GPCF Basic Chess Lesson

Basic Rules of Chess



This material is copyrighted 2001.  You may copy this material to further the instruction of chess in a not-for-profit format.   Published by the GREATER PEORIA CHESS FOUNDATION, LTD (GPCF,LTD)



                There are many variations in the rules of such games as  Solitaire.  I was surprised when I looked in a Book of Hoyle and saw that there are over two hundred different ways to play Solitaire!!  Likewise there are variations in the rules of the game of chess.  I will teach you the official version sanctioned by the UNITED STATES CHESS FEDERATION (USCF).  Their rules are very close to the international chess federation recognized as the worldwide governing body called the FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DES ECHECS (FIDE).


                Chess is a game between two players, one playing the light colored pieces called (white) and one playing the dark colored pieces called (black).  White always moves first, and then the players take turns moving their pieces.  Only one piece can be moved at each turn (except for the special move called “Castling” that will be explained later).  You cannot have two of your pieces occupying the same square.  When you capture an enemy piece you replace the captured piece with your piece and place the captured piece off the board where it no longer is in play.


                 Next, notice on Diagram 1 how the board is mapped out.  We will use a modern alpha-numeric grid system to identify each square.  Each rank runs horizontally and is numbered 1at the bottom thru 8 at the top.   Each file runs vertically and is lettered a at the left thru h at the right.   Every game will start out with the white pieces on a1 thru h1 and the white pawns on a2 thru h2.  The black pieces are always on a8 thru h8 and the black pawns are on a7 thru h7.   On chess diagrams like Diagram 1 the white pieces are always shown at the bottom moving up the page and the black pieces are always at the top of the diagram moving down the page.  Diagram 1 shows the pieces in their starting position.


                Where the letter file intersects with the rank number, that is what gives each square its identification.  Always give the letter first and the number second.  For instance, The white King is on the square where e and 1 intersect and is recorded as Ke1.  The white King Knight is on g1 and the white Queen Knight is on b1.  The black King Rook is on h8 and the black Queen Knight pawn is on b7.  



Diagram One -- Starting PositionStarting Position                Always set the board up so that the lower right corner is a white square.  Remember the rule: “White square on the lower right”.    When setting the pieces up on their original starting positions, always set the Queen (Q) on the square of her own color.  The white Queen (Q) in Diagram 1 goes on d1 and the white King (K) on e1.  The black Queen (Q) goes on d8 and the black King (K) goes on e8.  Remember the rule: “Queen on her own color”.  That arrangement will place the Queens and Kings of each side directly opposite each other on the board.  Next, your King (K) and Queen (Q) will each have their own Bishop (B), Knight (N), and Rook (R) placed on the board in that order as you move to your right or to your left of the royal pair.  In front of each one of these pieces is a pawn of its own color.



There is no symbol for a pawn.  The name of each pawn is whatever file it is on.  For example, white’s e pawn or blacks’s h pawn, etc.

                The area from the d file over to the a file is called the Queenside.  The area from the e file over to the h file is called the Kingside.




                                                                Your Main Goal


                The main goal of chess is to checkmate your opponent’s King (K).  That sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?  The problem is that your opponent has the same goal and will not be very obliging in helping you in attaining your goal.     Most games are evenly fought until you gain some advantage and then you overwhelm the remaining forces to checkmate the enemy King.  The meaning of checkmate comes from the Persian words Shah mat.  Shah meaning “King” and Mat (with the sound of long a) meaning “defeated”.  When you say “Check” you are saying “King!!!” in a

warning outcry that there is a threat to his life.  When you say “Mate” you are saying “defeated”.  The King is not actually captured like other pieces.  If the King is “checked” and thereby threatened with capture on the next move, he must respond immediately to that threat.  You can ignore attacks to all your other pieces but you can’t ignore attacks to your King.   After this explanation about “Check” you may be surprised to learn that you are not required to say “Check”  to your opponent.  He is suppose to notice that on his own.



