Chess piece

Chess piece

Overview

Chess pieces or chessmen are the pieces deployed on a chessboard
Chessboard
A chessboard is the type of checkerboard used in the board game chess, and consists of 64 squares arranged in two alternating colors...

 to play the game of chess
Chess
Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a square-checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.Each player...

. The pieces vary in abilities, giving them different values in the game. For a standard chess game both players start with:
  • 1 king
    King (chess)
    In chess, the king is the most important piece. The object of the game is to trap the opponent's king so that its escape is not possible . If a player's king is threatened with capture, it is said to be in check, and the player must remove the threat of capture on the next move. If this cannot be...

  • 1 queen
    Queen (chess)
    The queen is the most powerful piece in the game of chess, able to move any number of squares vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Each player starts the game with one queen, placed in the middle of the first rank next to the king. With the chessboard oriented correctly, the white queen starts...

  • 2 rook
    Rook (chess)
    A rook is a piece in the strategy board game of chess. Formerly the piece was called the castle, tower, marquess, rector, and comes...

    s
  • 2 bishop
    Bishop (chess)
    A bishop is a piece in the board game of chess. Each player begins the game with two bishops. One starts between the king's knight and the king, the other between the queen's knight and the queen...

    s
  • 2 knight
    Knight (chess)
    The knight is a piece in the game of chess, representing a knight . It is normally represented by a horse's head and neck. Each player starts with two knights, which begin on the row closest to the player, one square from the corner...

    s
  • 8 pawn
    Pawn (chess)
    The pawn is the most numerous and weakest piece in the game of chess, historically representing infantry, or more particularly armed peasants or pikemen. Each player begins the game with eight pawns, one on each square of the rank immediately in front of the other pieces...

    s


Any pawn that reaches the eighth row during the game must be promoted
Promotion (chess)
Promotion is a chess rule describing the transformation of a pawn that reaches its eighth rank into the player's choice of a queen, knight, rook, or bishop of the same color . The new piece replaces the pawn on the same square and is part of the move. Promotion is not limited to pieces that have...

 to become any other piece of the same color except a king.

One side is referred to as "White" and the other as "Black" (see White and Black in chess
White and Black in chess
In chess, the player who moves first is referred to as "White" and the player who moves second is referred to as "Black". Similarly, the pieces that each conducts are called, respectively, "the white pieces" and "the black pieces". The pieces are often not literally white and black, but some...

).
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Chess piece'
Start a new discussion about 'Chess piece'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia

Chess pieces or chessmen are the pieces deployed on a chessboard
Chessboard
A chessboard is the type of checkerboard used in the board game chess, and consists of 64 squares arranged in two alternating colors...

 to play the game of chess
Chess
Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a square-checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.Each player...

. The pieces vary in abilities, giving them different values in the game. For a standard chess game both players start with:
  • 1 king
    King (chess)
    In chess, the king is the most important piece. The object of the game is to trap the opponent's king so that its escape is not possible . If a player's king is threatened with capture, it is said to be in check, and the player must remove the threat of capture on the next move. If this cannot be...

  • 1 queen
    Queen (chess)
    The queen is the most powerful piece in the game of chess, able to move any number of squares vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Each player starts the game with one queen, placed in the middle of the first rank next to the king. With the chessboard oriented correctly, the white queen starts...

  • 2 rook
    Rook (chess)
    A rook is a piece in the strategy board game of chess. Formerly the piece was called the castle, tower, marquess, rector, and comes...

    s
  • 2 bishop
    Bishop (chess)
    A bishop is a piece in the board game of chess. Each player begins the game with two bishops. One starts between the king's knight and the king, the other between the queen's knight and the queen...

    s
  • 2 knight
    Knight (chess)
    The knight is a piece in the game of chess, representing a knight . It is normally represented by a horse's head and neck. Each player starts with two knights, which begin on the row closest to the player, one square from the corner...

    s
  • 8 pawn
    Pawn (chess)
    The pawn is the most numerous and weakest piece in the game of chess, historically representing infantry, or more particularly armed peasants or pikemen. Each player begins the game with eight pawns, one on each square of the rank immediately in front of the other pieces...

    s


Any pawn that reaches the eighth row during the game must be promoted
Promotion (chess)
Promotion is a chess rule describing the transformation of a pawn that reaches its eighth rank into the player's choice of a queen, knight, rook, or bishop of the same color . The new piece replaces the pawn on the same square and is part of the move. Promotion is not limited to pieces that have...

 to become any other piece of the same color except a king.

