Chess is a two-player strategy board game played on a chessboard, a square checkered gameboard with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.
Each player begins the game with sixteen pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns. Each of the six piece types moves differently. Pieces are used to attack and capture the opponent's pieces, with the objective to 'checkmate' the opponent's king by placing it under an inescapable threat of capture. In addition to checkmate, the game can be won by the voluntary resignation of the opponent, which typically occurs when too much material is lost, or if checkmate appears unavoidable. A game may also result in a draw in several ways, where neither player wins. The course of the game is divided into three phases: opening, middlegame, and endgame.
Chess is believed to have originated in northwest India during the Gupta empire, where its early form in the 6th century was known as chaturanga (Sanskrit: four divisions [of the military] – infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariotry, represented by the pieces that would evolve into the modern pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively). According to both Chess historians Gerhard Josten and Isaak Linder "the early beginnings" of chess can be traced back to the Kushan Empire in Ancient Afghanistan (G. Josten, Chess - a living fossil). The earliest evidence of chess is found in the neighboring Sassanid Persia around 600, where the game came to be known by the name chatrang. Chatrang is evoked in three epic romances written in Pahlavi (Middle Persian). Chatrang was taken up by the Muslim world after the Islamic conquest of Persia (633–644), where it was then named shatranj, with the pieces largely retaining their Persian names. In Spanish "shatranj" was rendered as ajedrez ("al-shatranj"), in Portuguese as xadrez, and in Greek as (zatrikion, which comes directly from the Persian chatrang), but in the rest of Europe it was replaced by versions of the Persian shah ("king"), which was familiar as an exclamation and became the English words "check" and "chess". Murray theorized that Muslim traders came to European seaports with ornamental chess kings as curios before they brought the game of chess.
The game reached Western Europe and Russia by at least three routes, the earliest being in the 9th century. By the year 1000 it had spread throughout Europe. Introduced into the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors in the 10th century, it was described in a famous 13th-century manuscript covering shatranj, backgammon, and dice named the Libro de los juegos. Another theory contends that chess arose from the game xiangqi (Chinese Chess) or one of its predecessors, although this has been contested.
Around 1200, the rules of shatranj started to be modified in southern Europe, and around 1475, several major changes made the game essentially as it is known today. These modern rules for the basic moves had been adopted in Italy and Spain. Pawns gained the option of advancing two squares on their first move, while bishops and queens acquired their modern abilities. The queen replaced the earlier vizier chess piece towards the end of the 10th century and by the 15th century had become the most powerful piece consequently modern chess was referred to as "Queen's Chess" or "Mad Queen Chess". These new rules quickly spread throughout western Europe. The rules about stalemate were finalized in the early 19th century. To distinguish it from its predecessors, this version of the rules is sometimes referred to as western chess or international chess.
The first modern chess tournament was organized by Howard Staunton, a leading English chess player, and was held in London in 1851. It was won by the relatively unknown German Adolf Anderssen, who was hailed as the leading chess master, and his brilliant, energetic attacking style became typical for the time, although it was later regarded as strategically shallow. Sparkling games like Anderssen's Immortal game and Evergreen game or Morphy's Opera game were regarded as the highest possible summit of the chess art.
The official rules of chess are maintained by the World Chess Federation. Along with information on official chess tournaments, the rules are described in the FIDE Handbook, Laws of Chess section.
Chess is played on a square board of eight rows (called ranks and denoted with numbers 1 to 8) and eight columns (called files and denoted with letters a to h) of squares. The colors of the sixty-four squares alternate and are referred to as "light squares" and "dark squares". The chessboard is placed with a light square at the right-hand end of the rank nearest to each player, and the pieces are set out as shown in the diagram, with each queen on its own color.
The pieces are divided, by convention, into white and black sets. The players are referred to as "White" and "Black", and each begins the game with sixteen pieces of the specified color. These consist of one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns.
White always moves first. After the initial move, the players alternately move one piece at a time (with the exception of castling, when two pieces are moved). Pieces are moved to either an unoccupied square or one occupied by an opponent's piece, which is captured and removed from play. With the sole exception of en passant, all pieces capture opponent's pieces by moving to the square that the opponent's piece occupies. A player may not make any move that would put or leave his king under attack. If the player to move has no legal moves, the game is over; it is either a checkmate (a loss for the player with no legal moves)—if the king is under attack—or a stalemate (a draw)—if the king is not.
