Chess In A Nutshell – Basic Movements Of Each Chess Piece And Special Moves

Anatomy and Set Up of Chess Pieces

Chess Game Parts

The chess boards consists of 64 perfectly alternating black and white squares, whichever way it is oriented. It consisting of eight ranks (rows) and eight files (columns).

There are 32 chessmen, 16 black and 16 white:

  • 8 Pawns each
  • 2 Castles or Rooks each
  • 2 Horses or Knights each
  • 2 Bishops each
  • 1 Queen each (plus one additional queen each for ‘pawn promotion’
    – see a section entitled special moves)
  • 1 King each
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Chess Board Set-up

Chess Board Setup

The board must be oriented such that both players have light-colored squares at the right-hand corners of the rank closest to them. At the start of each game, chessmen are arranged along the two ranks nearest to each player, with chessmen of opposing players facing each other.

The front rank on each side comprises eight pawns each, while the rear rank on either side is arranged as follows:

  • Two Castles or Rooks at the two extremes
  • Two Knights next to the two Rooks
  • Followed by the two Bishops
  • With King and Queen bringing up the core of the rear. The Queen occupies the matching square (black on black, white one white). The King occupies the remaining position.

Chess Gameplay

Chess Gameplay

The player with white pieces always plays the first turn. This may be decided by the toss of a coin or a blind draw of pieces. Players must maneuver their pieces around the board – following the movement stipulations laid down for each type of piece – adopting various offensive and defensive strategies (game-specific) and tactics (turn-specific), in an attempt to weaken the opposition by capturing as many of their pieces as possible, while strengthen their own position by keeping as many of their own pieces in play, and holding strategically strong positions.

When one player moves any of his pieces to a position that directly threatens the opposing King, that player must issue a warning to his or her opponent, by saying “Check”. The ultimate objective for both players is to “Checkmate” the other, by using any one or more of their own pieces to trap the opposing King, such that it cannot avoid capture.

Chess Pieces Moves

The various types of pieces, are restricted to certain types of moves:

The Pawns

The Pawns Chess Piece Moves

Move up the ranks, one rank per turn, up the file to which it is assigned. Two exceptions: (1) They may move two ranks up a file on their opening moves. (2) They may capture any opposing piece positioned one step diagonally ahead of it, in either direction. A capture is the only common condition under which pawns can switch files. Pawns are the only pieces that can never move backwards.

The Rooks

The Rook Chess Piece Moves

Move vertically up and down the ranks, or horizontally left and right through the files, covering an unlimited number of squares per turn, within the confines of the board, unless it is impeded by another piece en route. If the impeding piece is an opposing one, the Rook may capture it.


The Knights Chess Pieces Moves

Move two steps in a horizontal or vertical direction, then turn 90-degrees left or right to take another step (effectively, an L-shaped move) – all within a single turn. They are unique, in that they can jump over any other piece, en route to its ‘destination square’. However, they cannot move to a ‘destination square’ already occupied by another piece belonging to the same player. On the other hand, if any of the ‘destination squares’ is occupied by any opposing piece, the Knight may move to that square and capture the opposing piece.


The Bishops Chess Pieces Moves

Move diagonally across the board, covering an unlimited number of squares per turn, within the confines of the board, unless impeded by another piece en route. If the impeding piece is an opposing one, the Bishop may capture it. Because of its diagonal movement Bishops that start the game on a black square are confined to black squares, and those starting out on white squares are confined to white squares, right through the duration of the game.


The Queen Chess Piece Moves

The Queen is the most powerful piece. Her moves effectively combine those of the Rook and the Bishop. And like both, she may capture any opposing player impeding any of the many pathways open to her – in horizontal, vertical or diagonal directions.


The King Chess Piece Moves

Like the Queen, moves in horizontal, vertical and diagonal directions, but only a single step per turn. He is the most valuable, but also the most vulnerable, piece on the board.

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Special Moves

Promoting Pawns

Promoting Pawns in Chess

A pawn that can make its way to the final rank of the opposing side, no matter which file it occupies, it may be promoted to any other piece of the corresponding players’ choice – Queen being the most obvious choice. This is the reason why most chess sets come with two additional Queens – one black and one white.

En Passant

En Passant in Chess

When a pawn’s first move – two ranks up its file, takes it to a position adjacent to an opposing pawn, effectively preventing the opposing pawn from capturing it in the normal fashion, then the opposing pawn may play the ‘en passant’ move – capturing the first pawn by ‘passing’ it diagonally across its rear, to occupy the square right behind it. The validity of this move lasts only for a single turn – i.e. it needs to be played immediately after the first pawn’s move – thereafter the option doesn’t exist.

Castling In Chess

Castling in Chess

The only dual move in chess, where King moves two square left or right, while the Rook jumps over the King to occupy the square next to – but on the opposite side of – the King, within the same turn. This may be done with the Rook on either side of the King. This move helps protect the King while also freeing-up the Castle for offence or counter-offence. However, a few conditions need to be met for the move to be made:

  • It must be the King’s very first move.
  • It must be that Rook’s very first move.
  • There must be no other pieces in any of the intervening squares.
  • It cannot be done if the King is on check, or has been on check at any point prior, during that game.

Go Play!

Now that you've learned the basics, it's time to dive right in. Welcome to the world of Chess—a captivating and immersive game that has become a lifelong passion for millions.

Don't forget to explore Royal Chess Mall. We offer a premium selection of luxury chess sets, including Dubrovnik chess sets and Staunton chess sets, as well as elegant chess tables, all of which enhance the chess-playing experience with our high quality and style.