One side is referred to as "White" and the other as "Black" (see White and Black in chess
White and Black in chess
In chess, the player who moves first is referred to as "White" and the player who moves second is referred to as "Black". Similarly, the pieces that each conducts are called, respectively, "the white pieces" and "the black pieces". The pieces are often not literally white and black, but some...

). To distinguish between the two, the black pieces are darker than the white pieces, although pieces are not necessarily pure black or white. The Staunton chess set
Staunton chess set
The Staunton chess set is composed of a particular type of chess pieces used to play the game of chess. According to the rules of chess, this style is to be used for competitions. Nathaniel Cook is credited with the design, and they are named after Howard Staunton. The first 500 sets were hand...

 is the standard style for tournament or casual play. Besides these standard pieces, there exist many chess variant
Chess variant
A chess variant is a game related to, derived from or inspired by chess. The difference from chess might include one or more of the following:...

s or certain kinds of chess problem
Chess problem
A chess problem, also called a chess composition, is a puzzle set by somebody using chess pieces on a chess board, that presents the solver with a particular task to be achieved. For instance, a position might be given with the instruction that White is to move first, and checkmate Black in two...

s that call for non-standard fairy pieces
Fairy chess piece
A fairy chess piece or unorthodox chess piece is a piece analogous to a chess piece. It is not used in conventional chess, but is used in certain chess variants and some chess problems...

.

Terminology


In chess, the word piece has three meanings, depending on the context.
  • "Piece" may mean any of the physical pieces of the set, including the pawns. This is the same as "chessmen" .
  • In play, the term is usually used to exclude pawns, referring only to a queen, rook, bishop, knight, or king. (In this case, the general term for piece or pawn is man or chessman.) In this context, the pieces can be broken down into three groups: major pieces (queen and rook), minor pieces (bishop and knight), and kings .
  • It may refer only to a minor piece (a bishop or knight)

The context should make the intended meaning clear
, .

Movement of the pieces


  • Main article: Rules of chess
    Rules of chess
    The rules of chess are rules governing the play of the game of chess. While the exact origins of chess are unclear, modern rules first took form during the Middle Ages. The rules continued to be slightly modified until the early 19th century, when they reached essentially their current form. The...


Each piece moves in a different way.
  • The rook
    Rook (chess)
    A rook is a piece in the strategy board game of chess. Formerly the piece was called the castle, tower, marquess, rector, and comes...

      moves any number of vacant squares along rows or columns (forward, backward, left or right). It also is involved (with the king) in the special move called castling
    Castling
    Castling is a special move in the game of chess involving the king and either of the original rooks of the same color. It is the only move in chess in which a player moves two pieces at the same time. Castling consists of moving the king two squares towards a rook on the player's first rank, then...

    .
  • The bishop
    Bishop (chess)
    A bishop is a piece in the board game of chess. Each player begins the game with two bishops. One starts between the king's knight and the king, the other between the queen's knight and the queen...

     moves any number of vacant squares diagonal
    Diagonal
    A diagonal is a line joining two nonconsecutive vertices of a polygon or polyhedron. Informally, any sloping line is called diagonal. The word "diagonal" derives from the Greek διαγώνιος , from dia- and gonia ; it was used by both Strabo and Euclid to refer to a line connecting two vertices of a...

    ly. 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
    Queen (chess)
    The queen is the most powerful piece in the game of chess, able to move any number of squares vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Each player starts the game with one queen, placed in the middle of the first rank next to the king. With the chessboard oriented correctly, the white queen starts...