Each chess piece has its own style of moving. In the diagrams, the dots mark the squares where the piece can move if no other pieces (including one's own piece) are on the squares between the piece's initial position and its destination.
The king moves one square in any direction. The king has also a special move which is called castling and involves also moving a rook.
The rook can move any number of squares along any rank or file, but may not leap over other pieces. Along with the king, the rook is involved during the king's castling move.
The bishop can move any number of squares diagonally, but may not leap over other pieces.
The queen combines the power of the rook and bishop and can move any number of squares along rank, file, or diagonal, but it may not leap over other pieces.
The knight moves to any of the closest squares that are not on the same rank, file, or diagonal, thus the move forms an "L"-shape: two squares vertically and one square horizontally, or two squares horizontally and one square vertically. The knight is the only piece that can leap over other pieces.
The pawn may move forward to the unoccupied square immediately in front of it on the same file; or on its first move it may advance two squares along the same file provided both squares are unoccupied; or it may move to a square occupied by an opponent's piece which is diagonally in front of it on an adjacent file, capturing that piece. The pawn has two special moves: the en passant capture and pawn promotion.
Once in every game, each king is allowed to make a special move, known as castling. Castling consists of moving the king two squares along the first rank toward a rook (which is on the player's first rank) and then placing the rook on the last square the king has just crossed. Castling is permissible only if all of the following conditions hold:
Neither of the pieces involved in castling may have been previously moved during the game.
There must be no pieces between the king and the rook.
The king may not be in check, nor may the king pass through squares that are under attack by enemy pieces, nor move to a square where it is in check.
When a pawn advances two squares from its starting position and there is an opponent's pawn on an adjacent file next to its destination square, then the opponent's pawn can capture it en passant (in passing), and move to the square the pawn passed over. However, this can only be done on the very next move, otherwise the right to do so is forfeit. For example, if the black pawn has just advanced two squares from g7 (initial starting position) to g5, then the white pawn on f5 may take it via en passant on g6 (but only on white's next move).
When a pawn advances to the eighth rank, as a part of the move it is promoted and must be exchanged for the player's choice of queen, rook, bishop, or knight of the same color. Usually, the pawn is chosen to be promoted to a queen, but in some cases another piece is chosen; this is called underpromotion. In the diagram on the right, the pawn on c7 can be advanced to the eighth rank and be promoted to an allowed piece. There is no restriction placed on the piece that is chosen on promotion, so it is possible to have more pieces of the same type than at the start of the game (for example, two queens).
When a king is under immediate attack by one or two of the opponent's pieces, it is said to be in check. A response to a check is a legal move if it results in a position where the king is no longer under direct attack (that is, not in check). This can involve capturing the checking piece; interposing a piece between the checking piece and the king (which is possible only if the attacking piece is a queen, rook, or bishop and there is a square between it and the king); or moving the king to a square where it is not under attack. Castling is not a permissible response to a check. The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent; this occurs when the opponent's king is in check, and there is no legal way to remove it from attack. It is illegal for a player to make a move that would put or leave his own king in check.
Although the objective of the game is to checkmate the opponent, chess games do not have to end in checkmate—either player may resign which is a win for the other player. It is considered bad etiquette to continue playing when in a truly hopeless position. If it is a game with time control, a player may run out of time and lose, even with a much superior position. Games also may end in a draw (tie). A draw can occur in several situations, including draw by agreement, stalemate, threefold repetition of a position, the fifty-move rule, or a draw by impossibility of checkmate (usually because of insufficient material to checkmate). As checkmate from some positions cannot be forced in fewer than 50 moves (such as in the pawnless chess endgame and two knights endgame), the fifty-move rule is not applied everywhere, particularly in correspondence chess.
Chess matches may also be played with a time control, mostly by club and professional players. If a player's time runs out before the game is completed, the game is automatically lost (provided his opponent has enough pieces left to deliver checkmate). The duration of a game ranges from long games played up to seven hours to shorter rapid chess games, usually lasting 30 minutes or one hour per game. Even shorter is blitz chess, with a time control of three to fifteen minutes for each player, and bullet chess (under three minutes). In tournament play, time is controlled using a game clock that has two displays, one for each player's remaining time.
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