Chess Pieces Names, Values and Moves

Chess pieces names, moves & values

When you start playing chess, the first thing you need to learn is about the different pieces on the board. In this article we will introduce the chess pieces names, values and moves.

There are 6 different types of pieces in the game, each with a starting position on the board, different rules of movement and a relative value we give them in order to help us determine which are more or less important than others.

When a chess game begins, each side has 16 pieces: 8 pawns, 2 bishops, 2 knights, 2 rooks, a queen and a king.

chess pieces on the board
Starting Position of a Game with all pieces.

The King

Without a doubt, the king is the most valuable piece on the board. To win the game we have to attack the enemy’s king with “checks“. And ultimately, attack it eliminating any possibility of movement: “checkmate“.

At the beginning of a game the white king is located on the square e1 and the black king on the square e8, both facing each other and next to the queen.

Like the queen, the king can move and capture in any direction, but it can only move one square. Each side tries to keep their king protected. To succeed on this task, the pawns play a very important role from the very beginning of the game.

the king
The king can move one square in any direction.


In addition, the king has a special move that is used in most games for protection: castling. Castling allows the king to move two squares towards the rook, and then the rook moves over the king right next to it on the opposite side.

This special move is only possible if both pieces have not been moved since the beginning of the game and there are no pieces between the squares that separate them.

It is impossible to move the king to a square where it is in check. This move is illegal and is prohibited.

Check, Checkmate and Stalemate

If the king is in check, it has to move from that position. If it’s not possible to do so, the game will be over because it is in a checkmate position.

Another special position that will end the game is the “stalemate“. If the side that takes the turn to move has no possible legal move, the game is a draw.

The Queen

The queen is the most powerful piece on the board. Its great value resides in the variety of moves it has. It can make the typical moves of the bishop and the rook combined. It can cover the diagonals, as the bishop does, and the squares on the horizontal row and vertical column, as the rook does. In this way, it becomes the piece that can control the most squares at a time.

the queen
The queen can move vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.

At the beginning of a game the white queen is located on the square d1 and the black queen on the square d8, both facing each other and next to the king.

The queen is worth 9 points. More valuable than two knights or two bishops and similar to two rooks.

In general, the queen is not involved in the first moves of the game, allowing the consolidation of the pawn structure and the development of the minor pieces to take place. After the development phase, the queen is a vital piece in the construction of the attack and it is crucial to maintain it active during all the game.

It is definitely the favorite piece to be chosen when promoting a pawn. Only in very rare occasions it will be better to choose another piece when promoting a pawn.

The Rook

After the queen, the rook is the second most powerful and it’s worth 5 points. At the beginning of the game each side has 2 rooks located at the corners of the board.

The rook can move both vertically and horizontally, but it is not allowed to “jump” over other pieces such as the knight.

the rook
The rook can move vertically or horizontally.

It’s very powerful working in open and semi-open columns, increasing their power when they work together or in collaboration with the queen. They also put a lot of pressure on the enemy’s position when it infiltrates the seventh rank.

It is important to highlight their collaboration in castling, a special movement that helps to protect the king.
John Van der Wiel shows in the next game the attacking power of the rooks when they work together in the seventh rank Van der Wiel-Ernst Rotterdam 1998

The Knight

The knight represented as a horse is considered a minor piece like the bishop.

Two knights per side are present at the beginning of the game, placed on squares b1 and g1 for White, while for Black they are located on squares b8 and g8.

It moves in a really special way. The knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces and its movement has the shape of an L.

To move the knight we can advance two squares in the horizontal or vertical direction and then move one square in such a way that forms an L shape.

This particular move of the knight allows it to potentially control 8 squares on the board. The knight can capture a piece only if he lands on it, not if he is jumping over it.

the knight
The knight can move in an “L” shape.

A knight is worth 3 points, considered just below the value of the bishop. Although in closed positions the knight’s value could exceed the bishop’s due to its greater activity.

The two-piece attack or “fork” is a distinctive and very valuable attacking skill of the knight.

See how Hikaru Nakamura exploits the combinatorial power of horses in the game: Nakamura-Sarkar Philadelphia 2006

The Bishop

Each player has 2 bishops placed on the squares c1 and f1 for White and c8 and f8 for Black.

This piece moves on the diagonals of the board, so a bishop will remain throughout the game on the squares of the same color as at they begin the game.

the bishop
The bishop can move diagonally.

The power of this piece is increased when both bishops can work together. The pair of bishops controlling the diagonals are a very feared weapon and, for this reason, keeping both bishops in a game is a very smart choice.

The bishop is worth 3 points like the knight. But in an open position, with access to diagonals it is considered that the value of the bishop outweighs the knight.

In the next game Garry Kasparov leads a brilliant attack with his pair of bishops: Svidler-Kasparov Linares 1999

The Pawn

This is the piece with the lowest value on the board because a pawn is worth just 1 point. But the pawns are very strong in numbers.

At the beginning of the game each side has 8 pawns placed on the second rank for White and on the seventh rank for Black.

The pawns can move one square at a time, except for his first move where they can advance one or two squares.

The pawn can not capture a piece in front of it. It can only capture a piece by moving one square diagonally.

the pawn
Pawns can capture diagonally.

En passant

The pawn can also do a special capture called “en passant”. If an opponent’s pawn makes its first move 2 squares and you have a pawn next to it, you can take the pawn “en passant” by moving diagonally.

Pawn promotion

An extra characteristic distinguishes this piece. If a pawn reaches the eighth rank it can be promoted and can be replaced by another piece of your choice, usually the chosen one is the queen.

A passed pawn in the endgame considerably increases its value given its potential to become a new queen.

We hope this short guide helped you have a better understanding of the different chess pieces, their names, values and moves.

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