                There are only three options in response to an attack or check to your King by an enemy piece.  Take the time to consider all three before you move a piece.  First option:  Can any of your men or your King capture the attacker, thus ending the attack?   Second option:    Can you place any of your men between the attacker and your King to act as a shield?  That’s called interposing a piece.   Third option:  Can the King run for his life to a square that is not under attack by the enemy?  You may have all three of these options available to you (as the black King on a8 does in Diagram 2) or maybe only two are available or maybe only one is available. You can choose any option that suits you.   If you don’t have any of these options available,  you are checked and mated (commonly called “Checkmate”).  You and your army lose the game.



                                                                Explanations of Draws


                 There are several ways to get a  Draw (and each player gets ½ point).  A game may be drawn by AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE PLAYERS.  During a serious game both players finally realize no one can win so they can agree to a draw.  A game may be drawn by STALEMATE.  This happens when a player on move has no legal move to make and at the same time his King is not attacked.  The game ends immediately.  A game may be drawn by TRIPLE REPETITION OF POSITION.  There is no such rule as to a draw by ‘repetition of moves.’  If a position is repeated three times, either side on move can claim a draw. The three positions need not be consecutive and the intervening moves do not matter.  A game may be drawn by  INSUFFICIENT FORCE.  A lone King against a lone King or a lone King and Bishop or Knight against a lone King are just two examples of not having sufficient force to checkmate the enemy King.  A game may be drawn by the FIFTY-MOVE RULE.  If no pieces are captured and no pawns are moved in fifty consecutive moves, either side can claim a draw on move.  For your information there is no ‘perpetual check rule.’  You can make your move and/or check a King  until you have a ‘triple repetition of position’ anytime within the “fifty-move rule” and claim the draw or you can have fifty consecutive moves with or without checks to the enemy King without a piece being captured and no pawn moved and then claim the draw.  You must keep a record of the moves of the game to back up most of your claims.   The player whose turn it is to move is said to be “on move”.   



                                                                The Pieces and how they move


                The KING (K) is the most important piece but not the most powerful.  Generally he is the tallest piece and has a cross on his crown.   When he is attacked and can’t escape capture on the next move his whole army loses.  The King can move in any direction , horizontal, vertical, and diagonal, only one square per move. (Like the example of the King on g2 in Diagram 2)  The only exception is during “Castling” which will be explained later under exceptions. 





                The King can never move to a square that is attacked by an enemy piece.  Like the example of the King on a8 in Diagram 2 can’t move to b8.   Nor to a square occupied by one of his own men.  The King on a8 can’t snuggle onto a7 with his Bishop.  No piece can move that at the same time would result in exposing its King to an attack.  For instance, the Rook on f3 in Diagram 2 can’t move.  It’s absolutely pinned.  Moving it would expose the King on g2 to capture by the Bishop on e4. 



Diagram 2 -- King MovesKing Moves                The King on a8 is in check by the Rook on c8.  Black could move out of check by moving his king to b7.  He could interpose his Bishop on a7 to b8.  His best move is to capture the Rook on c8 with his Knight on b6.  The Black King looked at all three of his options and chose the best one under the circumstances.

                 The black King on h7 is checkmated.  He has no flight square.  He can’t capture the Queen because that would be allowing the white King on f6 to capture him in return.  Black loses.  The Kings on a2 and c2 are as close as they can ever get.  If either King moves to one of the squares marked with an X, the opposing King can capture him and the rules don’t allow that.  Other men of each army can go to b1, b2, and b3.





                The QUEEN (Q) is a major piece.  She is called a major piece because a Queen and a King can checkmate a lone King.   She is the most powerful piece.  She is generally the second tallest piece with a crown of many points.  She use to move one square to a move like her mate the King.  By the end of the 15th century  she was liberated and given the moves she has today.  Everyone was shocked that a woman be given such power.  Many were the ones who said:  Are you mad!? Are you out of your mind!?  And so today’s version of chess is often called Mad Chess.  The fair and loyal lady moves not only like that of the King in any direction of her choosing but also any number of squares available to her in a straight line.  With so many available squares to her choosing, you can see why she is so powerful.  Her moves are limited only by the men of her own army blocking her pathway and any enemy piece that she can capture.


Diagram 3 -- Queen MovesQueen Moves





The white Queen can move to any white circle. 












