Basic Chess Rules Every Chess Player Should Know!

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Here are the basic rules of chess:

  • The main objective of a player in a chess game is to checkmate the opponent’s king.
  • Checkmate means when the king is in threat (under attack) by an opponent piece or pieces but has no legal ways to get out of that threat.
  • The game immediately ends whenever a checkmate occurs. The player who checkmates the opponent’s king wins the game while the player who gets checkmated loses the game. You can read more about the checkmate rules here.
  • A “check” means the king is under threat but still has a way to get out of that threat. In that sense, a check is different from a checkmate.

See the below image. The black king is in check. But the game is not going to end here.


Still, the black king can be saved from the threat of the white queen by moving it to safe squares (squares that are marked with a green tick mark in the image above are safe)

Now let’s discuss another important rule.

  • A player can never move a king in check intentionally neither make a move that puts or exposes the king in check.

This is probably the most important and golden rule that you must never forget. The detailed explanation of this rule I have talked about in my article can you put yourself in check. You can check that for more information.

  • If your king is in check then first you have to take it out of check (threat) and then ONLY you can make any other move. If you leave your king in check and make a different move then it is considered illegal.
  • When a player’s king is not in check (means the king is safe) but the player has no legal moves left to continue the game then this is a special condition called a stalemate.

Here in the above image as you can see the black king where it is standing right now is a safe square. But it can’t move anywhere else because all the other squares are under the threat of the opponent’s white queen.

Also, observe that the black player has no other moves left to continue the game (because the black pawns are also blocked). So technically the black player didn’t lose the game because the king is safe but can’t continue the game further in this condition.

Thus, whenever a stalemate occurs the game ends in a draw. And you believe it or not many chess games end in a draw. So don’t get surprised if you were about to win but suddenly got stalemated. It is very common.

You can read more about the difference between stalemate and checkmate.

  • A draw can also happen in chess in other ways such as a draw by agreement, insufficient mating material, 50 move rule, and threefold repetition. Here’s a one-by-one explanation of each one of them.
  • If both chess players think mutually agree on a draw then the game ended in a draw.
  • A draw due to insufficient mating material happens when you don’t have enough pieces to checkmate the king.

For example, when you and your opponent, both only have the kings left. Then neither of you can checkmate each other.

This is because one king can’t checkmate another king as they both oppose each other.

  • Then there is a draw by 50 move rule. This rule says that if no pawn movement and no capture has been made within the last 50 moves then the game ends in a draw provided the player with a turn to move claims for it.

If the player forgets then there is a 75 move rule as per which if no pawn movement and no capture has been made within the last 75 moves then the arbiter (referee) can interfere and declare the game as a draw.

  • According to the threefold repetition rule, if the same position gets repeated three times then, the player having the turn to move can claim a draw.
  • However, if the player forgets to claim and the same position is repeated five times then according to the fivefold repetition rule the arbiter can interfere and declare the game a draw.
  • Touch move rule: Once you touch a piece with the intention to move then you HAVE To move it (if legally possible) whether you want or not. All the incidents of touching pieces are considered intentional unless stated beforehand by saying words like “j’adoube” or “I adjust”.

You can read more about the touch move rule in my article why do chess players touch their pieces.

  • Remember the basic rules of chess also include that you should move the pieces how they are supposed to move. If you try to move a rook like a knight or any other then it would be considered as a violation of the rules.

So these are some of the basic rules that you must remember to play the game. You can read the FIDE Laws of chess. FIDE is the international chess federation.

In previous lessons we discussed the chessboard setup, how chess pieces move, chess pieces value, and here the basic chess rules.

Now, you should know that a chess game is divided into three phases: the opening, the middlegame, and the endgame. So let’s move on to our next lesson.

Lesson #1: Chess Basics Introduction

Lesson #2: Basic Chess Terms

Lesson #3: Chess Board Structure And Setup

Lesson #4: How Chess Pieces Move

Lesson #5: Chess Pieces Value

Lesson #6: Basic Chess Rules ( You are here 🙂 )

Lesson #7: Three Phases Of A Chess Game

Lesson #8: How To Play Chess Openings

Lesson #9: How To Play Chess Middlegames

Lesson #10: How To Play Chess Endgames