Charles Branning (Mr. B) sponsor

Hi. Welcome to the chess club page on the school website. I hope the information I post here will be helpful. As for a little bit about myself, I was born June 23 at 11:30 p.m. in California. Since it was already June 24 in Texas where I live now, I often say I can celebrate my birthday twice each year!
For 22 years I was the accompanist for the adult choir at 10:00 Sunday Mass at St. Pius X. I was not Catholic when I started doing that. My wife and I became Catholic in 2007. We are members of St. Pius X. So are our daughter (Miss Becky at the school), her husband Mike and their daughters (Sarah and Annie Urbanovsky.)
We started the chess club at St. Pius X in the spring 2015. It has been a lot of fun for me and (I'm confident) for the members also. I look forward to another great year in 2018-2019!
Over to the right I have posted the meetings for this fall, a description of the game of chess and a few helpful tips from one of the first women allowed to play in the international "men's tournaments."  I admit the text describing the game is long. I welcome suggestions about shortening and/or simplifying it. We are off to a great start this year in the St. Pius X club. Let's make this a school year to remember for our Blue Jay chess players!
— Mr. B

Personal phone: 361-215-2190
Personal email: chasbranning@gmail.com
School Phone: 361-992-1343
School Email: chess@stpiusxschoolcc.org

Meeting times and locations
Upcoming attendance opportunities
Rules for playing chess
Tips from Susan Polgar

            Schedule Spring 2019 (March - May)

Fridays that are omitted mean there are no meetings that week. (No meetings on early dismissal days.)

With two groups meeting at 3:20, one will meet in Room 2 (school math room). Other group will meet in CC1.

Two meetings remain this school year

April 26 Final regular meeting for all members in all grades since outdoor school is not this week after all.

May 10 Club party and end of club year


Remember you can “deposit” attendance credits by going to an outside tournament in an attendance “bank” in case you have two or more absences later this year from our club. The first absence this spring from our club stays on your record and prevents you from having “perfect” attendance, but absences above the first are erased by tournaments kept in the attendance bank and help to achieve "excellent" attendance.

There are three outside tournaments I am aware of that qualify.

The easier ones to go to are at the Neyland public library on Carmel Parkway near the Wal-Mart at Staples and Gollihar and at the Janet F. Harte public library on Waldron Road. Neyland's is every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is free. You can choose your opponent except I require that it not be anyone from the St. Pius Club so you get experience playing chess players you don’t know. Mr. Edward at the library has an attendance sheet for you to sign. The one on Waldron Road is every 1st and 3rd Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 and also is free. At this time I have not contacted its sponsor, but if you go to any of these tournaments I will take your word if you just remember to let me know you did. 

The biggest and most challenging tournament is held by the Optimist Coastal Bend Chess Federation. It is an all-day tournament one Saturday per month affiliated with the U.S. Chess Federation and costs about $20 because a different local school is reimbursed for hosting it each time and for providing a snack bar. The next tournament will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 23 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church.

Of course coming to all St. Pius X chess meetings is very important, but no one can help getting sick or having to choose when conflicts arise. I urge you to consider the big tournament at least once because it can be a better learning experience! I'll be happy to talk in person with anyone wishing to understand it better.

— Mr. B


* The board: Place the board so each player has a white square at the right corner position. (“White to the right”! It rhymes.) The queen and king go on the row closest to each player. They occupy the middle two squares (d1 and e1 for white; d8 and e8 for black on numbered boards) with the queen going on the square of her own color. This means the white queen is to the left of her king and the black queen is to the right of hers. The different positions of these two pieces makes the game somewhat different for white and black in addition to the rule that white always moves first. (St. Pius X club members will be assigned a color each week so everyone plays both colors several times by the end of the fall and spring tournaments.) The four rooks go in the four corner squares. (On numbered boards, the white rooks go on a1 and h1, black rooks on a8 and h8. Hint: The white rook closer to the white queen must occupy a black square at that player’s left!) (Final hint: On numbered boards, rows 1 and 2 are for white; rows 7 and 8 are for black. On unnumbered boards, this point does not matter so long as you remembered "white on the right.")

