Kid Chess®: Glossary of Chess Terms
Check out our list of BASIC chess terms that will help you learn chess as a beginner and improve your game as a more advanced player!
A piece that has free range of the board. White bishop on c4 is active; black bishop on f8 is not.
System for writing down the moves of a chess game, based on labeling a chess board so that each of the 64 squares is denoted by a number and a letter, from a-1 to h-8; files (left to right) are a-h and ranks (top to bottom) are 1-8.
The process of going after your opponent’s king or vulnerability to win the game.
In this position black attacks white rook on a1 and white bishop on d2 forking them with their knight on b3. White could save material playing Rad1. But the best way for white is to attack black king with Qf5. Queen-bishop battery aims at h7, so checkmate is inevitable.
Back Rank Mate
A checkmate that occurs when your opponent’s king is trapped behind a wall (usually a wall of his own pawns) on the back rank, and your queen or rook attacks on the back rank.
In this position 1. Qh8# is back rank checkmate. But 1. Qa8+?? would be a terrible blunder, because of 1… Bxa8.
Two long range pieces (such as a queen and bishop) lined up and pointed in the same direction along a rank, file, or diagonal.
The act of placing a piece in the path of a “passed pawn” to keep it from promoting.
Black king successfully blocks both white connected passed pawns. White rook blocks only one pawn (b2), the other one will promote.
A really poor move that costs you a lot of material or even the game itself.
White move Qe3 is a blunder. It allows black to play Nxc2+ forking three most valuable pieces of white: the king, the queen and the rook.
Castling is a move in the game of chess involving a player’s king and either of the player’s original rooks.
Castling consists of moving the king two squares towards a rook on the player’s first rank, then moving the rook to the square over which the king crossed.
In this position, Black can castle queen side only. If they try to castle kingside, their king has to pass through f8, a square attacked by the white bishop. White cannot castle at all. They cannot castle on king side, since their rook has moved. They cannot castle on queen side, because of their own queen being in the way.
Castling may only be done if the king has never moved, the rook involved has never moved, the squares between the king and the rook involved are unoccupied, the king is not in check, and the king does not cross over or end on a square in which it would be in check.
The squares d4, e4, d5, and e5. (Diagram) Basic center (4 green squares) broader center (16 yellow squares)
To place pieces and pawns so they attack the center.
On this board both white knights are centralized, black knight on c6 is centralized, and black knight on h6 is not. The white bishop on e2 is not centralized, while black bishop on c5 is centralized.
To directly attack or threaten to capture your opponent’s king. Your opponent must then immediately drop whatever he was doing to fix the problem.
Black’s king is in check now. To save the king black can either Capture the checking piece Bxe8 (the best option), Block the check Nf8, or Run away with Kh7.
To “check” your opponent’s king with no way for it to get out of check. That is, they cannot capture the attacking piece, they cannot block the attack with another of their own pieces, and they cannot move the king out of check. “Checkmate” ends the game.
Here, black is checkmated. There is no way to Capture the white rook on e8, Block the check or Run away with the king. As the king is trapped behind a wall of it’s own pawns, this is in fact also called a Back Rank Checkmate.
Connected Passed Pawns
Two or more passed pawns of the same color that are on files next to each other.
Domination of an important square or group of squares (such as the “Center”).
White controls the center in this position. Playing d5 on the very next move, he gets even more space in the middle and forces black knight on c6 to go back.
One or more moves to counter your opponent’s threats or attacks.
White is simultaneously attacking black king and black knight on a5 with queen’s fork. There are two possibly defenses for black to block the check save the knight at the same time — Nc6 and [pawn to] c6. However black knight on c6 becomes pinned, so white can win him by putting more pressure with d5. So c6 is the best defense for black. White’s check is blocked, and the knight on a5 is protected by black queen.
Development: The process of bringing your pieces into play in the opening to get ready for the middle game.
In this position white has developed all of their minor pieces and castled the king. Black has been moving their pawns and rooks. White has a big advantage now.
A chess tactic, when a piece moves to reveal an attack from previously hidden long range piece (i.e. bishop, rook or queen).
