Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Learning the chess basics

The typical total beginner in chess is a child. How do kids get in touch with the great and wise game of chess? The most popular way is probably through the mother or father, so the parents. Or perhaps the grandparents. Then there is a high chance of meeting it at school. Several school libraries have a chess set that kids can play with. The prime time to learn and get excited about chess is probably somewhere between the age of five and ten. That is, if you want to become a crushing world dominating tiger. For all others, any starting time will do just fine.

The internet has lots of readily available information about all sorts of things, including the basic rules of chess. Although a book and a chess board still go a long way. And arguably it is more fun to play chess with a friend and a cup of tea than over the internet with some dude you never met before.

Although everyone heard of the check mate in four moves, it often happens that people never heard of the check mate in two moves delivered by the black pieces. Go and check it out and astonish your fellow chess knowing persons. Other things that shock people is the complicated rules of castling and the strange move known as en passant. On several occasions, I made the en passant and was met by outcries of protest - you cannot do that. Of course I can. It is written in the official rules.

Then come the different degrees of mastering the chess skills. How to protect your king against an attack. How to use your pawns to gain space in the center. How to place your pieces in a way that they cover important squares in the center and are ready to return and protect the king. How to attack the opponent with the pawns, the so called pawn avalanche. How to use your rooks, mostly for attacks. How to trap the opponent's queen and other pieces.

How to check mate your opponent's king using the queen+knight attacks, the queen+bishop attacks, the queen+rook attacks and other light and heavy pieces working together. How to open up the opponent's king using your pawns. How to open up your opponent's king by sacrificing pawns and pieces on those pawns that are in front of the opponent's king.

How to "convert" a material advantage to a check mate. Perhaps this is also a shocking fact that the road from winning a pawn or even a piece, to actually winning the game, can be long and hard. Different types of material advantage require different strategies to convert them to check mates. Generally, a typical way of conversion is to win another pawn or two, then exchange almost all the pieces, then to promote one of your pawns to get a new queen, and then do the queen+king versus king check mate.

I can almost taste the delight when I found out that you can check mate with a king+rook against king. And making it work every single time. Because in the beginning you think that you need a queen. Gradually you discover that King+pair of bishops is enough, and then that bishop and knight is enough. Queen+King against Rook+King wins against most players. If you know how. Well, do you?