How to Play Chess

by Milica Knezevic on December 21, 2021

" A man plays when he is fully a man, and he is fully a man only when he plays. "- Friedrich Schiller

Following the logic behind this quote in the upcoming text Chess Universe will guide you through the intricate and exciting world of chess. Preparing you for your first or 100nd match, covering the basics, and expanding your knowledge of one of the most widely known board games in the world

Learn chess

Topics covered:

Chess Board:

Where do I put my bishops? Find out as we get ready to play by placing your pieces on the corresponding squares.

Basic rules of the game:

Learn how each chess piece moves and captures.

Check and checkmate:

Surround your opponent’s king to win the game.

Advanced moves to know:

Learn how to promote a pawn and en passant.

Start with an online game:

Best way to learn is by beginning to play.

As you can see in the topics we mainly focused on getting you started. If you are a true novice this will be a great guide as to how to begin your chess journey. Moreover, if you are rediscovering chess and need to brush up on your basic skills we highly recommend you go through these rules and instructions. Without further ado we will dive right into the rules with a short video that can help you get a feel for what’s coming.

Chess board

Chess is played by two players on a chess board measuring eight-by-eight squares. The 64 squares change between light and dark colors, typically these squares are black and white. When properly set up, a white square should be the rightmost square along the edge closest to each player.

Players’ pieces are set up in the two horizontal rows (known as ranks) closest to each player. The second rank - i.e. the second row from the player’s perspective - consists of a line of eight pawns, each placed on a single square.

The closer rank is nearly symmetrical, with rooks (also known as castles) placed on the two leftmost and rightmost corner squares, followed by knights on the inside space next to them, then bishops.

The two central squares of the rank are occupied by the king and queen. The queen is placed on the square matching her color (for example, the white queen on the white square), with the king occupying the remaining square of the opposite color. This means that the king and queen of each color face each other, making the correct setup symmetrical between the two players.

The white player takes the first move, with players alternating single turns until a player is defeated via checkmate or resigns. A draw can also be agreed. If playing with an optional timer, as in tournaments, the first player to run out of time forfeits the game.

Chess board setup

Check out these chess sets in our shop to get your chess playing journey started!

Basic rules

In chess, each player takes turns to make a single move. Players are not allowed to skip their turn - they must move a piece. Each chess piece moves in a specific way, and must be moved according to its corresponding (legal) movement.

Except for the knight, which may jump over pieces, pieces cannot move through pieces of either color without either stopping (in the same of a piece of the same color) or capturing them (in the case of a piece of the opposite color).

This is just the start of how to play, now we can learn more about how you can capture certain pieces and how to truly start understating the goal of the game.

If a piece ends up on a space with an opponent’s piece, that piece is captured and removed from the board. Pieces cannot be placed on the same square as a piece of the same color, which is logical, you cannot have two of your pieces occupying the same square on the board. When a piece captures an opponent’s piece, it must finish its current move action and end the player’s turn.

Chess pieces look

The different chess pieces, from left to right: King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, Pawn.

How to move chess pieces


Pawns move one square forward in a straight line. They cannot move horizontally, diagonally or backwards. An exception to this is if a pawn is yet to be moved during the game. If a pawn has not yet moved, it may be moved two squares forward as a single move. Both squares must be empty. The player can also choose to move the piece a single square.

The only time a pawn may move diagonally is when capturing an opponent’s piece. Pawns may capture an opponent’s piece on either of the diagonal spaces to the left or right ahead of the piece. As part of capturing the piece, the pawn will move diagonally to replace the captured piece. A pawn cannot capture an adjacent piece on any other square, or move diagonally without capturing.

Summary: You pawn moves up one square at a time, when first moving a pawn from its initial position you can move it two squares up or one square up. When capturing pieces it can only capture diagonally and up, left and right.

Chess Universe - How to move Rook


The rook, sometimes called the castle, can move any number of squares horizontally along its current row (rank) or column (file). It cannot pass through pieces of the same color, and can capture pieces of the opposite color by moving onto an occupied space. It cannot move diagonally for any reason.

Summary: The rook moves up, left and right in its row and column (any number of squares), the only way it can capture pieces is if they are on its upward/side to side path. It never moves diagonally.


Knights are the only chess piece that may be moved ‘through’ other pieces by ‘jumping’ over them. It captures pieces as normal by landing on a space occupied by a piece of the opposite color and cannot move to a square occupied by a piece of the same color, but may move over pieces of either color during its move.