• King: moves any direction but only one square away. However, the king is the most important piece even though he is not very powerful. You win the game by getting your opponent’s king in a spot where you have a piece able to move (on your very next move) to the square where the king is positioned. (This situation is called “check.” When a king is trapped and cannot “get away” nor be protected by another piece, it’s called “checkmate” and the game ends immediately without the actual capture being executed. Obviously, the checkmated side loses the game.) (There is another possible outcome. See “stalemate” below.) While it no longer is required that one player announce “check” to the other, for St. Pius X club players I urge that they do so to show good sportsmanship. And if you don’t see that you are in check and make a move that doesn’t save your king, your opponent is NOT allowed to checkmate the king. You made an illegal move since you didn’t protect the king as a legal move requires and this MUST be announced. (In checkmate, you are not allowed to make a move that leaves your king in check. But see “stalemate” below for another possible outcome.)

• Queen: the most powerful piece. In a single move, she can cross several empty squares (along a north-south or east-west line or along a diagonal line). She cannot jump over a piece in her path. If it is an enemy piece, she can capture it and stop moving. If it's one of her own she has to stop next door. At all times no piece in chess can move farther after arriving next to a piece of its own color or capturing an enemy piece. It may stop short of either if you choose to do that.

• Rooks: They move in the north-south or east-west direction like a queen. They cannot move diagonally. They capture like a queen in the straight-line mode and that ends the move. It also ends when a rook lands next to one of its own pieces.

• Bishops: They move only in a diagonal line. They capture like a queen in the diagonal-line mode. Again capturing an enemy piece or landing next to a piece of its own color ends that move for a bishop.

None of the pieces above can change directions during a single move nor can they jump over any piece on the board (except in the case of “castling” described below). 

But the knights do both of these strange maneuvers! 

• Knights: Knights MUST change their direction once and only once each time they move. They must advance in their teeter-totter manner a total of 3 squares. This makes a pattern that looks like the letter L. But sometimes the L has a tall "handle" and sometimes a wide "foot" instead. I.E. If a knight goes forward or backward 2 squares straight, the final move must be left or right. Forward or backward one square means finishing with 2 squares to the left or to the right. Finally knights may jump over any piece but may not finish on a square occupied by one of their own. They capture an enemy piece that is unfortunate enough to be on the square the knight completes its move in. (If it is going to be the enemy’s king, the situation of a “check” has arisen. If that king cannot escape check or be protected, it is checkmate by a knight.)

• Pawns: Usually they move forward (only forward) one square at a time. On each pawn’s first move it may move two squares. And they capture enemy pieces (any piece, even a queen) diagonally. They are the chess nation's lowliest citizens -- except when they are not. Two important jobs they have are: 1. To block the path of the enemy whose goal is to put their king in inescapable check. 2. The other use of pawns is similar to what happens to a checker that gets all the way across the board. Successful checkers become kings. Successful pawns become queens! Yes you may play part of a game with more than one queen! (Wow!) (Once in a while it’s the better choice to “promote” a pawn to a knight instead of a queen. It never makes sense to promote a pawn to a rook or a bishop though because the queen has all the moves BOTH of them have. It should be obvious the two pieces a pawn is not allowed to become are another king or stay a pawn — why wouldn’t you want it promoted?) 


* En Passant — If a pawn in making a two-square move must pass through a square where an enemy pawn (only another pawn) would have captured it after if it had moved just one square, it is not safe to move it two squares on its first move either. The enemy is allowed to move its opposing pawn diagonally into the square you thought you had avoided and capture your pawn anyhow. (It’s called “en passant” which is French meaning “in passing.”) Don’t do it unless you have a good reason to sacrifice your pawn. (Sometimes sacrificing one of your pawns or other pieces can be good strategy depending on other developments on the board!)

