How Chess Pieces Move
- Kings move one square in any direction, so long as that square is not attacked by an enemy piece. Additionally, kings are able to make a special move, known as castling.
- Queens move diagonally, horizontally, or vertically any number of squares. They are unable to jump over pieces.
- Rooks move horizontally or vertically any number of squares. They are unable to jump over pieces. Rooks move when the king castles.
- Bishops move diagonally any number of squares. They are unable to jump over pieces.
- Knights move in an ‘L’ shape’: two squares in a horizontal or vertical direction, then move one square horizontally or vertically. They are the only piece able to jump over other pieces.
- Pawns move vertically forward one square, with the option to move two squares if they have not yet moved. Pawns are the only piece to capture different to how they move. Pawns capture one square diagonally in a forward direction.
Pawns are unable to move backward on captures or moves. Upon reaching the other side of the board a pawn promotes into any other piece, except for a king. Additionally, pawns can make a special move named En Passant.
Almost every person in the world knows the famous board game of chess! However, many look at the chessboard and feel totally overwhelmed, thinking that it is a game only for extraordinarily smart people and a game they could never understand. They look at the black and white chessboard, see 32 chess pieces that they don’t know the names of, and have no idea what to do with them.
- Note: If you already know how chess pieces move, check out this article on finding the best squares for each piece!
If you’re curious about chess, we want to end your confusion and show you that learning to play chess isn’t something to be afraid of!
Here, we will provide you with the basic rules of chess, tell you the chess pieces’ names, show you how the pieces move and some other essential information for anyone who wants to start playing chess!
Before we start with all the chess rules about the pieces, we have some basic facts for you. The chess board consists of 64 squares, half of them visibly white, the other half black.
Each player has 6 different types of pieces: 8 pawns, 2 rooks, 2 knights, 2 bishops, a queen and the most important one – the king!
At the beginning of the game, we find 32 pieces on the chess board, half of them are White and the other half Black.
All together they cover half of the whole chessboard and each side tries to use them effectively to checkmate the opponent’s king.
So, let us come to the really crucial question: How do all those chess pieces move?
Each player has 8 pawns at the beginning of the game situated in front of the other 8 pieces. The pawn is one of the most underestimated chess pieces of the game because it is quite small and you have plenty of them on the board.
But that’s a fatal mistake, some famous chess players even call them “the soul of chess”. A reason for that is, for example, that when having reached the other side of the board, they can transform into any other piece except the king.
Pawns have the fewest options of movement of all the pieces. On their first move, they have the option to go one or two squares forward. On all other moves, a pawn can only go one square straight forward.
The exception to this is when pawns capture the opponent’s chess pieces – then they move forward one square diagonally. Moreover, there is one exceptional rule for pawn moves which is called “en passant”. You can read all about this chess rule in this article: En Passant Pawn Capture Rule.
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At the start of any game, you have 2 pieces resembling towers sat in the corners of the chess board.
In the chess world, we call them rooks. A rook is a very valuable piece being worth as much as 4 to 5 pawns and having a wide reach.
The movement is the easiest to learn of all pieces – rooks can go forward, backward, to the left or to the right. Of course, the rook can not change directions in the same move.
As long as no other piece is in their way, as they cannot jump over pieces, they are able to move any number of squares in the chosen direction.
The two knights, which look like little horses, are the minor pieces in the chess game. In the beginning, they stand inside the rooks and their value is equal to 3 pawns.
This chess piece, sometimes called “horse”, has a quite mysterious way of moving on the board which can puzzle beginners just start to learning the chess rules. The knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces.
It moves in an L-shape over the squares. This means that this chess piece first moves two squares in one direction (to the left, to the right, back- or forwards) and then one square into a horizontal or vertical direction. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry – just check the diagram on the right.
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Of course, it is also possible to move in the same shape in reverse – the knight can move one square into any direction (but not diagonally) first, and then across or down two squares. Try drawing with your finger a three-squared L-shape on the board.
Take a look at the diagram above showing how the knight moves, and you will notice something exciting. The knight always moves to a square of the opposite color.
This special piece can only move to eight squares while it is standing in the middle of the board.
When it is standing on the edge of the board, the knight can only reach four squares or half that number. That’s why you will often hear people say, “A knight on the rim is dim.”
Although it can not move as far as other pieces, the knight is very useful in positions with lots of pieces. The knight’s ability to jump over a piece makes it very good in a blocked, or closed, position.
Although the knight cannot cover as many squares as other pieces, it is very useful for different kinds of tactical chess motifs in your games. This is what makes this chess piece notably precious.
