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Checkmate - Chess in the Classroom | Educational Chess Activites for Students

1. What are the rules of chess?

2. How is the chess board set up?

3. What strategies may be used in chess?

4. How are coordinates on a chess board labeled?

5. What are rules of chess etiquette? How can we apply rules of etiquette in chess competition?

6. How can good sportsmanship be demonstrated as part of a healthy competition within a cooperative learning environment?


chess sets

computer with Internet access

Al Woolum, The Chess Tactics Workbook, (North Richland Hills, Tx 2000)

MacEnulty, Let's Play Chess!, A Kid's Guide To The Royal Game, Chess-in-the-Schools, (New York, 2001)

Note to teachers: If The Chess Tactics Workbook and Let's Play Chess!, A Kid's Guide To The Royal Game, are not available, the online resources listed in this lesson are most definitely sufficient resource material to carry out this unit with your class. 


Teachers may introduce vocabulary words as they come up in context or students may use Dictionary.com or Enchanted Learning to define the vocabulary words. Click here to see a glossary of words related to this chess unit.


1. Students examine and identify each chess piece. Students begin to think about why each chess piece is configured as it is. (This would be a prelude to Lessons 3 and 4 of this unit).

2. Students log onto these interactive and instructional chess web sites: Chess4Kids, Chess Wave, The Basics of Chess, Omega Chess, Chess Basics, and/or read pages 2-13 in Let's Play Chess!, A Kid's Guide To The Royal Game, to answer these questions:

1. How is a chess board set up?

The rooks are on the outermost spaces. The knights stand beside the rooks. Bishops come next. The queen always starts on her own color. The white queen begins on a light square and the black queen begins on a dark square. The kings stands next to the queen. Pawns go on the row in front of the other pieces.

2. How is each space on the chess board identified? Each space on the chess board is named after the file and rank they are on. Each space is named by a letter and a number. Ranks go horizontally. They are named from a through h. Files go vertically. They are numbered from 1 through 8. Diagonals are rows of squares at an angle.

Click here to see blank charts for this lesson.


Continue to use the Chess Wave , Chess4kids, Chess Basics, and Let's Play Chess!,  A Kid's Guide To The Royal Game, and The Chess Tactics Workbook to answer the questions on the chart. Students may position pieces and move pieces on a chess board to model the diagrams shown on the chart as they demonstrate to the class these moves to the class.

1. What is the object of the game? The objective in chess is to place your opponent's King in a position in which he cannot escape being captured. This is called checkmate and the games ends. If a King is placed in a position in which he can be captured, but he is able to escape, then it is said to be in check. A King cannot move into check, and if in check must move out of check immediately. There are three ways you may move out of check:

1. Capture the checking piece,

2. Block the line of attack by placing one of your own pieces between the checking piece and the King. (Of course, a Knight cannot be blocked.)

3. Move the King away from check

2. How does each chess piece move? The rook is the second most powerful piece. It can move any number of spaces up, down, left, or right. It can move to any square along its file or row as long as its path is not blocked. The rook has a point value of 5.

The bishop moves in straight lines on diagonals. They can cross the board in one move as long as no piece is in its way. They can also stop anywhere along the way.
The bishop has a point value of 3.


The queen moves in a straight line in ranks, files, and diagonals. The queen is the most powerful piece on the board, combining the powers of the rook and bishop. She may move any number of spaces in any directions as long as her path is not blocked. The queen has a point value of 9.

The king may move only one square in a turn in any direction. It can never move onto a square that is under attack by any enemy piece. If a king is in "check," he must get out of check immediately. If there is no way for the king to get out of check, the situation is called "checkmate" and the game is over.

The knight is the only piece that may jump over other pieces. It moves 5 spaces in an L shape. At the beginning of the game when many pieces are on the board, the knight's ability to jump over pieces makes it very valuable. The knight has a point value of 3.

The pawn is the least powerful piece. It may move only one space forward if its path is not blocked. On each pawn's first move, it may move one or two spaces forward. The pawn may not move backwards but my move one space diagonally to capture an opponents piece. The pawn has a point value of 1.

  • Note: the piece with the higher point value can be used more strategically.

Rook Moves


Bishop Moves

Queen moves



King moves



Knight Moves


Pawn Moves

3. What are some chess playing rules? Chess is a two player game. The White or player, or light colored piece, moves first. Each player takes one turn. No player may skip a turn. A player may not move a piece to a square already occupied by one of his own pieces. A player may capture an opposing piece by replacing that piece with one of his own pieces. The piece that is captured is removed from the board.

Draws: If a King is not in check, and no other legal move is possible, then the position is said to be in stalemate. A stalemated game is a draw, or a tie. If 50 moves are made without any pawns being moved or the capture of a piece, then a game is a draw. If there are not enough pieces for either side to checkmate, a draw may be declared due to Insufficient mating material. If both players agree to call the game a draw, the game is over. If the exact same position occurs 3 times in a game, then a game can be a draw.

