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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An introduction to Chess, for the biochemist

Due to the wide scope of this blog, and the split audience it is likely to generate (something that is not recommended for blogging, I should add), I thought it would be prudent to provide some introduction to chess for the uninitiated. Eventually, this post will be followed by a complementary entry, "Biochemistry for the Chess Player", to make any commentary I have on science more accessible to my fellow pawn pushers.

You can take a look at my crash course for the game to get you started. It is broken up into three sections: Basic Rules, which covers piece movement and recording games; Understanding Chess, which explains how to judge the value of pieces and positions; Calculating Moves, covering a few common attacking patterns and tips on how to spot them. 

The guide that I have assembled aims for brevity, and does generalize quite a bit. If you are more serious in learning how to play, or how to improve your play, I would recommend looking at some of the following sites. They are roughly in order, although the list is by no means comprehensive. Another useful list is found, not surprisingly, in a post at the excellent Kenilworthian blog. 

In the list below, you will find links for learning the basic rules, how to read chess notation, as well as sites for learning and practicing simple checkmate patterns, attacking themes, and chess strategy.

Basic Rules

Rules of chess -Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 
Very straight forward and complete description of the rules.

How to Play Chess: Rules & Basics - 
Similar to Wikipedia entry, but interactive / animated

The Chess Comic
Piece Movement
Starts with the movement of the pawn

Reading Notation

How to Read and Write Algebraic Chess Notation

Wikipedia article on chess notation
A very comprehensive article

Chesskid article on notation
Simple and straightfoward, with interactive boards

Seattle times article on notation
A more adult, and more concise, introduction than the tutorial at

Wikipedia article on an older form of notation
Descriptive notation is not recommended for beginners, but is nonetheless necessary for reading older chess books and sources

Simple Checkmates

Chesskids coverage of basic checkmate patterns, Part 1

Gives examples of check and checkmate, as well as stalemate. Notice the plural of the website name; it is distinct site from (another great resource for beginners and children)

Gives examples of check and checkmate, as well as stalemate.

A glossary of checkmate patterns
Common checkmate patters, from simple to more complex

Chess Endgame Simulations 
Including simple checkmate patterns

Endgame Play

Wikipedia article devoted to chess endgames

Chess Endgame Simulations Youtube videos on endgames
Chess Endgames: King and Pawn vs King
Chess Endgames: King and Pawn vs King 2
Chess Endgames: Rook & Extra Pawn

Simple Tactics

Introduction to tactics from

Ward Farnsworth's field guide to chess
Very attractively built site

Wikipedia article devoted to chess tactics

Positional Play and Chess Strategy

A concise introduction to chess strategy from Chess Central

Short articles by a strong amateur player at on piece activity
Piece Activity Part 1
Piece Activity Part 2 introduction to strategic themes in chess

Wikipedia article on evaluating piece trades

Advanced Study

The best sources for spring boarding further study of the game are arguably articles and link collections at the Kenilworth Chess Club site, or the resources at

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