Chess piece

Chess piece
Original Staunton chess pieces, left to right: pawn, rook, knight, bishop, queen, and king.
Chess pieces
Chess kdt45.svgChess klt45.svg King
Chess qdt45.svgChess qlt45.svg Queen
Chess rdt45.svgChess rlt45.svg Rook
Chess bdt45.svgChess blt45.svg Bishop
Chess ndt45.svgChess nlt45.svg Knight
Chess pdt45.svgChess plt45.svg Pawn

Chess pieces or chessmen are the pieces deployed on a chessboard to play the game of chess. The pieces vary in abilities, giving them different values in the game. For a standard chess game both players start with:

Any pawn that reaches the eighth row during the game must be promoted to become any other piece of the same color except a king.

One side is referred to as "White" and the other as "Black" (see White and Black in chess). To distinguish between the two, the black pieces are darker than the white pieces, although pieces are not necessarily pure black or white. The Staunton chess set is the standard style for tournament or casual play. Besides these standard pieces, there exist many chess variants or certain kinds of chess problems that call for non-standard fairy pieces.



In chess, the word piece has three meanings, depending on the context.

  • "Piece" may mean any of the physical pieces of the set, including the pawns. This is the same as "chessmen" (Hooper & Whyld 1992:307).
  • In play, the term is usually used to exclude pawns, referring only to a queen, rook, bishop, knight, or king. (In this case, the general term for piece or pawn is man or chessman.) In this context, the pieces can be broken down into three groups: major pieces (queen and rook), minor pieces (bishop and knight), and kings (Brace 1977:220).
  • It may refer only to a minor piece (a bishop or knight) (anon 2010)

The context should make the intended meaning clear (Burgess 2009:523), (Hooper & Whyld 1992:307).

Movement of the pieces

Solid white.svg a b c d e f g h Solid white.svg
8  black rook  black knight  black bishop  black queen  black king  black bishop  black knight  black rook 8
7  black pawn  black pawn  black pawn  black pawn  black pawn  black pawn  black pawn  black pawn 7
6  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king 6
5  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king 5
4  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king 4
3  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king  black king 3
2  white pawn  white pawn  white pawn  white pawn  white pawn  white pawn  white pawn  white pawn 2
1  white rook  white knight  white bishop  white queen  white king  white bishop  white knight  white rook 1
Solid white.svg a b c d e f g h Solid white.svg
Starting position (squares are designated according to algebraic notation)
Staunton chess pieces on chess board with chess clock.

Each piece moves in a different way.

  • The rook moves any number of vacant squares along rows or columns (forward, backward, left or right). It also is involved (with the king) in the special move called castling.
  • The bishop moves any number of vacant squares diagonally. Consequently a bishop stays on squares of the same color throughout a game. The two bishops each player starts with move on squares of opposite colors.
  • The queen moves any number of vacant squares in any direction along a row, column, or diagonal.
  • The king moves only one vacant square in any direction. It can also castle in conjunction with a rook.
  • The knight moves to a vacant square in an "L"-shape (two spaces forward, backward, left, or right and one space perpendicular to it). The knight can jump over other pieces when moving.
  • The pawn can only move forward one space, or optionally two spaces when on its starting square, in a straight line away from the player. When there is an enemy piece one square diagonally ahead from the pawn (either left or right), then the pawn may capture that piece. A pawn can perform a special type of capture of an enemy pawn called en passant. If the pawn reaches a back rank of the opposite player, it undergoes promotion to the player's choice of a rook, bishop, queen or knight (Just & Burg 2003:13–16).

Pieces capture opposing pieces by replacing them on their square, except for an en passant capture. Pieces other than the pawn capture in the same way they move. A captured piece is removed from the board. Only one piece may occupy a given square. Except for castling and the movement of the knight, a piece may not move over another piece (Just & Burg 2003:13–16).

Chess sets

A St. George style set
Staunton pieces in rosewood

The variation of designs available is broad, from small cosmetic changes to highly abstract representations to themed designs such as those that emulate the drawings from the works of Lewis Carroll or modern treatments such as Star Trek or The Simpsons. Themed designs are usually intended for display rather than for actual play (Hooper & Whyld 1992:76). Some works of art are designs of chess sets, such as the modernist chess set by chess enthusiast and dadaist Man Ray, which is on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.[1]

Chess pieces used for play are usually figurines that are taller than they are wide. For example, a set of pieces designed for a chessboard with 2¼ inch (57 mm) squares typically have a king around 3¾ inches (95 mm) tall. They are available in a variety of designs, with the most well-known Staunton design, which is named after Howard Staunton (a 19th century English chess player), and was designed by Nathaniel Cook. The first Staunton style sets were made in 1849 by Jaques of London (also known as John Jaques of London and Jaques and Son of London) (Just & Burg 2003:225).

Wooden chess pieces are normally made of the light wood boxwood or sometimes maple. Black wooden pieces are either made of a dark wood such as rosewood, ebony, red sandalwood, or walnut; or they are made of boxwood and stained or painted black, brown, or red. Plastic white pieces are made of white or off-white plastic and black pieces are made of black or red plastic. Sometimes other materials are used, such as bone, ivory, or a composite material (Just & Burg 2003:224,226).

