Chess Basics: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of playing chess, including how to set up the board, the names of the pieces, and how each of the pieces is allowed to move during the game.

Getting Started with Chess

Get ready to learn the basics of playing chess, the 'game of kings'! Chess is a game of strategy, so it's often been taught to those in the military. When you play chess, you're commanding an 'army'; your goal is to capture your opponent's king! You need to out-think your opponent to win.

The chess board is square with 64 smaller squares on it, arranged in 8 rows of 8 squares.

The Chess Board at the Start of the Game

Setting Up the Board

One player has white and the other has black pieces.

  • Rook: The first piece in the corner looks like a castle. This is the rook. Each player has two rooks, which are placed in the corners of the board.
  • Knight: The piece that looks like a horse is the knight. In the past, knights were warriors who rode on horseback and defended their king. Each player has two knights.
  • Bishop: The next piece is the bishop. A bishop is a religious leader; many kings had bishops who advised them. Each player has two bishops.
  • Queen: The queen is next; this piece has a crown with many points. The black queen always starts on a black space and the white queen always starts on a white space.
  • King: The king also has a crown, often with a cross on top.
  • Pawns: The pieces in the second row are all the same. These are the pawns. Each player starts the game with 8 pawns.

The pieces should be arranged so that the board looks like the diagram. Each player should have a white square in the corner on their right. The player with the white pieces has the first move.

How Do the Pieces Move?

Basic Rules

  • Pieces can't jump over squares that are occupied by other pieces. The only exception to this is the knight.
  • Two pieces can't occupy the same square. If you move your piece into a square occupied by one of your opponent's pieces, you have 'captured' that piece and it's removed from the board.
  • The goal of the game is to capture the opponent's king. Move your pieces so that you are capturing your opponent's pieces, preventing your own pieces from being captured, or defending your king.

Movement of Pieces

Each of the pieces moves differently.

The red arrows show how the pieces can move on the board

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