     moves any number of vacant squares in any direction along a row, column, or diagonal.
  • The king
    King (chess)
    In chess, the king is the most important piece. The object of the game is to trap the opponent's king so that its escape is not possible . If a player's king is threatened with capture, it is said to be in check, and the player must remove the threat of capture on the next move. If this cannot be...

     moves only one vacant square in any direction. It can also castle
    Castling
    Castling is a special move in the game of chess involving the king and either of the original rooks of the same color. It is the only move in chess in which a player moves two pieces at the same time. Castling consists of moving the king two squares towards a rook on the player's first rank, then...

     in conjunction with a rook.
  • The knight
    Knight (chess)
    The knight is a piece in the game of chess, representing a knight . It is normally represented by a horse's head and neck. Each player starts with two knights, which begin on the row closest to the player, one square from the corner...

     moves to a vacant square in an "L"-shape (two spaces forward, backward, left, or right and one space perpendicular
    Perpendicular
    In geometry, two lines or planes are considered perpendicular to each other if they form congruent adjacent angles . The term may be used as a noun or adjective...

     to it). The knight can jump over other pieces when moving.
  • The pawn
    Pawn (chess)
    The pawn is the most numerous and weakest piece in the game of chess, historically representing infantry, or more particularly armed peasants or pikemen. Each player begins the game with eight pawns, one on each square of the rank immediately in front of the other pieces...

     can only move forward one space, or optionally two spaces when on its starting square, in a straight line 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
    En passant
    En passant is a move in the board game of chess . It is a special pawn capture which can occur immediately after a player moves a pawn two squares forward from its starting position, and an enemy pawn could have captured it had it moved only one square forward...

    . If the pawn reaches a back rank of the opposite player, it undergoes promotion
    Promotion (chess)
    Promotion is a chess rule describing the transformation of a pawn that reaches its eighth rank into the player's choice of a queen, knight, rook, or bishop of the same color . The new piece replaces the pawn on the same square and is part of the move. Promotion is not limited to pieces that have...

     to the player's choice of a rook, bishop, queen or knight .


Pieces capture opposing pieces by replacing them on their square, except for an en passant
En passant
En passant is a move in the board game of chess . It is a special pawn capture which can occur immediately after a player moves a pawn two squares forward from its starting position, and an enemy pawn could have captured it had it moved only one square forward...

 capture. Pieces other than the pawn capture in the same way they move. A captured piece is removed from the board
Chessboard
A chessboard is the type of checkerboard used in the board game chess, and consists of 64 squares arranged in two alternating colors...

. Only one piece may occupy a given square. Except for castling and the movement of the knight, a piece may not move over another piece .

Chess sets




The variation 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
Lewis Carroll
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson , better known by the pseudonym Lewis Carroll , was an English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer. His most famous writings are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, as well as the poems "The Hunting of the...

 or modern treatments such as Star Trek
Star Trek
Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. The core of Star Trek is its six television series: The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise...

 or The Simpsons
The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie...

. Themed designs are usually intended for display rather than for actual play . Some works of art are designs of chess sets, such as the modernist chess set by chess enthusiast and dadaist Man Ray
Man Ray
Man Ray , born Emmanuel Radnitzky, was an American artist who spent most of his career in Paris, France. Perhaps best described simply as a modernist, he was a significant contributor to both the Dada and Surrealist movements, although his ties to each were informal...

, which is on display in the Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is an art museum in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It has been important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world...

 in New York City.

Chess pieces used for play are usually figurine
Figurine
A figurine is a statuette that represents a human, deity or animal. Figurines may be realistic or iconic, depending on the skill and intention of the creator. The earliest were made of stone or clay...

s that are taller than they are wide. For example, a set of pieces designed for a chessboard
Chessboard
A chessboard is the type of checkerboard used in the board game chess, and consists of 64 squares arranged in two alternating colors...

 with 2¼ inch (57 mm) squares typically have a king around 3¾ inches (95 mm) tall. They are available in a variety of designs, with the most well-known Staunton design
Staunton chess set
The Staunton chess set is composed of a particular type of chess pieces used to play the game of chess. According to the rules of chess, this style is to be used for competitions. Nathaniel Cook is credited with the design, and they are named after Howard Staunton. The first 500 sets were hand...

