Chess is a strategy board game played between two people. It’s played daily by millions of people which is why it is considered a sport. It’s considered an activity that is played by smart and intelligent people. However, forming a strategy before starting a match is the most important thing. The Italian game of Chaturanga is believed to be the predecessor to chess. This was back in the 7th century; however, the modern rules didn’t get standardized until the 19th century.
The way to set up chess is very simple and there is no hidden information. Each player begins with 16 pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns. Each piece type moves differently, with the most powerful being the queen and the least powerful the pawn. The objective is to checkmate your opponent. That is done when you put his king under an inescapable threat of capture. Keep reading to learn more about chess and it’s history.
As we mentioned above, chess originated somewhere in Eastern India between the 3rd and 6th century. After the 6th century it was known as Chaturanga. This translates to four divisions (of the military). They were infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariotry. They were represented by the pieces on the board. Later they would evolve to what we know now as pawn, knight, bishop, and knight. It later spread to Persia where it was called chatrang. When the Muslim conquest over Persia happened, the named got changed to shatranj. As chess kept expanding all around the world, new names for it emerged all the time.
The modern game of chess we know today started appearing around the 1200’s. Several changes were made to the game of shatranj and by 1475 a lot of the rules got changed as well. The queen was added as the most important piece and the way the pawn moves was changed. Writings about the theory of how to play chess began to appear in the 15th century. The Repetición de Amores y Arte de Ajedrez (Repetition of Love and the Art of Playing Chess) by Spanish churchman Luis Ramirez de Lucena was published in Salamanca in 1497.
By the end of the 19th century, the most important rules for chess were in place. Slowly but surely, it was becoming a major sport. Several tournaments were being held around the world. The winners of those tournaments received the title of Grandmaster. That’s the highest title any chess player can receive. The final touches were added in modern times, somewhere around the Enlightenment period. Chess became internationally popular and it was accepted by every country in the world.
Even though chess is a complicated game, the rules are not that hard to understand. Each type of figure always moves in a certain way.
- The king moves one square in any direction. The king also has a special move called castling that involves also moving a rook.
- A rook can move any number of squares along a rank or file, but cannot leap over other pieces. Along with the king, a rook is involved during the king’s castling move.
- A bishop can move any number of squares diagonally, but cannot leap over other pieces.
- The queen combines the power of a rook and bishop and can move any number of squares along a rank, file, or diagonal, but cannot leap over other pieces.
- A 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.
- A pawn can move forward to the unoccupied square immediately in front of it on the same file, or on its first move it can advance two squares along the same file, provided both squares are unoccupied. Additionally, the pawn can capture an opponent’s piece on a square diagonally in front of it on an adjacent file, by moving to that square (black “x”s).
This is a move often used in professional chess but rarely in casual play because it’s a bit complicated. It involves the king and one of the rooks. Castling consists of moving the king two squares along the first rank toward a rook (that is on the player’s first rank and then placing the rook on the last square that the king just crossed. For this to happen several conditions need to be met:
- The king and the rook shouldn’t have any previous movement in the game.
- The should be no pieces between the king and the rook.
- The king mustn’t be in a check position.
This is another special move in chess that can be done by any pawn. If a pawn advances all the way to the end of the board on the opponents side, the pawn gets a promotion. The player gets to exchange that pawn for a queen, rook, bishop, or knight of the same color. In most cases, players pick a queen since that’s the strongest figure. However, in certain situations a different figure is preferred. In those situations, the move is known as an under promotion.
How to Play
Once you understand how all the figures move, you are ready to play chess. To win, you must checkmate your opponent’s king. This can be done by any figure. During the game, you will try to put their king in a check position. That means that the king is being attacked by one or more of your figures. Your opponent must respond with making a move that will get his king out of the check position. Until that happens, he is not allowed to make other moves.
Winning the Game
In casual play, to win in chess you need to checkmate your opponent or he can concede the game to you. In professional play, there is a timer which runs until you make a move. If the time runs out before the match is over, you will lose the game if the opponent has enough figures to create a checkmate position. Last but not least, a chess game can be lost through a forfeit. This happens when a player is caught cheating, wearing electronic devices, refuses to shake hands with his opponent, etc.
Nevertheless, we also have to mention that a draw is also possible. It can happen by mutual agreement, when both players don’t have enough figures to create a checkmate situation. Additionally, here are the other ways in which a chess game will end with a draw:
- Stalemate – The player whose turn it is to move has no legal move and is not in check.
- Threefold repetition of position -This most commonly occurs when neither side is able to avoid repeating moves without incurring a disadvantage. In this situation, either player can claim a draw; this requires the players to keep a valid written record of the game so that the claim can be verified by the arbiter if challenged. The three occurrences of the position need not occur on consecutive moves for a claim to be valid.
- Fifty-move rule – If during the previous 50 moves no pawn has been moved and no capture has been made, either player can claim a draw.
Chess Organisations and Tournaments
Chess has an international governing body which is known as FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs). Almost every country has a national chess organisation which is a part of FIDE. It’s important to note that even though FIDE is a part of the International Olympic Committee, the game has never been an Olympic sport. You can learn more about FIDE on their official website. It’s not very popular when it comes to sports betting; however, certain betting offers can be lucrative.
FIDE is in charge of all the Championships in chess. Doesn’t matter if they are the World Championships, European Championships, Chess Olympiad, etc. Besides these prestigious competitions, there are thousands of other chess tournaments, matches, and festivals held around the world every year catering to players of all levels. Chess is promoted as a “mind sport” by the Mind Sports Organisation, alongside other mental-skill games such as contract bridge, Go, and Scrabble.
Rankings & Titles
Winning a tournament gets you a certain number of points which affect your rating. We mentioned above that the best ones get the title of Grandmaster. However, there are other titles for chess players as well.
- Grandmaster (shortened as GM; sometimes International Grandmaster or IGM is used) is awarded to world-class chess masters. Before FIDE will confer the title on a player, the player must have an Elo chess rating (see below) of at least 2500 at one time and three favorable results (called norms) in tournaments involving other grandmasters, including some from countries other than the applicant’s.
- International Master (shortened as IM). The conditions are similar to GM, but less demanding. The minimum rating for the IM title is 2400.
- FIDE Master (shortened as FM). The usual way for a player to qualify for the FIDE Master title is by achieving a FIDE rating of 2300 or more.
- Candidate Master (shortened as CM). Similar to FM, but with a FIDE rating of at least 2200.
All these titles are open to both men and women. However, there are separate championships that are organized just for women. There, it is possible to win the title of Women Grandmaster.
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