In this position 1.d5 attacks black knight on c6 and discovers the attack of b2-bishop on h8 rook. Black is losing one of the pieces.
A special kind of discovered attack, when the hidden long range piece checks the king.
In this position, white plays 1. Rd4+, exposing the king to check from the bishop on d3 and attacking the black queen at the same time. Black must get their king out of check and white takes the queen next move. Note that 1. Re8+ would not work as black would simply respond 1…Qxd3 capturing the checking bishop.
Involves two different pieces of your own that simultaneously attack two different enemy pieces.
In this diagram Bb5+ would be a mistake for white. If black blocks with pawn to c6, two white pieces are attacked at the same time. One of them will be captured.
A special kind of discovered attack/discovered check, when both pieces attack the opponent’s king at once. Double checks are super-powerful, because they cannot be stopped by capturing or blocking either piece.
In this position white sacrifices their queen to set up a mating attack with a double check on the next move. 1. Qxg7+! Kxg7 2. Nf5+! (2. Ne6+ is a double check as well, but it leads only to re-gaining the material). Kg8 (is the only move for black) 3. Nh6#
Two pawns lined up one directly behind the other. Doubled pawns cannot protect one another and are therefore weak.
End of the game where neither side wins and neither side loses. See also “stalemate”.
This is a drawn position. Even if white has material advantage, they cannot possible checkmate with king and bishop. On the other hand black is ready to give up their bishop for white’s passed pawn ensuring a draw.
Dual Purpose Move
A move that accomplishes two or more different things.
In this position Black’s move 1… Nd6 has two goals: 1. It stops White threat of checkmate Qxf7. 2. It attacks white bishop on c4. Thus it is called a dual-purpose move.
French term for a special capture move between two pawns. A pawn which on its first move advances two squares and passes an enemy pawn on an adjacent file that has advanced to its 5th rank, may be captured by that enemy pawn as if the first pawn had moved only one square. (Click here for an interactive illustration.)
The final part of a game when both sides are down to kings and a few pawns, and maybe one or two pieces per side.
The diagram here is an example of a complicated endgame with few pieces. White is slightly down material wise, but has a good compensation in form of passed pawn on g6.
When neither white nor black has any material or positional advantage.
This is an equal position, Most likely this game ends up with a draw.
A trade or swap of pieces. Bishop for bishop or knight for knight is considered a “swap”. Bishop for knight can also sometimes be called a “swap”.
White bishop on g5 is attacked by black pawn on h6. White has a choice: the bishop can retreat, or white can exchange it for black night on f6.
Expressing the difference in piece value between a rook and your opponent’s bishop or knight. Gaining a rook for your own bishop or knight is called “winning the exchange”.
In this position black is an exchange up. After white plays Nxf6 black has the exchange for a pawn material advantage.
Pronounced “fee-an-KETT-toe”.When you develop your bishops to b2, g2, b7, or g7. A necessary part of building a “house”.
A row of eight vertical squares.
A general term for all your pieces and pawns.
White force consists of the king, the rook, the bishop, the knight and three pawns. Black force consist of the king, the queen and five pawns.
A move or series of moves you must play to avoid a bad game.
If white plays Re8+ black is forced to take it, leaving their queen unprotected.
Situation when a piece or pawn attacks two or more of your opponent’s pieces at the same time, but not along a rank, file, or diagonal.
“words of wisdom” to serve a a guide in selecting a move. Such as in the opening: Activate your pieces, Be safe (castle), and Control the center.
An unprotected piece or pawn, attacked by your opponent.
In this position black knight on f6 is hanging. However if white’s queen takes it, then white’s own bishop on d2 becomes hanging in turn.
The kingside formation of a centrally-developed knight, fianchetto’ed bishop, and castled king.
In Your Face Checkmate
A checkmate when the checkmating piece (usually a queen), supported by another piece is next to the opponent king.
In this position all 1-move checkmates Qf7# (supported by the white king), Qg7# (supported by the white bishop) and Rh8# are In Your Face checkmate.
