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Introduction to Chess

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Open to: Students in grades 4 and up

Eligibility: CTY-level or Advanced CTY-level math or verbal score required

Course Format: Session Based. See calendar for session dates and application deadlines

Course Length: 12 weeks

Student Expectations: Students are strongly encouraged to work at least 30-60 minutes per day, 5 days a week.

Course Code: CHEY

Course Description


Introduction to Chess provides new or beginning students of chess a strong foundation in the rules and strategies needed to play the game of chess. The course is designed for students with little to no experience with chess.

The course begins with a brief history of the game of Chess. It then introduces the student to the board and pieces, explaining through interactive lessons, quizzes, videos and games how each piece moves. A full chess game is built up through the nine chapters, with students trying to defeat a computerized Johns Hopkins Blue Jay in chess at the end of every chapter. The last two chapters have the students play against the computer (the JHU Blue Jay) in full chess games of varying difficulty. The course ends with general tactics and strategies to improve the student’s game.

The course teaches the rules of the game, basic strategy, important opening concepts, recognition of tactical themes, calculation of material exchanges, and elementary endgame knowledge. In addition to learning the fundamentals of chess, this course will promote the growth and development of skills in concentration, logic, decision making, planning, and self-discipline.

This course will contain regular forum discussions and optional synchronous meeting sessions to encourage a community of chess enthusiasts! Students will also have the opportunity to participate in training games against bots at any time as well as against and their fellow students at the Monday Night Games.

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Read and write the algebraic notation for chess moves.
  • Correctly place pieces on the board to set up of a game of chess and know the legal moves of each piece.
  • Understand and explain how a game of chess can end in either checkmate or a stalemate.
  • Understand and perform the strategies for basic openings and end games.
  • Competently attack the opponent’s king while defending their own king.

Virtual classrooms, and student activities in the classroom, may be recorded and added to the course as an ongoing asset for all class students to review. Students may be invited to interact in CTY community spaces that include students and instructors and potentially specially invited guests that are not enrolled in their course.

Materials Needed

While no materials are needed for the course, it is recommended that the student have a real chess board to play and practice on at home. 

List of Topics

The Board and Pieces

  • The Board
  • The Pieces

The Pawn

  • Basic Pawn Moves
  • En Passant
  • Captures and Exchanges
  • Looking Ahead
  • Pawn Promotion

The Rook

  • How the Rook Moves
  • Attack and Defense
  • Forks and Skewers

The Bishop

  • How the Bishop Moves
  • Making Choices

The Queen

  • How the Queen Moves
  • Playing It Safe
  • Queen Forks
  • Pins and Skewers

The Knight

  • How the Knight Moves
  • Knight Forks
  • Knight Tours

The King

  • How the King Moves
  • King Maze
  • Hit or Miss
  • Trick or Treat
  • Check and Checkmate
  • Stalemate

Other Rules and Your First Games

  • Castling
  • Other Ways to Draw
  • Values of the Pieces
  • Attacking
  • Defending
  • Exchanging

Basic Tactics and Strategies

  • Simple Checkmates
  • Checkmates with a Queen
  • Checkmate with Two Rooks
  • Basic Openings
  • Basic Capturing Tactics
  • Combination Attacks
  • Basic Attack and Defense Tactics
  • Chess Notation

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Game Night

Game Night is a time where CTY chess students can get together once a week on our virtual chess environment and enjoy playing structured games and tournaments. Game night is monitored by our highly trained staff of chess instructors and meets every Monday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. E.T.

Technical Requirements

This course requires a properly maintained computer with high-speed internet access and an up-to-date web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox). The student must be able to communicate with the instructor via email. Visit the Technical Requirements and Support page for more details.

Zoom online virtual classroom
This course uses an online virtual classroom which can be used for instructor-student communication if the student has any questions about the course or curriculum. The classroom works on standard computers with the Zoom desktop client and also tablets or handhelds that support the Zoom Mobile app. Students will need a computer with the Zoom desktop client installed to watch any recorded meetings. The Zoom desktop client and Zoom Mobile App are both available for free download.