Introduction to Chess

Chess is a game for two players that originated in the 6th century and gradually evolved into the form that is played today. It remains one of the world's most popular games. This page gives a general introduction to chess.

The Board

Chess is a board game. It is played on a board of 64 squares. The board looks like this:

The Gameplay

Chess is a game for two players. One player is in control of the white pieces, and the other player is in control of the black pieces. The player controlling the white pieces is often simply referred to as "white" and the player controlling the black pieces is often simply referred to as "black". White always goes first.

The Pieces

There are six distinct types of pieces used in chess: king, queen, rook, knight, bishop, and pawn. They look like this:

Piece ImagePiece Name

Each player (white and black, as explained in the previous section) gets eight pawns, two knights, two bishops, two rooks, one queen and one king. The board below shows the starting position for standard chess. See setting up the board for a more thorough explanation.


Taking Turns

Starting with white, the two players take turns moving their pieces. A player must move one piece per turn. Players are not allowed to "pass" on a turn. A move is always required.

Moving and Capturing

There are rules about how each type of piece is allowed to move. In most cases, if a player moves their piece to a square occupied by an enemy piece, the enemy piece is 'captured', i.e. removed from the board, and the player's piece takes its place. See how the pieces move for more details.

The Goal of Chess

The goal of chess is to trap the enemy king so that it cannot avoid being captured. If an enemy piece could capture the king in the next move, this is either "check" or "checkmate".


If a player's king is under direct attack, but it can move out of harm's way, the king is merely "in check". When this is the case, that king is required to move out of harm's way on its turn. It is forbidden to leave the king in check, and it is forbidden for a player to move their king into check. Depending on the nature of the attack, the player might be able to do one of the following to get their king out of check:

  • Move their king to a safe square
  • Capture the attacker, but only if there are no other pieces still attacking the king
  • Move one of their pieces between the king and the attacker, but only if there are no other pieces still attacking the king


If there is no way for a player to get the king out of check, the opponent has achieved "checkmate" and has won the game.


It is possible for the game to end in a draw, where the result is considered to be a tie. For example, if a player is not in check but has no legal moves, this is a draw by stalemate.