Insufficient Mating Material
A type of draw, when neither side can ever checkmate the opponent. King vs King, King & Knight vs King, King & Bishop vs King, and even King & two Knights vs King are insufficient.
(Also called “Block”.) Placing a usually lesser-valued piece in front of a more-valuable one to block its capture by your opponent. Typically used more than not to get your king out of check.
A pawn with no friendly pawns next to it on adjoining files.
In this position white has an isolated pawn on a2, while black has two isolated pawns on a6 and c4.
The e-h files. The right half of the board where the queens and the bishops, knights, and rooks next to them initially start. Compare to ‘queenside’.
As in the Queen and Rooks. Also called Heavy Pieces.
Short for “Checkmate”.
Any or all of your pieces and pawns, except the king.
Both sides have equal material, even if their forces are different. White has 5 (Rook) + 3 (Bishop) + 3 (Knight) + 3 ( 3 pawns) = 14 points worth of material. Black has 9 (Queen) + 5 ( 5 pawns) = 14 points worth of material.
A series of moves made against your opponent with the specific goal of checkmating the king.
In this position black pieces invaded the holes around white king. Black is ready to checkmate with Qg2#, but white can start their own checkmating attack 1. Nf6+ (no matter what black does 1… gxf6 or 1… Kh8) 2. Qh7# mates.
The part of the game that comes after the Opening and before the endgame, where both sides seek advantage. Arrived at upon completion of development of back-row pieces
Name given to the bishops and knights.
The freedom of movement that your pieces hopefully have.
Even though black is a whole bishop up their pieces are immobile: black king is tied to white’s protected passed pawn on h6, black bishop has only two squares to move between, all the black pawns are blocked. White can simply bring their king along the path from c5 to d6 to c7 and start mopping up the queenside pawns.
Posting a piece or pawn on a square. Also used to describe temporary or permanent control of a file or rank, as in “two rooks occupying the 7th rank”.
Here, the White Rooks occupy the 7th raw (aka Pigs on the 7th)
A vertical row of 8 squares containing no pawns. Rooks typically should move to open files.
Known sequence of moves, usually published in a chess book. The Sicilian Scheveningen and The Colle’ are examples of openings.
(Also known as “overworked”.) A piece that has two defensive tasks, therefore it cannot properly perform at least one of them.
It seems that black is going to win white knight on a4, since their rook is forking white queen and knight. But black’s queen is overloaded – it has to defend the rook and back rank at the same time. So white wins material after 1. Qxd4! If black re-takes 1…. Qxd4?? 2. Re8#
A pawn that has moved beyond capture by the other side’s pawns and has no other pawns in front of it.
A move that does nothing to fight for initiative; or, a position lacking activity.
In this position Ng5 is the most active move for white, while Nc3 or d3 are somehow active, h3 or a3 are not active/passive.
Situation when the center is occupied by a player’s pawns.
In this position, White has a pawn center, while black is attacking on the queenside.
Two or more pawns of the same color linked together diagonally.
A special kind of Threefold Repetition Draw. It happens when one player keeps checking the other indefinitely.
In this position black king is in danger of unstoppable mate on a8. Black can force a draw by perpetual check by playing 1. …Qc1+ 2. Kh2 Qf4+ If white king goes to g1 or h1, black repeats the check Qe1+. If white plays 3. g3 then 3. … Qxf2+ 4. Kh1 Qf1+ with perpetual checks from f2 and f1.
Pigs on the Seventh
Two rooks acting together on the 7th rank. “Pigs on the 7th” typically gobble up all of your opponent’s pawns on that rank.
When a piece cannot move without exposing a higher-valued piece to immediate capture, that piece is said to be “pinned”.
Making a new queen or other piece when a pawn reaches the 8th rank.
In this position both white and black ready to promote. Whoever starts easily wins by turning their passed pawn into a queen, then capturing the opponent’s pawn, whether or not it promotes.
Protected Passed Pawn
A passed pawn that is protected by a friendly pawn.
The a-d files. The left half of the board where the queens and the bishops, knights, and rooks next to them initially start.
A row of eight horizontal squares.
To give up the game and concede defeat before getting checkmated. Not to be confused with ‘forfeit’.
