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Games at The Scott

What guests are saying:

“Not many places in AZ are embracing the Backgammon and Dominoes come back, so it was cool to see that they offered a pretty cool place to learn and participate…with HAPPY HOUR PRICING extended to those who are playing! Wednesday for the win! I’ll be back.” ~ Allison E on Yelp

Not sure how to play? Read below!


Backgammon is one of the oldest games for two players and has been enjoyed by people around the world for over 5,000 years. To win at backgammon, you have to move all of your checkers into your own home board and then bear them off.

Preparing How To Play

Understand the backgammon board. Backgammon is played on a board that consists of 24 narrow triangles that are called points. The triangles alternate in color and are grouped into four quadrants of six triangles each. There are four types of quadrants: the player’s home board and outer board, and the opponent’s home board and outer board. The intersection of these four quadrants, the middle of the board, is separated by a ridge called the bar.

  • The players sit facing each other at opposite sides of the board when they play. Each player’s home board is positioned on the right quadrant closest to the player. The home boards are opposite each other, and so are the outer boards, which are located in the left quadrant.
  • The player moves his checkers from the direction of the other player’s home board in a horse-shoe like direction, moving counterclockwise.
  • The triangles are numbered from 1-24 in most of the Backgammon boards, with the 24th point being the furthest point from the player, and with 1 being the right most triangle on the player’s home court. The players must move their pieces from opposite sides of the board, so one player’s 1st point is the other player’s 24th point, one player’s 2nd point is the other player’s 23rd point, and so on.

Set up the board. Each player must set up his 15 checkers for the game to begin. The players’ checkers will be comprised of two distinct colors, traditionally white and red, or white and black but it can also be other colors. To set up the board, each player must place two checkers on their 24 point, three checkers on his 8 point, five checkers on his 13 point, and five more checkers on his 6 point.

  • Remember that each player has his own numbering system, so the checkers will not overlap.

Roll a die to determine who goes first. The player who rolls the highest number will go first. If both players roll the same number, roll again. The numbers rolled will count as the first moves for the player with the highest number. For example, if one player rolled a 5 and the other rolled a 2, then the player who rolled the 5 would go first and use the 5 and 2 in lieu of a new dice roll.

Remember that you can double the stakes at any time. In backgammon, the winner doesn’t gain points, but the loser loses points. So if you win, the opponent will either lose based on the face value, double value, or triple value of the stakes on the doubling cube. The doubling cube isn’t a die but a marker. It starts at 1, but you can raise the stakes at any time at the beginning of your turn before you have rolled the dice.

  • If you want to double the stakes and your partner accepts, then the cube is turned to the new number and placed in your opponent’s court. He will have ownership of the cube and will be able to propose a doubling during any of his future turns.
  • If your opponent does not accept your offer, he must forfeit the game and lose by the original stakes.
  • You can keep doubling the stakes back and forth, or redoubling, but it’s not traditionally done more than three or four times in a game.

Moving Your Checkers

Roll the dice. Use a dice tumbler to roll two six-sided dice once during each of your turns. The numbers rolled represent two separate moves. For example, if you roll a 3 and a 5, you can move one checker three spaces and another checker 5 spaces. Or, you can move one checker 3 spaces and then 5 more spaces.

  • Make sure that you roll the dice to the right of your side of the board, from a reasonable height so that they bounce and roll a bit.
  • If either of the dice lands on a checker, outside of the board, or leaning against the edge of the board, then it is not considered valid and you will have to reroll.

Move your checkers to an open point. An open point is any point on the board that is not occupied by two or more opposing checkers. You can move your checkers to a point with no checkers on it, a point with one or more of your checkers on it, or a point with one of your opponent’s checkers on it. Remember that you should always move your checkers counter-clockwise, moving from your opponent’s home court to your own.