                The ROOK (R) is a major piece.  He is called a major piece because a Rook and a King can checkmate a lone King.  He is shaped like a tower at the corner of a  castle and  moves vertically and horizontally any number of squares available to him in a straight line.  Up until the new Queen moves were made in the 15th century the Rook was the most powerful piece and if you were attacking the Rook you were expected to say “Check-Rook” just like we say “Check” to the King today.   His moves are limited by his own men being in his pathway or by the enemy men that he can capture.


Diagram 4 -- Rook MovesRook Moves






The white Rook can move to any white circle.  Two Rooks are extra powerful when they work together on the same files and ranks.











                The BISHOP (B) is a minor piece.  He is called a minor piece because a Bishop and a King cannot checkmate a lone King.   He is shaped somewhat like a Bishop’s hat with a diagonal slash.  He moves any number of squares he wants to in a straight line diagonally forward or backward.  If the Bishop starts out on a white square he always remains on a white square.   Same rule with the black squared Bishop.  His moving around the board is blocked only by his own men in his pathway and any enemy pieces he can capture.


Diagram 5 -- Bishop MovesBishop Moves




                The Bishop can travel to the other side of the board faster than a Knight in open positions, so it is considered only slightly more valuable than the Knight. 

                A King and two Bishops can checkmate a lone King.

                 A King and Bishop and Knight against a lone King can checkmate that lone King but it is a rare ending and difficult to accomplish.   








The KNIGHT (N) is a minor piece.  He is called a minor piece because a Knight and a King cannot checkmate a lone King.    He is shaped like a horses head and like a real horse he is the only piece that can jump over his own men and the enemies men. He can’t land on his own men.   The Knight doesn’t move in a straight line like the other pieces.   His move consists of jumping three squares (not counting the square he is on) in an L shaped pattern. You count two squares in a vertical or horizontal direction and make a left or right hand turn one square.  If he starts out on a white square he will end up on a black square.  If he moves again he will end up on a white square.  His attack on the your King is the only piece that you cannot interpose a piece to protect your King.     The other two options, capturing the Knight and/or the King moving out of check still apply.



Diagram 6 -- Knight MovesKnight Moves




                The black Knight (N) can move to any black circle.  The white Knight (N) can move to any white circle.  They both can move to the squares marked with an X but risk being captured if they do.

                The Knight(N) is generally favored over the Bishop in blocked positions as he can jump over both friendly and enemy pieces and move to white and black squares.

                A King and two Knights cannot checkmate a lone King by force.






                Each PAWN can  move forward one or two squares on the first move.  It can  never move backwards.   After each pawn’s first move only one square per move is allowed.  A Pawn is identified only by the file it is on.  There is no symbol for the pawn.  They allowed each pawn on the first move to move two squares in the fifteenth century to speed up the game.  The Pawn is the only piece that captures in a different direction than the one that it moves in.  It moves forward but captures diagonally forward only.  It can’t capture any piece behind or beside or in front of itself.   If you have a pawn directly in front of yours, both are blocked.  The pawn is the only piece that upon arrival at the other end of the board must be promoted to another piece of greater value but never a King.  You can promote your pawn to a Queen (Q), a Knight (N), a Bishop (B), or a Rook (R), but because the Queen (Q) is the most powerful piece she is most often chosen.  So if all your pawns make it to the other side of the board you can theoretically have your original Queen and eight others.  Likewise with the other pieces, ten Rooks, ten Bishops, ten Knights, etc.    There is one other special pawn move that I will explain later that is called “en passant”.



Diagram 7 -- Pawn MovesPawn Moves




                The pawn on c2 can move to c3 or c4 on his first move.  Then that pawn can only move one square at a time from then on.  It can only capture diagonally forward as show by the x’s on b3 and d3. 

                The pawns on g3 and g2 block each others progress and will stay that way until one or the other is removed by capture or can capture something on the x’s indicated.

                The pawn on f7 is about to move to f8 and promote to a Queen and so it is the most valuable pawn on the board at the moment.

                The pawn on b6 can capture at either a7 or c7 or move to b7.






