BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A game believed to improve symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and ward off dementia became the subject of international attention when it was featured in the 2020 Netflix miniseries, The Queen’s Gambit

The award-winning limited series shined a light on the game of chess. 

But where exactly did this game come from, and why is it so popular?

The history of chess

Though the precise origins of chess remain up for debate, most historians believe the pastime finds its roots in an ancient Indian war game called ‘chaturanga.’ 

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, chaturanga was popular in northwestern India by the seventh century. It was a two-player board game that was eventually adapted by the Arabians and later made its way into European culture by the Medieval Period. 

These days, chess players engage in friendly battles from sidewalks in Russia to pubs across England and in living rooms throughout the United States. 

In fact, this year, American Chess Day is recognized on the first of September. 

Some are celebrating the day by hosting their own chess tournament while others are teaching friends and family members how to play the game. 

As mentioned earlier, some health experts believe the game can be quite beneficial to certain aspects of one’s mental well-being.

Chess enhances the ability to see from another perspective

According to one Healthline article, chess can develop a person’s ‘theory of mind,’ which is a term behavioral scientists used to describe the ability to see a situation from another person’s viewpoint. 

The article refers to a 2019 study that found children who practiced the game developed a keen ability to anticipate their opponent’s next move. 

Chess is believed to improve memory

Researchers also believe that because the game requires the memorization of numerous combinations of moves and potential outcomes, it can lead to an improvement in memory function.

Healthline states, “In one experiment, researchers compared the recall ability of expert chess players to that of people with no chess-playing experience. They found that the chess players were significantly better at recalling lists of words they’d heard than people who had never played chess.” 

Chess may ward off dementia

Considering the enhanced memory skills that most chess players possess, it isn’t surprising that some scientists also believe playing the game can reduce the likelihood of developing dementia. 

The previously mentioned article says, “In a 2019 research review, scientists found that the complex mental flexibility chess demands could help protect older people from dementia.

Researchers found evidence that the game, which challenges memory, calculation, visual-spatial skills, and critical thinking abilities, may help reduce cognitive decline and postpone the effects of dementia as you age.”

That said, it should be kept in mind that some scientists hold a different point of view. 

Dr. David Ludden, for example, explained why he believes neither chess nor music are cognitive boosters in this Psychology Today article

Where to play chess in Baton Rouge 

If you’re in the capital area and you’d like to play chess with other locals, reach out to the groups listed below:

The Baton Rouge Chess Club

Website: LCA

Phone: (225) 772-7664

Email: batonrougechess@gmail.com

Purple and Gold Chess Club

Website: Facebook Page

Phone: (225) 362-9927

Email: BRChess@gmail.com

Want to learn to play chess? Here’s how…

If you’ve never played the game, American Chess Day may be the perfect opportunity to dip a toe into the waters. 

CLICK HERE to view a video with simple instructions. 

According to Chess.com, learning the game requires becoming familiar with six basic steps, which are listed below:


STEP ONE: Set up the Chessboard 

Each of the two players will set up their pieces on the light-colored squares along the two rows at the very bottom of the board (the part of the board closest to the player).

This is accomplished by filling the first row (the row closest to the player) with two rooks in the left and right corner, then the knights next to them, followed by the bishops, the queen, and then the king on the remaining square. The second row is filled with pawns. 


STEP TWO: Learn to move the chess pieces correctly

Each of the 6 different kinds of pieces moves differently. Pieces cannot move through other pieces (though the knight can jump over other pieces), and can never move onto a square with one of their own pieces. However, they can be moved to take the place of an opponent’s piece which is then captured. Pieces are generally moved into positions where they can capture other pieces (by landing on their square and then replacing them), defend their own pieces in case of capture, or control important squares in the game.

The King

The most important piece is the king, but this is also the weakest piece as it can only move one square in any direction- up, down, to the sides, and diagonally. 

The Queen

The queen is the most powerful piece in that it can move in any one straight direction – forward, backward, sideways, or diagonally – as far as possible as long as she does not move through any of her own pieces.And, like with all pieces, if the queen captures an opponent’s piece her move is over. Notice how the white queen captures the black queen and then the black king is forced to move.

The Rook

The rook moves horizontally or vertically, through any number of unoccupied squares and cannot jump over pieces. It can capture an enemy piece by moving to the square on which the enemy piece stands, removing it from play.

The Bishop

The bishop can move as far as it wants, but only diagonally. Each bishop starts on one color (light or dark) and has to remain on that color.

