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Chess 1

Not everyone knows how to play chess, but lots of the people who do know how to play enjoy it. Once you learn how to play, you will be able to explore chess more deeply than you can imagine.

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Chess is not just another game; it is very unique. Why? I would say that there are at least two reasons. For one, there is infinite strategy in chess. No one - not even the best chess players in the world - knows everything about chess. No one wins every game they play.

The other reason was said in Benjamin Franklin’s essay, “The Morals of Chess”. (Until this book was written, very few people in America knew about chess.) He said, “The game of chess is not merely idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it.”

In addition, chess is a very popular game. The number of chess clubs in schools is increasing, and some schools have chess classes. There are chess competitions and tournaments everywhere. Some people spend lots of time making chess puzzles, where the people solving them have to find out what to do.

Chess also has a rich history. In fact, it’s hard to say when it started.

Chess has its own mythology, and there are many explanations on how it came to be. Most authorities believe it came from a game played in West India, called chataranga. But there are also many other ideas. One myth says that Sissa, a philosopher and Brahmin, invented chess to teach a valuable, real-life lesson. In the game, the king can’t win without marshaling all of his forces.

So, how do you play? Chess is a game for two players; one uses white pieces and one uses black pieces. Each side has five types of pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, and two knights. You also have eight pawns, which are considered to be pieces but actually aren’t. (This will be explained in the next column.) Please do not call the rooks ‘castles’and the knights ‘horses’, for that is a common mistake that will make you look like a novice! Each piece moves in its own certain way. The goal of the game is to trap your opponent’s king while protecting your own. All of this is played on a chessboard, which is an 8x8 grid with 64 alternating black and white squares. In Image 1 above, you’ll see a chessboard with the starting position. (From left to right on the bottom and top rows: rook, knight, bishop, queen, king, bishop, knight, rook. The rows in front of these pieces are filled with pawns.)

In the next column, we’ll take a closer look at the pieces, how they move, and some basic rules. For those of you who already know how to play, Image 2 is a chess puzzle. It is white to move and win. I’ll give the answer next week. Have fun!