Chess Rules

Discover how to play chess. Use the chess rules to play a game and have fun.

Two Players

The game of chess is played between two opponents, who move their pieces alternately on a square board (called a chessboard). The player with the white pieces commences the game. A player is said to "have the move", when his opponents move has been made.

The Goal

The objective of each player is to place the opponents king "under attack" in such a way that the opponent has no legal move left. The player who achieves this goal is said to have "checkmated" the opponent's king and to have won the game.

Leaving one's own king under attack, exposing one's own king to an attack and also capturing the opponent's king are not allowed. The player whose king has been checkmated has lost the game.

If the position is such that neither player can checkmate, the game is drawn.

The Chessboard

The chessboard is composed of an 8 x 8 grid of 64 equal squares alternately light (the white squares) and dark (the black squares).

The chessboard is placed between the players in such a way that the near corner square to the right of the player is white. You can also say that the near left corner square is black.

The Pieces

Initial Position

Before you can start a game, you'll have to place the pieces on the board.

If you place them like below, you'll have the right starting position.

From left to right: rook, knight, bishop, queen, king, bishop, knight, rook. The pawns are placed in front of the pieces.

Notice the black square in the left hand corner (a1). This square has to be black.

If it's white you have the wrong starting position of the chess board.

There have been numerous mistakes in movies, television shows and magazines, where the chess sets were placed with the white square in the left hand corner.

I once saw a collector, who collected all the issues of wrong placed boards.

The Initial Position From Black's Point Of View

If you're playing the black pieces, it looks almost the same.

The starting position hasn't changed, however there is a difference if you're playing black....

Do you notice the difference?

When you're playing black, the king is placed left to the queen.

Moving The Pieces

Playing chess involves moving the pawns and pieces around the board. There are some chess rules, involving this moving of the pieces.

-It's not permitted to move a piece to a square, occupied by a piece of the same color.

-If a piece moves to a square occupied by an opponent's piece the latter is captured and removed from the chessboard as part of the same move.

The Bishop

The bishop may move to any square along a diagonal on which it stands.

The Rook

The rook may move to any square along the file or the rank on which it stands.

The Queen.

The queen may move to any square along any diagonal, file or rank on which it stands.

This makes the queen very powerful. You might consider the queen to be a rook and bishop combined in one piece. She's even better, because a bishop can operate on one color only, whereas a queen can operate on diagonals of both colors.

No Jumping.

When making their moves, the bishop, rook and queen are not allowed to jump over other (intervening) pieces.

The Knight.

The knight may move to one of the squares nearest to that on which it stands,but not on the same rank, file or diagonal.

If this is unclear to you, you can also think of the knight going one step straight (along a file or rank) and one step diagonal, all in one move.

If this isn't much clearer, you can think of the knight going two steps straight and then one to the side (like the letter L), all in one move.

Notice the knight always changing colors when it moves.

Knights Jump!

The knight is the only piece that is allowed to jump over other pieces all of the time.

In the above picture, the knight is still able to reach all of the eight squares.

It's allowed to jump over all the other pieces of both colors (including other knights).

The King.

The king has two ways of moving.

First the "normal" one, that can be used during the whole game.

The king may move to any adjoining square, as long as that square isn't attacked by any of the opponents pieces.

This means that the king may not move to a square where it would be "in check".

The second way of moving the king is called "castling".


This is a move of the king together with its rook (the same color). In castling the king and rook both move. This counts as one move.

The execution is as follows (starting with the king): the king is transferred from its original square two squares towards the rook on its original square, then the rook is transferred to the square the king has just crossed.

In other words: the king moves two squares to the right (or left) from its original square, then the rook jumps over the king and lands right beside the king.

Because there are two rooks, the castling can be done in two directions. If castling is done on the side of the board where the king starts (previous diagram), it's called "kingside castling".

The next diagram shows the "queenside castling", where the king moves to the side of the board where the queen starts.

The right to castle has been lost:

- if the king has already moved

- with a rook that has already moved.

Castling is prevented temporarily:

- if the square on which the king stands, or the square which it must cross, or the square which it is to occupy is attacked by one or more of the opponent's pieces.

- if there is any piece between the king and the rook with which castling is to be affected.

The Pawns.

-The pawn may move forward to the unoccupied square immediately in front of it on the same file, or

- the pawn may move to a square occupied by an opponent's piece (or pawn), which is diagonally in front of it, on an adjacent file, capturing that piece (or pawn).

On its first move the pawn has a third possibility. It may move forward two squares on the same file, provided both squares are unoccupied.

The diagram shows all the squares involved.

If any square with an X would contain an opponent's piece, that piece could be captured. In that case the pawn would land on another file.

The pawn may move to its dotted square.

Pawns never move backward.

Capturing "En Passant"

A pawn attacking a square crossed by an opponent's pawn which has advanced two squares in one move from its original square may capture this opponent's pawn as though the latter had been moved only one square.

This capture is only legal on the move directly following this advance and is called an "en passant" capture.

So, when the black pawn moves two squares (in the above diagram), the white pawn may capture it, while landing on the square marked with an X (see the following diagrams).

Pawn Promotion

When a pawn reaches the other side (the rank furthest from its starting position), it must be exchanged as part of the same move on the same square for a queen, rook, bishop or knight of the same color.

The choice is not restricted to the pieces that have been captured previously.

So it's possible to have multiple queens or more than two rooks, bishops or knights.

Moving the pieces

If you touch a piece, you have to make a move with that piece.

You may try to make a move with another piece, but your opponent may force you to make a move with the piece you initially touched (unless that piece can't make a legal move).

When you release a piece on a new square you may not move it to another square on this move (unless the move is illegal, in that case you have to make another move with the same piece).

Completion of the game


The game is won by the player who has checkmated his opponent's king with a legal move.

The game is also won if the opponent declares he resigns.


The game is drawn when the player to move has no legal move and his king is not in check. The game is said to end in "stalemate".

The game is drawn when neither player can checkmate the opponent's king with any series of legal moves. This is said to be a "dead position".

The game is drawn upon agreement between the two players during the game.

The game may be drawn if an identical position is about to appear or has appeared on the chessboard at least three times.

The game may be drawn if each player has made at least the last 50 consecutive moves without the movement of any pawn and without any capture.

Return to Chess Insights from Chess Rules.