Chess a Game for the Ages

chess tournamentChess has been around in one form or another for over 1500 years. It is believed to have begun in India (though some claim China). From India it spread to Persia and from Persia it spread to Southern Europe. In Europe, in the 15th century, it evolved into a game very similar to our modern version.

Chess is one of the best examples of a game governed by strategy and luck is almost nonexistent. Both players have the same pieces and they are set up mirroring each other. It is not like cards where a player can be dealt a superior hand and win using that advantage. There are no “lucky” rolls of the dice or other random occurrences. Nothing is hidden from the site of either competitor. It is all there for everyone to see. If two players (or computers even) could play the “perfect game of chess” it would result in a draw every time.

Those who study and write about chess usually have to break it down into more manageable pieces as there is way too much to teach if that is not done. Commonly, they break up the game into three distinct parts when discussing it. These three parts are “the opening”, “the middlegame”, and “the end game”. In actual play it is not alway clear when one part of the game turns into another as they often flow slowly into each other. Of course the first few moves (meaning both sides) are always the opening. After that it can get muddy.


The Opening:

This is the beginning moves of both players. For simplicity sake we will say that the first 10 moves or so are the opening. Both sides should be seeking to develop their pieces to better squares than they started from. Pawn moves are usually made for letting pieces out and the king is usually castled.  


The End Game:

This is where there are few pieces left on the board. Again for simplicity, we will say that when both sides have 2 or fewer pieces left (pawns are not counted), the end game starts. Usually the kings can become active and pawn promotion becomes a major possibility for forcing a win.


The Middlegame:

This is the stage between the opening and the middlegame. This is the part of the game which has the biggest effect on the outcome. It is where the most complicated part of the game takes place. Players need to consider force and space and time and pawn structure and king safety among other things.


What do I enjoy about the game most?

I love that there are so many different possible positions. Just the first 10 moves in chess (white and black) can be played approximately 169,518,829,100,544,000,000,000,000,000 different ways. Wow, that is a big number. What this means is that chess is filled with almost limitless possibilities. I love that there are no dice or cards or any other outside random forces influencing the game. You won’t be winning and then because of a bad dice roll or a poor hand dealt to you (which you have absolutely no control over) lose everything. The position is basically what you make of it and how you and your opponent play it. I love that there are no hidden forces to try and figure out or guess at. All the pieces are there, nothing is hidden from either player. I like that your ability and brain power determine the outcome more than any other factors. It would seem that luck does play a tiny part, but certainly a smaller role than just about any other game.  I love how there are so many books and videos out there so that you can increase your ability if you so desire. Also, you are not dependant on a chess teacher if you don’t want one (or want to pay one). Plus, I love that you don’t even need a human opponent to play or train against. Computer chess has come a long way. To me chess seems so primal (in an intellectual way).

It is man vs man (or women vs women, and even woman vs man).


Chess Championships:

Women's_World_Chess_Championship_Tirana_2011People have claimed or been recognized as the World Champion (or been at least acknowledged as the strongest player in the world) for a long time. It was not until relatively recently that official tournaments and championships began. The first time the title was official considered as result of a mtch played by the two best players of the time was in 1886.

This match was between Johann Zukertort and Wilhelm Steinitz. IIt was won by Steinitz.

Currently the World Chess Champion is Magnus Carlsen of Norway.


How do I start this wonderful game.

First buy a chess set. They can be very cheap or very expensive and everything in between so it totally depends on your wallet and your tastes.

You will need to read the rules next. These should come with the set. If not for some reason then you can go online and easily pull these up. (Note tournaments usually have a more strict rule set than is used in a typical “friendly” game.)

It would probably be a good idea to read a book or two on playing chess. If you want to get really good you should probably read one or more books on the opening and the middlegame and the end game.

Also a book or two on tactics and also on strategy. Tactics are moves that immediately affect the board for a gain (usually a piece or pawn) and strategy is moving pieces when no tactical options are available or are desirable.

Then play and have fun. Buying a good chess computer is also a good option as you will always have someone to play and many will even help with tutoring you to various degrees.


The Pieces, their names, and what they do.

Chess Pieces

The king is the piece with the crown that has a cross. It is the tallest of all the pieces

The Queen also has a crown and is the second tallest piece, she stands next to the king.

The knights are easy to tell because they look like horses.

