When a game of chess begins, one player controls the sixteen white pieces while the other uses the sixteen black pieces. The colors are chosen either by a friendly agreement, by a game of chance, or by a tournament director. White always moves first and therefore has a slight advantage over black. The chess pieces should be set up on a standard chessboard with a white square in the near right hand corner.
Each kind of chess piece moves a different way. The rook moves any number of spaces vertically or horizontally, while the bishop moves any number of spaces in any direction diagonally (meaning a bishop will always remain on the same color). The queen is a combination of the rook and bishop (it can move any number of spaces diagonally, horizontally, or vertically). The king can move only one square horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. The knight can jump over occupied squares and moves two spaces horizontally and one space vertically (or vice versa), making an L shape; a knight in the middle of the board has eight squares it can move to.
With the exception of the knight, pieces cannot jump over each other. One's own pieces ("friendly pieces") cannot be passed if they are in the line of movement, and a friendly piece can never replace another friendly piece. Enemy pieces cannot be passed, but they can be "captured". When a piece is captured (or taken), the attacking piece replaces the enemy piece on its square (en passant being the only exception). The king cannot be captured in regular chess, only put in check. If a player is unable to get their king out of check it is called checkmate and they have lost the game.
Pawns capture differently than they move; they can capture an enemy piece on either of the two spaces adjacent to the space in front of them (i.e., the two squares diagonally in front of them), but cannot move to these spaces if they are vacant; conversely, a pawn can move forward one square, but only if that square is unoccupied. Alternatively, a pawn can move two squares forward if it has not moved yet and both squares are empty. If a pawn advances all the way to the eighth rank, it can be promoted to any other piece, except a King.
Chess games do not have to end in checkmate. Either player may resign if the situation looks hopeless; also, games may end in a draw (tie). A draw can occur in many situations, including mutual agreement to draw, draw by insufficient material, stalemate, threefold repetition or the fifty move rule.
Until the 1970s, at least in English-speaking countries, chess games were recorded and published using descriptive chess notation. This has been supplanted by the more compact algebraic chess notation. Several notations have emerged, based upon algebraic chess notation, for recording chess games in a format suitable for computer processing. Of these, Portable Game Notation (PGN) is the most common. Apart from recording games, there is also a notation Forsyth-Edwards Notation for recording specific positions. This is useful for adjourning a game to resume later or for conveying chess problem positions without a diagram.
Please read FIDE laws of chess for more details.
Chess openings are a sequence of moves, often memorized, which will help a player build up their position and prepare for the middlegame. Openings are often designed to take hold of the center of the board (e4, e5, d4 and d5), develop pieces, protect the king, and create a strong pawn structure. Hypermodernism advocates the control of the center not by using pawns but with distant pieces. It is often important for a player to castle (a special move that moves the king from the center of the board two squares towards one of the corners) to protect the king. See the list of chess openings for more information.
When taking and trading pieces, the chess piece point values becomes important. Valuations differ slightly from book to book, but generally, queens are worth 9 points, rooks are worth 5, bishops and knights are worth 3, and pawns are worth 1. Since the king's loss ends the game it is invaluable. The actual value and importance of a piece will vary based upon its position and the stage of the game. If a player performs a sacrifice (e.g. exchange sacrifice), they are choosing to ignore the standard valuation of their pieces for positional or tactical gains. The beginning player should be aware that points are not an inherent part of the game; there is no scoring and chess was played long before the idea of assigning points to pieces. Instead, points are used by a player to consider whether he will come out materially better than his opponent in an exchange of pieces. For instance, to lose two pawns (2 points) in taking the opponent's knight (3 points) puts one ahead in material by one point. Such an advantageous exchange of pieces may, however, be a poor tactic if it leaves the opponent with an exploitable advantage in the way the pieces are positioned on the board.
A few positional elements common to most chess tactics are forks and traps. A fork is a situation where a piece is moved such that it attacks (forks) two other pieces simultaneously. It usually is difficult for the other player to protect both of their pieces in one move. Pins are used to prevent the movement of an enemy piece by threatening any pieces behind it should it move. Skewers are a kind of reverse pin where the more valuable piece is placed in front of a less important one. A discovered attack is an attack where a piece moves and uncovers a line for another piece which does the attacking. Other tactical elements include: zwischenzug, undermining, overloading, and interference.
During the endgame, pawns and kings become relatively more powerful pieces as both sides often try to promote their pawns. If one player has a large material advantage, checkmate may happen quickly in the endgame. If the game is relatively even, tablebases and endgame study are essential. Controlling the tempo (time used by each move) becomes especially important when fewer pieces are left on the board. In some cases, a player will have a material advantage, but will not have enough material to force a checkmate.
Blitz chess is a version of chess where a chess clock is used to limit the time control for each player. Generally each side has three to fifteen minutes (five is common) for all of their moves. An even faster version of chess is known as bullet chess or lightning chess. Bullet chess's time controls are less than three minutes. Speed chess requires the player to spend less time thinking because if the player's time runs out, they lose. When playing at a faster time, computers become relatively more powerful than humans.
When two players are separated by great distances they can still play chess. Correspondence chess is chess played through the mail, e-mail or special Correspondence Chess Server.