The Chess Merit Badge: Your Ultimate Guide in 2020


If you’re a scout who’s good at strategy games, or if you’ve had some experience playing chess, the Chess merit badge will provide a fun way to develop critical thinking skills and earn an elective badge! While I didn’t have time to earn the Chess merit badge when I was a Scout, today I’m a huge fan of chess and would love to help you master this awesome game. 🙂

To complete the Chess merit badge, scouts must develop a firm understanding of the history, rules, and strategies associated with the game of chess. Additionally, you’ll also need to teach these skills to others, and even organize some chess matches on your own.

If you have Eagle-required merit badges to earn, you also should check out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I’m certain this resource will be helpful to scouts on their road to Eagle!

Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!

While you don’t need to be Magnus Carlsen (argued to be the greatest chess player in history) to complete the chess merit badge, you’ll need to develop a deeper understanding of chess than the average recreational player. Remember though, chess should be fun! Take your time learning, and you might just make a lifetime hobby of this strategic game.

Enough said! First, closely read through each of the requirements below so you know what you’ll need to do. Then, follow along closely. In this guide, I’ll walk you through each of the requirements, and help you to earn your very own Chess merit badge. Lets goooooo!

What Are The Chess Merit Badge Requirements?

  1. Discuss with your merit badge counselor the history of the game of chess. Explain why it is considered a game of planning and strategy.
  2. Discuss with your merit badge counselor the following:
    2a. The benefits of playing chess, including developing critical thinking skills, concentration skills, and decision-making skills, and how these skills can help you in other areas of your life
    2b. Sportsmanship and chess etiquette
  3. Demonstrate to your counselor that you know each of the following. Then, using Scouting’s Teaching EDGE, teach someone (preferably another Scout) who does not know how to play chess:
    3a. The name of each chess piece
    3b. How to set up a chessboard
    3c. How each chess piece moves, including castling and en passant captures
  4. Do the following:
    4a. Demonstrate scorekeeping using the algebraic system of chess notation.
    4b. Discuss the differences between the opening, the middle game, and the endgame.
    4c. Explain four opening principles
    4d. Explain the four rules for castling.
    4e. On a chessboard, demonstrate a “scholar’s mate” and a “fool’s mate.”
    4f. Demonstrate on a chessboard four ways a chess game can end in a draw.
  5. Do the following:
    5a. Explain four of the following elements of chess strategy: exploiting weaknesses, force, king safety, pawn structure, space, tempo, time.
    5b. Explain any five of these chess tactics: clearance sacrifice, decoy, discovered attack, double attack, fork, interposing, overloading, overprotecting, pin, remove the defender, skewer, zwischenzug.
    5c. Set up a chessboard with the white king on e1, the white rooks on a1 and h1, and the black king on e5. With White to move first, demonstrate how to force checkmate on the black king.
    5d. Set up and solve five direct-mate problems provided by your merit badge counselor.
  6. Do ONE of the following:
    6a. Play at least three games of chess with other Scouts and/or your merit badge counselor. Replay the games from your score sheets and discuss with your counselor how you might have played each game differently.
    6b. Play in a scholastic (youth) chess tournament and use your score sheets from that tournament to replay your games with your merit badge counselor. Discuss with your counselor how you might have played each game differently.
    6c. Organize and run a chess tournament with at least four players, plus you. Have each competitor play at least two games.
1) Discuss with your merit badge counselor the history of the game of chess. Explain why it is considered a game of planning and strategy.

Chess is arguably the most popular strategy game of all time. Although you don’t need to become an expert on chess origins, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with the game’s rich history. You’ll be amazed when you learn how chess has evolved from humble beginnings into the sport it is today.