The Knight

Knights are unique in their movements. While other pieces move in straight lines, knights move in an ‘L-shape,’ meaning they can move two squares in any direction vertically followed by one square horizontally, or two squares in any direction horizontally followed by one square vertically.

The Pawns

Pawns move and capture in different ways: they move forward but capture diagonally. Pawns can only move forward one square at a time, except for their very first move where they can move forward two squares. These pieces can only capture one square diagonally in front of them. They can never move or capture backward. If there is another piece directly in front of a pawn he cannot move past or capture that piece.


STEP THREE: Learn the game’s special rules

There are a few special rules to the game, which are listed below: 

  • How to promote a pawn: If a pawn reaches the other side of the board, it can become any other chess piece (called promotion) excluding a king (or pawn, for that matter). A pawn may be promoted to a knight, bishop, rook, or queen. A common misconception is that pawns may only be exchanged for a piece that has been captured, but this is inaccurate. A pawn is usually promoted to a queen. Only pawns may be promoted.
  • The “En Passant:” The last rule about pawns is called “en passant,” which is French for “in passing”. If a pawn moves out two squares on its first move, and by doing so lands to the side of an opponent’s pawn (effectively jumping past the other pawn’s ability to capture it), that other pawn has the option of capturing the first pawn as it passes by. This special move must be done immediately after the first pawn has moved past, otherwise the option to capture it is no longer available. Click through the example below to better understand this odd, but important rule.
  • How to ‘castle:’ One other special chess rule is called castling. This move allows you to do two important things all in one move: get your king to safety (hopefully), and get your rook out of the corner and into the game. On a player’s turn he may move his king two squares over to one side and then move the rook from that side’s corner to right next to the king on the opposite side. (See the example below.) However, in order to castle, the following conditions must be met:

-It must be that king’s very first move

-It must be that rook’s very first move

-There cannot be any pieces between the king and rook to move

-The king may not be in check or pass through check

When a player castles in one direction, the king is closer to the side of the board. That is called castling “kingside”. Castling to the other side, through where the queen sat, is called castling “queenside”. Regardless of which side, the king always moves only two squares when castling.


STEP FOUR: Find out who makes the first move

The player with the white pieces always moves first. Therefore, players generally decide who will get to be white by chance or luck such as flipping a coin or having one player guess the color of the hidden pawn in the other player’s hand. White then makes a move, followed by black, then white again, then black, and so on until the end of the game. Being able to move first is a tiny advantage that gives the white player an opportunity to attack right away.


STEP FIVE: Review the rules that will lead to a win

A game of chess ends several ways: by checkmate, with a draw, by resignation, or forfeit on time. 

Checkmate: The purpose of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king. This happens when the king is put into check and cannot get out of check. The king can get out of check by moving out of the way (though this piece cannot castle), by blocking the check with another piece, or by capturing the piece that is threatening the king. If the king can’t escape the check, then the game is over. 

Draw: Occasionally chess games do not end with a winner, but with a draw. There are 5 reasons why a chess game may end in a draw:

  • The position reaches a stalemate where it is one player’s turn to move, but his king is NOT in check and yet he does not have another legal move.
  • The players may simply agree to a draw and stop playing
  • There are not enough pieces on the board to force a checkmate (example: a king and a bishop vs. a king)
  • A player declares a draw if the same exact position is repeated three times (though not necessarily three times in a row)
  • Fifty consecutive moves have been played where neither player has moved a pawn or captured a piece

STEP SIX: Learn basic chess strategies

Protect Your King– Get your king to the corner of the board where it is typically safer. Don’t dawdle when it comes to castling. Instead, castle as soon as possible.

Avoid Giving Pieces Away– Each piece is important and a player cannot win a game without pieces to checkmate. There is an easy system that most players use to keep track of the relative value of each chess piece:

  • A pawn is worth 1
  • A knight is worth 3
  • A bishop is worth 3
  • A rook is worth 5
  • A queen is worth 9
  • The king is infinitely valuable

Honestly, at the end of the game, the points listed above don’t mean anything. But this is a system a player can use to make critical decisions during a match.

Control The Center Of The Chessboard– You should try and control the center of the board with your pieces and pawns. If you control the center, you will have more room to move your pieces and will make it harder for your opponent to find good squares for his pieces. In the example above white makes good moves to control the center while black plays bad moves.

Use All Of Your Chess Pieces– In the example above white got all of his pieces in the game! Your pieces don’t do any good when they are sitting back on the first row. Try and develop all of your pieces so that you have more to use when you attack the king. Using one or two pieces to attack will not work against any decent opponent.

Click here to read the full article with step-by-step instructions and video from Chess.com