Basic Chess Rules

Basic Chess Rules
Photo by Randy Fath / Unsplash


The queen goes in the middle on her color (white queen on the white square, black queen on the black square). The king is next to her, then the bishops, knights, and finally the rooks. Pawns are placed on the second row.

King - Moves one square in any direction.
Queen - Moves any number of squares diagonally, horizontally, or vertically.
Rook - Moves any number of squares horizontally or vertically. It looks like a castle tower on most boards.
Bishop - Moves any number of squares diagonally.
Knight - Moves in an ‘L-shape,’ two squares in a straight direction, and then one square perpendicular to that. It looks like a horse on most boards.
Pawn - Moves one square forward, but on its first move, it can move two squares forward. It captures diagonally one square forward. There are 8 of these pieces.

Check occurs when a king is threatened with capture by another piece. The king must move out of check, or the threatening piece must be captured, or a piece must be moved to block check.

Checkmate (also known as “mate”) occurs when a king is placed in check and has no legal moves to escape. When a checkmate happens, the game ends immediately, and the player who delivered the checkmate wins.

Pawn Promotion When a pawn reaches the far side of the board, it can be promoted. You can replace the pawn for a queen, a rook, a bishop, or a knight.

Advanced Rules

Many beginners disregard this rule as it is a little confusing.

En passant is a special pawn capturing move in chess. "En passant" is a French expression that translates to "in passing", which is precisely how this capture works. Pawns can usually capture only pieces that are directly and diagonally in front of them. With en passant, though, things are a little different. This type of capture is the only one in chess where the capturing piece doesn't land on the same square as its victim.

To perform this capture, you must take your opponent's pawn as if it had moved just one square. You move your pawn diagonally to an adjacent square, one rank farther from where it had been, on the same file where the enemy's pawn is, and remove the opponent's pawn from the board.

There are a few requirements for the move to be legal:

  • The capturing pawn must have advanced exactly three ranks to perform this move.
  • The captured pawn must have moved two squares in one move, landing right next to the capturing pawn.
  • The en passant capture must be performed on the turn immediately after the two-square advance; it cannot be done on a later turn.

You can see an example of en passant or play a game here.

king - can move in any direcion, one square checkmate - game over check - king is in danger queen - can move in any direction, one or more squares bishop - can only move diagonally, one or more squares knight - looks like a horse, moves in an L pattern castle tower - what a rook looks like rook - can move in straight lines, one or more squares pawn - moves straight, captures diagonally en passant - a special pawn move