Traditional Board Games


Chess, the archetypal board game
Chess, the archetypal board game

Chess is one of the best-known board games in the world. It is one of the most deeply-studied games, and the subject of serious competition and scholarly analysis. There are many different forms of chess, not only historical curiosities but surviving regional variants. The version described here is the modern game as played in the west.

It is played on a chequered board of eight rows of eight squares. 32 pieces are used, sixteen per player, of six different forms: the king, queen, bishop, knight, rook and pawn, each having different powers of move. The sophistication of having different moves for different pieces opens up the possibility of "chess problems", positional puzzles which can be more subtle than equivalent puzzles for other games.

History of Chess

The game invented in India in the middle of the first millennium resembles the modern game very closely. But two of the long-range pieces of today's game, the queen and the bishop, had much shorter moves, leaving the rooks the the only long-range pieces. This produced a much slower game, and various methods have been contrived throughout the world to speed the game up.

In about 1490 the solution adopted in Europe was to empower the queen and bishop with their present long-range moves, to introduce the pawn's initial two-step move, and allow en-passant captures and castling. While the older game took centuries to spread from the south to the north of Europe, the new game had the aid of the printing press, and took only about a decade to replace the old.

From that point on, scholarly interest in the game increased, eventually matching the level of interest held by the older game. Formal competitions became widespread in the nineteenth century, and it was not until then that the pieces adopted a standardised look adopted for all sets except those for primarily ornamental purposes.

The twentieth century saw the founding of the Fédération internationale des échecs, or World Chess Federation, which acts as the governing body of international chess competition. It defines the rules of the game, both for play between individuals and for the conduct of tournaments.

Rules for Chess

1. Beginning the game: chess is played on an 8x8 board chequered with light and dark squares, the bottom right square by each player being light. There are 32 pieces, 16 black, 16 white: each player having two rooks, two knights, two bishops, a queen, a king and eight pawns. They are lined up on the player's back row in the order rook, knight, bishop, queen/king, bishop, knight and rook, the queen being on her own colour. The pawns are directly in front on the second row. White moves first, black following and play alternating thereafter.

2. Moving pieces: in his move a player moves one of his pieces according to the following rules: the king moves to any one of the eight adjacent squares; the queen moves forward, backward, sideways or diagonally in a straight line any number of spaces; the rook moves forward, backward or sideways any number of spaces; the bishop moves diagonally any number of spaces; the knight moves one square forward, backward or sideways and one further step diagonally; the pawn moves one step forward or, optionally on its first move, two steps. Only the knight may jump over other pieces in the course of its move. Another move is castling, a simultaneous move by king and either of the rooks: if neither piece has moved, and the squares between them are clear, the king may move two squares towards the rook, and the rook then jumps over the king to land on the square next to him.

3. Capturing enemies: most pieces capture an enemy by landing on it in the course of their normal move. The pawn is an exception: it moves one square diagonally to capture. Another exception is en passant: if a pawn is on the fifth row, and an enemy pawn moves two squares to land beside it, it may capture the enemy pawn by moving diagonally behind it, as if the enemy pawn had moved only one square. No king may be captured: if threatened with capture (called "check"), its player on his next turn must remove the threat by moving the king, by interposing a piece or by capturing the piece that makes the threat. The king may not move into check, nor may any piece move such that its king is exposed to check.

4. Ending the game: if a player's king is threatened with capture and he cannot provide for its safety, he loses the game. This is called "checkmate". Alternatively if a player has no legal move, the game is drawn ("stalemate"). If both sides are reduced to a king only, neither can win the game and it is similarly drawn.

Play chess against the computer


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