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WHY SHOULD YOU PLAY CHESS?
WHY SHOULD You learn to play chess? There must be quite a number of you who buy this book or think of buying it who will be doubtful about taking up the game at all. You may, for instance, have seen newspaper cartoons of chessplayers and concluded from these that anyone who takes up the game must be over seventy or, very occasionally, under ten. The easiest way for me to answer this would be to take you along to any chess inter-club or inter-county match. You'd find that the great majority of the players are in their thirties and forties; quite a few are younger, and perhaps one in ten or twenty are over sixty – just about as many as you'd find in any typical cross-section of people. If you went to one of the big international tournaments, you would find that the players were still younger; for most of the top masters in the world are in their twenties, thirties, or forties. Chess is also played a great deal in schools; for instance, Liverpool this year ran a junior congress with over a thousand entries, and the Sunday Times organised a National Schools Championship which attracted 246 teams, each of six a side. And one of the greatest players in the world, Bobby Fischer, champion of the United States, is only sixteen. He's pretty exceptional, however. At the other end of the scale, we have, in this country, Douglas Fawcett, the brother of the explorer who disappeared in Brazil, who still attends chess congresses regularly at the age of 92.
Many people are frightened off chess because they think it's necessary to be specially clever or intelligent to play it. If this is so, there must be millions of intelligent people in the world. In the Soviet Union, chess is the national indoor game. In one pre-war trades union championship, there was an entry of 8000,000, and if you go on a long journey in a Russian train, it's odds-on that you will be challenged to a game by your fellow-passengers. The Philippines is another country where chess is a national pastime, with tens of thousands of regular competitors. In this country, there are many thousands of people who play regular tournament and county chess, and hundreds of thousands who have learnt the game through books or through the instruction of friends. In other words, you don't need anything more than average intelligence to become a good chess player. It is true that the chess expert, or master, can perform remarkable feats of calculation, concentration, and memory on the chessboard, but the same thing is true of many other occupations, games, and sports. How many cricketers could emulate Test Match batsmen and stay at the crease all day long? How many footballers can juggle the ball like the Brazilians, how many tennis players smash like Drobny? In fact, the man who gets most enjoyment and satisfaction from chess is usually the amateur, making a blunder and then recovering because his opponent makes a worse one, rather than the master, who can never afford to relax his concentration for very long. The ordinary player can admire the art of the master, and can study the fascinating and complicated manoeuvering which goes on in master chess, but he plays with opponents similar in ability to himself and enjoys his own games most of all.
The most formidable red herring of all about chess is the time which it takes. The most common replies of non-chessplayers who are asked if they play the game are 'I'd never have the patience' or 'It takes too long'. What are the facts? A friendly chess game played at home, in a café, or in a chess club, usually takes about an hour to complete. An increasingly popular form of the game is 'lightning chess' in which the players are allowed ten seconds or some other very short interval for each move. And this is one of the great things about chess; a game can be played just as quickly or just as slowly as you like. Now it's true that in games between masters which take place in international events, the average time per game is around five hours; but it shouldn't be thought that even in this case the opponents sit glued to the board, oblivious of anything from a troupe of striptease dancers to a fire in the tournament hall. If you ever watch a master chess tournament, you'll find that most of the competitors walk around talking to their friends or watching the other games while their opponents are thinking. There are a few masters who sit at the board for the whole of a session, but they are the exception and not the rule.
What about the patience you need for chess? Once you've learnt the game, this isn't a question you'll want to ask any more. For a chess game is crammed full of excitement and interesting problems for the players, so that you become absorbed in the same way as if you were reading a good novel or watching a first-class theatre performance.
Chess is an easy game to learn. The rules, as explained in the first part of this book, will take you, probably, an hour or two to absorb; and you can then, if you want to, sit down and play your first game of chess straightaway. The next part tells you how you can plan your strategy and set traps which will help you to win your games; it also explains the special notation used by chess players to record their games. At first sight, these abbreviations look like some obscure code; but they just represent a simple shorthand method of naming the pieces and the squares of the chessboard. When you understand chess notation, you will be able to play over and enjoy games from master tournaments and championships, as published in newspapers, magazines, and books.
The final part of the book should be of interest to those who already know something about chess, as well as those taking up the game for the first time. It tries to show what sort of general principles to keep in mind during a game, and the ways to improve if you want to become a strong player.CHAPTER 2
HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED
TO PLAY CHESS, you need a chessboard and a set of chessmen. Although it's perfectly possible to use a small and inexpensive pocket board, you'll find that if you want to enjoy your games with friends in comfort that it's a good idea to get a full-size set. You should be able to buy one of these from any good department store or games shop. The pieces of a 'Staunton design' are by far the most popular nowadays, and indeed you should beware of buying expensive sets of other designs which may look beautiful, but are less easily distinguishable during an actual game.