Read through the table below for a quick summary of the most important events in chess history, as considered by chess.com, and why they are important to the evolution of the game:

Event and DateWhy Is It Important?
The Beginning of Chess (Circa 600 AD)The first identifiable version of chess evolved from popular Arabic and Indian board games. Although the rules and piece strengths differed, the game was played on an 8×8 board with 16 pieces per side. We continue to use this setup when playing modern-day chess.
Pawn Power (1280)In the original version of chess, pawns were only able to move one space per turn. However, all of this changed in the year 1280. The Spanish began allowing pawns to move two spaces upon their first advancement — which is a rule we still follow when playing chess today.
The Queen Takes Charge (around 1450)Even though the rules had evolved from the first game in 600 AD, the creation of the “Mad Queen,” was a radical development in the world of chess. Instead of moving just one space diagonally, the queen was given the power to move unlimited spaces in any direction!
First-ever Chess Tournament (1575)Chess tournaments are very common in this day and age. However, the first international tournament did not take place until 1575, when a pair of Italian players traveled to Spain to compete. One of the players, Ruy Lopez, remains famous in chess lore for his notable “Ruy Lopez” opening.
The First Chess-playing Machine (1770)The Hungarian inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen created The Mechanical Turk, an automatic chess machine that could actually compete against human players! In reality, there were chess players hiding inside the invention that moved the pieces with magnets. Since then, however, there has been a non-stop stream of innovations in chess technology.
Standardized Chess Pieces Are Designed (1849)Until 1849, chess pieces varied widely in design. However, chess master Howard Staunton created a strong, distinguishable chess piece design that’s still the most popular look for chess pieces, today.
First Use Of Timers (1861)The first chess clocks introduced in 1861 were sand hourglasses which gave each player three hours. As past games could last all day, those clocks significantly shortened playing time. Later in 1964, the first electronic chess clock was introduced. Today, many free smartphone apps make chess clocks widely available.
First Undisputed World Champion (1886)Austrian-American William Steinitz became the first undisputed world chess champion in 1886. Unlike most daring players of his time, Steinitz’s calculated, careful style of play set him far ahead of the competition. Today, we look to Steinitz as one of the pillars of modern-day chess.
A Computer Defeats The Best Human Chess Player (1997)Despite the popular belief that computers would never be able to beat strong chess players on their best day, IBM’s Deep Blue became the first computer to defeat the reigning world champion at the time, Garry Kasparov.
Chess, Today (2020)Attaining the rank of grandmaster at a mere 13 years of age, Magnus Carlsen has become the highest-rated chess player in history. Also, because of the new methods of online play available, chess has seen a recent surge in popularity and remains one of the most played games around the world!

Also, this TED video (5:39) on chess history is too good not to include! If you’re more of a visual learner, I’d highly watching this animated short on the history and legacy of chess:

Why Is Chess Considered a Game of Planning and Strategy?

Chess is considered a game of planning and strategy because, to have any hope of winning, you’ll need to think ahead. Since there are more possible chess move combinations than there are grains of sand in the world (Around 10^40!), every game will be different. Therefore you’ll need to 2 types of planning to win:

  • Tactics: Chess tactics are short term plans that are used to maneuver your pieces and win brief conflicts. By having solid tactics, you’ll be able to execute on your larger plans without losing pieces unnecessarily.
  • Strategies: Your chess strategy is your longer-term plan for victory. This differs from your tactics, as your strategy takes into account piece value, pawn structure, and position control. A well-executed strategy is like your roadmap to victory.

By putting thought into your moves beforehand and developing an overall plan, you’ll progressively gain experience and eventually become an excellent chess player. Head over to the next requirements to learn some of the strategies and tactics you could be using to improve your skills!

Discuss with your merit badge counselor the following:
2a) The benefits of playing chess, including developing critical thinking skills, concentration skills, and decision-making skills, and how these skills can help you in other areas of your life

There’s no shortage of benefits to playing chess. The strategic, tactical, and critical thinking skills one develops through chess games have been proven to support a player’s growth in other areas as well! Some of the benefits students have reported from playing chess just a few hours per week include:

  • Greater focus and a heightened speed of learning.
  • An ability to form friendships with others who play chess.
  • An improved ability to remain calm and act rationally in high-pressure situations.
  • Better performance in academics and sports.
  • The development of planning and goal-setting skills.
  • A practiced ability to win with humility and to lose with grace.

