Part of a Staunton chess set showing (from left to right) a white king, a black rook, a black queen, a white pawn, a black knight, and a white bishop
|Years active||c. 6th century – present|
|Genre(s)||Board game |
Abstract strategy game
|Setup time||About 1 minute|
|Playing time||Casual games usually last 10 to 60 minutes; tournament games last anywhere from about ten minutes (blitz chess) to six hours or more.|
|Skill(s) required||Strategy, tactics|
Chess is a two-player strategy board game played on a chessboard, a square checkered gameboard with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world’s most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.
Each player begins the game with 16 pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns. Each of the six piece types moves differently. Pieces are used to attack and capture the opponent’s pieces, with the objective to ‘checkmate‘ the opponent’s king by placing it under an inescapable threat of capture. In addition to checkmate, the game can be won by the voluntary resignation of the opponent, which typically occurs when too much material is lost, or if checkmate appears unavoidable. A game may also result in a draw in several ways, where neither player wins. The course of the game is divided into three phases: opening, middlegame, and endgame.
The first official World Chess Champion, Wilhelm Steinitz, claimed his title in 1886; the current World Champion is Viswanathan Anand. In addition to the World Championship, there are the Women’s World Championship, the Junior World Championship, the World Senior Championship, the Correspondence Chess World Championship, the World Computer Chess Championship, and Blitz and Rapid World Championships. The Chess Olympiad is a popular competition among teams from different nations. Online chess has opened amateur and professional competition to a wide and varied group of players. Chess is a recognized sport of the International Olympic Committee and international chess competition is sanctioned by the World Chess Federation (FIDE), which adopted the now-standard Staunton chess set in 1924 for use in all official games. There are also many chess variants, with different rules, different pieces, and different boards.
Since the second half of the 20th century, computers have been programmed to play chess with increasing success, to the point where home computers can play chess at a very high level. In the past two decades computer analysis has contributed significantly to chess theory, particularly in the endgame. The computer Deep Blue was the first machine to overcome a reigning World Chess Champion in a match, when it defeated Garry Kasparov in 1997.
Chess is played on a square board of eight rows (called ranks and denoted with numbers 1 to 8) and eight columns (called files and denoted with letters a to h) of squares. The colors of the 64 squares alternate and are referred to as “light squares” and “dark squares”. The chessboard is placed with a light square at the right-hand end of the rank nearest to each player, and the pieces are set out as shown in the diagram, with each queen on its own color.
The pieces are divided, by convention, into white and black sets. The players are referred to as “White” and “Black”, and each begins the game with 16 pieces of the specified color. These consist of one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns.
White always moves first. After the initial move, the players alternately move one piece at a time (with the exception of castling, when two pieces are moved). Pieces are moved to either an unoccupied square or one occupied by an opponent’s piece, which is captured and removed from play. With the sole exception of en passant, all pieces capture opponent’s pieces by moving to the square that the opponent’s piece occupies. A player may not make any move that would put or leave his king under attack. If the player to move has no legal moves, the game is over; it is either a checkmate (a loss for the player with no legal moves)—if the king is under attack—or a stalemate (a draw)—if the king is not.
Each chess piece has its own style of moving. In the diagrams, the dots mark the squares where the piece can move if no other pieces (including one’s own piece) are on the squares between the piece’s initial position and its destination.
- The king moves one square in any direction. The king has also a special move which is called castling and involves also moving a rook.
- The rook can move any number of squares along any rank or file, but may not leap over other pieces. Along with the king, the rook is involved during the king’s castling move.
- The bishop can move any number of squares diagonally, but may not leap over other pieces.
- The queen combines the power of the rook and bishop and can move any number of squares along rank, file, or diagonal, but it may not leap over other pieces.
- The knight moves to any of the closest squares that are not on the same rank, file, or diagonal, thus the move forms an “L”-shape: two squares vertically and one square horizontally, or two squares horizontally and one square vertically. The knight is the only piece that can leap over other pieces.
- The pawn may move forward to the unoccupied square immediately in front of it on the same file; or on its first move it may advance two squares along the same file provided both squares are unoccupied; or it may move to a square occupied by an opponent’s piece which is diagonally in front of it on an adjacent file, capturing that piece. The pawn has two special moves: the en passant capture and pawn promotion.