In this position white resigns, since 1… Ra1# is unstoppable, even if white promotes their g7 pawn to a queen.
(May be abbreviated to and called “sac”.) To give up a piece or to exchange a piece for a lesser-valued opponent’s piece in order to gain a positional or tactical advantage.
In this position white sacrifices their queen 1. Qxh7+ ! The game is over after 1. … Kxh7 2. Rh1#
A very aggressive although speculative opening for white with an early queen and bishop attack on f7. If black blunders, the game ends on move 4, thus alternative name “4-move mate”. 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6?? 4. Qxf7# White can play this opening transposing moves 2 and 3.
A tactic where you attack two of your opponent’s pieces at the same time along a rank, file, or diagonal, and the more-valuable piece is attacked first.
Position where a player “on move” is not in “check”, but also has no legal move. Such a game is considered to be a “draw”.
The initial starting position for the pieces and pawns at the beginning of a chess game. Notice the following important items:
* – White pieces are placed on rows 1 & 2; black pieces are placed on rows 7 & 8;
* – Each player’s right-hand corner square must be white;
* – The queens start on their own-colored squares. That is, the white queen starts on a white square, while the black queen starts on a black square;
* – Kings and queens face directly across from one another on their respective files.
In a tournament game, if it can be determined that the pieces were not set up in the correct starting position, the game can be canceled and a new game ordered, regardless of the current position on the board.
When you copy your opponent’s moves or they copy yours in the opening. That is, a position where both sides are arranged the same. Example as shown in the diagram: 1. Nf3 Nf6, 2. g3 g6, 3. Bg2 Bg7, 4. O-O O-O arrives at a symmetrical position. “Copycatting” usually doesn’t work, by the way, as your plans to copy everything your opponent does gets blown out of the water by the first check to your king!
A sequence of moves that limits the opponent’s options and may result in sufficient gain. There are many kinds of tactics, see fork, pin, skewer, discovered attack, etc.
(Latin for “time”.) Amount of relative time represented by a move. That is, you can open a game by moving your king pawn two squares and get to the e4 square in one move. Or you can spend two moves playing 1. e3, followed by 2. e4, and lose a tempo accomplishing the same thing.
The amount of time you have on your clock to either complete your game or make a given number of moves. Exceeding the time control means you lose the game.
Provoking your opponent to make a really bad move that looks appealing for them often to capture material. See also Poisoned Pawn.
In this position, the seemingly good looking move Nd5 is a mistake for white. The knight is trapped in the middle of the board, and he is lost after pawn attack on c6.
A piece that is attacked (often by a less valuable piece) and has no safe place to retreat.
In this position white queen suddenly gets trapped after 1… Bd6. The only way for white to save the queen is a sacrifice 2.Bf7+ Kxf7 3. Qb5.
Moving a pawn to the 8th rank and replacing it with a knight, bishop, or rook; instead of a queen.
You would want to do that in this position, under-promoting the pawn to a rook instead of a queen. If instead you chose a queen, black would have nowhere to move but wouldn’t be in check, and the game would be a stalemate, which is a draw.
A square or pawn that is difficult or impossible to defend.
The dark squares around black king g7 and h6 are weak (aka holes). White has already placed their pawn on f6. The plan is to bring white queen to h6, after that the checkmate on g7 is unstoppable. The fastest maneuver is 1.Qd2/Qc1 followed by 2. Qh6.
Kid Chess®: Glossary of Extended Chess Terms
Our list of Extended or Advanced chess terms will assist you in filling in the gaps you need to improve your game as a more advanced player!
A move or series of moves more aggressive than other choices on the board.
Advanced Passed Pawn
A passed pawn that is very close to promotion (i.e. on the 7th or 6th rank). Often an advanced passed pawn is worth more than a minor piece or even a rook.
In this position white advanced passed pawn d7 is unstoppable.
Figuring out, either during or after a game, the best series of moves for a given position.
(Usually written) analysis of the moves played in a game and their variations.