In addition to these highly practical benefits, from personal experience, I’ve noticed that chess also allowed me to compete in an exciting but friendly manner. While I wasn’t a great player when first starting out, I developed confidence, and nowadays don’t lose nearly as often! 🙂

Chess is truly a universal language that puts everyone on the same playing field. Regardless of their sex, race, or social skills, anyone can become a great chess player if they’re willing to put in the time and effort.

2b) Sportsmanship and chess etiquette

Chess also teaches its players sportsmanship, etiquette, and decorum. In chess, Scouting, and life, it’s important to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. Chess teaches this skill well, as in each game you play, you’ll either be the victor, loser, or you’ll tie with your opponent. Each of these situations will happen at some point, and it’ll important to be kind, regardless.

Through the game of chess, players also learn to be patient and non-distracting while their opponents are planning a move. By treating your opponent as you’d like to be treated, you’ll help to uphold chess ediquete and keep the game fun for everyone!

Demonstrate to your counselor that you know each of the following. Then, using Scouting’s Teaching EDGE, teach someone (preferably another Scout) who does not know how to play chess:
3a) The name of each chess piece

Before we can get into the names and functions of each chess piece, we should first talk about board setup. The chessboard is a large square that consists of an 8×8 grid of smaller squares. Thus, every chessboard should have a total of 64 squares. The squares alternate between light and dark colors, forming a checkered pattern.

When setting up your chessboard, remember the saying “white on the right.” This means that a light-colored square should be in the bottom right corner for each player. Square h1 will be a light square on the right for white, while square a8 will be a light square on the right for black. 

Each square on a chessboard is assigned a specific name that never changes, regardless of which piece is occupying it. There are 64 square names that go from a-h and 1-8.

The white side (the side that moves first to open a game) will consider their bottom left corner to be a1. In the picture on the right, a1 is the red square at the very bottom of the board. The letters will increase with each square, horizontally, with h1 being the square on the farthest right of this home rank for white.

The numbers will increase by one each time you move along each vertical line or ‘file.’ So, when looking from white’s perspective, the vertical file on the far left will move from a1-a8, while the file on the far right will move from h1-h8.

The four center squares, which are the most important to control on a chessboard, are d4, d5, d4, and e5. Now, it’s time to look at the pieces used in chess, and learn how they move across these squares.

Pawns

Pawns are your foot soldiers on the chessboard. There are eight of them on each side. Pawns occupy the entire second rank at the start of the game (a2-h2 for white, a7-h7 for black).

After their first move, pawns can only move forward one space at a time and cannot move backward. Pawns capture other pieces diagonally. Some notes about pawns:

  • When pawns are still on their first square, they have the option of moving forward one or two squares. This is the only time during the game that a pawn may move forward more than one square.
  • However, if a pawn attempts to move forward two squares to avoid the attack of an opposing pawn, the opponent may use a special move called en passant (in passing) to capture the pawn as if it had moved only one space. Note: This move may only be performed in the turn immediately after the pawn moved forward two spaces.
  • You should try to move your pawns down the board. If a pawn successfully reaches an opponent’s back rank, the pawn may be exchanged for any other piece (usually a queen).

When keeping score, pawns are worth about one point. However, don’t think that pawns are useless. Pawns are an essential part of chess strategy, as an effective pawn structure can help you attack and defend, simultaneously.

Rooks

When moving from the outside in on the home rank, the outermost squares (a1 and h1 for white, a8 and h8 for black), are held by the rooks. Rooks are easily identifiable by their castle-like appearance, with many novice players mistakenly referring to them as “castles.”

Rooks are among the most valuable pieces on a chessboard, especially when the board clears pieces and opens up. Rooks can move an unlimited amount of spaces horizontally or vertically, forward, or backward. They capture in the same direction they move.

When keeping score, a rook is worth about five points. Rooks can also be used together with a king in a special move called ‘castling.’ More on this later!

Knights

Set up next to the rooks, the next squares in on the home rank (b1 and g1 for white, b8 and g8 for black) are occupied by the knights. The knights are easily identifiable by their horse-like appearance and are sometimes mistakenly called “horses” by novice players.