                Remember the explanations of the moves for the King?    The King can move anywhere (except off the board ) one square if legal.  There is one exception.  It is called “Castling”.  To “Castle” means to move your King from its original square TWO SQUARES to the right or optionally TWO SQUARES to the left and then move the closest Rook around to the other side of the King.  Each player may “Castle” once during a game and only if certain requirements are met.  The requirements are: The King and Rook must not have moved prior to this event.  There must be no pieces of either army between the King and Rook.  The King can’t “Castle out of check or thru check or into check.  The Rook can.  When the move is legal, each side has the choice of “Castling toward the Kingside” of the board or “Castling toward the Queenside” of the board, or not at all, no matter what the other player chooses.  This special move allows the King to get to a safer area of the board quickly and the Rook to be developed quickly also.  It is up to your assessment of the position as to whether you want to “Castle” or not

                Remember to move your King two squares to the right or left first because if you move your Rook first someone might raise an objection and say it was a Rook move and not a Castling move.


Diagram 8 -- Castling MovesCastling

                White could “Castle” (0-0)kingside e1-g1 and Rook h1-f1 except he is in check.  Remember, the King can’t castle out of check.  He could interpose his c1 Bishop to e3 and then be eligible to castle later, including the option of castling (0-0-0) Queenside King e1-c1 and then Rook a1-d1. 

Black can’t castle (0-0) kingside because his Knight is still on g8.  If the Knight moves to f6 later on , he then could castle(0-0) e8-g8 and Rook h8-f8. 

                Black can’t castle (0-0-0) Queenside because of the enemy Bishop on h3.  Remember the King can’t castle into check or thru check, but the Rook can.  If the h3 Bishop ever moves off the h3 - c8 diagonal black might be able to castle(0-0-0) King e8-c8 and  Rook a8-d8 later on.

                The symbol 0-0 stands for Kingside Castling as the Rook moves two squares to the other side of the King. The symbol 0-0-0 stands for Queenside Castling as the Rook moves three squares to the other side of the King.



                                                                                Special Pawn Move


                The special move that we are going to explain next came about because of the desire to speed up the game in about 1475 A.D.  It was decided to allow each Pawn, on its first move only, to move two squares instead of just one if it wanted to.    Great idea!  However, under certain conditions the new two square jump created problems.  Let me explain.  Suppose you as white had a pawn on your fifth rank of the board.  It could be any of your pawns on the fifth rank but we will choose the b5 pawn as an example in diagram 9.  Let’s say it is blacks turn to move and he played his pawn forward two squares like he does in the next sequence d7-d5, which he is allowed to do under the new rule change.  Do you now see what the problem is?  White can’t capture the pawn on d5 with his pawn on e5.  Pawns can’t capture sideways.  White complained that he doesn’t have the option to capture the enemy pawns when they swooped right by his pawns like that. A fair complaint indeed.  So they made a special rule called “en passant” where white may optionally capture the black pawn as if he had only moved to d6 as in days of old or allow the move to stand.  White has to exercise this option on his very next move as otherwise everything stands as is.  If white decides to capture the pawn he just simply puts his e5 pawn on d6 and removes the black pawn from d5,  like it is illustrated with the two pawns on the g and h files.   “en passant” means “in passing” and means you can capture his pawn even if he is passing your pawn with the new two square move.  It applies to only pawns and only on EACH players fifth rank (no other rank) and only when the opponent moves his pawn right beside yours with his two square pawn move.



Diagram 9 -- En-passant SequenceEn Passant Sequence




                The pawns on the a and b files show how everything begins.  A pawn on the fifth rank and the opposing King has a pawn on the original starting square, like the one on a7. 

                The pawns on the d and e files show the next sequence if black moved his pawn up two squares.

                The pawns on the g and h files shows the result if white decides to capture en-passant.





                Now I’ll show you how to value each piece in relation to one another.