  • You can start with any checker you chose, but it is a good idea to get your checkers out of your opponent’s home board as soon as possible.
  • You only need 2 checkers to block a point, but you can have as many of your checkers as you want on a single point.
  • Remember that you can either move one checker twice or move two checkers once. For example, if you roll a 3-2, you can move one checker 3 points over and then 2 points over, as long as it lands on an open point both times. Alternately, you can move one checker 2 points over to an open point, and move another checker 3 points over to an open point.

Play the numbers on the dice twice if you roll doubles. If you roll the same number on both dice, then you’ve earned yourself two extra moves. If you roll double 3s, for example, then you can make four moves of 3 points each.

  • Again, you can move four checkers 3 times, move one checker 3 times if it lands on an open point after every move, or mix it up and move two checkers 6 times, or one checker 3 times and another checker 9 times. As long as the total moves add up to 12 and each move lands in an open point, you’re in good shape.

Lose your turn if you can’t play either number. For example, if you roll a 5-6, but you can’t find an open point when moving any checker either 5 or 6 times, then you lose your turn. If you can only play one of the numbers, then you can play that number and lose your turn on the other number. If you can only play one number or the other, then you have to play the higher number.

  • This rule applies even if you roll doubles. If you can’t play the doubled number you’ve rolled, you lose your turn.

Keep your checkers safe. Try to avoid having just one of your checkers on a point because the point, which is called a blot, is vulnerable to being “hit” by your player’s checkers. If one of your checker’s gets hit, then it will go to the bar and you will have to use your next turn to roll and try to reenter the board in your opponent’s home board. Do your best to keep at least two of your checkers on a point, at least early in the game.

Try to dominate the board. Before you start moving your pieces into your home court, you should try to have many points occupied by 2 or 3 checkers instead of just a few points occupied by 5 or 6 checkers. This will not only give you more options to move to open points, but will also make it harder for your opponent to move to an open point.

Hitting and Entering

Hit a blot to move your opponent’s checkers on the bar. If you hit a blot, a point occupied by just one of your opponent’s checkers, then the opponent’s checkers will be placed on the bar. You should try to hit the blots whenever possible, as long as it helps you move your pieces as close to your home court as possible. This is a great way to slow down your opponent.

  • Any time a player’s checker is on the bar, he can’t move his other checkers until he gets the bar checker back on the home board.

Enter your pieces when they are taken out. If a player hits a blot with one of your pieces on it, then you have to place your own checker on your bar. Your task is now to move that checker back onto the opposing home board. You can do this by rolling the dice and then moving the checker onto an open point on your opponent’s home board, if you roll an open number. If you do not roll an open number, then you lose your turn and you will have to try again on your next turn.

  • For example, if you roll a 2, you can enter your piece on the 23 mark on your opponent’s home court, provided that it’s open. This is because you’re moving your checker two points over from the bar.
  • You may not use the sum of the two numbers to choose a space. For example, if you roll a 6 and a 2, you cannot add them and move your piece onto the 8th point. You can only move your checker onto the 6th or the 2nd point to reenter.

Move your other checkers after you have gotten all of your checker(s) off the bar. Once you get your checker(s) off the bar and back onto the board, you can move your other checkers again. If you only had one checker to enter, then you can use the other number that you rolled to move one of your other checkers.

  • If you have two checkers on the bar, you have to enter them both before you can move any other checkers. If you can only enter one checker during a dice roll, then you will have to try again on your next turn.
  • If you have more than two checkers on the bar, you can only move your other checkers once all the checkers on the bar are entered.

Bearing Off Your Checkers

Understand how to win the game. To win the game, you need to be the first one to bear off or remove all of your checkers from the board and into your tray. To bear off your checkers, you need to roll both dice and use the numbers to move pieces into the tray. The numbers you roll must be exact or higher than the number of spaces needed to remove each piece from the board.

  • For example, if you roll a 6-2, you can bear off two pieces that are on these points. But if you do not have a checker on the 6 point, you can bear it off from the next highest point on your board, such as the 5th or 4th point.

Move all of your checkers into your home court. You can only start bearing off your checkers once they are all in your home court. To begin bearing off, get all of your checkers into the 1-6 points on your board. They can be placed on any of these points. Don’t forget that your checkers are still vulnerable when they’re in your own home court.