A pawn that has lagged behind and cannot be protected by other pawns. Usually considered a weakness. (Diagram)Battery: (Diagram) Two long range pieces (such as a queen and bishop) lined up and pointed in the same direction along a rank, file, or diagonal.
A stranglehold or grip caused by one side which restricts space for the other side.
Situation when you retain both bishops, while your opponent has a bishop and knight, or even two knights. The “bishop pair” is considered better, especially when the board is relatively uncluttered with other pieces.
A really good game or combination that includes a piece sacrifice to win.
This is a position after 20 moves in the famous “Evergreen” game Andersen-Dufresne. White won with a brilliant queen sacrifice 21. Qxd7+!! Kxd7 22. Bf5+ Ke8 23. Bd7+ Kf8 24. Bxe7#
Style of play which encourages direct control of the center and a systematic approach to strategy. Compare to ‘hypermodern’.
A position with few, if any, pawn trades where pieces are somewhat restricted in their movement.
Colle (Opening System)
Opening piece formation for white arising out of moving the queen pawn instead of the king pawn.
Series of tactical moves designed to improve your overall position, usually involving surprise and maybe even a piece “sacrifice”.
In this position Bb5! starts a short (2-move) combination for white. The black queen is pinned, so black captures the unprotected bishop Qxb5. Now white forks black king, queen and rook with Nxc7+.
A positional or tactical advantage gained in exchange for sacrificed pieces/pawns; or, piece value equality in a trade, as in 3 pawns for a knight.
In this position (Fried Liver Attack) black is two points ahead in material. White compensation lies in more active pieces, vulnerable position of the black king, and numerous tactical possibilities, especially pins.
Situation when an opponent on defense starts an attack of their own.
A space disadvantage that restricts piece movement.
Any decisive turning point in a game that ultimately affects the outcome.
Dragon (Opening System)
An opening piece formation for black based on the Sicilian Defense.
A small advantage, positional or tactical, in a game.
French abbreviation for “Federation Internationale des Echecs”, that is, the World Chess Federation.
Not to be confused with ‘resigns’, a player ‘forfeits’ a game when they don’t show up to play at the pre-arranged time and place. Generally regarded as very poor sportsmanship.
A pawn sacrifice made in the opening to gain the initiative or advantage in development.
Georgia Chess Association.
The highest permanent title that can be given to a chess player.
To successfully defend.
An important square that cannot be defended by pawns.
Dark squares f6, g7 and h6 are the holes around black king. White already has their queen on h6. If black queen weren’t protecting another hole f6, white could checkmate in 2 moves: 1. Nf6+ Kh8 2. Qxh7#. Notice that black queen is overloaded — it guards both the hole and the back rank. White wins with 1. Re8+ Qxe8 2. Nf6+ Kh8 3. Qxh7#
A style of play which claims that indirect or long distance control of the center is more effective than direct occupation. Compare to ‘classical’.
(Also known as “zwischenzug” or “intermezzo”.) A tactic in which a player under threat, instead of directly countering, introduces an even more devastating threat. The tactic often involves a new attack against the opponent’s queen or king. The opponent then may be forced to address the new threat, abandoning the earlier attack.
Here, White plays 1.Rxd7 expecting to win a rook, since either 1… Rxd7?? 2. Qe8# or 1 … Qxd7?? 2. Rxd7 Rxd7 3. Qe8#. But black turns the table with 1. … Qxd1!! now after 2. Rxd1 Rxd1+ 3. Qe1 Rxe1#
When you have an advantage in time and space, while your opponent is on the defensive.
A quiet redeployment of pieces to a hopefully better position.
A strong player who has achieved a USCF rating of 2200 or higher.
Two or more pawns used as battering rams to weaken your opponent’s change of three or more pawns.
A type of tournament in which any player may play regardless of qualification.
A position which in which pieces can move freely (usually because some pawns have beenexchanged), with the possibility of sudden attacks or combinations.
Known sequence of first moves, usually published in a chess book. The Sicilian Dragon, Danish Gambit and The Colle’ are examples of openings.
Opposite Color Bishops
Situation where each player has only one of their two bishops left, each of which is on a different color square, so that they cannot come in contact with one another.