K = Invaluable    (because if you lose your King , you lose the game)

Q = worth 9 pawns

R = worth 5 pawns

B = worth 3 pawns

N = worth 3 pawns

P = worth 1 pawn


                This table helps you to evaluate the captures that will occur or could occur during the course of a game.  Normally two Rooks together are worth more than a Queen (5+5=10 verses 9).  A Bishop and a Knight together are worth more than a Rook (3+3=6 verses 5).  If you get three pawns for your Bishop or Knight that is considered even compensation (1+1+1=3 verses 3).  This information is useful in deciding if you want to capture a Rook worth five pawns with a Knight worth only three pawns.  That’s generally considered a good move.  If you can capture two Bishops and one Knight in exchange for your Queen, should you do it?  All these figures are relative.  Relative means, for example, that a pawn on the seventh rank one move from promoting to a Queen is worth far more than a pawn back at the starting square.  If you give up your Queen for a Knight and that leads up to checkmating the enemy, then under that circumstance it is worth giving up a more valuable piece for a piece of lesser value.


                Today the majority of chess notation  (the writing down on paper in symbols the moves of your game) is written in what is called Short Algebraic, or just Algebraic.   That means only the arrival square of each move is written down.   So when you write down both sides first moves like this: 1.e4   e5  it means white moved his e pawn on e2 to e4 and black moved his e7 pawn to e5.    Long Algebraic is when you write down both the departure square and the arrival square like this: 1.e2-e4     e7-e5.  Short Algebraic has advantages over other systems of notation.  One is the obvious use of less space.  1.e4 takes up less space than 1.e2-e4. 


                There is another method of notation that was used for centuries and was gradually replaced by Short Algebraic by about 1980.  It is called Descriptive Notation.  You describe your moves from your side of the board and your opponents moves from his side of the board.  Example: 1.P-K4   P-K4   2.B-QB4 P-Q3.  1.P-K4 means the pawn in front of white’s King moved out to the fourth rank.  1....P-K4 means black moved his King pawn out to his fourth rank.  2.B-QB4 means white moved his King Bishop to his Queen Bishop’s fourth rank.  2....P-Q3 means black moved his Queen pawn out one square, etc.  Again, a lot of space to record your moves.  You won’t see this notation nowadays except in older chess books.





This is  Long Algebraic

                Legall’s Mate        Paris 1750   Bishop Opening

This is the same game in Short Algebraic.  Most chess books are recorded like this today.


Really Short


Legall                     St Brie

1.e2-e4                    e7-e5

2.Bf1-c4 d7-d6

3.Ng1-f3 Bc8-g4

4.Nb1-c3                g7-g6?

5.Nf3xe5 Bg4xd1??

6.Bc4xf7+               Ke8-e7




1.e4                         e5

2.Bc4                      d6

3.Nf3                       Bg4        

4.Nc3                      g6?

5.Nxe5                    Bxd1??

6.Bxf7+                   Ke7





1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 d6 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Nc3 g6 5.Ne5 Bd1 6.Bf7 Ke7 7.Nd5#  




This is the old time way called Descriptive Notation

1.P-K4                    P-K4                       5.NxP                      BxQ??

2.B-QB4 P-Q3                       6.BxPch K-K2

3.N-KB3 B-KN5                    7.N-Q5Mate

4.N-QB3 P-KN3?



Here are the standard symbols that are used world wide to record your games for later reference.  


K = King                Q = Queen             B = Bishop            N = Knight            R = Rook               

no symbol  = pawn

X =  captures        + = check        # or ++ = checkmate   0-0 = castles kingside         

0-0-0 = castles queenside

- = moves to          ! = good move      !! = brilliant move                 ? = questionable move       

?? = blunder         

?! = risky move but worth considering             !? = probably a good move but unclear          

(1-0) = white won

(0-1) = black won  ( ½ - ½ ) = draw                    e8/Q = e pawn moved to e8 and was promoted to a Queen.   

e.p. = en passant                  + - = White is winning         - + = Black is winning





Editor: Freddie Malcome, President of GPCF,LTD - Assistance by Wayne Zimmerle, Vice President (GPCF,LTD)  Wayne found the software CHESS CAPTOR on the internet to make our chess diagrams and bought it in the GPCF,LTD’s name.  Valuable critical assistance to eliminate excess wording and to clarify vague points and to organize the general layout of the material was given by the following persons:  Ronald Suarez, James Vernon,

Tom Smit, Mike Leali, and Wayne Zimmerle - all chess aficionados.      -    June 27, 2001