  • If the opposing player has a checker on the bar, then he can still enter it into a blot on your court if you have any, forcing you to take out one of your pieces and move it all the way back to the 24th spot. After that, you can’t continue bearing off until it’s back in the home court.

Start bearing off your checkers. When bearing off, you can only bear off checkers that occupy the corresponding point. For example, if you rolled a 4-1, and you have a checker in the 4th and 1st point, you can bear them off. If your roll double sixes and have four checkers on the 6th point, you can bear off all six.

  • If you still have a die to play and no checker to bear off, you must move a checker according to the number on the die. For example, if you only have two checkers remaining in the 6th and 5th points and you roll a 2-1, then you can move the checker on the 6th point over to the 4th point, and the checker on the 5th point over to the 4th point.
  • You can use a higher roll to bear off a die on a lower point. If you roll a 5-4 and you only have a few checkers remaining in the 3rd and 2nd points, you can bear off two of these checkers.
  • You must move a lower die roll before a higher one even if it means you can’t fully use the full value of a die. For example, if you have a checker in the 5 point and roll a 5-1, you must first move the checker over 1 to the 4 point and then bear it off using the 5 value.

Bear off all fifteen of your checkers. If you bear off all fifteen of your checkers before your opponent does, then you have won the game of backgammon. But not all wins are created equal. Your opponent can lose in one of three ways:

  • A regular loss. This happens if you bore off all of your checkers first while your opponent was trying to bear off his checkers. Your opponent will lose only the value on the doubling cube.
  • The gammon. If you bear off all of your checkers before your opponent bears off any of his, he is gammoned and loses twice the value on the doubling cube.
  • The backgammon. If you bore off all of your checkers while your opponent still has checkers on the bar or your home court, then your opponent is backgammon and loses three times the value on the doubling cube.

Play again. Backgammon is meant to be played more than once, since each game is worth a certain amount of points. You can even set a goal to play until the losing player loses a certain amount of points.

  • If you want to keep playing more games but can’t do it in one sitting, you can keep a tally of the points lost by each player and return to the game at another time.


Dominoes is a popular table games for two to four players, played with a set of specially marked tiles. There are many games that can be played with dominoes, but the simplest, known as “block dominoes,” serves as a basis for most of the others, and remains the most popular.


Shuffle the dominoes. Turn the tiles face down on the table, then move them around with your hands, being careful not to flip any over. Once the tiles have been sufficiently mixed, scoot the pile to one side so that your play area is clear.

  • The collection of shuffled tiles is often called the “bone yard,” since one of the most common nicknames for dominoes is “bones.”

Playing The Game

Draw an opening hand. Take seven dominoes from the bone yard and stand them on the table so that your opponent can’t see their faces. Decide the order of play. There are a few ways to do this; choose whatever method you and your partner can both agree on. The most common methods are as follows:

  • Each player picks one extra tile from the bone yard. The player who draws the tile with the highest total value goes first.
  • Each player reviews his or her hand and reveals the tile with the highest total value. Whoever has the highest number goes first.
  • Each player reveals a double (a tile with the same number on either end) from his or her hand, and the player with the highest double goes first.
  • One player flips a coin and the other player calls it. Whoever wins the flip goes first.

Lay the first domino. It is customary for the first domino to be a double tile (a tile with the same number on both ends), if possible; otherwise, any tile may be used. The orientation of the domino doesn’t matter.

Take turns adding dominoes. Using your hand of seven tiles, add one domino to either narrow end of the first domino. You can only add a domino to the board if it has a number that matches a number on one open end of the domino board. For example, if the first tile is a pair of 4s, you can only play a domino that has one end marked with a 4. Place the dominoes together end on end to show that they are matched.

