How to Play Chess For Kids?: A Step-by-Step Guide –

How to play chess for kids

So, your kid wants to learn how to play chess, huh? Don’t worry, chess is actually a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. As with any new skill, the basics are easy to pick up but it takes time to master. The good news is, chess teaches kids life skills like planning ahead, thinking logically, and learning from mistakes. This article will walk you through the basic rules, pieces, and strategies to get your kid started. Before you know it, you’ll be cheering them on at local chess tournaments! OK, maybe not that quickly, but with practice, their skills and confidence will grow in no time. Now, grab a chessboard and let’s go over how this classic game works.

Chess Basics: The Chessboard and Pieces

To play chess, you first need to know the pieces and how the board is set up.

The chessboard has 64 squares in an 8×8 grid. The squares are light and dark, like a checkerboard. The board is placed between the two players so that each player has a light square on the bottom right.

The Chess Pieces

There are 6 different types of chess pieces:

  1. King – The tallest piece. Can move one square in any direction. The king is the most important piece – if the king is captured, you lose!
  2. Queen – The most powerful piece. Can move any number of squares in any straight line horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
  3. Rooks – Also called castles. Can move any number of squares horizontally or vertically.
  4. Bishops – Can move any number of squares diagonally. Each bishop operates on squares of one color.
  5. Knights – Can move two squares horizontally then one square vertically, or two squares vertically then one square horizontally. Knights are the only pieces that can jump over other pieces.
  6. Pawns – The least powerful but most numerous pieces. Pawns can only move forward one square at a time, except for their first move where they can move two squares. Pawns can only capture pieces diagonally one square in front of them.

When you place all the pieces on the board, you’ll have an army of 16 chess pieces ready for battle! Now you know the basics and are ready to start playing chess.

How the Pieces Move: The Rules Kids Need to Know

To play chess, you need to understand how each piece moves. The pieces move differently, so pay attention!

The King

The king is the tallest piece. He can move one space in any direction – up, down, left, right, and diagonally. The king is the most important piece – if he is captured, you lose the game!

The Queen

The queen is the most powerful piece. She can move any number of spaces in any straight line – vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Queens love to capture opposing pieces.


Rooks are also known as castles. They can move any number of spaces vertically or horizontally. Rooks are great for controlling the board and protecting your more valuable pieces.


Bishops can move any number of spaces diagonally. Each bishop operates on squares of the same color. Bishops work with the other pieces to trap the opponent’s king.


Knights are the only pieces that can jump over other pieces. They move two spaces horizontally then one space vertically, or two spaces vertically then one space horizontally. Knights attack from an unexpected direction!


Pawns can only move forward one space at a time, except for their very first move where they can move two spaces. Pawns can only capture pieces diagonally one space in front of them. Pawns are the smallest but most numerous pieces in chess.

Check, Checkmate, and Stalemate: Winning, Losing, and Drawing

To win at chess, you need to checkmate your opponent’s king or force a stalemate.

A checkmate means the king is under immediate attack (in “check”) and cannot escape capture. To achieve checkmate:

  • Attack the king with your pawn, queen, rook, bishop or knight. The king cannot capture the piece that has it in check.
  • Control the squares around the king so it has nowhere to flee. The king can only move one square in any direction.
  • Protect the piece that has the king in check so your opponent cannot capture it.

A stalemate happens when a player whose turn it is has no legal moves left but is not in checkmate. In this case, the game ends in a draw. To force a stalemate:

  • Reduce your opponent’s forces so they have very limited mobility. Offer to trade pieces whenever possible to simplify the board.
  • Restrict the movement of their remaining pieces, especially their king. Maneuver your pieces to control key squares around their king and other pieces.
  • Avoid checkmating your opponent in your quest to gain a material or positional advantage. Be cautious not to blunder into a checkmate yourself! Focus on incremental gains.

