8 Basic Chess Concepts You Must Know Before Playing

8 Basic Chess Concepts You Must Know Before Playing

A game of classical chess can last up to seven hours, demanding severe concentration and energy from the players

Soumya SwaminathanUpdated: Saturday, October 28, 2023, 01:32 AM IST
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For the duration of a Chess game, your world is limited to the 64 squares of the board, which you will try to conquer. The combat is purely mental and psychological. A game of classical chess can last up to seven hours, demanding severe concentration and energy from the players. But first, let us learn the basics!

The Chessboard is an 8x8 dual-coloured grid, comprising 64 squares. The two colours, of which one is light and one is dark are addressed as white and black, or light and dark squares. It has eight vertical columns known as ‘files’ and eight horizontal columns known as ‘ranks’.

Notation: Each square on the board is identified by a combination of a letter: a to h, and a number: one to eight. This is how we record the game, so that we can go through it later for our knowledge, analysis or joy! The colour of the square in the right-most corner of the chess board, that is ‘h1’, is always white.

Chess pieces: The game is played between two players, one player takes the white pieces and one player takes black. White always makes the first move. Each side has a total of 16 pieces, which are in fact six different types of pieces, each with its unique characteristics and value. It’s important to understand the value as this will help us decide which of our pieces we can trade / exchange for which ones of our opponent’s. The algebraic notation denoting each piece is given in brackets.

King (K): The most crucial piece on the board. The objective of the game is to capture the opponent’s king. When we directly attack the opponent’s king with any one of our pieces except for our King, it is a check. And when the King is unable to escape this attack, it is a Checkmate! Value is  Priceless. The game ends when the King is Checkmated.

Queen (Q): The most powerful piece. It can move horizontally, vertically, and diagonally on any number of squares (9 points).

Rook (R): Rooks move horizontally and vertically, on any number of squares. They are strong when controlling open files and when on the seventh rank i.e. opponent’s second rank. We have two rooks for each side (5 points each).

The King, Queen and Rook are incredibly powerful pieces and are known as the Major pieces.

Knight (N): Knights have a unique L-shaped move. They move two squares in one direction (either horizontally or vertically), then one square at a right or left angle. Knights are the only pieces that can ‘jump’ over other pieces. Each side starts with two pairs of Knights. There is a famous saying which goes ‘ A Knight on the rim is always dim’ because a knight in the corner square, for example ‘a1’, covers only two squares at the moment while in the centre it controls eight (3 points each).

Bishop (B): Bishops move diagonally any number of squares. Each player starts with two bishops, one on a light square and one on a dark square. Three points each, though a bishop pair can be given seven points instead of six because the two Bishops together control squares of both colours over the board! The Knight and Bishop are comparatively of smaller value and are known as minor pieces.

Pawn (P): Each side starts with eight pawns each. Pawns move forward one square at a time but capture diagonally. On their first move, pawns have the option to advance two squares. When a pawn reaches the opponent’s back rank, it can be promoted to any other piece except a king. While noting down a pawn move you don’t need to prefix ‘P’, it is enough to only write the move (1 point each).

Let’s understand chess and notation better by having a look at the shortest checkmate possible in chess, commonly known as the ‘Fool’s Mate’.

Move number 1: f3 (white’s ‘f’ pawn moved to the third rank), e5 (black’s ‘e’ pawn moved to the fourth rank)

Move number 2: g4 Qh4 (Black Queen moved to h4) # (Sign for checkmate)

Result: 0-1 (0 for white, and 1 for black, denoting that Black wins)
Why not play a game of chess with a friend this weekend and record it? The best way to learn is through application!

(Soumya Swaminathan is an International Master and Woman Grandmaster in Chess. She has been World Junior Champion and Commonwealth Gold Medalist)

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