  • Once the end of a domino has been placed on the end of another domino, those ends are closed and no further dominoes can be attached to them.
  • There are never more than two ends open anywhere on the board. These are always the outside ends of the domino chain.
  • If you can’t play onto either end of the board, you must pass your turn.
  • If you are placing a double tile, it is customary (but not necessary) to set the tile perpendicular to the tile you are playing onto. Regardless of orientation, only one side of the double tile (the side opposite the touching side) is considered free.
  • If you run out of space, it is acceptable to play a domino onto the appropriate side of the open tile so that the line of dominoes turns. This has no strategic value, and is only done to save space.

End the round and award points. Whoever plays all 7 of his or her dominoes first wins the round, and receives points equal to the total of all the dots on the opponent’s remaining tiles.

  • If neither player is able to finish, both players reveal their hands and add up the total of tiles in each one. Whoever has the lowest total wins the round, and receives points equal to the difference between his or her total and the opponent’s total.
  • In the case of a tie, the victory goes to whichever player has the tile with the smallest sum total.
  • Whenever a set number of total points (usually 100 or 200) is reached, the game is over.


Though little-known to many in the world, chess is one of Cuba’s greatest prides. The game is considered to be a blend of sports, arts and science among players and is deeply embedded in Cuban history and culture. Among chess circles worldwide, Cuba is known for producing one of the greatest chess grandmasters of all time—José Raúl Capablanca, whose influence led generations of Cubans to study chess in school and become internationally-ranked chess players.

Understanding the Board and Pieces

A chessboard consists of 64 square spaces in an 8×8 grid. Each space is uniquely identified by a letter-number combination denoting first the file (vertical column “a” through “h”) of the square and then its rank (horizontal row 1 through 8). Each piece has a specific name, an abbreviation (in chess notation), and specific move capabilities. Here, we’ll explore the board, then each piece one by one. If you already know the basics, skip to the next section.

Position the board correctly. The orientation of the board is important for proper play. When positioned properly, each player will have a dark square (typically black) in the lower left corner.

Place the rooks on the corners of the board. The rook is also known as the castle. It is abbreviated as “R” in notation and starts on a1, h1, a8, and h8. Those are the corners as denoted in the rank and file system.

  • How do they move? Rooks may move any number of vacant squares vertically or horizontally. If an opponent’s piece blocks the path, that piece may be captured by moving the rook to (but not beyond) the occupied square and removing the opponent’s piece.
  • Rooks cannot jump over pieces of either color. If one of your other pieces blocks your rook’s path, your rook must stop before reaching that square.
  • Castling is a special move involving rooks detailed below.

Place your knights next to your rooks. This is the “horse” piece. In notation, it’s referred to as “N” (or “Kt” in older texts). The knights start on b1, g1, b8, and g8.

  • How do they move? Knights are the only pieces that can jump over other pieces and thus are the only pieces that cannot be blocked. They move in an L-shaped pattern — that is, two squares horizontally or vertically and then one square perpendicular to that (in other words, two spaces horizontally and one space vertically or one space horizontally and two spaces vertically).
  • A knight captures a piece only when it lands on that piece’s square. In other words, the knight can “jump” over other pieces (of either color) and capture a piece where it lands.

Place the bishops next to the knights. In notation bishops are referred to as “B.” They start on c1, f1, c8, and f8.

  • How do they move? Bishops may move any number of vacant squares in any diagonal direction. Like rooks, they may capture an opponent’s piece within its path by stopping on that piece’s square.
  • The bishop proceeds, lands, and captures diagonally and remains throughout the game on the same color squares on which it begins the game. Thus, each player has a white-square bishop and a dark-square bishop.
  • As with rooks, if another of your pieces blocks your bishop’s path, the bishop must stop before reaching the occupied square. If the blocking piece belongs to your opponent, you may stop on (but not jump over) that square and capture the occupying piece.

Place the queen near the center of the first rank on her color. The positions for black and white are mirrored. If you’re playing white, your queen will be on the fourth file (counting from the left). If you’re playing black, she’ll be on the fifth file from your left. In notation this is d1 (a white square for the white queen) and d8 (a dark square for the black queen). (Note that the two queens start on the same file, as do the two kings.)

