.



Chess is played on a square chessboard. The 8 rows are called ranks and are denoted with numbers from 1 to 8. The 8 columns are called files and are denoted with letters from ‘a’ to ‘h’. The colors of the squares alternate and are called light and dark squares. The chessboard is placed with the dark square to the left of each player.

The chess pieces are arranged the same way each game. The second rank is filled with pawns. The rooks go in the corners, then the knights next to them, followed by the bishops, and finally the queen, who always goes on her own matching color, and the king.

Moving pieces

Pieces cannot move through others, and can never move onto a square with one of their own pieces. However, they can be moved to take the place of an opponent’s piece which is then captured.

Here are the legal moves of each piece:

  • The king moves one square in any direction. The king cannot move to any square where it is threatened by an opposing piece.
  • The queen can move any distance in any direction on the ranks, files, and diagonals.
  • The rook can move any distance along a rank or file.
  • The bishop can move any number of squares diagonally.
  • The knight can move two squares in one direction, and then one more move at a 90 degree angle. Knights are also the only pieces that can move over other pieces.
  • The pawn can move only forward. In the first move a pawn makes, it can move forward 2 squares. Afterwards, it can only move one square at a time. The pawn may only capture an opponent’s piece that is on a square diagonally in front of it on an adjacent file. If a pawn reaches the last row, it can transform in any other piece, except for a king.

En passant

If a pawn moves two squares forward from its starting position, an opposing pawn may capture the first pawn as if it had only moved one square.


When castling, the king moves closer to the right or left side of the board, and the rook will move closer to the center of the board, past and next to the king. You can only do castling if the king and the rook have not previously moved, the king is not in check and it does not pass through a square that is attacked by an enemy piece.

End of the game 

The purpose of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king. This happens when the king is put in check and cannot get out of it. If a king cannot escape checkmate then the game is over.

There are multiple ways a game can end in a draw:

  • The game reaches a stalemate (when the player has no legal move and he is not in check)
  • The same exact position is repeated three times
  • Fifty consecutive moves have been played where neither player has moved a pawn or captured a piece
  • There are not enough pieces on the board to force a checkmate
  • The players agree to a draw

Interesting facts

The longest game of chess that is theoretically possible is 5949 moves.

The word “checkmate” comes from the Persian phrase “shah mat” which translates to “The king is dead” in English.

The second book ever printed in the English language was a chess book.

A 2012 survey found that “chess players make up one of the largest communities in the world: 605 million adults play chess regularly”.

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