Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a checkered gameboard with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. Chess is played by millions of people worldwide in homes, urban parks, clubs, online, correspondence, and in tournaments. In recent years, chess has become part of some school curricula.

Each player begins the game with 16 pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns. Each of the six piece typesmoves differently. The most powerful piece is the queen and the least powerful piece is the pawn. The objective is to ‘checkmate‘ the opponent’s king by placing it under an inescapable threat of capture. To this end, a player’s pieces are used to attack and capture the opponent’s pieces, while supporting their own. In addition to checkmate, the game can be won by voluntary resignation by the opponent, which typically occurs when too much material is lost, or if checkmate appears unavoidable. A game may also result in a draw in several ways.

Chess is believed to have originated in India, some time before the 7th century; the Indian game of chaturanga is also the likely ancestor of xiangqi and shogi. The pieces took on their current powers in Spain in the late 15th century; the rules were finally standardized in the 19th century. The first generally recognized World Chess Champion, Wilhelm Steinitz, claimed his title in 1886.


The player with the white pieces always moves first. After the first move, players alternately move one piece per turn (except for castling, when two pieces are moved). Pieces are moved to either an unoccupied square or one occupied by an opponent’s piece, which is captured and removed from play. With the sole exception of en passant, all pieces capture by moving to the square that the opponent’s piece occupies. A player may not make any move that would put or leave his or her king under attack. A player cannot “pass”; at each turn they have to make a legal move (this is the basis for the finesse called zugzwang). If the player to move has no legal move, the game is over; it is either a checkmate (a loss for the player with no legal moves) if the king is under attack, or astalemate (a draw) if the king is not.

Each chess piece has its own style of moving. In the diagrams, the dots mark the squares where the piece can move if no other pieces (including one’s own piece) are on the squares between the piece’s initial position and its destination.

  • The king moves one square in any direction. The king has also a special move which is called castling and involves also moving a rook.
  • The rook can move any number of squares along any rank or file, but may not leap over other pieces. Along with the king, the rook is involved during the king’s castling move.
  • The bishop can move any number of squares diagonally, but may not leap over other pieces.
  • The queen combines the power of the rook and bishop and can move any number of squares along rank, file, or diagonal, but it may not leap over other pieces.
  • The knight moves to any of the closest squares that are not on the same rank, file, or diagonal, thus the move forms an “L”-shape: two squares vertically and one square horizontally, or two squares horizontally and one square vertically. The knight is the only piece that can leap over other pieces.
  • The pawn may move forward to the unoccupied square immediately in front of it on the same file, or on its first move it may advance two squares along the same file provided both squares are unoccupied (black “●”s in the diagram); or the pawn may capture an opponent’s piece on a square diagonally in front of it on an adjacent file, by moving to that square (black “x“s). The pawn has two special moves: the en passant capture and pawn promotion.


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