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Special Rules

History of Chess Setting up the Board Pieces (Moves) Basic Strategies Special Rules Setting Up a Chess Club

You now understand the basics of how pieces move. However, before you challenge your friend to a game, it would be good to know these special rules.

Castling

This move allows you to do two important things all in one move: get your king to safety (hopefully), and get your rook out of the corner and into the game. On a player’s turn he may move his king two squares over to one side and then move the rook from that side’s corner to right next to the king on the opposite side. (See the example below.) However, in order to castle, the following conditions must be met:

  • it must be that king’s very first move
  • it must be that rook’s very first move
  • there cannot be any pieces between the king and rook to move
  • the king may not be in check or pass through check

When you castle one direction the king is closer to the side of the board. That is called castling kingside. Castling to the other side, through where the queen sat, is called castling queenside. Regardless of which side, the king always moves only two squares when castling.

Promotion

Pawns have a special ability and that is that if a pawn reaches the other side of the board it can become any other chess piece (called promotion). A pawn may be promoted to any piece. [NOTE: A common misconception is that pawns may only be exchanged for a piece that has been captured. That is NOT true.] A pawn is usually promoted to a queen. Only pawns may be promoted.

En Passant

Another rule about pawns is called “en passant,” which is French for “in passing”. If a pawn moves out two squares on its first move, and by doing so lands to the side of an opponent’s pawn (effectively jumping past the other pawn’s ability to capture it), that other pawn has the option of capturing the first pawn as it passes by. This special move must be done immediately after the first pawn has moved past, otherwise the option to capture it is no longer available. Click through the example below to better understand this odd, but important rule.

Check & Checkmate 

The purpose of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king. This happens when the king is put into check and cannot get out of check. There are only three ways a king can get out of check: move out of the way (though he cannot castle!), block the check with another piece, or capture the piece threatening the king. If a king cannot escape checkmate then the game is over. Customarily the king is not captured or removed from the board, the game is simply declared over.

Draws

Occasionally chess games do not end with a winner, but with a draw. There are 5 reasons why a chess game may end in a draw:

  • The position reaches a stalemate where it is one player’s turn to move, but his king is NOT in check and yet he does not have another legal move
  • The players may simply agree to a draw and stop playing
  • There are not enough pieces on the board to force a checkmate (example: a king and a bishop vs.a king)
  • A player declares a draw if the same exact position is repeated three times (though not necessarily three times in a row)
  • Fifty consecutive moves have been played where neither player has moved a pawn or captured a piece.