For actual play, pieces of the Staunton chess set design are the standard. The height of the king should be between 85 mm and 105 mm (3.35 to 4.13 inches). USCF rules call for a king height between 3⅜ and 4½ inches tall (86 to 114 mm). A height of approximately 95 to 102 mm (3¾ to 4 inches) is preferred by most players. The diameter of the king should be 40 to 50 percent of its height. The size of the other pieces should be in proportion to the king. The pieces should be well balanced. The length of the sides of the squares of the chessboard should be approximately 1.25–1.3 times the diameter of the base of the king, or 50 to 65 mm (2 to 2½ inches). Squares of size of approximately 57 mm (2¼ inches) normally are well-suited for pieces with the kings in the preferred size range. These criteria are from the United States Chess Federation's Official Rules of Chess, which is based on the Fédération Internationale des Échecs rules (Just & Burg 2003:224–27).

Some small magnetic sets, designed to be compact and/or for travel, have pieces more like those used in Shogi and Xiangqi — each piece being a similar flat token, with a symbol drawn on it to show which piece it is.

On computers, chess pieces are often 2-D symbols on a 2-D board, although some programs have fancier 3-D graphics engines with more traditional designs of chess pieces.

Unicode contains symbols for chess pieces in both white and black.

Grandmaster Larry Evans offers this advice on buying a set (Evans 1973:18):

"Make sure the one you buy is easy on the eye, felt-based, and heavy (weighted). The men should be constructed so they don't come apart. ... The regulation board used by the U. S. Chess Federation is green and buff — never red and black. However there are several good inlaid [wood] boards on the market. ... Avoid cheap equipment. Chess offers a lifetime of enjoyment for just a few dollars well spent at the outset."

Relative value

The value assigned to a piece attempts to represent the strength this piece potentially has in a game. With game circumstances constantly changing, so do the values assigned to the pieces. A bishop positioned to control a long, open diagonal appears more valuable than a knight stuck in a corner. Similar ideas apply to placing rooks on open files and knights on active, central squares. The standard valuation is 1 point for a pawn, 3 points for a knight or bishop, 5 points for a rook, and 9 points for a queen (Hooper & Whyld 1992:438–39). These values are general, throughout a game; in specific circumstances the values may be quite different—a knight can be more valuable than a queen in a particular decisive attack.

Piece names

Language King Queen Rook Bishop Knight Pawn Chess Check Checkmate
figurine ♔ ♚ ♕ ♛ ♖ ♜ ♗ ♝ ♘ ♞ ♙ ♟ ... + #
Afrikaans K Koning D Dame (lady) T Toring (tower) L Loper (runner) R Ruiter (rider) (P) Pion Skaak Skaak Skaakmat
Arabic م مَلِك و وزير ر رخ/طابية ف فيل ح حصان ب بيدق/عسكري شطرنج كِش مَلِك كِش مات
Bānglā R Rājā
M Montri
N Noukā
G Gôjo
Gh ghodā
(B) Bore