* Castling — A move each side is allowed to make once in a game under certain circumstances. It involves moving two of your pieces at once — the king and one of the rooks. The circumstances when you are allowed to make this move are: Neither the king nor the rook to be used to relocate the king can have made any moves. The king will pass through some empty squares on his row to “jump” over the rook and must not be threatened with check on any of those squares or the move cannot be made. The same applies to your king in check. A king may not be castled to move out of check!

Also the squares between the king and the rook to be castled must be empty (i.e. the knight and bishop must have been previously moved and if the move is to be to the queen’s side of the board, the queen must have moved off the row also). The move is executed by placing the rook next to the king and “jumping” the king over the rook (castle) and landing the king next to the rook. Thus the king ends up two squares away from his starting square.  (This is the only time in the game the king has the “energy” to jump. Otherwise he moves only as described above.) This is an odd move, but it’s usually a good move to make to place the king behind pawns away from the center columns of the board. Of course the pawns he is to wind up behind should be kept in a row on the second row as a line of defense for your king.

* Stalemate — Check and checkmate have been explained above under the topic of the King. Stalemate is a second possible outcome in addition to checkmate that ends a game. It essentially is a tie between the two sides. It involves a king being in a square where he is safe(!) but being unable to avoid getting into check if it’s that side’s turn and the only apparently available move is to put the king into check! Such a move is illegal and not allowed, so the side whose turn it is cannot move and the other side cannot make two moves in a row! No further moves are made and the game is stalemated. In the St. Pius X club each competitor will be awarded two points for a stalemate. (Further reminder: if your king is in check, you must escape or protect him by preventing the move your opponent could have made to capture. If your king is not in check, but every move you have available to you would put him in check, it is an illegal move. You are not allowed to make the move and since you have no other moves available, game is stalemated. You are not allowed to help your opponent checkmate you and your opponent is not allowed to make two moves in a row!)

Draws and Conceding

Occasionally chess games do not end with a checkmate, but with a draw or concession by one player to the other. Here are some reasons why a chess game may end in a draw or in one player conceding to the other:

  1. The position reaches a stalemate when it IS one player’s turn to move and the king is NOT in check but no LEGAL move remains for that side. (Also described above) (Two points for each in our club.)
  2. The players may simply agree to a draw and stop playing. In our St. Pius club, before the board is cleared Mr. B must be shown the positions and agree it is time to declare a draw (or even to allow one player to “concede” the game to the other which results in four points for the player to whom the game was conceded).
  3. There are not enough pieces on the board to force a checkmate (example: a king and a bishop vs. a king), Two points each.
  4. A player declares a draw if the same exact position is repeated three times (though not necessarily three times in a row). Two points each.
  5. Fifty consecutive moves have been played where neither player has moved a pawn nor captured a piece. (Note a single move in chess entails both sides moving in turn one time!) Two points each.

***Chess club friends: The game is difficult to explain without pictures which I don’t yet know how to place on the website. Your own personal chess players who live with you can help make it simpler. They are learning very well the additional lessons each needs to know to improve his or her own game! And if you have suggestions of simpler ways to describe anything I have made tedious please send it to me in a text message or email. Thank you.

— Mr. B



1. Move your pieces away from trouble

2. Capture the piece that is attacking you

3. Block the attack

(You may ignore a likely attack if there is a counter attack for you that has a greater value.)


1. Capture the attacking piece.

2. Block the check with another of your pieces.

3. Move your king to a safe square.


1. You must not have moved either your king or the rook that the king will jump over. (Mr. B changed the way this is stated.)

2. You may not castle if your king is in check.

3. You may not move your king past a square that is under attack nor to a square that would leave him in check.


1. If you touch one of your pieces, you must move it.

2. If you touch one of your opponent's pieces, you have to capture it (if you can).


Shake your opponent's hand at the end of your game. It's a sign of good sportsmanship. 


* Susan Polar was the 2003 recipient of the award of being named "Grandmaster of the Year" by the U.S. Chess Federation. She was the first woman to receive this award. In the St. Pius club, I'd like them to shake hands at the start and the end of each game.