Teach Yourself Chess

By Ed Collins

When I was in grade school, our teacher taught the entire class how to play chess. In addition to much competitive fun, I feel that I’ve learned many lessons from the sport.

Chess is exercise for the mind. It helps develop concentration, critical thinking, problem solving (resolución de problemas), strategic planning, creativity, analysis, among other things. Besides learning how to compete (in chess you learn how to attack and defend at the same time), many parallels (paralelas) have been made between mathematics, music, and chess.

Each game is interesting and each game is different. A game of chess is like an unfolding drama (despliegue teatro).

The chess pieces

kThe king is the piece with the crown that has a cross (corona que tiene una cruz). It is the tallest of all the pieces (pieza más alta).


The queen also has a crown and is the second tallest piece.

nThe knights are easy to tell because they look like horses.


rThe rooks (roque) are also easy to tell because they look like the towers of a castle (torres de un castillo).

bThe bishops (alfil) are the pieces with the pointed hats (puntiagudos).

The pawns (peones are the pshortest pieces.


Basic rules of play

(1) You take the pieces of one color, your opponent takes the other color.

(2) You take turns moving the pieces. White player moves first.

(3) Objective: The first player to capture (tomar) his opponent’s king (el rey del oponente) wins  the game.

Set up the board (tablero)

The game is played on a chessboard, consisting of 64 squares––eight rows and eight columns (filas y columnas).startup

On the back row, put the rooks on the corners. The knights go next to the rooks. The bishops go next to the knights and the king and queen go in the middle (The white queen goes on the light colored square). Put all the pawns on the second row.

Now you’re ready to play.

How the pieces move

Each piece moves in a different way. It may be hard to remember at first, but you’ll learn.


            The pawn can basically only move forward (hacer una jugada adelante), and one square (escaque) at a time. The pawn can sometimes do other things.


       The king (rey) can only move one square at a time, but he can move in any direction––left,    right, forward, backward, and in all the diagonal directions.


  The queen (reina) can also move in any direction, but she has no limit on how far she can  move.


      The rook (torre) can move in four directions: forward (adelante), backward (hacia atras), left and right (hacia al lado). And like the queen, it can move as far as it wants, as long as there are empty spaces in that direction.


                                         The bishop can only move in diagonal directions.


       The knight (caballo) is special. It doesn’t move straight like the other pieces. It hops in all eight directions and lands on a different colored square that is two squares away. A knight doesn’t have to worry about something being in its way; it just hops over it.


The strategy is to capture your opponent’s pieces. You do this by moving your piece onto the square where your opponent’s piece is. Then you pick up your opponent’s piece, and put your piece in its place. Bingo: You captured it. If that piece happens to be the king,  then you win the game. Congratulations!

You’ve probably heard the word “Checkmate” before, right? (dar jacque mate). That means that you (or your opponent) have put your (or your opponent’s) king in a position where he cannot move anywhere without being captured. There is another chess word that comes before this happens. If you can capture your opponent’s king the next move, you must say “check” (dar jacque).

Now about those special pawns. There are some exceptions to the one-step rule: If a pawn has never moved before, it can move two steps the first time it moves. Also, a pawn cannot capture an opponent’s piece that is in front of it. But if there is an opponent’s piece diagonally in front of it, then it can move there to capture the opponent’s piece. Strange rule, huh? Another thing about the pawns: If they reach the other side of the board where they can’t move forward anymore, they can be replaced (que pueden ser reemplazados) by any of your other pieces (except for the king).

There is also one more special movement called “castling” (enroque). It involves the king and a rook switching positions. It’s a little confusing, so you can learn about it later, when you get comfortable with the rules mentioned so far (reglas mencionadas hasta ahora).

That’s it! You’re ready to start playing. Have fun and here’s wishing you win your first game! (que gana su primer partido).

Learning to play

To learn (or teach someone) how to play, it’s a good idea to break up the lessons into its component parts (dividirse en componentes). When learning each piece’s movements, it’s much easier to use just one piece on the board.

The best way to learn how to play is by playing. Losses are lessons, experience is the teacher. You’ll quickly learn that each piece has relative value (valor relativo). For example:

The king must be protected (debe ser protegido);

The queen is the most versatile piece (versátil);

Knights are good for surprise attacks (ataques por sorpresa);

Bishops are often overlooked by beginners (pasado por alto);

Rooks have a long range of movement (largo rango de movimiento); and

Pawns are good at trapping an opponent’s piece.


Here’s are a couple videos that will help you learn: