Guide to chess terms

Chess terms every beginner should know

Thinking of trying your hand at chess but a bit intimidated by all these strange terms you hear thrown around? This handy guide will have you talking chess like a grandmaster in no time.


The King is the most important piece of the game! This piece cannot be taken off the board; the aim of the game is to capture your opponent’s king, whilst keeping yours safe. The king moves one square at a time in any direction.


The Queen may not be as important as the King, but it’s the most powerful piece on the board. The queen can move to more squares than any other piece. It moves vertically, horizontally, and diagonally as long as there are no other pieces in the way.


Rooks are powerful pieces that can sweep the board in one move, which is very useful at the end of a game. They move vertically and horizontally as long as there are no other pieces in the way.


Each player has two bishops; a bishop that only travels on white squares, and another that only travels on black squares. They move diagonally as long as there are no other pieces in the way.


Knights are the only pieces that can jump over other pieces! They move in an ‘L’ shape – two squares vertically and one horizontally, and vice versa.


First things first - this piece is pronounced P-A-W-N. Not prawn. The pawn is the foot soldier – it can only move one space at a time (except for the beginning where it can move two spaces) and it can’t move backwards.


Checkmate is an attack on the King that your opponent can’t escape. In short, they lose the game!


This is also an attack on the king, but unlike checkmate, this is one that your opponent can escape.


The player to move isn’t in check, but they can’t move any of their pieces. It’s a draw.


Capture refers to taking a piece from the board, so your opponent is a piece down.


Castling involves the king and the rook swapping positions. The king moves two spaces from the starting position to the left or right, and the rook moves to next to it on the other side. This offers your king more safety.

En passant

A pawn that moves two squares forward can be taken by an opposing pawn that’s directly next to it on the following move.


A pawn that reaches the end of the board can become any piece you want (just not the king or another pawn).

Touch move

If you touch a piece, you have to move it. Once you let go of a piece, you can’t move it elsewhere. In short: no take-backsies!

And remember, white always moves first!

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