A history & summary of chess

While chess may not be as popular as it once was, there is no doubting that it is the most complex strategy game available. Millions of people play chess on a daily basis, but how did chess originate, and why is the game so popular?

What Is Chess?

Chess is a strategy board game which comprises of 64 spaces on an 8x8 board. Each player begins each game with 16 pieces which can be moved in different ways. Your objective of each game is to checkmate your opponent's king. To checkmate your opponent's king you have to position your 'attack' so that their king is in check (a position where the king can be taken on the next move) and cannot move to defend itself in any way.


While variations of the game have been around for thousands of years, the game as we know it today has only been around since the 15th century. Originally, the game came from an Indian game known as Shatranj, an Indian game invented in the 3rd century.

Competition Chess

Since way back in the early 16th century there have been different types of organised chess competitions held around the world. Currently, there is a world championships, women's world championships, junior world championships, senior world championships, computer chess championship and the fast (blitz) world championships which are held throughout various times of the year. These competitions boast the best players in the world, and are extremely prestigious titles to have.

Chess as an Olympic Sport

While chess is not currently at the Olympics, there are plenty of people that believe it should be, in fact, it is recognised by the official Olympics board as a sport, therefore, it is not beyond possibility that it will find its way into the Olympics. Currently, FIDE (the official chess body,) adheres to the Olympic rules (which include doping tests). FIDE runs a world tournament once every two years; in this tournament a country puts forward four of its best players and one reserve player. Currently, Russia is the champion and has won the title an impressive 18 times since its origin back in 1924. The tournament has grown in popularity since its origin. In 1924, there were only 16 nations participating in the 'chess Olympiad', however, in 2006 there were 133 nations that participated in the tournament. While chess may have its own Olympics and follow all the Olympic rules, the 'chess Olympiad' does not run in corroboration or alongside the Olympic Games.

Summary of the Game

Chess is played on a board which consists of 64 spaces split into 32 'dark' and 32 'light' spaces. The two sets of pieces are also divided into the two aforementioned colours. Each player has 16 pieces which are split into eight pawns, two knights, two bishops, two rooks (castles), one queen and one king. These pieces are laid out in the same way every game. Every official game always starts with the person controlling the white pieces moving first, and continues with alternative moves (unless you are castling).

With exception of the king (which cannot be taken) if you move into a space occupied by one of your opponents pieces with a legal move then you remove it from the game. Once you have put your opponent's king into checkmate, or your king has been checkmated, the game is over and the winner is declared.

Summary of the Pieces

Before you start any chess game you need to make sure you know how each piece can move. Knowing this information is a must if you want to play any form of the game; therefore, you need to learn this information after picking up the basic rules:

  • Pawns: Pawns can only move forward one space (unless it is there first move, when they can move forward two spaces). To take your opponent, your pawn can move diagonally to the left or the right one space, however, this is only if there is an opponent's piece occupying that position.
  • Knight: The knight is the only piece that can 'jump' other pieces because it moves in a L shape. The knight can either move two spaces forward/backward and one to the right/left, or one space forward/backward and two to the right/left. If it passes over an opponent's piece it does not 'capture' that piece.
  • Bishop: The bishop can move an unlimited number of spaces, but only diagonally. It cannot jump other pieces, therefore, if one of your pieces are blocking the bishops path it cannot move past this piece, alternatively it cannot jump over your opponents pieces, but it can capture them if it is in their path.
  • Rook (Castle) : The rook can move an unlimited number of spaces both horizontally or vertically, but cannot jump other pieces.
  • Queen: The queen is the most versatile of the pieces, it can move an unlimited number of spaces horizontally or vertically or diagonally, however, it cannot jump pieces. The queen is the most valuable attacking piece in the game, therefore, is one that you should try and utilise as much as possible without putting it in danger of being took.
  • King: The king can move one space in any direction at any time (apart from when it is castling). The king can never move into a position that allows it to be taken with your opponent's next move, this is classed as an illegal move and cannot be made as it puts your king into check.

Chess is a game that it takes a lifetime to master, and while the basics of the game may be 'simple,' learning any strategies (including basic strategies) are extremely complex because you can never calculate your opponents move, therefore, there are plenty of people that spend a lot of time devising different types of strategy for different games. Chess will remain popular until the end of time, due to its never ending complexity that makes every game different from the last.

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