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 how they move on the board, giving them different values in the game. For a standard chess game each player starts with:

  • 1 king
  • 1 queen
  • 2 rooks
  • 2 bishops
  • 2 knights
  • 8 pawns

One player is referred to as “White” and the other as “Black” (White and Black in chess). To distinguish between the two, the black pieces are darker than the white pieces. Their colors need not be black and white, but will each normally be a uniform color. The Staunton chess set is the standard style for tournament or casual play. There are many chess variants and certain kinds of chess problems that call for non-standard fairy pieces, although these are not popular and the vast majority of games are played with a standard chess set.


  • 1 Terminology
  • 2 Movement of the pieces
  • 3 Chess sets
    • 3.1 Table sets
    • 3.2 Pocket and travel sets
    • 3.3 Computer images
  • 4 Relative value
  • 5 Piece names
  • 6 See also
  • 7 Notes
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links

[edit] Terminology

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

  1. It may mean any of the physical pieces of the set, including the pawns. When used this way, “piece” is synonymous with “chessman” (Hooper & Whyld 1992:307) or simply “man” (Hooper & Whyld 1987:200).
  2. In play, the term is usually used to exclude pawns, referring only to a queen, rook, bishop, knight, or king. In this context, the pieces can be broken down into three groups: major pieces (queen and rook), minor pieces (bishop and knight), and the king (Brace 1977:220).
  3. In contexts such as the phrases “winning a piece”, “losing a piece” or “sacrificing a piece”, it refers only to a bishop or a knight. The queen, rook, and pawn are specified by name in these cases, for example, “winning a queen”, “losing a rook”, or “sacrificing a pawn” (Just & Burg 2003:5).

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

[edit] Movement of the pieces

  • Main article: Rules of chess
a b c d e f g h
8 black rook black knight black bishop black queen black king black bishop black knight black rook 8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 white rook white knight white bishop white queen white king white bishop white knight white rook 1
a b c d e f g h
Chess starting position. Squares are referenced using algebraic notation.

Each piece moves in a different way.

  • The rook moves any number of vacant squares forwards, backwards, left, or right. It is also involved in a special move called castling, along with the king.
  • 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 forwards, backwards, left, right, or diagonally.
  • The king moves only one vacant square in any direction forwards, backwards, left, right, or diagonally. It can also castle in conjunction with a rook.
  • The knight moves on an extended diagonal from one corner of any 2×3 rectangle of squares to the furthest opposite corner. Consequently, the knight alternates the color of its square every time it moves. The knight is the only piece that jumps over any intervening piece(s) when moving in normal play (castling being the only special instance in which pieces jump over one another).
  • The pawn can only move forward one space or, optionally, two spaces when on its starting square, 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 other than the pawn capture in the same way that they move. A capturing piece replaces the opposing piece on its square, except for an en passant capture. A captured piece is removed from the board. Only one piece may occupy a given square. Except for castling and the knight’s move, a piece may not jump over another piece (Just & Burg 2003:13–16).

[edit] Chess sets

A St. George style set

[edit] Table sets

The variety 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 generally intended for display purposes rather than 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, that 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 2.25 inches (57 mm) squares typically have a king around 3.75 inches (95 mm) tall. Chess sets are available in a variety of designs, with the most well-known Staunton design, named after Howard Staunton, a 19th century English chess player, and 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).

Staunton pieces made of rosewood

Wooden White chess pieces are normally made of a light wood, boxwood, or sometimes maple. Black wooden pieces are made of a dark wood such as rosewood, ebony, red sandalwood, or walnut. Sometimes 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 plastic 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).

Staunton chess pieces on chess board with chess clock

For actual play, pieces of the Staunton chess set design are standard. The height of the king should be between 3.35 to 4.13 inches (85 to 105 millimetres). United States Chess Federation rules call for a king height between 3.375 and 4.5 inches (86 to 114 mm). A height of about 3.75 to 4 inches (95 to 100 millimetres) is preferred by most players. The diameter of the king should be 40–50% 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 about 1.25–1.3 times the diameter of the base of the king, or 2 to 2.5 inches (51 to 63 millimetres). Squares of about 2.25 inches (57 mm) are normally 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).

