Lesson One, The beginner:

What is chess? – A game played by two people on a chessboard, where each person has sixteen pieces and tries to checkmate their opponent’s king in order to win the game. Chess is fun.

The chessboard, and pieces. – The chessboard consists of 64 off-colored squares. There are sixteen pieces consisting of: The King, Queen, Rook/Castle, Bishop, Knight, and Pawn. Each piece has it’s unique movements and purposes.

Each piece, and it’s movements. – The King moves one square to a neighboring square, the Rook transcendes in its line or row, the Bishop moves diagonally, the Queen may move like a Rook or a Bishop, the Knight jumps in “L” shaped movements making the shortest move that is not a straight one “2 squares straight and one square to the side,” and the Pawn moves one square straight ‘and one square diagonally to attack’ ahead with the exception of its first move in capability to move one or two forward. The only piece who may pass through a square with an enemy piece, or your own, without capturing it, is the Knight, who jumps. Hence a queen on d3 may not move to h7 if the enemy or you have a piece on g6.

The King has an exception to its movements, castling. Once during the game if the player chooses they may move the king two squares towards their Rook and then put the Rook on the opposite side. There are also rules that prevent this move: 1. The King is in "Check," i.e., menaced with capture. 2. The King or Rook has already made a move. 3. The move of the Rook is obstructed. 4. The King after Castling would be exposed to capture "Check".

Example: White has the following pieces: Q@b4, P@a2,b2,c2,f2,g2,h3, R@a1,h1, and K@e1. Black has the following pieces: Q@c6, P@a7,b7,c7,f7,g7,h7, R@h8,a8, and K@e8. White, if to move, can Castle with the Rook on h1 by placing the Rook on fl and simultaneously jumping with the King to g1; or he can Castle with the Rook on a1 by placing it on dl and jumping with the King to c1. Black, if it is his turn to move, can only Castle with the a8 Rook, because castling with h8 Rook would mean the King passes through the square f8, which the queen is attacking, Castling is illegal.

Pawns also have their own exception, Upgrading and En passant, which is French for On Passing. Whereas if a pawn was on the 7th or 2nd ranks and moved to the 8th or 1st, they would upgrade to another piece. Ex. Pawn at g7 moves to g8 and becomes a Queen. Otherwise the pawn would be unmoveable at the last rank. The Pawn also has a rule called en passant, where if on the first move of the Pawn decides to move two and an enemy Pawn may attack the square it passes over, it may take the Pawn who has advanced and land on the square it passed over. Example: A white Pawn on c2 moves to c4 and a black Pawn is on d4, the black Pawn may take the white and land on c3.

Algebraic Notation -- Algebraic notation is the ABC’s and 123's on the sides of the board. Think of it as a graph. Algebraic notation is used to tell where the pieces are moving to, and where they are moving from, if necessary.

The starting position of the game. A row of Pawns for each player on the 2nd (white) and 7th (black) ranks, two Rooks on a1 and h1 'white' and a8 and h8 (black), Knights on b1 and g1 (white) and b8 and g8 (black), Bishops on c1 and f1 (white) and c8 and f8 (black), Queen on d1 (white) and d8 (black), and a King on e1 (white) and e8 (black).

White always moves first. Best to always start with a move that will affect the center, for example the King-side Knight on b1 to c3, or a pawn move of e4 or d4.
The Queen is on it’s own color, don’t forget!

It is good to start with a strategy in mind, control the center. Learn an opening, a simple one, such as Four Knight’s Opening. With the goal position of white: 1. e4, 2. Nf3, 3. Nc3. and focusing on the four central squares.

There are 3 sections to the game, The Opening, The Middle Game, and The End game.
1.The Opening, usually about the first ten to fifteen moves, is about developing. Do not move the same piece twice unless it is a must. The goal of the Opening is usually to control the center, and get your knights and bishops out first, and quickly.

2.The Middle Game, which is where the battle is held, lasts numerous moves depending on the game. This section is about tactics and gaining position, trying to succeed at either mating the opponent’s King, or to have higher point value in pieces.

