Okay, so you got interested in chess. But sometimes, the chess terms might come in your way and confuse you a lot.
In this guide, I have tried to break down all the chess terminologies I think every beginner should know, in a simplified way.
Reading this guide, you will have a good idea about all the basic chess terms.
But before starting, let’s have a brief introduction about chess:
- Chess is a two-player game that is played on an 8 by 8 square chessboard with 64 squares.
- Each player has 16 chess pieces so in all, there are 32 chess pieces in a chess game.
- Each player moves their pieces on their turn and also captures the opponent piece by occupying their square.
- While capturing any piece, the captured piece is removed from the board.
- The main goal of a chess game is to checkmate the opponent king. (Checkmate means the king is dangered but no way left to save it. Discussed ahead).
Having said that, lets dive in!
Here’s the list of chess terms every beginner should know:
King is the most valuable chess piece on the chessboard. In chess, each side has only 1 king.
A king moves only one square in any direction. But there is also a special move of the king called castling, (discussed ahead in this article) in which it moves two squares in a single move.
A king can capture any piece but only up to one square. However, one king can’t capture another king in chess.
You can read more about the king moves here.
Queen is the most powerful piece in chess. In chess, each side has only 1 queen. It can move horizontally, vertically as well as diagonally. It can capture any piece that comes on its path (but only one in a single turn). It has maximum mobility on the chessboard.
Knight is a special chess piece because, in chess, it is the only piece that can jump over other pieces. Also, the knight moves in a typical L-shape.
A knight captures any piece that is present on the square where the knight is going to land (only one piece in a single turn). You can read more about the knight moves here.
In chess, each player has 2 knights.
Rook is the second most powerful chess piece. In chess, each player has 2 rooks. It can move vertically as well as horizontally on a chessboard. It captures any piece that comes on its path – horizontally or vertically (But only one in a single turn).
You can read more about the rook moves here.
In chess, each player has 2 bishops. A bishop can only move along the diagonals. Also, it captures in the same way as it moves – along the diagonals (but only one piece in a single turn). You can read more about the bishop moves here.
Pawn is the smallest and the least powerful piece in chess. In chess, each player has 8 pawns.
A pawn can move two steps forward on its first turn and rest in the entire game it moves only one step forward. Remember, pawns can never move backwards.
A pawn can capture any piece only if it is present on its immediate adjacent diagonal square in the forward direction (only one piece in one turn).
Also, a pawn can capture even on its first move as long as the piece to be captured is present on its immediate adjacent diagonal square in the forward direction and provided no other standard chess rules are violated.
Although the pawn is the weakest piece in chess, it has the power of promoting itself to the most powerful piece – the queen by the process known as pawn promotion (discussed ahead).
Also, a pawn has a special move known as en passant (discussed ahead).
So these were all the names of the chess pieces. Now let’s move on to our next part!
A file means a column on a chessboard. Each file is denoted from alphabets a-h. There is a total of 8 files on a chessboard.
A rank means a row on a chessboard. Each row is numbered from 1-8. There is a total of 8 ranks on a chessboard.
Trick to remember: Rank = Row (Got it?)
Castling is a special move in which the two pieces, the king and the rook both move simultaneously. The king moves two squares to the left or its right side and the corresponding side rook moves just beside the king.
It is the only move in chess in which two pieces move at the same time. There are two types of castling: kingside castling and queenside castling. You can read more about both types of castling here.
When a pawn reaches the last rank (8th rank) on the other side then the player can replace it with either the queen, knight, rook, or bishop of the same color and this is known as pawn promotion. A pawn can’t be promoted to a king.
When a pawn is on its fifth rank and the enemy pawn on the adjacent file moves two squares from its starting square then the pawn can capture the enemy pawn as if it only moved only one square and this is known as en passant.
However, note that en passant is only valid immediately after the enemy pawn moves two squares from its starting square. You can read more about en passant here.
Check is a situation in which a player’s king is in the threat. In other words, if you are in check then that means your king is attacked and now you have to save it from the check.
Moreover, note that if your king is in check then you have to first take it out of the check, and then only you can make any other move.
Checkmate is a situation in which the player’s king is in threat but the player has no moves left to save the king. The game immediately ends whenever a checkmate occurs.
Stalemate is a situation in which the player’s king is not in check but the player has no legal moves left to continue the game. The game immediately ends in a draw whenever a stalemate occurs.
I have already written an article about the difference between stalemate and checkmate. You can check that out for further information.
A draw in chess occurs when neither player can win the game. There are many types of draws in chess. Stalemate is just one of the types of the draw. You can read more about the difference between stalemate and draw here.
So these were some of the basic chess terms you must know. If you have understood everything I discussed with you so far then congratulations!
What’s next? If you are eager to know how to play chess then I highly recommend you to check out my complete chess basics guide in which I walk you through all the chess basics chapter-wise.
Thanks and Good Luck 🙂
Hi! I’m Pritam and I’m a huge chess enthusiast! I know the actual problems that chess players face. I created this site to make chess easy to understand for newcomers, and also to help players of all levels of ability to improve their chess playing skills. Read more about me here.