Knights are the only pieces on the board capable of jumping other pieces, making them especially valuable for cluttered midgame attacks. However, they have a somewhat limited range. Knights are capable of moving in an L-shaped pattern, either one square up and over two, or two squares up and over one, forward or backward.

Knights capture in the same manner they move and are worth three points when keeping score. While you’ll likely not be able to use your knights well at first, the mark of an advanced chess player is being able to involve these pieces in unexpected tactics to create strategic openings.

Bishops

Next to the knights, bishops are your third pieces on the home rank (c1 and f1 for white, c8 and f8 for black). They look a bit like taller pawns but are distinguished by their pointed tip.

Bishops can move an unlimited number of spaces diagonally, either forward or backward, and capture in the same direction. As they can only stay on one color the entire game, they are limited to only half of the board and can easily get blocked in. However, their wide-range abilities make them very valuable in the end game and on open boards.

When keeping score, bishops are also worth three points. Bishops are great for unexpected cross-board attacks and pins, as most players tend to expect attacks to come along straight lines, rather than from the sides!

Queen

In terms of pure movability, the queen is the most powerful piece on the board. Unlike rooks, knights, and bishops, each player only has 1 queen. Your queen has the ability to move an unlimited number of squares in any direction, either forward or backward. However, queens cannot move in the L-pattern of the knight.

The queen and king are the tallest pieces on the board, with the queen typically having a crown. When setting up a chess game, remember: Put the queen on her color. Thus, a queen should start on d1 for white and d8 for black. 

When keeping score, the queen is worth 9 points. Many chess games are lost and won over how well each side can protect their queen, so use this piece wisely! While you can get another queen by moving your pawn to the end of the opponent’s side, this is not something that happens in most cases.

King

As the goal of chess is to reach a checkmate and avoid being checkmated, your own king is the most important piece on your side of the board. Like the queen, the king is a tall piece but is distinguished by the cross on its head. The white king will start on e1, and the black king will start on e8.

The king can only move one space in any direction, forward or backward, and captures in the manner it moves. An unmoved king and an unmoved rook can also perform a special move (castling) in which the king moves two spaces toward the rook, and the rook moves to the space immediately to the other side of the king. This move enhances king safety.

There is no point value for the king due to its importance to the game. However, the king is often used for strategic attacks during the endgames of chess matches. In spite of its low mobility and need for protection, don’t overlook using your king!

3b) How to set up a chessboard

Now that you’ve learned the function of every piece, here’s how you should be setting up your chessboards. Remember, queen on her color. Overall, chess is pretty straightforward to set up!

3c) How each chess piece moves, including castling and en passant captures

When teaching someone how to play chess using the EDGE method, I’d suggest using the above section as a reference for things to cover. However, if you’re trying to learn the game yourself right now, my writeup might not have been enough.

For all you visual learners out there, below I’ve included a quick and awesome video (4:12) that’ll teach you everything you need to know to play your first game of chess. Because this video shows the actual pieces moving, it should give you a better idea of the setup and use of each chess piece!

As we talked about earlier, castling is when the king and rook change places. This can be done only if both pieces have not been moved prior to the castle. To learn the rules of castling, jump to (3:14) in the video.

An en passant can be used if a pawn attempts to move forward two squares to avoid the attack of an opposing pawn. This allows the attacking pawn to capture the pawn as if it had moved only one space. See (3:40) of the video for more details on how an en passant is used.

Do the following:
4a) Demonstrate scorekeeping using the algebraic system of chess notation.

In official competition, chess players are required to keep track of their moves to help resolve any disputes that may arise later in the game. Remember how we mentioned earlier that there are 64 squares on a chessboard, and that each square has a name? That’s algebraic notation!

