How to Play Chess
Playing Board Games: Chess
Chess became the most popular board game among the social elite of the European Middle Ages. Since that time, chess has retained a special rank among the board games of the world. It is considered a game for intellectuals and strategy purists.
Chess terms have penetrated many different languages. In English, terms like "checkmate", "stalemate" and "being rooked" have become part of the lexicon. This is an indication of the overall popularity of the game, which is played by grandchildren and grandmasters alike.
There are many versions of chess, which has been adapted to local tastes in virtually every part of the world. The game was created in Southwest Asia over two thousand years ago. From this central point in the world, chess dispersed throughout Eurasia.
The History of Chess
It is hard to determine exactly when and where chess was invented. Because it is considered such an intelligent game, many nations have claimed to have invented it. There is enough contradictory evidence for it to remain an open debate.
Most scholars believe the game originated in India. The early names for chess in several countries show a Sanskrit etymology. These countries where chess was played early on, places such as Persia, Arabia and Greece, likely borrowed the game from Indians.
The Indian version of chess is named Chaturanga, and dates at least to the 6th century A.D. Early versions of the game include playing pieces associated with the horse, the elephant and the camel. India was the only place all three animals were widespread.
Others point to a game played in ancient China as early as the 2nd century B.C. This game, called Xiangqi, is quite similar to early chess in several different ways. In the western languages, Xiangqi is referred to as Chinese Chess. The game probably influenced the early designers of chess, though the debate as to where the first true game that can be called chess was invented can be left to Indian and Chinese relations.
The game appears to have come to Persia by way of India. The Persians taught the game to the Arabs in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D., after the Muslim takeover of Persia. The Arabs spread knowledge of the game throughout the Middle East and the North African coast, as far away as Spain.
It was through interaction with Muslims that Chess spread to Europe, first through the Greek civilization now known to historians as the Byzantine Empire. After western Europeans invaded the Middle East during the Crusades, chess became the game of choice for European soldiers and rulers.
By the Late Middle Ages, chess was the most popular board game in Europe. It was considered a necessary primer in strategy for warriors on the continent. Never mind what Chess may have taught potentials commanders about the sacrifice of pawns on the battlefield.
What we know as modern chess was formulated in 15th century Italy. Like many other products of the Italian Renaissance, this form of chess spread quickly throughout the remainder of Europe. Chess writers often refer to the modern game as "Mad Queen Chess", because the Queen is such a powerful and overarching element of the game. Earlier versions limited the Queen's power.
Since this game achieved official status in Europe, it has remained the standard for international chess competitions to this day. Though there are many variations worldwide, tournament chess and its many grandmasters use the standardized version.
Today, there are many chess clubs and federations in the world. Governing bodies issue world rankings and declare world champions. To be the reigning world champion of chess is to hold the most prestigious title in board games. Only a handful of players have held the title in the past fifty years.
The Game Board
A chess board is 8 squares wide and 8 squares long. The board is therefore 64 spaces alternating between white and black squares.
The playing pieces occupy one square apiece throughout the game. Pieces can be used to remove one another from the game through occupying the same space on the board. If a player is able to land one of his or her pieces on a square occupied by an opponent, then the opponent's playing piece is removed from the board.
Each player begins with 16 different playing pieces. The pieces consist of six different ranks: 8 pawns, 2 rooks, 2 knights, 2 bishops, 1 queen and 1 king. Each rank has unique movement abilities, which make them more or less valuable than the other pieces.
The playing pieces are placed in the same squares at the start of each game. Both sides have the same starting positions. The pieces are arranged around the King and Queen, as if to protect them.
The King is the most important piece on the chess board. He can move in any direction, though he can move only one square at a time. If a player's King is captured, that player loses the game.
The Queen is the second most important piece on the board. Like the King, she can move in any direction. Unlike the King, the Queen can move an unlimited number of space in any one direction. Her movement is stopped only when she encounters another piece on the board. She cannot jump other pieces. If the player chooses, the Queen can move any number of spaces between her position and the square in her maximum possible range.
The Bishops sit as bookends for the King and Queen. The Bishop can move diagonally in any direction. Like the Queen, it can move any number of spaces diagonally, at least until it encounters another playing piece. This makes the Bishop a dangerous playing piece, though more limited in its range of movement than the Queen.
The Knights begin to the outside of each Bishop. The knight has the most unique movement in the game. It is the only piece which can jump over allies and opponents alike. It moves in an l-shaped pattern. It moves two spaces in one direction, then one space in another.
