7 Rules to Play Chess for Beginners

The chess game is one of the most popular and intellectual board games. People can learn how to play chess for beginners at any age, either for fun or at a professional level.

To learn how to play chess for beginners, we will explain the basic rules of chess. Once you know and understand the basic rules of playing chess for beginners, you can start playing.

To be a good chess player is a different kettle of fish completely, however, as you continue to play more chess games and study, you will progressively learn how to play chess well.

It is easy to play chess nowadays because you can play it online or offline with virtually any device that can download a chess app or access the internet. There is also room for over-the-board play.

Basic Rules to Play Chess for Beginners

There are basic rules you need to know and understand before you can learn how to play chess for beginners. The rules for playing chess for beginners are outlined below.

Rule 1. Know the Chess Pieces and Chessboard or Mat

The chess game requires a chessboard or chess mat and has 6 different types of pieces.

chess pieces and their names
Rules to Play Chess for Beginners | Chess pieces and their names

The chess pieces are the King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook and the Pawns.

The pawns are the only chess piece that only makes forward movement they cannot legally move back, while the other chess pieces can move front and back in their legal direction of movement.

The chessboard is made of 64 light and dark-coloured squares (usually white and black), with small English alphabets “a to h” and numbers “1 to 8” written on the sides of the chessboard.

Rule 2. How to Place the Chessboard

How do you place the chessboard at the beginning of a chess game?

1. The chessboard must be laid out such that each chess player has the light colour square (white) at the bottom right end of the chessboard.

2. The side of the chessboard with the alphabet (a to h) should be part of the board closest to each player, while the side of the chessboard with numbers 1 to 8 should be between each player.

Note: The chessboard must be placed the correct way each time the chess game is played. If you are playing chess on a computer or device, the system will place the board and the pieces the correct way for you, all you need to do is move the chess pieces correctly.

Rule 3. How to Set up the Chessboard

The Chess pieces are arranged in the last two rows of the chessboard on each side, that is rows 1 and 2 for chess player A and rows 8 and 7 for chess player B.

The 8 pawns are placed on the second row or rank, one pawn is placed per square. The other chess pieces are placed on the first row or rank.

The rooks are placed in each extreme corner of the first row, followed by the knights, one knight is placed on either side of the rooks, followed by the bishops, one bishop is placed on either side of the knight and then the queen is placed on its matching colour (white queen on a white square, black queen on a black square, finally the King is placed in the remaining square in the first row.

Rule 4. How the chess pieces move and capture the opponent’s piece

How to move the pawns in chess

Pawns move and capture the opponent’s piece differently, unlike the other chess pieces.

The pawns make only forward movement, one square at a time except in the first move of each pawn where they can move two steps forward.

Pawns can only capture one square diagonally in front of them, they cannot capture a piece directly in front of them or move over the piece.

Note: When you capture an opponent’s piece in chess, your piece occupies the square initially occupied by the opponent’s chess piece, while the opponent’s chess piece is removed from the chess board.

How to promote a pawn in chess

Because pawns can only make a forward movement, if not captured or blocked by other pieces they can get to the opponent’s first row or rank.

When a pawn reaches an opponent’s first row, it can be promoted to any piece apart from a king or left as a pawn.

The pawn is the only chess piece that can be promoted to another chess piece.

How to do “En passant” in chess

En passant is a French word for “in passing”. This special move only applies to pawns.

If a pawn is moved two steps in the first move and lands on the side of the opponent’s pawn thus evading the opponent’s pawn’s ability to capture it, that opponent’s pawn has the option of capturing that pawn as it passes by.

However, the option of capturing the passing pawn must be done immediately and is not possible afterwards.

When the opponent’s pawn captures the passing pawn it occupies the square on the passing third row, which is the square the passing pawn would have occupied if it had not moved two squares forward.

Rules to play chess for beginners. To watch how a pawn moves in a chess game click here.

How to move the King in chess

The King can only move one square in any direction at a time. (up, down, sideways and diagonally).

When the king is attacked by another piece (threat of capture by another piece) it’s called a check and the king must move to a safe square. If there is no legal safe square to place the king the game is lost to the other chess player.