When using algebraic notation, the names of each square are used to record a chess piece’s position. To do this, write the first letter of the piece, followed by the square it moves to. Below are some examples of move algebraic notation. In this case, white moves first:

  • Moving the d2 pawn to d4 would be recorded as “d4” (note that the pawns do not need to be named).
  • Then, moving the black bishop from c1 to f4 would be recorded “Bf4.”
  • Moving the g1 knight to protect the d4 pawn would be recorded “Nf3” (notice that knight is abbreviated with an N and not a K).
  • If a white pawn in the ‘c’ column makes it to the opponent’s backfile, the notation is (c8Q). Sometimes, players use an equal sign (e1=Q) but this notation is generally used for portable games.

When a capture is involved, an “x” is used to denote the capture. For example, if black moved to “e5” in response to white’s initial “d4” move and white decided to capture on the next move, it would be recorded as “d4xe5.”

Here are some other special notations that you should also remember:

  • King-side castling (o-o)
  • Queen-side castling (o-o-o)
  • Adding a “+” for a move that puts the king in check (for example, Re6+)
  • Adding a “++” for a move that leads to checkmate (for example, “Qxb5++).

Algebraic notation is based on a system developed by a Syrian man named Philipp Stamma in the early 1700’s. Even today, the system of algebraic notation is used to record professional matches, as it reduces instances of cheating and makes it easy to reference a game after it’s taken place! 🙂

4b) Discuss the differences between the opening, the middle game, and the endgame.

The game of chess is broadly divided into three phases: the opening, the middle game, and the end game.

Opening: The opening consists of the first 10 to 15 moves. During this phase, most players fight to develop knights and bishops, use pawns to control the central squares, and castle their kings to safety.

Middle Game: During the middle game, players start executing their specific strategies, begin to develop their rooks and queens (by moving them to central positions), and start sacrificing their own pieces to capture their opponent’s.

End Game: The transition between the middle and end game is often hard to pinpoint, but it generally involves these characteristics:

  • An open board with fewer pieces on both sides.
  • Pawns enjoying open files and racing to the other side of the board.
  • A king that is highly mobile and used to aid in attack or in retreat.
  • A ‘passed pawn’ being promoted to a queen, giving one side a clear advantage.
4c) Explain four opening principles

Generally speaking, there are 4 sound principles that all quality players will employ in their openings, regardless of what strategy they’re using:

  1. Mobilize your pieces to control the center
  2. Develop the rooks, knights, and bishops to aid in this centralized attack
  3. Castle the king to safety
  4. Avoid moving the same piece more than one time

However, there’s a lot of background knowledge that you should know as to why these principles are so important. I’d recommend watching the video (8:07) below for a great overview of the thought process behind your opening principles:

Piece development is the most important thing to keep in mind during the opening, so always keep an eye out for ways to safely advance. With these principles in mind, you should be left in a great position by the time you reach middle game!

4d) Explain the four rules for castling.

As we covered earlier, castling is a special move that brings the king to safety. Castles often take place during the defense-setup phases of a chess opening. However, the 4 rules of castling must be followed before a legal castle can be performed:

  1. The king has yet to move from its home square.
  2. The rook that the king intends to castle with has yet to move from its home square.
  3. The king may not castle out of check.
  4. The king may not castle into or through check.

Remember that castling is a key method of increasing king safety and getting your rooks into play. If you need more info on castling, hop back to requirement 3c and skip to (3:14) in the video to watch a castle being performed in real-time.

4e) On a chessboard, demonstrate a “scholar’s mate” and a “fool’s mate.”

The “scholar’s mate” and a “fool’s mate” are two early-game checkmates that you should never fall for. While you probably shouldn’t aim to execute these moves yourself (it requires your opponent to make very specific blunders), be aware of these traps so that you don’t fall into them.

You’ll need to demonstrate these types of checkmates to your merit badge counselor, so study them closely, beforehand. Maybe even practice them on an actual board once or twice! To watch a “scholar’s mate” and “fool’s mate” in action, check out the video (4:56) below:

Another good reason to study the “scholar’s mate” and “fool’s mate” is to learn the mechanics of a checkmate. Realize, you don’t need to capture very many of your opponent’s pieces to win! This is especially true for beginner/intermediate chess games. To become a great chess player, look for the checkmate above all else. 🙂

4f) Demonstrate on a chessboard four ways a chess game can end in a draw.