For example, the Knight can move forward two spaces, then either to its left or right one space to finish the movement. Or the knight can move one space forward, then two spaces either left or right. It can move in any direction in this way, on a pivot from its starting point.
The Rooks occupy the corners of the board, next to the Knights. A rook can move either forwards or sideways. It can move an unlimited number of spaces, so long as it does not run into another playing piece.
The eight Pawns occupy the entire row in front of the other eight pieces. Pawns are the least powerful piece on the board. A pawn can only move directly forward, and can only move one space at a time. There are two exceptions to this rule.
One, pawns can move two spaces forward for their first move.
Two, pawns can move one space diagonally, if it allows them to capture an opponent's piece. Pawns cannot move directly forward to capture an opponent's piece.
Another Ability of Pawns
If a pawn is able to reach the opponent's side of the board, the pawn can no longer move. Instead, that pawn can be swapped for any playing piece which has already been removed from play. Therefore, if a player has lost a Queen, then the pawn can be removed from the chess board and replaced with the queen.
This piece is placed on the square where the pawn was sitting. This piece can be moved on the next turn, as if it was any other piece.
The point of chess is to capture the opponent's king. Of course, there are many theories and stratagems for doing this.
Volume after volume has been written about chess strategy. Advanced strategy is difficult to explain without diagrams and generally takes more space than we have here.
The basic strategy of chess is to attrit another player's side, eventually taking several of his pieces. This might be done by luring an opponent into a trap and taking a key piece. It might be done by sacrificing a less important playing piece of one's own in exchange for an opponent's important piece.
A common strategy is to sacrifice pawn in an attempt to force the opponent to commit a more important playing piece. The idea is to use misdirection to possibly hide which piece will move in to capture the exposed piece.
Some players maintain a solid defense, hoping to force an impatient opponent to make a key mistake. Other players prefer to play an aggressive game, sending their pieces deep into enemy territory, forcing the opponent into uncomfortable or unfamiliar moves.
Either of these styles can find success. Often a chess match is determined by this contrast in styles. Many matches have a key moment, where one side or another make a key mistake or a particularly advantageous move.
Winning at Chess
In the end, players seek to remove some combination of an opponent's queen, bishops and rooks, which are the most dangerous pieces on the board. If an advantage can be gained in this way, a player can begin to close in on the opponent's king.
Seldom is the king placed in check early in a game, unless there is a complete mismatch in the level of opponents.
Placing the King in Check
When a King is in danger of being captured, then the King is in "check". This danger must be direct, so that a move must be made to take the king out of danger.
This can be done by moving the king, moving one of your pieces to protect your king, or eliminating the piece that is menacing the king. There can be more than one pieces holding a king in check.
When a king is in check and there are no possible moves that will take the king out of danger, then a player has achieved checkmate. The playing holding the other king in checkmate is the winner of the match.
Typically, it requires several pieces working in conjunction to achieve a checkmate.
A stalemate is a draw in the game of chess. In a stalemate situation, typically one player has had the better of the play, but cannot finish of the opponent.
There are several conditions in which the stalemate rule applies.
One, if the same position occurs three times at any point in the game. A position is simply when every piece on the board in is the exact same position.
Two, if fifty moves in a row occur without even one piece being captured.
Three, if the king is not in check, but there are no other possible (legal) moves to be made.
Variations of Chess
Chess has spawned many new and different board games. Chess has been played through correspondence for generations. With the invention of the internet, chess is now played via email.
Suicide chess is chess played backwards. A player seeks to have his or her pieces taken and the winner is the one who eventually loses a king. If a player can capture an opponent's piece, then that player must.
Bughouse chess is played by teams, as if two games were being played at once. When a player at one of the tables captures a piece, that player hands it to their teammate, who then uses it in their game.
Bullet chess is played with a timer. Each player has three minutes in which to make moves in the game. If, at any time, the timer runs out on one player, that player loses. Bullet chess is also called lightning chess.
Blitz chess has the same rules as bullet chess, though it has a longer timer. Usually, the timer is set to fifteen minutes apiece.
Though bullet and blitz chess seem to be shown in movies and television a great deal, they are not considered legitimate versions of chess by most serious players.
Of all games, chess is considered the most serious intellectual challenge. It is the favorite of generals and scholars alike.
It has been said that the game is an art form. Others consider it a strategy war game, while others consider chess an intellectual or mathematical exercise.
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