I learned how to play chess when I was about ten.
Wait. That might be overstating things a bit. What happened was that one of the other kids at my childminder’s house could play it a bit, and they showed me, and we had about three games that lasted about five minutes, and then I didn’t play it again until last week.
Last week I was reintroduced to chess, and found I had forgotten almost everything. If you have also forgotten everything about chess, either because you haven’t played it in a long time, or because nobody told you anything about it in the first place (sometimes referred to as “pre-forgetting” or “not knowing things”), then allow me to help.
Setting up the board
You need a big square made of other squares. They should be chequered. You also need lots of playing pieces. If you don’t have a chess set, you could borrow the pieces from a Monopoly set instead, but you will need five Monopoly sets because chess uses a lot of pieces. Put the pieces in lines.
How the pieces move
Every piece has rules about how it moves.
- Pawns are small and so can only move slowly. They can go two squares, but only once, and they can only go in a straight line forwards, like one of those toy dogs on wheels. If they eat another piece they can go diagonally.
- Castles are actually called Rooks. They are also sometimes known as Towers or Rectors or Benedicts or Backsliders or French Fancies or Ronnie Johnsons or Fluteypipes. They can go left and right and up and down, and they can go as far as they like, and in that sense are not much like castles at all.
- Knights look like horses and can jump over other pieces, but go sideways a bit when they do it because they have bad ankles.
- Bishops move diagonally and have nice hats.
- Kings are rubbish. They can go anywhere but only one square at a time, and if someone else eats your King then you lose. If you try to protect your King by taking it off the board and hiding it, which is the most sensible thing to do if you want to win, then you also lose, apparently, which isn’t fair.
- Queens can go as far as they want in any direction and might also be able to fly and travel underwater. This is similar to the real Queen.
White always goes first. However, the ideal way to start the game is to steal some of your opponent’s pieces before the game has started. This early pre-game attack can offer many advantages in the later stages.
Attempt to gauge your opponent’s skill level at the beginning of the game by sliding all your pawns forward two spaces in a single move. If they are inexperienced enough to let you get away with this, you can claim a great deal of territory this way.
Spend lots of time taking your turn so it looks like you’re thinking really hard. This will make your opponent nervous.
Win the game by taking your opponent’s King. You can do this either by moving one of your pieces into a position where the King will be taken on its next move no matter where it goes, which is called “checkmate”, or by picking it up and refusing to give it back when you’ve had enough, which makes it impossible for the other person to win, meaning you have won by default.
If you have any chess questions (“chesstions”) please post them below and I will do my best to help you become a Chess Grand Master just like me.