, which is named after Howard Staunton
Howard Staunton
Howard Staunton was an English chess master who is generally regarded as having been the world's strongest player from 1843 to 1851, largely as a result of his 1843 victory over Saint-Amant. He promoted a chess set of clearly distinguishable pieces of standardised shape—the Staunton pattern—that...

 (a 19th century English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 chess player), and was designed by Nathaniel Cook
Nathaniel Cook
Nathaniel Cook was the designer of a set of chess figures, which is now the standard set.He registered his design at the United Kingdom Patent Office on 1 March 1849 under the Ornamental Designs Act of 1842. As he was the editor of The Illustrated London News, the newspaper where Howard Staunton...

. The first Staunton style sets were made in 1849 by Jaques of London
Jaques of London
Jaques of London, formerly known as John Jaques of London and Jaques and Son of London is a long-established family company that manufactures sports and game equipment...

 (also known as John Jaques of London and Jaques and Son of London) .

Wooden chess pieces are normally made of the light wood boxwood
Buxus
Buxus is a genus of about 70 species in the family Buxaceae. Common names include box or boxwood ....

 or sometimes maple
Maple
Acer is a genus of trees or shrubs commonly known as maple.Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or together with the Hippocastanaceae included in the family Sapindaceae. Modern classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, favour inclusion in...

. Black wooden pieces are either made of a dark wood such as rosewood, ebony
Ebony
Ebony is a dense black wood, most commonly yielded by several species in the genus Diospyros, but ebony may also refer to other heavy, black woods from unrelated species. Ebony is dense enough to sink in water. Its fine texture, and very smooth finish when polished, make it valuable as an...

, red sandalwood, or walnut
Walnut
Juglans is a plant genus of the family Juglandaceae, the seeds of which are known as walnuts. They are deciduous trees, 10–40 meters tall , with pinnate leaves 200–900 millimetres long , with 5–25 leaflets; the shoots have chambered pith, a character shared with the wingnuts , but not the hickories...

; or they are made of boxwood and stained or painted black, brown, or red. Plastic white pieces are made of white or off-white plastic
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

 and black pieces are made of black or red plastic. Sometimes other materials are used, such as bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

, ivory
Ivory
Ivory is a term for dentine, which constitutes the bulk of the teeth and tusks of animals, when used as a material for art or manufacturing. Ivory has been important since ancient times for making a range of items, from ivory carvings to false teeth, fans, dominoes, joint tubes, piano keys and...

, or a composite material
Composite material
Composite materials, often shortened to composites or called composition materials, are engineered or naturally occurring materials made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties which remain separate and distinct at the macroscopic or...

 .

For actual play, pieces of the Staunton chess set
Staunton chess set
The Staunton chess set is composed of a particular type of chess pieces used to play the game of chess. According to the rules of chess, this style is to be used for competitions. Nathaniel Cook is credited with the design, and they are named after Howard Staunton. The first 500 sets were hand...

 design are the standard. The height of the king should be between 85 mm and 105 mm (3.35 to 4.13 inches). USCF rules call for a king height between 3⅜ and 4½ inches tall (86 to 114 mm). A height of approximately 95 to 102 mm (3¾ to 4 inches) is preferred by most players. The diameter of the king should be 40 to 50 percent 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 approximately 1.25–1.3 times the diameter of the base of the king, or 50 to 65 mm (2 to 2½ inches). Squares of size of approximately 57 mm (2¼ inches) normally are well-suited for pieces with the kings in the preferred size range. These criteria are from the United States Chess Federation
United States Chess Federation
The United States Chess Federation is a non-profit organization, the governing chess organization within the United States, and one of the federations of the FIDE. The USCF was founded in 1939 from the merger of two regional chess organizations, and grew gradually until 1972, when membership...

's Official Rules of Chess, which is based on the Fédération Internationale des Échecs
Fédération Internationale des Échecs
The Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation is an international organization that connects the various national chess federations around the world and acts as the governing body of international chess competition. It is usually referred to as FIDE , its French acronym.FIDE...

 rules .

