Chess: The World's Favorite Board Game

This article details the history of chess and how to play it.


3/10/20236 min read


Chess is an iconic board game, believed to have originated in India around 600 C.E. Chess evolved from the game Chaturanga at around this time, although many rule changes have been made since then. Chess consists of a sixty-four square board of alternating light and dark squares, just like a checkers board. There are six different types of pieces in chess, each moving in different ways, and before diving deeper into the world of chess, let’s go over some of the basics.

How is the chessboard set up?

Chess is set up the same way every time, with eight pawns, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, one queen, and one king. The Pawns form a wall in front of the other pieces, and Rooks are easy to remember because they always go in the corners of the board. Knights are on the inside of the Rooks, and Bishops are on the inside of Knights. In the middle of the first row are the King and Queen, and a little saying to help you remember which order they go in is that the Queen “takes her color.” So if you are playing with the light-colored pieces, your Queen is placed on the light square of the two middle squares, and if you are playing with dark pieces, your Queen takes the dark square.

How do the various pieces move in chess?
  • The simplest piece to move in chess is the King, which can move one square in any direction, including diagonally, shown in the image to the right. Keep in mind however that the king cannot move into a square currently occupied by one of your own pieces, and cannot move into a square where it is being attacked by the opponent. The King is additionally the most valuable piece (if the King is taken, you lose the match).

  • The Queen can move in the same direction as the King, but it can move as many squares as it wants, either until its path is blocked by another piece or it reaches the end of the board. Its possible moves are shown to the right. The Queen cannot jump over pieces, and if a piece is blocking its path, it can only move between itself and that piece. The Queen is the second most valuable piece.

  • The Rook can move until it is blocked just like the Queen, but its movements are restricted to horizontal and vertical. It cannot move diagonally. It starts the game in the corners of the board and is typically the last piece to be developed. The Rook can also make a special move with the King known as “castling,” which will be covered later in this article.

  • The Bishop, like the Rook, can also move as far as it wants until it is blocked by another piece, but it moves diagonally rather than vertically, and horizontally. Keep in mind that neither the Bishop nor the Rook can jump over pieces, so it cannot move at the beginning of the game until the movement of Pawns releases it.

  • The Knight is a very unique piece in chess. The Knight, unlike all other pieces, can jump over other pieces in its movements, and it moves neither horizontally nor vertically, but in a 2-1 L-shaped pattern. You can remember where a Knight can move by counting two squares in any direction horizontally from the Knight, and then one square over to the left or right from that path.

  • The final piece to go over in chess is the pawn. The pawn seems easy enough to move at first, it can only move in a straight line down the board towards the other side, one square at a time, except for its very first move, where it may move forward in two spaces. It captures pieces differently than any other piece in the game, however. All other pieces capture an enemy piece by moving onto a square, with that piece’s normal movement rules, that the opponent’s piece is occupying. The pawn captures pieces differently, however. The pawn cannot capture a piece directly in front of it, but only diagonally forwards. The pawn can never capture horizontally or backward. 

What are the special moves in chess?

There are two special moves that can be performed in chess known as castling and en-passant. Castling involves the King and Rook, and is a way to protect the King, while en-passant is a pawn move that can only be used under very specific circumstances.  The image -if you're reading on mobile, search up "Castling" online- to the right shows a game in which the king can castle in either direction. The orange lines represent where the King will move to, and the blue lines represent where the rooks will move to. Note that this move involves pieces going through or over each other that would not normally do so. This move can only be used if neither the King nor the rook being used to castle has moved yet in the game, and if none of the spaces that castling pieces will occupy are being attacked by an opposing piece. En-passant is a pawn move to counter the ability of pawns to move two spaces forwards on their first move. The image to the right -if you're reading on mobile, search up "en-passant" online- shows a position in which the white pawn could perform en-passant. The white pawn has advanced up the board, and the black pawn has moved two spaces forward to pass the white pawn. Normally, the pawn would have only been able to move one space forward and the white pawn would have a chance to take the black pawn, but it’s moving two spaces forwards and the pawn wouldn’t be able to attack it unless en-passant existed. En-passant allows the pawn to move diagonally as if the black pawn had only moved forwards one space to take the pawn. En-passant does not occur very often.

How do you win a game of chess?

To win a game of chess, a player must “checkmate” the opposing player’s King, the most valuable piece on the chess board. Chess cannot be won in any other way. To checkmate an opposing player’s king, the player must be currently attacking the opponent’s King and the King must not have any squares to move into where it is not also being attacked. If all of these conditions are met, the game ends in checkmate.

What is a stalemate in chess?

A stalemate in chess results when a player cannot make a move and their king is not currently being attacked (in check). A stalemate results in a draw between players, with no winner or loser, and the game ends in a tie.

How is chess played today?

 Today chess is played around the world, with opportunities to win money if you are good enough through tournaments, and many people have made a career out of playing chess such as chess world champion Magnus Carlsen. A professional chess player who has proved that he or she is one of the best in the world receives the title of Grandmaster, which is a great honor in the world of chess. Computers have been programmed to play chess, and have surpassed human ability in the game, with the best chess computer being Stockfish. Chess is not a solved game however, as no pattern has been found that guarantees a win for one side if all of the right moves are made, making it a true test of intelligence.

Want to start playing chess today?

If you want to start playing chess, the best thing to do is go to a chess website such as, which provides a platform for you to play chess matches with other players around the world that are about your skill level. You can also research chess openings, which can make a big difference in the rest of a chess game. You can also go to our school’s chess club and play chess with a real chessboard, which provides a unique experience than playing chess online.