The two bishops are the other minor pieces in the game. They sit next to the knights and, just as with the knights, they are worth 3 pawns each (some grandmasters would value them at about 3.3 pawns due to how powerful they can be in open positions).
Happily, the movement of the bishops, which were originally called elephants, is far easier than the knight.
The bishop is the ruler over the diagonals of the chess board. One of them is light-squared, the other one is dark-squared.
When there are no other pieces in their way, bishops can move in any direction diagonally, as many squares as desired.
They can capture any piece along the diagonals, and as they can reach so many squares (they can move from one end of the board right to the other in one move), they can prove very useful, especially when working in tandem.
In tandem, the two bishops cover the black and white squares of the chessboard. When you have one bishop, you can only cover half of the squares.
This is because the bishop only moves on the color of its starting square.
Your opponent can take advantage of this by placing his pieces on squares of the opposite color. Now your bishop cannot attack his pieces.
Because each bishop is restricted to squares of one color, it helps if you place your pawns on opposite-colored squares. This allows your bishop to move more freely across the chessboard.
The Queen, with a crown on her head, is (besides the king!) the most important and powerful piece in the game of chess. Each player has just one queen and she is worth 9 pawns!
The queen sits next to the bishop – on the central square that matches the piece’s color (a black queen starts on the black square in the middle of all the other pieces, a white queen on a white square).
As she has the widest reach of all pieces, she can become the most dangerous member of the game for your opponents. It is essential to protect her and use her effectively at the same time.
For most players, the loss of the queen means the loss of the whole game. So, always be careful with your Queen as she is unique.
She can move in any direction and any number of squares. The one thing she can’t do is jump over other pieces. The Queen can capture any of the opponent’s pieces that are in her way.
This piece is very useful for different kinds of tactics and attacks. Be careful not to bring your queen out into the open too soon as you may find her in danger from the opponent’s pieces.
Although the queen is a powerful attacking piece in the game of chess, do not underestimate her abilities to help you keep your king safe.
Keeping the queen close to your king aids in his defense, but the queen can defend from long-range too.
As long as there is an open path to the king, the queen can act as a defender from across the chessboard.
This path can be in a straight line or diagonal because the queen can travel in all directions!
The King is the most important piece in any chess game and is placed next to the Queen, wearing a cross on his head. He is worth endless pawns, the lives of all your other pieces because when you checkmate the opponent’s King, the game is over and you carry home a victory!
Thus, it is crucial to keep your king safe and try to weaken the opponents’. The king is limited in his movement. He can move just one square in any direction, but only if he isn’t placed in check by doing so.
Check in the game of chess is when the king is under attack by an enemy piece and in danger of being captured on the next move.
There are three ways to deal with a check. These are:
- capture the attacking piece,
- block the check with one of your pieces, so the king is shielded,
- or move the king to a square where he isn’t under attack.
When none of these options is available, then the check becomes checkmate, and the game is over.
You cannot move another piece in chess while your king is in check, except to block the check or capture the attacking piece. This threat must be dealt with first.
Sometimes it happens that your king is not in check but doesn’t have a safe square to move to. When this happens, and you can’t move any of your other pieces, it’s called a stalemate, and the game is drawn.
Knowing when your king can not move is very important because you can use a stalemate to draw a game even if you have less material. This is a common tactic at the end of a chess game.
Besides, the square the king wants to go to mustn’t be occupied by any other of your pieces (only one piece can ever occupy a square). The king can participate in a special move called “castling”. When you castle, you simultaneously move your king and one of your rooks.
Thereby, you move the king two squares towards your rook and then move the rook to the square over which the king crossed (be sure to do it in this order – if you move your rook first, it’s counted as a normal rook move and you’ll lose the chance to castle). In chess, there are two types of castling:
- Castling on the kingside (often called castling short)
- Castling on the queenside (often called castling long)
Castling might sound complicated in theory, but let’s see how easy it is in practice:
However, there are a number of rules when castling is possible and when not. You can only castle, if:
- Your king has not moved in the game yet.
- Your king is not in check.
- The king does not castle through a square which is controlled by an opponent’s piece.
- The king is not in check after castling.
- The rook has not been moved in the game yet.
How Chess Pieces Move: Summary
Now, as we’ve seen how every individual piece moves, let’s put it all together and see how a chess game with all chess pieces on board could start:
We hope this article was informative for you and you are motivated to learn more about chess rules and chess pieces now! If you want to make any remarks, then feel free to leave a comment.
Since we’re happy to share what we know, you’ll be happy to know that there are more special rules with these pieces you must know going into your next match. By clicking the link, you’ll discover more chess pawn moves, the new 75-move rule, and more!
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