  • How do they move? The queen is the most powerful piece on the board. She can be thought of as the rook and bishop combined. The queen can move any number of vacant squares horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
  • Attacking with a queen is the same as with rooks and bishops. That is, she captures an opponent’s piece that lies within her path by moving to that piece’s square.

Place the kings in the last empty squares in the first and eighth ranks. The king is notated as “K” and starts on e1 and e8.

  • How do they move? The king can move one space at a time vertically, horizontally or diagonally. The king is not used as an attacking piece (except perhaps at the very end of the game) because, since he’s so valuable, you want to keep him protected and out of harm’s way. Nonetheless, he is capable of attacking any of the opposing pieces except the king and queen, to which he cannot get close enough to capture.
  • Kings are not offensive pieces. Your king is the piece you most want to protect, because if you lose him, you lose the game.

Place your pawns in the rank in front of your other pieces. Pawns are not notated with a letter. They begin the game forming a shield for your other pieces.

  • How do they move? Usually pawns move forward (never backward) one square. However, the first time it moves, a pawn may move forward either one or two squares. In all subsequent moves, a pawn is limited to moving one square at a time.
  • If an opponent’s piece is directly in front of it, a pawn may not move forward and may not capture that piece.
  • A pawn may attack an opponent’s piece only if the piece is one square diagonallyforward from the pawn (i.e. up one square and one square to the right or left).
  • There is another move a pawn may make under very specific circumstances. The move is called en passant (“in passing”).
  • Pawn promotion,  occurs when your pawn has marched all the way across the board to the eighth (your opponent’s first) rank.

Learn the rank and file system. This is not required, but it makes it easier to visualize moves and talk about moves, especially in chess literature and on websites. Also, when your opponent wasn’t paying attention and says, “Where did you go?”, you can respond with “Rook to a4 (Ra4).” Here’s how it works:

  • The files are the columns going up and down, pointing at you and your opponent. From left to right as white views it, they are files “a” through “h.”
  • The ranks are the horizontal rows from the players’ perspective. From bottom to top as white views it, they are ranks 1 through 8. All of white’s main pieces start at the 1 position (first rank); black’s main pieces start at the 8 position (eighth rank).
  • It is an excellent learning habit to notate your games, listing each move you and your opponent make, writing down the piece and the square to which it moves (using the piece and square notations already mentioned).

Knowing How to Win

Understand the object of the game and how it’s achieved. To win, you need to checkmate your opponent’s king. This means forcing the opposing king into a position where he will be captured no matter what, so that he cannot move and no other piece can protect him. Checkmate (the end of the game) can occur in as few as three moves, but it’s more likely that a game will last for dozens, even hundreds, of moves. A typical game requires a lot of patience.

  • A secondary goal is to capture as many of your opponent’s pieces as possible, thus making checkmate easier. You capture pieces by landing on the squares they occupy.
  • While attacking the opposing pieces, you must simultaneously protect your own king so he doesn’t get captured.

Know how to put your opponent’s king in “check.” That means threatening to checkmate the king on your very next move if your opponent doesn’t do something immediately to protect him.

  • When you place your opponent in check, as a courtesy you should say “check” out loud Your opponent must then, if possible, do one of the following:
    • Avoid checkmate by moving their king to any vacant square not attacked by one of your pieces.
    • Block the check by placing a piece between your piece and their king.
    • Capture your piece that has placed their king in check.

Remember that you are not allowed to put yourself in check. You cannot make a move that exposes your king to capture in the opponent’s next move. This means you cannot move your king onto a square to which an opponent’s piece could move in their the next move. It also means you cannot unblock your king from attack (that is, expose your king to direct attack by moving an interposing piece).

Playing the Game

Set up the chess board. Use the positions described in the first section.

Start the game. The player with the white pieces begins the game by moving one piece as described above. Then it’s black’s turn to move, and the players take turns moving for the rest of the game.

  • Choose who plays white by a coin flip, or the stronger player may let the weaker player take white. In an evenly matched game, white has a slight advantage by moving first.
  • If two players engage in a series of games, they can alternate colors from game to game, or they could agree that the previous loser could take white.

