Board Game Bonanza: Chess – The Pieces

The second of three articles on chess deals with the six pieces and how to maneuver them on the playing board.

The antique game of Chess is based on ancient warfare where swords, axes, and lances were the primary ways of dealing damage to an opponent. Each weapon has its own tactical advantages and disadvantages. As these weapons were used primarily for close combat, battles consisted of two large forces converging together in the middle of a battlefield. Chess incorporates these varied tactics and circumstances of medieval warfare and incorporates them into its game pieces.

Each player commands a total of 16 pieces, made up of six different types of pieces: the King, the Queen, two Bishops, two Knights, two Rooks, and eight Pawns.

As a reminder, pieces move along the square spaces on the board horizontally, vertically, or diagonally (depending on the type of piece). To capture an opponent’s piece, a player’s attacking piece must occupy the same space as the opponent’s, using a legal movement. Keep in mind, when a piece’s path is blocked by an opponent’s piece, the player must either stop movement (no jumping!) or capture the opponent’s piece, after which the turn is ended.

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The directions that the Queen, King, and Bishop can move.

The principal monarch here is the King piece, and fittingly he is the linchpin of the whole game. The main goal of the game is to take the opponent’s King, so protecting this piece should be the priority. Befitting his royal status, the King is not a warrior piece and his maneuverability is limited to one space in any direction, meaning other pieces must defend him. A special rule to Kings: they cannot be closer than one space away from each other. This rule prevents one King from taking another.

The Queen is arguably the most influential piece on the board. Having the best mobility in the game, her majesty can move horizontally, vertically, or diagonally as many spaces as the player desires (until she encounters another piece). The only restriction is that the Queen can only move in a single direction in one turn. For example, the player cannot move three spaces to the right (horizontally) and then two spaces up (vertically).

The Bishop has the ability to move only diagonally as many spaces as wanted. Keep in mind, the two Bishops on the board are on differently colored squares. Bishops will always stay on opposite colors because of their movement limitations. This makes both Bishops unique, so keeping track of both Bishops’ locations is imperative.

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The Pawn’s, Knight’s, and Rook’s possible movements. The blue arrows signify the capturing movement of the Pawn and the red circles are where the Knight is able to move.

Inspired by mounted cavalry, the Knight is the most agile, able to pass over pieces in its path. The Knight’s movement can be described as an L-shape, turning either left or right.

The piece first moves two spaces in any direction, then one to the left or right. All pieces that are on the spaces that the Knight travels over to get to its destination are simply ignored while the Knight moves.

Shaped like terraces of a castle, Rooks can become the cornerstones in any game of Chess. Only able to move horizontally and vertically (either backward or forward), the Rook can form a boundary shaped like the Crusader’s Cross. The boundary is helpful in multiple strategies (which will be explored in the next article).

Usually the most dispensable piece on the board, the Pawn makes up for its expendability with sheer numbers—and transformative power.

With each player controlling eight Pawns, this ordinary soldier acts as the infantry of the game. Its movement is the most restricted out of all the pieces. For its first move, the Pawn may move vertically forward one space or two, but for subsequent moves, it may move vertically forward only one space. There is also an exception to the capturing rule for the Pawn: it cannot capture pieces directly in front of it; instead, it captures pieces which are one space in front of them diagonally.

With the background, basic rules, and game piece guidelines, all that is left to learn is how to combine all this knowledge to win games. The next article will contain multiple strategies from piece collaboration to more advanced rules that players can take advantage of.