3.The End Game, is where all the left over pieces battle out to gain a position to Checkmate the opponent’s King. The pieces usually left include: King, Pawns, and 1-2 minor or major pieces.

How a game is ended -- Checkmate (Mate), Stalemate, and Draw.
Checkmate is where the opponent is in check and can not escape it. With a Checkmate the game is decided, but not every game ends with a Mate. "If he whose turn it is to move can make no legal move and yet his King is not checked he is not checkmated though the game necessarily is at an end. Such a conclusion of the game is called a Stalemate.” When both players decide they believe they will not be able to Checkmate their opponent they may decide to draw, a mutual agreement. A draw may also occur involuntary when each player repeats (Draw by repetition) their moves (doesn’t change them) for a total of four moves. A draw may yet again occur when one player has moved the same piece 50 times, or both players have not advanced a pawn or captured a piece in 50 moves.

Concepts: Here are some helpers to train your mind into a strategic playing machine.
The Opening: Avoid moving a Chess Piece twice during the Opening. Have a goal up to 6-10 moves of what position you would like to go into the Middle Game with. Study an opening 6-10 moves in to accomplish your goal. Have an Opening for each White and Black. It is Better Strategy to develop the Knights before their Respective Bishops. Developing the Queen Side Bishop after both Knights are out is wise. Do not fully develop all your pieces to one side (King/Queen Side.) Generally playing a piece beyond the Middle of the board in the Opening will lead to over expansion, and you are attacking with little chance of success.—Many Openings such as the Ruy Lopez disregard this principle, but have a theory to back it up. After you have Castled do not permit the Opponent to Open a File on your King. Avoid making Exchanges which Develop another Piece for the Opponent. Avoid exchanging Bishops for Knights early in the Game, Unless you have a strategy and plan that go along with your actions. Avoid premature attacks, the Opening is meant to prepare for them, not do them.

The Middle Game: Seek a weak spot in your Opponent’s Position. Know Mating patterns such Morphy’s, Reti’s, and Back Row mates. In closed positions, the Knight is favorable over the Bishop. In Open positions the Bishop is favorable over the Knight. There are exceptions to every theory, rule, and hypothesis, get used to it. Buy a book on the Middle Game for strategy, or have someone teach you how to transpose from the Opening to the Middle Game, and from the Middle to the End game. Learn to attack and defend in equal proportions. Do not leave your King unguarded, Pawns are the best defensive weapon, make sure you have at least one by your King if not two or three. If you can find a mate by Sacrificing (ANY) amount of pieces to achieve it, do so, but be aware a mistake in calculation will lose the game. The Middle Game, in my opinion (and most), is the most important to spend your time. Most games are won in the Middle Game, not the End Game. Trading pieces off vs. more experienced players may be wise in some positions, but make sure there is no disadvantage. Going out of your way to trade equal pieces, while they gain a tempo and you lose one, is unwise. Separating your opponent’s forces, with perhaps a guarded Pawn board splitter, will most definitely be an advantage.

The End Game: Practice mating with King/Queen, King/Rook, and King/Bishop/Bishop, vs. your opponent’s King. Know Pawn End Games as well as you know your Opening. King/Rook/Pawns vs. King/Rook/Pawns are the most common Endings, hint... Practice them. The End Game is the most important to not waste moves in, unless going for Perpetual or a Draw. Tempos in the End Game are very important, if you can advance your Pawn to the last Rank to upgrade to a Queen, that usually will win a game. The best End Game player ever was Capablanca, if you are weak in this area buy one of his books. Most Pawn Endings can be drawn with practice, definitely if there are Rooks on the board still. Passed Pawns are the more valuable here than any where, upgrade to a better piece ASAP. King play, where you force your opponent’s King to not achieve moving into better squares (or where he wishes to move,) is a safety measure to easily upgrade a Pawn while their King is preoccupied and incapable of stopping it. Never resign (give up) in any End Game situation, people make the most mistakes (and costly ones too) here.


There is an Utah elementary after school program called Schoolhouse Chess See my article that is devoted to teaching these chess basics to adolescents.


Next chess writeup: Schoolhouse Chess

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