The Grandmaster Larry Evans offered 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.

[edit] Pocket and travel sets

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 printed on it to identify the piece type.

[edit] Computer images

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

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

[edit] Relative value

The value assigned to a piece attempts to represent the potential strength of the piece in the game. As the game develops, the relative values of the pieces will also change. A bishop positioned to control long, open diagonal spaces is usually 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 one point for a pawn, three points for a knight or bishop, five points for a rook, and nine 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.

[edit] 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
Albanian M Mbreti Msh Mbretëresha (queen) Ku Kulla (tower) O Oficeri (officer) Ka Kali (horse) (U) Ushtari (soldier) Shahu Shah Shah mat
Arabic م مَلِك
malik : king
و وزير
wazïr : vizier
ر رخ/طابية
rukhkh / ṭābiya : bishop
ف فيل
fīl : elephant
ح حصان
ħiṣān : horse
ب بيدق/عسكري
baidaq : pawn / `askarī : soldier
كِش مَلِك
kish malik
كِش مات
kish māt
Armenian Ա
A : Arka
T : T’agowhi
N : Navak
P : P’igh
Dz : Dzi
Z : Zinvor
Shaxmat (Chatrak)
Belarusian К кароль Вз візыр Лд ладзьдзя А афіцэр В вершнік (Л) латнік Шахматы Шах Мат
Bulgarian Ц цар (king) Д дама (lady) Т топ (cannon) О офицер (officer) К кон (horse) (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)
(, chariot)
(Xiàng, elephant)
(, horse)
(Bīng, soldier)
(Guójì Xiàngqí)
(Jiāngjūn, general)
(Jiāngsǐ, 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 (soldier) 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/Pferd (jumper/horse) (B) Bauer (peasant) 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 (king) V vezér (chief) B bástya (bastion) F futó (runner) H huszár (hussar) (Gy) gyalog (ca. foot soldier) 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 (minister/vizier) B benteng (castle/fortress) G gajah (elephant) 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 donna (lady) 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 அரசன்
Q அரசி
R கோட்டை
B அமைச்சர் / மந்திரி
amaiccar / mantiri
N/Kt குதிரை
(P) காலாள் / சிப்பாய்
kālāḷ / cippāy
இறுதி முற்றுகை
iṟuti muṟṟukai
Telugu రాజు
Thai ขุน
(khun, king)
เม็ด (ตรี/มนตรี)
(met (trī/montrī), counselor)
(reūa, ship)
(khōn, elephant)
(, horse)
(บ) เบี้ย
(bīa, menial)
(ruk, invade)
(jon, checkmate)
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 بادشاہ
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)

[edit] See also

Lewis chessmen

  • Staunton chess set
  • Lewis chessmen
  • Chess piece relative value
  • Chessboard
  • Rules of chess
  • Outline of chess
  • Fairy chess piece

[edit] Notes

[edit] References

  • Brace, Edward (1977), An Illustrated Dictionary of Chess, Craftwell, ISBN 1-55521-394-4
  • Burgess, Graham (2009), The Mammoth Book of Chess (3rd ed.), Running Press, ISBN 978-0-7624-3726-9
  • Evans, Larry (1973), Evans on Chess, Conerstone Library, ISBN 0-87749-699-4
  • Hooper, David; Whyld, Kenneth (1992), “Value of pieces”, The Oxford Companion to Chess (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-280049-3
  • Just, Tim; Burg, Daniel S. (2003), U.S. Chess Federation’s Official Rules of Chess (5th ed.), McKay, ISBN 0-8129-3559-4
  • Luiro, Ari (2009), Chess pieces in different languages, http://www.webcitation.org/5kmX4kfov, retrieved 2011-11-04

[edit] External links

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article chess piece, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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