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The player controlling the white pieces moves first. While this gives white an advantage, it is not known that white can force a win if black plays perfectly. After the initial move by white, players alternate moves. Play continues until a draw is called or a king is trapped by means of a checkmate (see below).

Movement

Each piece moves in a different way. Generally, a piece cannot pass through squares occupied by other pieces, but it can move to a square occupied by an opposing piece, which is then "captured" (removed from the board).
  • The rook moves forward, backward, left or right in a straight line any number of squares.
  • The bishop moves diagonally any number of squares.
  • The queen moves forward, backward, left or right in a straight line or diagonally, any number of squares.
  • The king moves only one square at a time, in any direction.
  • The knight moves in an "L"-shape (two spaces in one direction then one space in a straight line from there). It is the only piece that can jump over other pieces.
  • The pawn moves one space straight forward (away from the player). On its first move it can optionally move two spaces forward. If there is an enemy piece diagonally (either left or right) one space in front of the pawn, the pawn may move diagonally to capture that piece. A pawn cannot capture or jump over a piece directly in front of it.

Besides these moves, the king and either rook can do a special combination move called castling: if the king and rook have not moved yet, and all spaces between them are empty, then the king can move two squares toward the rook, and in the same turn the rook can move to the space the king has just skipped over. It is not permitted to castle when the king is threatened or would have to move through a threatened square. In serious play, care must be taken to make clear that castling is intended, e.g. by verbal announcement or by moving the king first (since the king cannot move two squares except in castling).

A pawn reaching the final rank becomes a queen in a process known as "queening" or "promotion".

If a pawn moves two squares forward on its first move, it can be captured on the square it has skipped over, as if it had moved only one square, but only during the turn immediately after its two-square move and only by another pawn. This is called capturing en passant.

Check and Checkmate

When a player makes a move that threatens the opposing king with capture, the king is said to be in check. If a player's king is in check then the player must make a move that eliminates the threat of capture, which does not necessarily mean the king must be moved. The possible moves to remove the threat of capture are:
  • Move the king to a square where it is not threatened.
  • Capture the threatening piece.
  • Place a piece between the king and the opponent's threatening piece.
A player may never leave his king in check at the end of his move.

If a player's king is placed in check and there is no legal move that player can make to escape check, then the king is said to be checkmated, the game ends, and that player loses.

Either player may resign if he feels his position is hopeless. This is common in master play.

Draws

The game ends in a draw in any of these conditions:
  • The player to move is not in check but has no legal move. This situation is called a stalemate.
  • There is no possibility for either player to checkmate the opponent.
  • By agreement of the players.

Either player may claim a draw by indicating that one of the following conditions exists:
  • Fifty moves have been played by each player without a piece being captured or a pawn moved.
  • The same board position has been repeated three times, with the same player to move and all pieces having the same rights to move, including such things as the right to castle or capture en passant.