If you’re thinking of taking up the game of chess there are some basics of the game that you are going to have to learn, obviously. But to become a really good chess player and possibly a master of the game, you are going to have to put in an enormous amount of time into both study of the game and play as well. All the books in the world are not going to turn you into a master chess player without actually getting into the game itself as a player. We’re going to cover just the basics of the game in this article and continue with more advanced instruction as we go along.
Chess is a game played on a board, much like a checkers board. There are two colors in chess, white and black. The player in control of the white pieces goes first, always. In match play between two people they take turns between playing white and black.
There are 16 pieces for each player, consisting of, from low to high in rank, 8 pawns, 2 knights, 2 bishops, 2 rooks, 1 queen and 1 king. Each piece is actually given a value from 1 to 8. The lowest piece is the pawn with a value of 1. After the pawn is the knight and bishop with a value of 3. The way this value was reached was through calculations that a knight and bishop were each worth about 3 pawns. Since a pawn is worth 1, knights and bishops are worth 3 each. The rooks are worth 5 points or 5 pawns and the queen is worth 8 points or 8 pawns. The king has no value but is the most important piece on the board. Once the king is checkmated (more on that later) the game is over, so losing the king is actually a meaningless point.
Before we continue, there should be a comment on the knight and bishop. If you recall, in listing the pieces from low to high, the knight was listed lower than the bishop even though both are worth 3 points. In actuality and again this has been determined from years of research and study into the game, the bishop is actually believed to be worth more than 3 points in a game situation where one side has a knight and the other has a bishop and all other pieces are equal. The bishop, in this situation is believed to be worth 3.5 points.
The object of the game is to checkmate the king. This is accomplished when the king is under attack by a piece of the opposing player and in check but can make no legal moves to get his king out of check. Once this happens the opponent wins and the game is over. If the king cannot move but is the only piece on the board for one player and is not in check then the game is stalemated and a draw. In other words, nobody wins.
In the next article in this series we’ll pick up with the actual movement of each piece.
When you become a master chess player, the first few moves of the game become so mechanical that these first few moves are often referred to as openings. Each opening has its own particular name that is given to it. In some cases the name given is obvious, such as naming the opening after the actual piece that has been moved and in other cases the opening is named after a person in chess history who first used the opening in match play during a tournament. After you have played the game of chess long enough you basically know most, if not all the openings. After that, it’s simply a matter of choosing the openings that you like best and play them. Of course in some cases you are forced to play a certain opening because of a move that your opponent makes. In this article we’re going to review some of the more common openings.
Before we do that, we need to know how the pieces are set up. The pieces are set up on the two back rows of the chess board. The 8 pawns are set up in the front row. Behind them from left to right are the queen’s rook, queen’s knight, queen’s bishop, queen, king, king’s bishop, king’s knight and king’s rook. The black pieces are set up to mirror the white pieces. In other words, the kings are facing each other and the queens are facing each other.
Probably the most common opening for the person playing white is the Kings Pawn opening. This is where the player playing white moves the pawn in front of the king 2 squares forward. Of course, this opening is also dependent on the response from the player playing black. If he moves his king’s pawn 2 spaces in response, then this is a true king’s pawn opening. But, if he moves his queen’s bishop’s pawn 2 squares forward in response, then what you now have is what is called a Sicilian Opening. And there are variations of this opening depending on the moves that follow.
King’s pawn openings are usually used by chess masters who want more conservative play. They’re not looking for a wide open and wild game. They are basically looking for a methodical game that they hope they can develop into a winning endgame (more on endgames in a future article) and ultimately checkmate the king or force the opposing player to resign.
For those looking for a game with a little more action and dynamic, these players usually play the queen’s pawn openings. This is where white moves the queen’s pawn 2 squares forward on the first turn. The most common reply to this is for black to move its queen’s pawn 2 squares forward as well. Because of the way this opens up more pieces to move, as opposed to the king’s pawn opening, this leads to a more active and exciting game. These games are also much more difficult to play, especially for the novice player.
These are the most common openings. There are many more that we’ll be getting into in future articles as well as some advanced strategy.
By Michael Russell