Some small magnetic sets, designed to be compact and/or for travel, have pieces more like those used in Shogi
Shogi
, also known as Japanese chess, is a two-player board game in the same family as Western chess, chaturanga, and Chinese Xiangqi, and is the most popular of a family of chess variants native to Japan...

 and Xiangqi
Xiangqi
Xiangqi is a two-player Chinese board game in the same family as Western chess, chaturanga, shogi, Indian chess and janggi. The present-day form of Xiangqi originated in China and is therefore commonly called Chinese chess in English. Xiangqi is one of the most popular board games in China...

 — each piece being a similar flat token, with a symbol drawn on it to show which piece it is.

On computers, chess pieces are often 2-D
2D computer graphics
2D computer graphics is the computer-based generation of digital images—mostly from two-dimensional models and by techniques specific to them...

 symbols on a 2-D board, although some programs have fancier 3-D
3D computer graphics
3D computer graphics are graphics that use a three-dimensional representation of geometric data that is stored in the computer for the purposes of performing calculations and rendering 2D images...

 graphics engine
Graphics engine
Graphics engine may refer to:*Game engine: a physics model typically implemented in software for use in computer games*Graphics engine : a specialized computer hardware device, typically integrated with a framebuffer or other video display circuitry, for performing graphics calculations...

s with more traditional designs of chess pieces.

Unicode contains symbols for chess pieces
Chess symbols in Unicode
Chess symbols are part of Unicode.Instead of using images, one can represent chess pieces by symbols that are defined in the Unicode character set. This makes it possible to:...

 in both white and black.

Grandmaster
International Grandmaster
The title Grandmaster is awarded to strong chess players by the world chess organization FIDE. Apart from World Champion, Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain....

 Larry Evans
Larry Evans
For the football player of the same name, see Larry Evans .Larry Melvyn Evans was an American chess grandmaster, author, and journalist. He won or shared the U.S. Chess Championship five times and the U.S. Open Chess Championship four times...

 offers this advice on buying a set :
"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
Buff (colour)
Buff is a pale yellow-brown colour that got its name from the colour of buff leather.Displayed on the right is the colour buff.EtymologyAccording to the Oxford English Dictionary, buff as a descriptor of a colour was first used in the London Gazette of 1686, describing a uniform to be "A Red Coat...

 — 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."

Relative value


The value assigned to a piece attempts to represent the strength this piece potentially has in a game. With game circumstances constantly changing, so do the values assigned to the pieces. A bishop positioned to control a long, open diagonal appears more valuable than a knight stuck in a corner. Similar ideas apply to placing rooks on open file
Open file
An open file in chess is a file with no pawns of either color on it. In the diagram, the e-file is an open file. An open file can provide a line of attack for a rook or queen...

s and knights on active, central squares. The standard valuation is 1 point for a pawn, 3 points for a knight or bishop, 5 points for a rook, and 9 points for a queen . 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.

See also

  • Staunton chess set
    Staunton chess set
    The Staunton chess set is composed of a particular type of chess pieces used to play the game of chess. According to the rules of chess, this style is to be used for competitions. Nathaniel Cook is credited with the design, and they are named after Howard Staunton. The first 500 sets were hand...

  • Lewis chessmen
    Lewis chessmen
    The Lewis Chessmen are a group of 78 12th-century chess pieces, most of which are carved in walrus ivory...

  • Chess piece relative value
  • Chessboard
    Chessboard
    A chessboard is the type of checkerboard used in the board game chess, and consists of 64 squares arranged in two alternating colors...

  • Rules of chess
    Rules of chess
    The rules of chess are rules governing the play of the game of chess. While the exact origins of chess are unclear, modern rules first took form during the Middle Ages. The rules continued to be slightly modified until the early 19th century, when they reached essentially their current form. The...

  • Outline of chess
    Outline of chess
    The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to chess:Chess – two-player board game played on a chessboard, a square-checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. Each player begins the game with sixteen pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks,...


External links