The 64 squares on the board are coloured alternately white and black (on an actual board which you buy, cream and black is the easiest combination on the eyes to have. Other colour schemes, such as red and black, are less advisable). Each player has 16 pieces or 'men'. The photograph shows what they look like in your Staunton-type set.
The main point of confusion for most people lies in the difference between the king and queen. In almost every type of set, however, the king will have a small cross at the top, and the queen will be slightly smaller and have a ridged edge to the top, like a coronet.
Figure 2 shows the chessboard set up at the beginning of the game. In this illustration, the chessmen are shown by the symbols by which they are represented throughout the book.
Reading from left to right, the pieces in this Figure are rook, knight, bishop, queen, king, bishop, knight, rook. In front of them, is the row of eight pawns. Two points should be specially remembered when you set up the men for the beginning of the game: first, the board is always placed with a black square in the bottom left-hand corner. It is surprising how often this is forgotten even by comparatively experienced players. The second thing which often causes confusion is which way round to put the king and queen. If you have the board the right way round, then it's easy; the white queen always goes on a white square, the black queen on a black one.
THE MOVES OF THE CHESSMEN
Before we go on to the actual moves of the pieces, it must be mentioned that chess has its own terminology for the horizontal and vertical lines on the chessboard, as shown in Figure 3.
The rook (occasionally you may hear it called the castle, but this name isn't in general use) moves horizontally and vertically, along the ranks and files. Thus, in Figure 4, the rook can move to any of the squares along the dotted lines. Capturing in chess is done, NOT by jumping over the captured piece (as in draughts) but by taking the captured piece off the board and substituting the capturing piece on that square. This can be seen in operation in Figure 5. The white rook can move along the rank to its right to any of the three squares as far as the edge of the board, for there is nothing in the way. Alternatively, it can move one square to its left; or it can go two squares to the left, remove the black rook from the board, and instal itself on the vacated square. It can't go three, four, or five squares to its left because that would mean jumping over a piece. The rook can also go up or down the board along the file. It can go one or two squares up the board to a new square, or go three squares up the board and capture the black queen. CAPTURES IN CHESS ARE OPTIONAL; the rook doesn't HAVE to make a capture when it can. Can it go down the board? No, for that would mean removing the white pawn (you can't capture your own piece) or jumping over it (which again it's not allowed to do).
A bishop moves diagonally, as in Figure 6; from which you will readily see that a bishop which starts off on a white square can never move to a black one, and vice-versa. It captures in the same manner as a rook; thus in Figure 7, the white bishop can, if it wishes, capture either the black rook or the black pawn; but it cannot jump over the rook to capture the black bishop in the corner, nor can it jump over its own queen. You have two bishops, and one of them moves only on white squares, the other only on black.
One point which you should note about a bishop is that when it is on the edge of the board it commands substantially fewer squares (seven) than when it is posted in the centre (thirteen).
The queen is the most powerful piece on the chessboard, and when she really gets going she can wreak havoc in the enemy position. As you will see from Figures 8 and 9, the queen combines the moves of the rook and the bishop. Once again, captures with the queen are made by removing the captured piece from the board and substituting the queen on the square concerned.
The knight is the most alarming piece of all to beginners, for it is the only one that is permitted to jump over other men; and in consequence (until you get used to it) it often seems to appear in the middle of your pieces from nowhere.
The easiest way to remember the knight's move is in the form of a capital L; although the L may be upside down or sideways, as in the two examples in Figure 10. But you can also think of the knight's move as from one corner of a 3 × 2 rectangle to the opposite one. Note that a knight always moves from a black square to a white square, or vice versa.
In Figure 11 there is illustrated the knight's ability to jump over intervening pieces. Although the knight in the corner square is surrounded by both its own and enemy pieces, it can still move to either of the squares marked x, just as if those pieces were not on the board. When capturing, the knight follows the normal process of removing the captured piece and substituting itself. In the bottom right-hand corner of Figure 11, the knight can capture any of the four black men, but cannot move to any of the four squares occupied by its own men. Figure 12 shows how a knight can jump over either its own or its opponent's men to effect a capture; in the top position, it captures the black queen, in the bottom the black rook.
The knight, even more than the bishop or the queen, is handicapped when placed in a corner square rather than a central one. In Figure 10, the knight in the centre has eight squares available, the one in the corner a mere two.
The pawn, the foot soldier of the chessboard, has one characteristic which any army commander would heartily approve of: it can only move forwards, and NEVER backwards. Normally, the pawn moves forward one square at a time, but on its first move it has the option, if desired, of moving forward two squares. You can see this in Figure 13A. (Incidentally, in this and all other illustrations in this book, White is assumed to be playing up the board, Black DOWN. To save space, four separate positions are given on this one diagram, but in each case the whole board is taken to be included). The left-hand pawn in Figure 13A, on its initial square, has the option of advancing one square or two. The other pawn, however, cannot move at all; for it is blocked by the rook (only knights can jump over other pieces).