The king is the weakest and the most important player on the chess board, thus if your king is a checkmate you lose the game.

How to play chess for beginners. To watch how to move the king piece in a chess game click here

How to move the queen in chess

The queen can move as far as possible in any straight direction at a time (up, down, sideways and diagonally) and captures any opponent’s piece in its path.

Once the queen captures a piece its movement will stop on that square. However, the queen cannot move through or jump her chess piece.

The queen is rated as the most powerful chess piece on the chess board set.

How to play chess for beginners. To watch how the queen moves in a chess game click here

How to move the rook in chess

The rook can be moved sideways, front and back as far as it wants. It captures any opponent’s piece in its path and cannot move over or jump any chess piece.

How to move the bishop in Chess

The bishop moves diagonally as far as it wants and also captures the opponent’s piece on its path diagonally. The bishop can’t move over or jump another piece.

The bishop is the only chess piece that must stay in one colour. The white square bishop must always stay on the white square while the black square bishop must stay on the black square. The bishops complement the weakness of each other.

How to move the knight in chess

How does the knight chess piece move? The knight moves uniquely and is the only chess piece that can legally move over other pieces.

The knight makes an “L” like movement. It moves two squares in one direction and then one square at a 90-degree angle.

How to play chess for beginners. To watch How the Knight Chess piece moves click here

Rule 5. How to Make the First Move in Chess

Who makes the first move in chess? The player with the white chess pieces makes the first move followed by black.

Each chess player must play when it gets to their turn and thus cannot forfeit or skip their turn to play until the game ends.

How do you decide who becomes the white or black chess player?

The chess players can decide who becomes white or black by agreement among themselves or they can flip a coin or more commonly one chess player guesses the colour of the pawn hidden in the other player’s hand.

After each chess game the colours are reversed, white will play as black while black will play as white.

Rule 6. How to castle in chess

There is a special chess move called Castling. Castling allows a chess player to move the king two squares to the left or right while the rook on that corner of the board is moved over to the square immediately after or before the king.

How to Castle Kingside

If you castle to the kingside the king will move two steps to the kingside while the rook will also move two squares in the opposite direction (towards the queenside) to stay on the other side of the king.

How to Castle Queenside

In contrast to castling to the kingside, the king will still move two squares this time around to the queenside of the chessboard while the rook at that corner of the chessboard will be moved three squares in the opposite direction to stay on the other side of the king.

Rules of castling in chess

To be able to castle in chess, the following conditions/rules must be met.

  • It must be that king’s first move
  • The king must not be in check or pass through a check(pass through a square that is protected by the opponent’s piece)
  • It must be that rook’s first move
  • There must not be any other chess piece between the rook and the king

Rules to play chess for beginners. To watch how to castle on YouTube click here

Rule 7. How to end a chess game

A chess game can end in a win (checkmate), loss or draw/stalemate.

How to checkmate in chess

Chess is a war board game, and each chess player’s sole purpose is to win the war (checkmate the opponent’s king.

A king is checkmated when the king is on check and cannot get out of check (The king has no legal safe square to go to). Once a king is checked the game has ended.

How does the king get out of check?

The king gets out of check via the following ways:

  • Move out of the square on check/attack
  • Capture the piece threatening the king
  • Block the check with another piece(block the attacking piece)

How to Draw a Chess Game

How do you draw a chess game? A draw in a chess game can be achieved via the following conditions/rules:

  • The players agree the game is a draw and end the game
  • The position is a stalemate, meaning it is a player’s turn to play, the player’s king chess piece is not on a check and yet the player does not have another legal move to make
  • There are insufficient chess pieces on the board to checkmate the king (e.g only a king and a bishop are left on the board)
  • A player declares a draw if the same position is repeated three times by each player. (the three repeated positions must not be consecutive)
  • Fifty consecutive moves have been made but neither player has moved a pawn or captured a piece.


The game of chess is an interesting game. Knowing and understanding the basic rules to play chess for beginners stated above is just one step, being a good chess player or learning how to play chess well requires much more.

You can play chess online on Lichess or chess.com. You can also download the Lichess or chess.com app on the Play Store.

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