Capture an opponent’s piece by moving one of your pieces into a square occupied by that piece. The captured piece is then permanently removed from the game.

  • In formal tournament play there is often a rule stating that a player may not touch a piece unless s/he intends to move it and in fact, must move it if s/he touches it. If s/he wants only to adjust the piece, s/he must say “adjust” before touching it.

Continue to play with each player moving one piece per turn until the game ends. Making a move is compulsory; it is not legal to “pass”, even when having to move is detrimental. Play continues until a king is checkmated or a draw occurs. Draws can occur in five ways:

  • Stalemate: a king is the only piece left of his color, is not in check, but cannot move without placing himself in check (which is not legal).
  • Insufficient material: the pieces left on the board cannot force a checkmate on either side so that neither player can win.
  • Threefold repetition: The position of all pieces on the board has been repeated three times, such as players moving pieces back and forth.
  • Fifty-move rule: at least fifty moves for each player have occurred since the last time any piece was captured or any pawn was moved.
  • Agreement: both players simply agree to a draw.

End the game with a checkmate. Any game not ending in stalemate or a draw will end in checkmate, where either your king or your opponent’s king cannot avoid capture. Whoever accomplishes checkmate announces “checkmate!” out loud to make sure both players are aware the game is over. Here’s more about “check” and “checkmate”:

  • Do one of the following to get out of check (where your king is threatened with capture, but you have a way to escape):
    • Capture the piece threatening your king. You can do this with one of your other pieces or (if the opponent’s piece is not protected) with your king.
    • Move your king from the square being attacked.
    • Use one of your pieces to block the piece threatening your king.
  • If you cannot get your king out of check in your next move, it’s “checkmate,” and your opponent wins. If their king is checkmated, you win.

Utilizing Strategy

Know the relative offensive-strength value of each piece:

  • Pawn – 1 point
  • Knight – 3 points
  • Bishop – 3.5 points
  • Rook – 5 points
  • Queen – 9 points
  • The king has no offensive value because it is normally not used as an offensive weapon except in the last stage of a game.
  • When assessing the relative strength of the two sides during a game, compare the total point value of all the captured pieces. This will show who has the current disadvantage and by how much.

Understand the individual strengths of each piece and their best positioning. Generally, pieces are strongest near the center of the board. Specifically, the queen and bishops can control longer diagonals from the center, knights lose some of their range of movement if situated near an edge, and pawns are more dangerous the farther they advance.

  • Pawns are stronger when together, such as in chains (diagonal lines in which each pawn protects another). Try not to break this formation unless there is a clear, overriding advantage to be had by doing so.
  • Knights are weakest near the edge of the board.
    • The maximum number of spaces a knight can control is eight. If a knight is on the edge of the board, the number of squares it can jump to is cut in half. Likewise, if a knight is one row from the edge, it controls only six spaces.
    • You may not miss the power of the knight right away, but if you move a knight near the edge of the board, you will often find yourself wasting a move to reposition it closer to the action near the center of the board.
  • Bishops are strongest on or near the long (“major”) diagonals where they command the most squares.
    • Realize that the bishop’s power can be diminished if the opponent places a protected piece along a diagonal controlled by your bishop. On the other hand, that piece is pinned in that position if the piece it is protecting is of high value.
  • Rooks are very powerful in open files. Position rooks on files that contain none of your pawns. Rooks are also powerful when controlling the seventh rank for white (second rank for black), but only if the opposing king is on its starting rank.
  • Queens have the most power when commanding the center of the board. On the other hand, they are in the most danger there as well. It is often a good strategy to keep the queen one move away from this position and to avoid blocking your queen’s movement with your own pieces.
  • Kings should always be protected. They are best shielded by lower-value pieces.

Aim to control the center of the board. As deduced from the optimal piece positionings detailed above, pieces near the center of the board are at their most powerful. Usually, the game is a fight for control of the center and, when you’re in the center, your opponent has far fewer “good” places to choose from. You have the power that can expand in all directions, while your opponent is relegated to the side, putting him/her on the defensive.

