In the game of chess, how many pieces does each player have at the beginning of a game?
And the answer: sixteen.
A standard chess set has 16 pieces on each side, for a total of 32 pieces on the board. Each player has eight pawns, which take up an entire row. Behind the pawns are two rooks (or castles), two knights, two bishops, and a king and queen.
Chess is an ancient game whose rules and format have continually evolved over millennia. Early records of the game date back to around 7th century India, before then spreading across Persia and Europe. Its gameplay has taken on many forms, including different eras characterized by different styles (the "Romantic" play style of the 18th century hardly resembles the "New Dynamism" of modernity). Here are 3 fun facts about chess that you may not know:
- For religious reasons, most pieces don't resemble actual people. Chess originated in large part from India and Persia. As Islamic beliefs did not allow for representations of individuals, it is widely understood that the designs were altered to be more universally appealing, and devoid of characteristic representation. By the time chess reached western Europe in the 9th century, the design had stuck. These days, however, stylized boards with character depictions are available for purchase (depending on your preference!).
- Chess is good for your brain. Recent studies reveal that playing chess later in life can help delay the onset of degenerative memory disorders such as Alzheimer's. Challenging one's brain with puzzles and other strategically intensive games can be as effective as physical exercise for older adults.
- Queen Isabella of Spain changed the rules of the game forever. Although the rules weren't standardized until the 19th century, Queen Isabella is responsible for one of the most fundamental changes in the modern game: the Queen piece. Isabella I of Castille, the first queen of Spain, turned the male piece (which previously functioned in a similar fashion to the King piece), into a Queen who could move any distance and in any direction on the board.
Learn more about the history of chess below.