Belarusian К кароль Вз візыр Лд ладзьдзя А афіцэр В вершнік (Л) латнік Шахматы Шах Мат
Bulgarian Ц цар Д дама Т топ О офицер К кон (П) пешка Шахмат/Шах Шах (Шах и) мат
Catalan R rei D dama/reina (lady/queen) T torre (tower) A alfil C cavall (horse) (P) peó Escacs Escac/Xec Escac i mat
Chinese K
(Wáng, king)
(Hòu, queen)
(Chē, chariot)
(Xiàng, elephant)
(, horse)
(Bīng, soldier)
(Guójì Xiàngqí)
(Jiāngjūn, general)
(Jiàng sǐ, checkmate)
Croatian K kralj D dama/kraljica T top/kula L lovac/laufer S skakač/konj (P) pješak Šah Šah Šah mat
Czech K král D dáma V věž S střelec J jezdec (P) pěšec Šachy Šach Mat
Danish K konge (king) D dronning (queen) T tårn (tower) L løber (runner) S springer (jumper) (B) bonde (peasant) Skak Skak Skakmat
Dutch K koning (king) D dame/koningin (lady/queen) T toren/kasteel (tower/castle) L loper/raadsheer (runner/counsellor) P paard (horse) (pi) pion Schaken Schaak Mat/Schaakmat
English K king Q queen R rook B bishop N/Kt knight (P) pawn Chess Check Checkmate
Esperanto R reĝo (king) D damo (lady) T turo (tower) K kuriero (courier) Ĉ ĉevalo (horse) (P) peono Ŝako Ŝak Ŝakmato
Estonian K kuningas (king) L lipp V vanker O oda R ratsu (E) ettur Male Tuli Matt
Finnish K kuningas (king) D daami/kuningatar (lady/queen) T torni (tower) L lähetti (messenger) R ratsu (horse) (S) sotilas Shakki Shakki Matti/Shakkimatti
French R roi (king) D dame (lady) T tour (tower) F fou (jester) C cavalier (rider) (P) pion Échecs Échec Échec et mat
German K König (king) D Dame (lady) T Turm (tower) L Läufer (runner) S Springer (jumper) (B) Bauer (farmer) Schach Schach Schachmatt
Greek Ρ βασιλιάς Β βασίλισσα Π πύργος Α αξιωματικός Ι ίππος (Σ) πιόνι Σκάκι Σαχ Mάτ
Hebrew מ מלך מה מלכה צ צריח ר רץ פ פרש רגלי שחמט שח מט
Hindi R राजा
V वज़ीर
H हाथी
O ऊँठ
G घोड़ा
(P) प्यादा
Hungarian K király V vezér B bástya F futó H huszár (P) gyalog/paraszt Sakk Sakk Matt
Icelandic K kóngur (king) D drottning (queen) H hrókur B biskup (bishop) R riddari (knight) (P) peð Skák Skák Skák og mát
Indonesian R raja (king) M menteri B benteng G gajah K kuda (horse) (P) pion Catur Skak Skak mati
Irish R rí (king) B banríon (womanking?) C caiseal (bulwark) E easpag (lock) D ridire (knight) (F) fichillín/ceithearnach Ficheall Sáinn Marbhsháinn
Italian R re (king) D regina (queen) T torre (tower) A alfiere C cavallo (horse) (P) pedone Scacchi Scacco Scacco matto
Japanese K キング (kingu) Q クイーン (kuīn) R ルーク (rūku) B ビショップ (bishoppu) N ナイト (naito) (P) ポーン (pōn) チェス (chesu) 王手/
チェック (chekku)
チェックメイト (chekkumeito)
Korean K Q R B 비숍 N 나이트 (P) 체스 체크 체크메이트
Latin R rex G regina T turris E episcopus Q eques (P) pedes Scacci Scaccus Mattus
Latvian K karalis D dāma T tornis L laidnis Z zirgs (B) bandinieks Šahs Šahs Šahs un mats
Lithuanian K karalius V valdovė B bokštas R rikis Ž žirgas (P) pėstininkas Šachmatai Šach Matas
Luxembourgish K kinnek D damm T tuerm (tower) L leefer (runner) P päerd (horse) (B) bauer (farmer) Schach Schach Schachmatt
Mongolian Н ноён (lord) Б бэрс (ferz) т тэрэг (chariot) Т тэмээ (camel) М морь (rider) (Х) хүү (paige) Шатар шаг, дуг, цод мад
Norwegian K konge D dronning T tårn L løper S springer (B) bonde Sjakk Sjakk Sjakkmatt
Persian ش شاه و وزیر ق/ر قلعه/رخ ف فیل ا اسب س سرباز شطرنج کیش کیش‌مات
Polish K król H hetman W wieża G goniec S skoczek (P) pion szachy szach mat (szach-mat / szach i mat)
Portuguese R rei (king) D dama/rainha (lady/queen) T torre (tower) B bispo (bishop) C cavalo (horse) (P) peão Xadrez Xeque Xeque-mate
Romanian R rege D regină T turn N nebun C cal (P) pion Şah Şah Mat
Russian Кр король Ф ферзь Л ладья С слон К конь (П) пешка Шахматы Шах Мат
Serbian К краљ / kralj Д дама / dama Т топ / top Л ловац / lovac С скакач / skakač (П) пешак / pešak Шах / Šah Шах / Šah Мат / Mat
Sicilian R re D riggina T turru A alferu S scecchu (P) pidinu Scacchi
Slovak K kráľ D dáma V veža S strelec J jazdec (P) pešiak Šach Šach Mat/Šachmat
Slovene K kralj D dama T trdnjava L lovec S skakač (P) kmet Šah Šah Mat/Šahmat
Spanish R rey (king) D dama/reina (lady/queen) T torre (tower) A alfil (elephant, in Arabic) C caballo (horse) (P) peón Ajedrez Jaque Jaque mate
Swedish K kung D dam/drottning (lady/queen) T torn (tower) L löpare (runner) S springare/häst (horse) (B) bonde (peasant) Schack Schack Schack matt
Tamil K Raja Q Rani R yanai / kOttai B Mandhiri / thEr N/Kt Kudhirai (P) Sepoi Sadhurangam Check Checkmate
Telugu రాజు
Turkish Ş/K şah/kral V vezir K kale F fil A at (P) er/piyon Satranç Şah Mat
Ukrainian король Ф ферзь T тура C слон K кінь (П) пішак Шахи Шах Мат
Urdu Badshah Wazir Qila Haathi Ghora Piada Shatranj Sheh Shehmaat
Vietnamese V Vua H Hậu X Xe T Tượng M _ Tốt Cờ vua Chiếu Chiếu bí
Welsh T teyrn/brenin B brenhines C castell E esgob M marchog (G) gwerinwr Gwyddbwyll Siach Siachmat

(Luiro 2009)

See also



External links

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