  • Pawns can help with this. While your more powerful pieces are attacking, a pawn or two can maintain control in the center.

Have a strong opening. A weak opening automatically puts you at a disadvantage for the rest of the game. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Usually you’ll be best off opening with the d or e pawn. That opens up the center of the board.
  • Make only a couple of pawn moves at the start. You want to get your more powerful pieces into play as soon as possible.
  • Get your knights out and then your bishops. Knights’ range is limited. It often takes several hops to get them into the fray. (Bishops, rooks, and queens can swoop the entire length of the board, whereas the lowly pawn must trudge space by space.) Sometimes it is less obvious what effect moving a knight might have, so their attack is often stealthiest.

Use all of your pieces. If your rook is sitting back in the corner, you are wasting powerful ammo. The beauty of chess is that no one piece can win the game. You need a team of pieces to bombard your opponent’s king.

  • This is especially important if your opponent is skilled. It’s fairly easy to thwart one attacking piece; it’s possible to fend off two; but a skilled opponent will mount a three-pronged attack if you don’t keep him/her busy with your own attack.

Protect your king. It’s important to capture pieces and to attack the opponent’s king, but if your king is unprotected, you’ll be checkmated, the game will be over, and that offense you were running will be entirely useless.

  • Chess is challenging because you have to think about half a dozen things at once. You have to protect your king while planning moves for your other pieces. You have to understand what your opponent is doing while anticipating all of his/her possible next moves. It can be a daunting task, but with plenty of practice, you’ll find it easier to do all of these things at once.

Think several moves ahead. When your opponent makes a move, there’s a reason why. They’re setting something up, eyeing a potential attack. What’s happening? What are they aiming for? Try your best to anticipate and circumnavigate their actions and thwart their plan.

  • The same goes for you. Maybe you can’t capture a pawn on your next move, but what can you do to set yourself up for subsequent moves? This isn’t your usual board game. Every move you make now affects the moves you make in the future.

Never give up pieces needlessly. When your opponent makes a move but doesn’t take one of your pieces, take a second to scan the board. Are they in a position to take one of your pieces? If so, don’t allow it! Move that piece out of the way, or threaten another of your opponent’s pieces. Even better, capture that threatening piece yourself. Never just let a piece go.

  • It’s OK to give up a piece if it’s bait to draw your opponent to a specific area of the board where you’re planning to trap an even more valuable piece.

Knowing the Special Moves

Use the “en passant” rule for pawns. En passant (from French: “in [the pawn’s] passing”) is a special capture made by a pawn. It’s permitted immediately after a player moves a pawn two squares forward from its starting position, and if an opposing pawn could have captured it if it had only moved only one square forward. In this situation, the opposing pawn may on the very next move capture the pawn as if taking it “as it passes” through the first square.

  • The resulting position would then be the same as if the pawn had only moved one square forward and the opposing pawn had captured it normally. En passant must be done on the very next move, or the right to do so is lost.

Promote your pawns. If a pawn reaches the far side of the board (eighth rank for white, first rank for black), it can be promoted to any other piece (except a king). The piece to which the pawn is promoted does not have to be a previously captured piece; it can be any piece. Usually, a player promotes a pawn to a queen. Thus a player could wind up with two (or more) queens, three (or more) rooks, etc. This is a very powerful offensive move.

  • To indicate pawn promotion in chess notation, write the square where the pawn is promoted (e.g., c8). Then write an equals sign (e.g., c8=) and then the symbol for the piece to which the pawn is promoted (e.g., c8=Q).

Use castling as a means to protect your king. This is used to get your king out of the middle of its rank where it is most vulnerable. To castle, move your king two squares toward either rook, then move that rook to the square immediately on the other side of the king. You can castle only if:

  • There are no pieces between the king and that rook.
  • The king at that point is not in check and does not have to pass through or to a square in which he would be in check.
  • Neither the king nor that rook has made any moves yet in the game.

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