In the endgame opposite-color bishops often mean a draw is close. But when the queens are still on board, opposite-color bishops help create a deadly mating attack. In this position white easily draws by moving the bishop along c8-h3 diagonal.
Grandmaster Aaron Nimzovich’s term for giving a piece or square more protection from your pieces or pawns than is immediately needed to guard it.
In this position in Fried Liver Attack white has three pieces attacking pinned black knight on d5, while black has three defenders. However black chooses to overprotect this knight with 1. … c6.
A move that frees up pieces from a cramped position.
A group of pawns separated from other pawns of the same color. It is generally hard to defend a lot of pawn islands.
The more-or-less fixed overall position of the pawns in an opening formation.
An example shown here in the diagram of pawn structure typical for Queen Gambit declined. The minority attack on a queen side is often played by white.
Any pawn that appears to be free for the taking but which will set off a trap against you if you do.
White pawn on d4 is poisoned. If black plays Qxd4 white replies with Bxh7+, discovering the attack on the black queen.
A move or series of moves which is subtle or sneaky in nature, rather than being outwardly aggressive.
An opening line prepared by you in advance to use against an opponent you are going to play.
A number that comes from a formula devised by Dr. Arpad Elo which indicates a player’s strength, based on his or her win-loss record against other rated players.
Removing the Defender
A chess tactic in which a defensive piece is captured, chased or lured away leaving one of the opponent’s pieces or important squares undefended or under-defended.
“In both positions black Knight on f6 defends against the checkmate Qxh7. In the first position on the left, white simply captures the knight 1. Bxf6 black does not have time to re-capture, they have to stop mate.
In the next position on the right, white plays 1. Nxd5! Black cannot re-capture because of the same checkmate, and, even worse, black has to give up their queen to save the king. “
A move or combination that aims for advantage in a game while carrying the danger of ending up with a poor position.
Here, White plays a risky move 1. Qh5+, hoping to win material after 1. … g6 2. Nxg6 hxg6 3. Qxh8. However, if black plays an intermezzo 2. … Qxe4+ forking white king and knight, white loses material.
Type of position resulting when white plays 1. e4 and black replies with anything other than 1…e5.
A move that boldly attempts to grab the initiative, involving commitment and bridge-burning, that is, “there’s no going back now!”
The territory (squares) controlled and occupied by each player’s pieces and pawns.
In this diagram, blue-tinted squares are controlled by white, red-tinted squares by black. Here, White, being slightly down material wise (two pawns for a knight), controls much more space and has compensation for the material. Black pieces are cramped.
Describing a move, usually a sacrifice, where you can’t be completely sure of the outcome.
Your long range master plan. The main idea behind your moves, which guides your thinking during the game. Describing a move, usually a sacrifice, where you can’t be completely sure of the outcome.
A series of moves that results in the same position as another series of moves. Example: 1. e4 Nc6, 2. Nf3 e5 give the same position as 1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6.
(Can also be called “three-fold repetition”.) A type of draw, when the same position occurs three times. Note the turn to move should belong to the same player. This player can claim a draw.
In this position black, being down a knight, can force a draw by threefold repetition with 1. … Rdg7 2. Qf2 Rf7 etc, keeping attacking white queen, which has to defend h2.
A tactic in which a combination of discovered checks and regular checks against a castled king’s position, usually by a rook and a bishop, can win massive amounts of material.
A tactic where a piece either indirectly attacks an enemy piece through another piece or pieces or defends a friendly piece through an enemy piece.
White back rank checkmates in this position. After 1. Qe8+!, the White rook X-ray attacks e8 and therefore backs up the queen, so after 1… Rxe8, 2. Rxe8#
(German for “compulsion to move”.) A situation that occurs when a player is forced to make an undesirable move. The player would prefer to pass and make no move, but a move has to be made.
This seemingly-simple position shown here is drawn, if white is to move. White’s king has to either move to e6 with a stalemate or abandon their advanced passed pawn. But if it is black’s turn, they must move their king 1…Kf7, at which point 2.Kd7 and white pawn promotes to a queen.