Skip to content Skip to footer

The Object of the Game
The object of the game is to win! This is achieved by attacking the opponent’s King in such a way that he cannot escape, and the attacker cannot be captured or blocked. White makes the first move (always a pawn or a Knight) and then the players take it in turns to move one piece at a time as described here.

How the pieces move
Provided there are no other pieces in the way…

  • The King moves in any direction, one square at a time. See ‘Castling’ for the exception.
  • The Queen moves in any direction, in a straight line, for any number of unimpeded squares.
  • The Rook moves forwards, backwards or sideways in a straight line, for any number of unimpeded squares.
  • The Bishop moves diagonally forwards or backwards in a straight line for any number of unimpeded squares.
  • The Knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces. It moves two squares forwards backwards or sideways, and then one to the side. It will always land on a square of the other colour to the one it left. So the Knight on b1 can move to a3, c3 or d2; on f1 to e2, f3 or h3; on b8 to a6, c6 or d7; on g8 to e7, f6 or h6. (If you’re a beginner, practice these moves on the board. The Knight’s move is the hardest to learn.)
  • Pawns move straight forward one square, if that square is unoccupied; and only on its first move, either one or two squares. Pawns cannot move backward. Pawns capture on the squares diagonally in front of them. So a white pawn on d4 captures on c5 or e5, but not d5.

Castling is a manoeuvre during which the King and either Rook can be repositioned in the same turn. It is a powerful defensive move which can be made only if:

  • There are no other pieces between the King and Rook.
  • Neither the King or Rook has previously been moved.
  • The King is not escaping a check.
  • The King does not travel through a square on which it would be in check.

Castling with the Rook on h1 or h8 is King-side castling; and with the Rook on a1 or a8 is Queen-side castling. The King moves to g1 or c1. These manoeuvres are noted as 0–0 or 0–0–0.

En Passant
These words are French and mean ‘in passing’. If White has a pawn on the fifth rank, if Black moves a pawn on an adjacent file two squares forward, White is entitled to take that pawn on the very next move only, as if it had been moved only one square forward. So a pawn on c6 could take a pawn advanced to d5 as if it was on d6.

Pawn promotion
If a pawn is moved to the eighth rank, it is immediately promoted to another piece. The piece does not have to have been previously captured. So it is possible to have two Queens on the board. Usually a Queen is chosen, but sometimes it is essential to choose a different piece such as a Rook to avoid a stalemate (draw) or a Knight to deliver checkmate.

Touch move
If it is your turn to move, once you have touched a piece, you must move it. If having picked up a piece you suddenly realise that the move you were planning would actually be a very bad one, you may put back the piece on its original square and reconsider what would be the best move for that piece.

The clocks
When playing your first games, it is very important to watch how much time you have left on your clock. If your time runs out (if the flag falls on a clockwork clock or the display on a digital clock flashes) you have lost the game on time, even if you were winning. The big thing for beginners is to remember to ‘hit’ your clock’s lever after every move.

Recording the game
In matches, each player must keep a written record of the game. This is best demonstrated by an experienced player, but you can prepare yourself by learning the algebraic system of naming of each square on the board, from a1 to h8. Each move by both players must be recorded, until there is less than five minutes remaining on the clock.

It is polite to shake your opponent’s hand at the start of the game.
The game is started when Black presses the start button on the clocks.
Serious games should be played in silence. You are only allowed to say:

  • ‘J’adoube’ (French for ‘I am adjusting’ the position of a piece on its square)
  • ‘Would you like a draw?’
  • ‘I resign.’

You should not say ‘Check!’. Good players realise if their King is in check. Saying ‘check!’ is a kind of insult.
You should not bang down your pieces on the board.
When you have finished your game and you want to discuss it with your opponent or members of the team, you should use a side room if other members of your team are still playing.