In Figure 13B, the left-hand pawn can simply move forward one square. The other pawn, which has advanced nearly the whole length of the board, illustrates one of the most important characteristics of a pawn. For when it completely crosses the board and reaches the eighth line or rank, it is exchanged for any other piece, barring the king. Normally, such a pawn is promoted to the all-powerful queen, and this is why the advantage of a pawn in the later stages of a game is often decisive. The exchange of the pawn at the eighth rank for a piece counts as part of the move. Incidentally, if you have a case such as that of Figure 13B, and you want to make the pawn into a queen, you can use a rook upside down or a coin to symbolise the promotion if the original queen is still on the board.
Figure 13C shows how a pawn captures. Like all the other pieces, it does so by substituting itself on the square of the captured piece, which is simultaneously removed from the board; but whereas the pawn advances forwards, it captures one square diagonally forward. You cannot move your pawn forward diagonally unless it is capturing an enemy man; and it cannot move straight forward if the road is blocked by something else. In Figure 13C, the left-hand pawn has the option of advancing one square, advancing two, or of capturing the black bishop. The right-hand pawn has a similar choice, but the centre pawn cannot move at all. It cannot move directly forwards because the bishop is in the way; and it cannot move diagonally forwards because there is nothing to capture.
The rear left-hand white pawn in Figure 13D cannot move forwards, since it is blocked by its own pawn (it would make no difference if it was an enemy pawn), but it can capture the black pawn one square diagonally forward. The right-hand white pawn has a pleasant choice; it can advance directly forward and become a queen or any other piece except the king; or, alternatively, it can capture either the bishop or the rook, again simultaneously becoming a piece.
No restriction is placed upon the number of pawn-promotions, so that it is theoretically possible to have nine queens at once. Normally, however, there are not more than one or two promotions during a game.
Figure 14 shows a situation at White's end of the board. The white pawn in Figure 14A is on his second rank, at the original square. If White advances his pawn forward one square, then Black can capture it with his own pawn by moving one square diagonally forward. If White instead moves his pawn two squares forward, there is a special rule known as the en passant rule, according to which Black can, if desired, take off the pawn just as if it had only moved one square. This option can only be exercised at the very moment when the pawn is advanced two squares and cannot be postponed until later in the game. So in Figure 14A we see the situation before White has advanced his pawn two squares, Figure 14B shows the situation immediately after this move, and Figure 14C shows Black having captured the pawn just as if it had only advanced one square. Remember that the pawn only has the option of advancing two squares on its first move; so that an en passant situation can only arise when one player's pawn has advanced to the fifth rank and the other's pawn on the adjacent file is unmoved.
The king is not a particularly strong piece in itself; it can only move one square at a time, in any direction. But in another, much more important sense, the king is the most vital piece on the whole chessboard; for the ultimate object of the whole game is to attack your opponent's king and bring about a situation in which its capture is inevitable. Just how this can be done, and what modification this makes to the rules outlined so far, is the subject of the next chapter.
Excerpted from An Introduction to Chess Moves and Tactics Simply Explained by Leonard Barden. Copyright © 1959 W. & G. Foyle Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Posted October 23, 2008
Certainly this will get you started! It is a very much to the point, no frills basics book. A deal for the price. It has no depth (for those who want more detail and depth consider "Chess for Everyone; A Complete Guide for the Beginner") and is written at an adult reading level using the old standard form of notation (Descriptive).
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 6, 2008
An old school type of book on the basics. Not a lot of material, but short and to the point. Gives what you need to know to learn how to play chess. Recommended for those who just want to learn very, very basic stuff.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 18, 2008
Just want to learn how the pieces move, the very basic rules and get a few brief pointers on strategy? Not interested in continuing beyond the very basics? Well, this is a bargin basement book for that. Not a masterpiece, but good, simple and short!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 14, 2006
This is relatively brief book covering suggestions on tactics, traps and general strategy. It would make a decent book if you have already learned how the pieces move but need what a more extensive beginners book would cover beyond that (without wanting it to be very extensive!). Not a bad buy. If you are planning on getting really into chess, then skip this book. If you are a beginner, just wanting a few pointers then this might be the right book for you.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 8, 2006
Posted June 8, 2006
This is a nice short book that introduces chess to a beginner. It is a bargin as well. If you just want to learn very basic rules and strategy this book is perfect. If you are planning on progressing in chess to at least an intermediate level you might consider a book with more material.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 18, 2009
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