If you touch a piece and it can be legally moved, then you must move it.


4. What are some chess strategies?
  • Move your pieces toward the center by moving a center pawn so your bishops and queen will be able to move out. Bring out the knights and bishops at the beginning of the game to help control the center. This is called development.
  • Try to move almost every piece once before you move any piece twice.
  • Keep your king safe. Castling will help. Castling allows a player to quickly move both the King to safety and the Rook to the center for battle. For this reason, wise players carefully guard their ability to castle and usually castle early in the game. Players should try to prevent their opponent from castling. The player moves his King two squares toward one of the player's Rooks and moves that Rook to the opposite side of the King. A player may not castle if either the King or the Rook involved have already moved. Also, the King may not castle out of, through, or into check. There must be no pieces between the King and Rook when castling.
  • There are three ways to escape from check. They are move to safety, block the attacker, and capture the attacker.
  • Before you move, make sure none of your pieces are in danger of being captured.
  • Make a plan. Think before you move. Make your pieces work as a team.
  • Don't give up.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
  • If a pawn reaches the eighth space, it may be substituted for any other of the player's pieces except for the king. This may result in having two queens or three rooks.


5. How do pieces attack and capture? Attack means a piece is in position and ready to capture an opponent's piece on the next move.

Capture means to move a piece onto the square that is occupied by an opponent's piece. The opponent's piece is then removed from the board and out of the game.

The Fork is a move in which one piece threatens two other pieces in risk that one of the pieces will be taken.

The Pin causes one piece to be unable to be moved for threat of the capture of an important piece or the king.

The Skewer results when the movement of one piece gives an opportunity to capture another piece.

The bishop is forking the rook and the knight.

The rook has the knight pinned because moving the knight would put the king in check.

The bishop skewered the king because the king is in check and once the king is moved, the queen is captured.

6. What are some rules for chess etiquette?
  • Practice good sportsmanship. Always shake hands before the game.
  • Take turns
  • Keep your hand off the board and pieces if it is not your turn.
  • Take time to think before each move, and be courteous during your partner's think time.
  • Never annoy your partner.


1. Students read 54-55, "How to Read and Write Chess" in Let's Play chess! and/or Chess Notation.

2. Now that students understand the rules of chess, they are ready to get hands on experience as they play chess.  Click here to see us play. Online chess web sites for students to get chess play experience include:

3.Students use the table of chess notation below to record the moves of their game. Record in journal how they were check mated or achieved a check mate. View a sample journal.

K King
Q Queen
R Rook
B Bishop
N or Kt Knight
P Pawn
x captures
- moves to
+ or ch check
dis ch discovered check
++ or dbl ch double check
e.p. en passant (in passing)
! a good move
!! a very good move
? a bad move
?? a very bad move
!? not sure, but looks good
?! not sure, but looks bad
X or # checkmate
o-o castles kingside

o-o-o castles queenside



Students demonstrate their understanding of chess strategies by solving Omega Chess Puzzles. These puzzles may be shown on a projection screen via an LCD projector or redrawn on large wall charts. Students can then predict outcomes and explain and demonstrate strategies in terms of cause and effect relationships. The strategies taken and the ability to recorded moves in students' journals will be evaluated. See rubric.

Students may also describe in either oral or a written essay why they enjoy playing the game of chess and what they learn as a result of playing.

Follow Up:

Students may play chess on a human chess board. Black and white oak tag may be set up on a gymnasium floor to serve as the chess board or a chess board may be drawn on sheets. Chess pieces may be drawn on oak tag worn front and back (like sandwich signs) by students serving as playing pieces to wear. The chess players call moves to the human chess pieces. The chess pieces move to the space on the chess board that they are instructed to.

A speaker and or instructor may be invited in to address the class regarding chess play. Chess In The Schools is a not-for profit educational organization dedicated to stimulating and enhancing learning skills by teaching chess to kindergarten through eighth grade children in New York's inner-city public schools, in after-schools, with tournaments competitions, and Alumni programs for high school students. Materials and an instructor are provided for the students through Chess In The Schools. Other resources such as this may be found in the locale of the students. These resources may include family members, expert community chess players, local chess clubs. Additional not-for-profit chess organizations that may serve as resources for your students may be found at the Chessville.com.

Students might use modeling clay or papier mache to craft their own chess pieces.

In Lesson 2 students will learn about the history of chess?

Additional Resources:

1. "Chess Improves Children's Reading Scores" describes research that show when students play chess, their reading scores improve.

2. Play online chess against students in P.S. 166, in Connecticut.

3. Chess Class is an instructional chess web site that describes how to set up a chess club and chess competition.

To Table of Contents

To Lesson 2 - Chess History

To Lesson 3 - Chess Roles

To Lesson - 4 The Play's The Thing




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