The rooks are also easy to tell because they look like the towers of a castle.

The bishops are the pieces with the pointed hats.

The pawns are the eight shortest pieces.


Setting up the Boardchess board set up

You take the pieces of one color and your opponent takes the pieces of the other color. Let’s say you’re going to play with the white pieces. You both setup the pieces on the board. (See picture)

Put the rooks on the corners. The knights go next to the rooks. The bishops go next to the knights and the king and queen go in the middle with the queen on the square of it’s own color. So if you are playing white, the white queen goes on the light colored square. Now put all the pawns on the second row.

You will then take turns moving the pieces. (The rule is that White goes first.) Then black goes next and so on.

The main goal and object of the game is to try and capture your opponent’s king and not let your king get captured.

The first one to capture the opponent’s king wins the game.


Chess Piece Movements:


Chess Pwn black


The pawns basically can only move forward and one step at a time. So if you want to move a pawn on your turn you can only move it one square forward. But you have to remember that the pawn is a special pieces and it can sometimes do other things that can be a real game changer for either side.


white queen chess


The king can also only move one step at a time, but he can move in any direction; left, right, forwards, backwards, and in all the diagonal directions.



white queen chess



The queen can also move in any direction just like the king. But the queen has no limit on how far she can move. So she can continue in any of the eight directions as far as she wants. Well, to clarify – she can’t go through other pieces. So she can only go as far as there are empty spaces in that particular direction.


white rook chess
The rook can only move in four directions; forwards, backwards, left and right. And like the queen, it can move as far as it wants as long as there are empty spaces in that direction.



Black bishop chess


The bishops can also move as far as they want; just like the rook and the queen. But the bishop can only move in diagonal directions.




black knight chess


The knight is a little special and has its own little uniqueness. It doesn’t move straight like the other pieces. It hops in all eight directions and lands on a different colored square that is two steps away. A knight doesn’t have to worry about something being in it’s way; it just hops over it.




General Rules and Tips:

If one of your pieces want to move somewhere and your opponent’s piece happens to be there, then you just pick up your opponent’s piece and put your piece in it’s place. This is called a capture. You just captured your opponent’s piece.

If that piece happens to be the king then you won the game.

But you are not actually supposed to capture your opponent’s king in a sneaky or ‘back-handed’ way.

If your opponent’s king can be captured on the next move you can announce it by saying “check”. As in “check the board carefully because your king is about to get captured”.

Now if that situation is so bad that no matter what move your opponent makes the king can get captured, then you have just placed your opponent in a position called a “checkmate”; and you are the winner.

One note: if your opponent is not in check but any legal move would put them in check, then it is a stalemate and the game is a draw.

Now moving back to the pawns and why these little guys are so special. Remember I said they can only move forward one step per turn. Well there are some exceptions to this rule. If a pawn has never moved before, it can move two steps the first time it moves. Also a pawn cannot capture an opponent’s piece that is in front of it. But if there is an opponent’s piece diagonally in front of it, then it can move there to capture the opponent’s piece.

Let me tell you about a rule called en passant. If the opponent’s pawn moves two steps forward and comes to the side of your pawn, you can pretend that the opponent’s pawn took only one step and capture it by moving your pawn diagonally to where the opponent’s pawn would have been had it taken only one step. You can only do this on the turn right after your opponent moved the pawn two steps. You can’t decide to delay it and do the capture a few moves later.

One final thing about the pawns. If they reach the other side of the board where they can’t move forward anymore, they must be replaced by any of your other piece, with the exception of another pawn. You can choose any of your own pieces even if it means having more pieces than normal; like 3 knights. (Most of the time you want a queen.) This is called pawn promotion.

There is one more special movement that involves the king and the rooks; it’s called castling. If the space between the king and rook is empty then you can move the rook next to the king and put the king on the other side. But you can’t do this if either the king or the rook have already moved before or if your king is in check or will move through a square that would put him in check or end on a square that would put him in check. You can only castle once during the game.

timed chessThere are all types of chess games and matches that are played today. You have chess that is played for fun, chess that is played for championships,speed chess, chess that is played on a computer, etc. No matter which way you play chess, make sure that you continue to learn and improve and hone your skills. It is an incredible game.



I hope you have enjoyed this article. If it helps you to play chess (or more chess), or if it helps you to take the time to learn this magical game, then I am well pleased.

Gary F

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