Knights move in a fixed ‘L’ pattern: two squares forward, backward, left or right, then one square horizontally or vertically, or vice versa - one square forward, backward, left or right, followed by two squares horizontally or vertically to complete the ‘L’ shape.

This means that the knight can always move to the closest square that is not on its current row (rank), column (file) or directly adjacent diagonally.

The knight must move the full distance - it cannot move just two squares in a straight line without also moving one to the side, for instance.

Summary: Most important to remember is that it can go through other pieces unlike any other piece. In addition its movement can be memorized by the pattern it has, which is a capital ‘L’ (two squares forward, backward left or right, one horizontally, one vertically or vice versa).

Chess Universe - How to move the Knight


The bishop can move any number of squares diagonally - this means it always moves along the diagonal line of squares matching the current color of its square. This means that each player begins the game with one bishop that can move on each color. A bishop cannot move horizontally or vertically for any reason. It cannot move through pieces of the same color, and captures a piece of the opposite color by moving onto its square.

Summary: Remember it by the diagonal movement (any number of squares) on the color square it’s on when you wish to make your move. It does not move horizontally or vertically, captures by moving diagonally onto the square where the opposite color piece is.


The queen may move any number of squares horizontally, vertically or diagonally. These movements must be made in a single straight line during a single turn. (In other words, you can’t move three squares diagonally, followed by three spaces vertically.) The queen cannot move through pieces of the same color, and captures a piece of the opposite color by moving onto its square.

Summary: Moves horizontally, vertically or diagonally (any number of squares) they have to be in a single straight line (you cannot move in different directions, you have to choose one path per move).

Bishop and queen

Left figure: BISHOP
Right figure : QUEEN


The king moves a single space horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The king cannot move into a space that would grant a check or checkmate to the opponent player.

As an exception to all other chess pieces, the king is never captured - a player loses the match when the king is placed into checkmate, which would lead to an unavoidable capture on the opponent’s next turn.

Summary: One space horizontally, vertically or diagonally. You cannot check or checkmate with it.

What is check and checkmate?

When a piece moves in a way that would allow a player to capture the opponent’s king in their next move, the attacking player typically announces “check”.

The player placed into check must move their king or move another piece to stop the attack on their next turn - either by blocking the move or capturing the attacking piece thus protecting their king.

If a player creates a situation where their opponent cannot stop their king from being captured on the next turn, the attacking player announces “checkmate” and immediately wins the game. The king is never captured - a game of chess is won when a successful checkmate is announced.

A player can also choose to resign, giving their opponent the win. Matches can also end in an agreed draw - for example, as the result of stalemate leaving a player without any legal moves, or if no player can win using available legal moves, a situation known as a “dead position”. One example of a dead position is when both players are left with their king as their only remaining piece on the board. Basically, this position signifies the impossibility of a checkmate for both players, it can happen because of insufficient material (pieces) or in some other situation as well.

Advanced rules to know

How to promote a pawn?

If a pawn reaches the opposite edge of the board - the farthest row (rank) from the controlling player - it is promoted to another piece: a rook, knight, bishop or queen. The new piece replaces the pawn on its current square, and follows the movement rules for the respective piece.

While most casual players use captured pieces to represent promoted pieces, a pawn can legally be promoted to any piece regardless of whether it has been captured. For example, a player may have multiple queens as the result of promoting pawns, or multiple bishops able to move along diagonal lines of the same color depending on the square on which the pawn was promoted.

There is no limit to the number of pawns that can be promoted.

What is En passant?

En passant - French for ‘in passing’ - is one of the most famous moves in chess. En passant occurs when a pawn moves two squares forward as the result of its optional starting move.

If an opponent’s pawn would have been able to legally capture the moving pawn had it only moved one square instead of two, the opponent can declare en passant on their next turn and move their pawn diagonally onto the square that the pawn passed through - capturing the pawn as if it had only moved one square.

En passant must be declared and made as the opponent’s next turn to be legal - otherwise, the player with the chance to capture the pawn loses the opportunity.

Start with an online game

We recommend you start you chess journey with an online game. Download a game on your phone and start learning and playing at the same time. One of the most beginner friendly games is Chess Universe, due to its Chess Academy feature, where you can learn basic and advanced rules of chess and gradually improve your skill before moving on to actual matches with other players in the game.

This is also a great way to start loving chess. Due to its interactive and fun game design this will be the perfect place to discover how colorful and engaging chess can really be. So, as you finish with this tutorial styled blog, move to the game and the words you read here will become moves played on an actual board.

Remember that every grandmaster was once a beginner. We wish you good luck as you enter the world of chess.

Chess Universe Game Logo

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