The goal of chess is to put the opposing king into checkmate. However, there will be plenty of times when a game ends in a draw, where neither player wins nor loses. The following are three general that will result in a draw:

  • Stalemate. This occurs when the opposing king is safe, forced to move, but has nowhere safe to go. This frequently happens when novice players get careless and has a huge material advantage over their opponent.
  • Repetition of position three times. When the same move has been made back-and-forth three times, a draw occurs. This usually happens when a king only has one square to move out of check safely and the opponent, who has fewer pieces, is playing for a draw.
  • Mutual agreement. Players can agree to a draw when neither sees an end in sight to a closely contested game.

There are countless ways that each of these draws can occur. To complete this requirement, you’ll only need to demonstrate 4 of them! Take out your chessboard and practice some stalemate situations.

Or, even better, play a few games and take pictures of each draw to show your merit badge counselor later. This will give you an opportunity to have fun practicing what you’ve learned from the previous requirements. Plus, a draw is bound to happen at some point!

Do the following:
5a
) Explain four of the following elements of chess strategy: exploiting weaknesses, force, king safety, pawn structure, space, tempo, time.

Chess is a game full of jargon (fancy terms only used for chess). Below are the 4 of the most useful concepts, in my opinion, that every new chess player should know and master:

Exploiting Weakness

You can exploit your opponent’s weakness by altering your short-term tactics whenever you notice a vulnerability in your opponent’s position. Some common weaknesses that can be exploited include:

  • A queen that gets into action too early in the game
  • A king that is not blocked by a pawn and has yet to castle
  • Double pawns. a situation in which two or more pawns are on the same file
  • Bishops and rooks that are undeveloped and blocked in by pawns
  • Knights on the edge of the board (a knight on the rim is dim)

Exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses is an effective tactic to make them lose more points than you do. If you continue to take their pieces in advantageous trade offs, you’ll be in a much better position to win the match later on.

King Safety

Needing to move your king out of check will waste valuable time. Therefore, you should get your king to the edge of the board early in the game through castling, so it is out of the way of central attacks. By using pawns to block your king, you’ll avoid having to waste moves to escape being in check — which is especially in the opening and middle game.

On the other hand, you should try to put your opponent’s king in check as much as possible. Use this as a way to advance your pieces and force your opponent to make predictable moves. However, be careful while doing this. Remember, your opponent can get out of check by capturing your piece!

Pawn Structure

An effective pawn structure is done by safely advancing your pawns toward enemy territory. Ideally, you want your central pawns more advanced, with the pawns on the sides staying further back as a line of defense. That way, if any of your pawns are captured, another one of your pawns can capture the attacking piece.

Good pawn structure makes it difficult for an opponent to enter onto your side of the board. Additionally, if your pawns can support each other, you can use them to invade your opponent’s space and capture their higher-valued pieces. Pawn structure is the backbone of most strategies, so keep it in mind at all times.

Time

Aside from the time measured on a chess clock, time also refers to the amount of development that has occurred. For example, when moving the same piece multiple times in the opening, you are losing time. Moving out of check also causes you to lose time. 

Essentially, anything that delays the deployment of your pieces and slows your strategy results in lost time. Therefore, you should try to make your opponent lose time, and avoid losing time, yourself. Keeping piece development (i.e: time) front of mind will put you in advantageous positions and help you to win!

5b) Explain any five of these chess tactics: clearance sacrifice, decoy, discovered attack, double attack, fork, interposing, overloading, overprotecting, pin, remove the defender, skewer, zwischenzug.

Clearance Sacrifice

A clearance sacrifice means giving up a piece in order to gain a more advantageous position. For instance, if you’re trying to maneuver your opponent’s king into checkmate, you may want to use one of your pieces as “bait” to move the king’s protection away.

A common method of clearance sacrifice is used to open a diagonal. If you have a “bad” pawn that is blocking your bishop, you might allow your pawn to be captured in order to move your bishop into a more effective position. It’s alright to get behind in points if it’ll help to further your overall strategy.