Some other ways a chess game can end in a draw:

  • Insufficient material: Only kings remain, or each player has only a king and bishop or king and knight. These pieces cannot force checkmate solo.
  • Agreement: Both players agree to a draw. This often happens when there is no foreseeable way for either player to win.
  • Threefold repetition: The same board position occurs three times. This indicates neither side can make progress.
  • 50-move rule: No pawns have been moved and no captures made in the last 50 moves by each player. This rule prevents endless non-progressive maneuvering.

Mastering the finer points of how to achieve checkmate, force stalemate, and end in a draw will elevate your chess skills and make you a formidable opponent. With practice, you’ll be winning and drawing confidently in no time.

Chess Tactics to Know: Forks, Pins, Skewers

Once you know how the pieces move, it’s time to start thinking tactically. Chess tactics allow you to gain an advantage over your opponent and put them in checkmate. Three important tactics for beginners to know are forks, pins, and skewers.


A fork is when you attack two or more of your opponent’s pieces at once with different moves. This forces them to only be able to save one piece, allowing you to capture the other. For example, moving your knight to attack both your opponent’s queen and rook at the same time. They can only move one out of danger, so you get to take the other piece.


Pinning is when you attack a high-value piece, like the queen, so that it cannot move without exposing a lower-value piece behind it. The pinned piece acts as a shield, preventing the more valuable piece from moving away. For example, lining up your bishop to attack your opponent’s queen with your bishop, using the queen as a shield to also threaten the king behind it.


A skewer is the opposite of a pin. You threaten a less valuable piece in a way that forces a more valuable piece to move away, exposing it to capture. For example, moving your rook to attack your opponent’s knight, forcing their queen behind the knight to move away to safety so you can then capture the queen.

Using forks, pins, and skewers throughout the game will gain you an advantage by capturing important pieces or weakening your opponent’s position. Look for opportunities to set up these threats, especially when your opponent leaves pieces unprotected or in a line.

Chess Etiquette: Sportsmanship and Rules of the Game

When playing chess with an opponent, whether in-person or online, there are some rules of etiquette and sportsmanship to follow. Chess is a game of skill and strategy, not luck, so how you conduct yourself matters.

Be polite

Greet your opponent before the game and thank them afterward, win or lose. Say “check” when threatening their king, and declare “checkmate” when you’ve won to officially end the game. Avoid insulting or distracting your opponent.

Don’t cheat

Never move pieces when your opponent isn’t looking or break the rules to gain an advantage. Cheating destroys the integrity of the game.

Accept defeat graciously

No one wins every time. Say “good game” and congratulate your opponent on their victory. Then review your mistakes and work to improve for the next game. Getting frustrated or angry will only make you play worse.

Claim draws appropriately

You can claim a draw if the same position repeats three times, or if 50 moves pass without a capture or pawn move. Don’t claim a draw just to avoid losing – play the game out completely whenever possible.

Don’t disturb other players

If playing in a tournament or public space, make sure your behavior doesn’t interfere with other games in progress. Keep noise and distractions to a minimum. Turn off mobile phones and other electronics before the match begins.

By following these rules of etiquette and sportsmanship, you’ll gain the respect of other chess players and build a good reputation. And you’ll be able to focus on playing your best game, rather than worrying about poor behavior or cheating. Play with honor, accept the results, and have fun! Learning how to win – and lose – gracefully are skills that translate far beyond the chess board.

Conclusion: How to Play Chess For Kids?

So there you have it, the basics of how to play chess for kids. Now you’re ready to set up the board, get out the pieces, and start playing. Don’t get discouraged if you lose a few games at first. Chess takes practice. Even grandmasters were beginners once. The key is to have fun while you learn strategy and planning. Play against friends or family and try to predict their moves. See if you can capture their pieces before they get yours. Most of all, enjoy this classic game of skill that has challenged players for centuries. With time and patience, you’ll be checkmating opponents in no time and outmaneuvering everyone who dares play against you. Your new chess skills will serve you well for a lifetime.

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