May 4th 2011

It’s time you finally learn chess

I recently was baby-sitting and the kid asked me if I wanted to play chess.

“Uh, sure,” I replied, realizing I had only an inkling how.

After a few eye rolls (from him), I felt pretty ignorant. How do I not know this? I thought.

And that’s when I decided I wanted to learn. And you should, too.

First, the goal in the game of chess is to capture your opponent’s king before your opponent captures yours. Remember that!

Step One: Know the Gear

We’ll assume you know what a chess board already looks like. The white square should be at the bottom right when it is placed between you and your opponent.

Both players each have 6 different types of chess pieces. There are 8 pawns, 2 rooks, 2 knights, 2 bishops, 1 queen, and 1 king. The pawns are the smallest pieces, the rooks look like  little castles, the knights look like  horses, the bishops have balls on top, the queen is the second tallest, with a crown, and the king is the tallest piece and has a cross on top.

One player is white and one is black.

Step Two: Set up the Pieces

To set up the pieces, put the rooks on the two outside corners of the first row. Beside those, put a knight, then a bishop. The queen goes on the same row on the same color box as your colour (so if you are black, it goes on black). The king goes on the other. Put all the pawns on the second row.

Step Three: Learn the Lingo

Rows are ranks, columns are files. Each rank has a number, and each file has a letter. Files are listed first, then the rank. The rook, for example, is A1, the bishop B1, and so on.

When you land on their piece, you capture it.

Step Four: Learn their Moves

Each piece moves in a different way. But first, know that you can’t occupy a space that you already occupy, and if you move onto a space with the other player’s piece, you capture it.

The rook can only move up and down, and side to side. It cannot go diagonally or sideways.

The bishop can only move diagonally.

The queen is a combination of the rook and the bishop: it can move side to side, up and down, and diagonally.

The king is exactly like the queen, except it can only go one space at a time.

The knight can only move in an L-shape in a total of three boxes:  2-straight 1-sideways, or 1-straight 2-sideways. And it can jump to get there.

The pawns can move one space forward, with a few exceptions. If it is their first move, they can move one or TWO spaces. When it captures another piece, it can only capture it by moving one box diagonally and forward. When it reaches the other end of the board, it can be any piece… So you’l want it to be queen.

Step Five: Trapping the King

So basically, you want to try to capture and trap the king.

There are three times in which a king is threatened. Check, Stalemate, and Checkmate.

Check is when the king is being threatened. When you move a piece so it could capture the king unless your opponent does something to prevent it, then you say, “Check”. If your opponent doesn’t defend his king, he loses. So basically, he has to get rid of the problem by capturing the piece who has threatened his, or move his king.

Checkmate is when the king is in check, but has no way to escape. Any move, and it will be in check. Basically, you win.

Stalemate is when the king is safe, but you can’t move it because the king will be captured. Since you can’t pass, it is stalemate…. aka a tie.

Step Five: Playing to Win

Once you learn how to play, you need to learn how to play to win. After all, that’s the only time games are fun, right?

First, understand that kings are the best. Then the queen, the rooks, the bishops, the knights. Pawns are the worse. So if it’s between the bishop and the pawn, lose the latter.

Next, the middle four squares of the board are the best. They give you the most control. So try to get in there.

Now, don’t send off your queen into the board right away. Keep her where she is until you have to move her.

Use your pieces together. Plan ahead, and see how one move will affect the next.

Any other tips? Add them below! And good luck playing chess. Now go win against some kid and feel pretty good about it.

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Andrew's Biography

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Andrew loves art and design, and pursues his studies in his final year at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He loves seeking out new artists and giving them their dues, and in his spare time, focuses on his own abstract sculpture.