Beginner Chess, Where to Start


“Every chess master was once a beginner.” - Irving Chernev


If you are new to chess, you may find yourself looking at a board and feeling like learning the game will be a daunting task. Truth is, there is a lot to learn, but once you get the hang of it you may end up wondering why you hadn’t started earlier.

If you find yourself currently wondering “how do I start learning chess?” you’re in the right place! Here are some tips to get you started on your journey to being an awesome chess player.


Chess is a social game

If you have a friend or family member that knows the game, ask them if they would be willing to teach you. Chess players more times than not want to share their love of the game, and may just be looking for more people to play with (you can be that person!)


Watch local or televised tournaments

Just because you aren’t ready for a tournament yet, watching competitive players play can be a very encouraging experience. If you can’t find any local tournaments, you can often watch professional tournaments online.


Check out books and DVD’s

There are lots of chess books and DVD’s at the library or at the store that can be a wonderful resource.

These 2 are great for beginners:

Learn Chess the Right Way: Book 1: Must-know Checkmates by Susan Polgar

Winning Chess the Easy Way with Susan Polgar Vol 1: The Basic Principles of Chess bundled with Art of War DVD


Practice setting up the board

Seems simple enough, but it’s imperative to learning the game. Memorize where your pieces go and how to properly set up your board.


Learn the basics of each piece

You can’t play chess if you don’t understand the pieces. Memorize the names of the pieces first, then what each of the pieces do, how they move, and how they capture.

Whether you are teaching your child or yourself, if it helps to remember the rook as a ‘castle’, or a knight as a ‘horsey’, don’t feel silly at all. Little tricks can be super helpful and help you learn the game quicker.


How the pieces move:


Pawns: Move forward unless they are capturing an opponent’s piece. In that case they can move diagonally.

Knights: Can move in “L” shapes, either two squares vertically and on square horizontally, or two squares horizontally and one square vertically. They can also jump over other pieces during the game.

Bishops: Move diagonally forwards or backwards across the board for any amount of spaces.

Rooks: Move forwards or backwards, horizontally or vertically, across the board for any amount of spaces.

Queen: Moves horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, in any direction, and for any amount of spaces.

King: Can move one square in any direction.


Play Practice Games

It can be overwhelming to learn all the pieces and movements at once. What can help is playing special practice games focusing on one piece at a time. Try a pawns only game first with the goal of getting all the pawns to the other side of the board. Slowly add in more pieces one at a time – bishops, rooks, and then the knights.


Practice checkmate

As you get more comfortable with those practice variations, try a game with only the king, queen, pawn, and rook to practice the concepts of check and checkmate. Try to become confident with at least 3 different checkmate patterns.


Play often

Chess is a game where you only get better by playing more – so find any opportunity possible to practice and play often. Whether you choose to play online, sign up for a tournament, or challenge a friend to a matchup– any time playing is worthwhile.