Decoy

A decoy is any move that misdirects your opponent and allows you to gain the upper hand. Well-executed sacrifices are the most common decoys in chess, as your opponent thinks that you have made a mistake when, in reality, you’re setting up a greater attack later on in the game.

I often use pawns as decoys, advancing them well into enemy territory to draw out attackers. Once my pawn is captured, I’m often able to place the opponent’s king in check and develop my pieces further, or even go for the checkmate!

Fork

A fork occurs when one of your pieces attacks two or more of your opponent’s pieces, simultaneously. Knights are some of the most powerful pieces for creating forks, with a white knight positioned on c7 forking both an undeveloped rook and a king that has not yet castled.

While the knight is excellent at creating forks on closed boards when creeping into the opponent’s territory, the rook and bishop are excellent at creating wide-range forks on more open boards. Bishops, in particular, can be sneaky, as their diagonal attack is often overlooked by players who post essential pieces on the same color squares late in the game.

Queens are also powerful forking pieces, with their ability to create a diagonal attack on one piece and a horizontal attack on another piece. This is particularly effective when one of those attacks is on an opposing king. Your opponent will have no choice but to move the king to safety and forfeit the other piece!

Overprotecting

Novice players often make the mistake of overprotecting. Chess is a game that generally rewards the attacking player. So, if you are committing a large percentage of your force to defending your king, the best you can often hope for is a draw.

A classic mistake that novice players make is overprotecting pawns with useful pieces. For instance, if you’re using your queen or rook to protect a pawn or minor piece (knight or bishop), you won’t be able to use that piece for attacking. This is a huge mistake!

Zwischenzug

Zwischenzug is a German term meaning “in-between move.” Most advanced chess players have already calculated the moves of his or her opponent, so when that opponent makes a move that is surprising, such as a move that interrupts an exchange sequence, a “zwischenzug” is said to have occurred.

For instance, if you expect your opponent to take one of your pieces, but they unexpectedly put you in check, this is an example of a Zwischenzug! You’ll need to move out of check, and only then will the opponent complete their expected move by taking your piece. This allows them to develop their side and take your piece — an effective tactical move.

5c) Set up a chessboard with the white king on e1, the white rooks on a1 and h1, and the black king on e5. With White to move first, demonstrate how to force checkmate on the black king.
5d) Set up and solve five direct-mate problems provided by your merit badge counselor.

Now it’s your turn! Use what you’ve already learned to practice your checkmating skills with your merit badge counselor. Identifying possible checkmate opportunities is sort of like an art form, so put time into developing this skillset. For a great guide to better understanding chess endgame patterns, watch the video (8:45) below:

That’s all there is to it. Chess takes time, practice, and committed learning to master. By focusing on improving your openings, mid game, and end game, you’ll rapidly become a better chess player and win much more often! 🙂

Do ONE of the following:
6a) Play at least three games of chess with other Scouts and/or your merit badge counselor. Replay the games from your score sheets and discuss with your counselor how you might have played each game differently.
6b) Play in a scholastic (youth) chess tournament and use your score sheets from that tournament to replay your games with your merit badge counselor. Discuss with your counselor how you might have played each game differently.
6c) Organize and run a chess tournament with at least four players, plus you. Have each competitor play at least two games.

Now that you’re a chess extraordinaire, you should share this wonderful game with your friends! There’s a lot of learning required to earn this merit badge, but your effort will be well worth it. Congrats on getting this far. 🙂

Regardless of which final requirement you end up doing, remember that there’s much more to chess than just winning. You should have fun and strive to improve, above all else!

Conclusion

Awesome job getting this far! Chess is a difficult game to master but, through practice, you’ll continually improve — and have a lot of fun along the way. By developing your chess strategy, learning different tactics, and simply playing often, you’ll even develop useful skills outside the chessboard!

Thanks for improving our planet through your involvement in Scouting! If you’ve found this guide helpful, you should sign up for my newsletter to get updates whenever I post a new article. Check ScoutSmarts often, because I’m constantly uploading new content for scouts like you. Until next time, best of luck on your Scouting journey! 🙂

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content for this website because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making this world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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