Board Game Bonanza: Chess – The Game Plan

Finally diving into strategies, this third and final article will demonstrate how to interpret the Chess board, begin a game, and win.

In summer, many players young and old gather in parks to play chess. The game’s cold strategizing is perfectly suited for those oppressively hot days. Besides, a long seat in the shade often beats that sweaty game of skins and shirts.

But if you want to stretch your time at the table, you’ll need to master some basic techniques and strategies This final article offers some basic tips on how to win at chess and become top-dog at the park.

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Before jumping into all these strategies, understanding the Chess board structure is important. Remember that the Chess board consists of 64 squares that form an eight-by-eight grid. Because of the grid these mini squares form, the board can also be divided into quadrants just like on a Battleship board. When looking at the board from white side’s perspective (which is the perspective that will be used for the rest of the article), the numbers one through eight each line up with squares along the sides of the board, corresponding to rows. On the top and bottom, the letters ‘a’ through ‘h’ run from left to right, indicating columns. The row of letters and column of numbers give each square a specific name. For instance, if a pawn needs go forward one space and is on b3 currently, it would move to b4.

Remember that pawns have the ability to be turned into any piece besides a King (this is called “promotion”). In order to climb the ranks in this manner, a pawn must be navigated to the opposite side of the board. When the pawn reaches the furthest row, the player can swap the pawn for any kind of piece, even if the piece is not available to be placed on the board. The transformed pawn now must move as the piece it becomes. This rule is extremely helpful, especially for re-obtaining a lost Rook or adding a second Queen to the arsenal.

There are multiple ways to start out a game. Some people move their Knights toward the middle of the board immediately, and others randomly send Pawns out to scout for the opponent’s plan.

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One of the many strategies for starting a game is called the Bull Formation. To start, move the two middle-most pawns, on squares d2 and e2, forward two spaces. Next, in no particular order, both Bishop and Knights should be moved. The Bishops are moved along their respective colored squares to f4 and c4. The Knight on the left should be moved to c3 and the Knight on the right to f3. The movement of the Pawns, Knights, and Bishops should have created a box shape consisting of four squares. In this box, your Queen should be moved inside, although to which exact location varies depending on what your future maneuvers will be.

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Another way to obtain control over the middle of the board is maneuvering three or more Pawns in a diagonal wall. For instance, setting up pawns on squares b2, c3, and d4 would form this boundary. This approach creates a unique “capture” line that discourages opposing pieces from disrupting that line and encroaching into your territory.

Unfortunately, you will sometimes not be able to complete the full Bull Formation or Pawn wall. Keeping your pieces from being captured is always a priority when employing these starting maneuvers. Players can begin to sacrifice their pieces more readily when they’re in the final stages of capturing the King.

The central question, however, remains: “How does a player capture the King?” An opponent is not going to just let the prized game piece get captured easily. The following two strategies can help a player cast down the opponent’s monarch.

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One of the most effective ways to capture the opponent’s King is Rook Staring. Taking one of your Rooks, line it up so it is exactly one row above or below the King. This move forms a barrier that prevents the opposing king from going past your Rook. Next, line your second Rook so that it is in the same row as the King. This move places the King in “check,” meaning the King will be taken the next turn if it does not move from the square it is currently on. The King now has to move up (or down, depending on where you set up your Rooks) a row. Now, move the first Rook you maneuvered up two rows so that it is in the same row as the King. Again, the King will be forced to move up a row because it cannot go back to the previous row due to the placement of your other Rook.

The cycle of threatening the King with Rooks and the King retreating will continue until you reach the end of the board. Finally, the King will be in “checkmate” (meaning the King cannot move anywhere without being taken the next turn) when one Rook is in the last row with the King and your other Rook is in the row below, preventing the King from escaping.

A Queen can be used instead of a Rook in case you lost your Rook to the enemy, since the Queen may make the same horizontal and vertical movement of the Rook. Rook Staring is best used when there are few pieces on the board. Other pieces, yours and your opponents, can thwart your Rooks’ attempts by simply inhabiting a row, blocking the Rook’s movement into the row. If a piece is in the Rook’s way, the opposing King can go into the same row as the Rook and escape.

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Another way to limit the opposing King’s movements and ability to escape capture is to use your own King. Because of the continuous stalemate that would ensue if two Kings were left alone to face off, a rule is in place that Kings cannot be closer than one square to each other. Taking one or two of your pieces along with your King, you can back the opponent’s King into a corner of a board, placing the King in checkmate.

Whether you play in a crowded park or in a quiet study, Chess is one of the richest strategic games ever devised. From opening gambits to taking control of the middle of the board to capturing the King, every action taken is a calculation toward victory, not a random event. Piecing together all three of the Chess articles, you should have no trouble becoming a worthy opponent.