Chess Pieces: Names, Moves & More [Ultimate Guide]

By Gary Flores •  Updated: 01/01/21 •  18 min read

Each chess piece has its name and different moves, and if you are starting to learn about chess and want to know specific rules about these chess pieces, this article will help you.

When I was learning how to play chess, I wanted to know more about each chess piece because I know some special moves and meanings of the move will help me play chess well.

I want to share what I have learned for so many years and added some useful information that I know you will enjoy!

First, let's talk about the names of each chess piece.

Chess pieces names

A good chess player knows that they must learn the game from its most basic level. And one of the most basic is learning the chess pieces names and its functions. It's important to know about all pieces if you want to understand how they are played- it'll make things much easier!

Chess pieces names and functions you are about to learn are the pawn, rook, knight, bishop, queen, king chess pieces. We are going to expand on each piece and share with you equipments that will help you even more.

What are the pieces in chess called?

There should exactly be 16 pieces for each chess player, but chess sets have an extra 1 piece each – which will total 34 chess pieces. That extra chess piece is the Queen because of the possibility of pawn promotions.

I bought mine here, and the chess set includes two extra Queens.

So, what are the 16 pieces in chess called? They are the King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, and Pawn. You can check out the table below, and I will include an image for each chess piece as well.

chess pieces

Above are the actual images of each chess piece with their names included.

Now that you know what the chess pieces' names are, you can start setting up the chessboard.

You can check this article on how to set up your chessboard correctly. You can refer back to this article once you finished reading setting up a chessboard.

Related article: Board set up for chess: Helpful how-to guide

Also study chess pieces names and more!

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Download your playbook to play traps like a pro! In this playbook, you will learn traps you can play with popular chess openings! King's Gambit ,Caro-Kann Defense, Italian Game, Ruy Lopez Opening and more...

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1. The Pawn

There are so many things you can do with this chess piece, which I’m going to share with you a bit later. Although most of us will say that the pawn has the lowest value or points on the chess board which is only 1 point, well I think the value of the pawn doesn’t really matter when it comes to tactics and strategies.

What I’m trying to say is that you don’t need to focus on which chess piece has the lowest value which doesn’t really matter in my opinion especially if you can turn your pawn to another chess piece, right?

What is the function of the pawn?

Did you know that the pawn moves two spaces? Yes, it can move two squares but only at its initial starting position (see image below). All the eight pawns can move two squares from its starting position but after the initial move it can only move one square after.

Another function of the pawn in chess is that it can become another chess piece if it is able to reach the opposite end of the board, this is what I was saying about pawns value or points doesn’t really matter if you know these tactics and strategies.

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Pawns can become another chess piece except for the King of course!

The pawn promotion is a special move in chess that only the pawn piece can do, besides that the pawn piece also have a special capture move called en passant. Yes, that is another important function of the pawn, you can learn more about en passant in this article.

If you are not familiar on how pawns capture chess pieces, just move your pawn diagonally one square forward (see image below). It's important to know that pawns cannot move backward.

Pawn is also used to fianchetto your bishop, a tactic that popular Grandmaster Bobby Fischer  also loves to play against his opponents.

Recommended pawn chess equipments for beginners

Here are some list of pawn equipments that you should check out;

The Power of Pawns: Chess Structure Fundamentals for Post-beginners

Pawn Structure Chess

Another, Pawn Power in Chess (Dover Chess)

And, Pawn Sacrifice [DVD]

2. The Rook

This chess piece weakness is that it comes late at the game, there is a special move that you need to perform to get the rook in the game as fast as possible. The rook is considered one of the major pieces on the board and has a value or points of 5.

Once I have the rooks engaged in the game, I most likely have them connected on the same file or rank. This actually makes them stronger and you can do a lot of damage with them connected together.

What is the function of the rook?

The rook does not move or capture diagonally, but it can move backwards on ranks and files horizontally or vertically (see image below). The rook works really well in endgames, that is why you can’t afford to lose a rook when you are about to reach the endgame.

The only weakness of the rook is that it comes later in the game, except if you perform castling. This special move with the King helps you mobilized the rook faster and your rook will be more active in the game.

Rooks can easily trap or checkmate a King in endgame, you can cover a lot of squares with the use of rooks range. Even with just one rook instead of two you can easily win a game with your King against your opponent’s King.

Recommended rook chess equipments for beginners

Here are some list of rook equipments that you should check out;

Understanding Rook Endgames

One Rook Saves the Day: A World Champion’s Favorite Studies

Understanding Rook vs. Minor Piece Endgames (Understanding Chess Endgames)

3. The Knight

If you want a chess piece that moves totally different from the rest, then the knight is your go-to chess piece. The knight works really well in a closed game, because it can jump over other chess pieces even the friendly pieces.

The knight has a value of 3 points and it can be used as the first piece to move in the opening game, which we usually see pawns as the opening piece of the game. I’ll share some chess opening moves that uses the knight as the opening chess piece.

What is the function of the knight?

The knight can move forward and backward by following the L-shape move on the board. The knight jumps in an L-shape (see image below), and captures pieces on the last square it lands – not the pieces it jumps over.

Just like what I said, the knight can be used in the opening of a game, below are some chess openings you can check out.

1. Réti Opening  

2. Van Geet Opening also called Dunst Opening

3. Alekhine's Defense

4. Nimzowitsch Defense

5. Queen's Pawn Opening: Mikėnas Defense

6. Indian Game

You have to be familiar with the openings before you try this moves, there are some books that can help you with improving your game using knights.

Recommended knight chess equipments for beginners

Here are some list of knight equipments that you should check out;

The Sicilian Four Knights: A Simple and Sound Defense to 1. e4

The Knight: The Cunning Cavalry (The Power of the Pieces)

The Four Knights

4. The Bishop

This is another chess piece that has a value of 3 points and considered a minor chess pieces. The bishop could be stronger only if it can move on two different colors on the board – I’ll tell you more about it in a little while.

The bishop is located in c1 and f1 squares for white, and c8 and f8 squares for black at the very beginning of the game. There are games that you would want to have a specific bishop to remain on the board during a certain game and there are times that it would be best to exchange a bishop.

You can also check this article about knight and bishop.

What is the function of the bishop?

The color of the square of the bishop on the board is basically the most important function of the bishop. The bishop can only move on the color of the square where it is positioned. The bishop can move diagonally on it specific square color only (see image below).

I consider that the biggest weakness of the bishop, unless you have both your bishops available in the game, you can attack any color of the squares you wish. There are so many tricks you can do with your bishop as well – you can check out this article about chess tricks!

Recommended bishop chess equipments for beginners

Here are some list of bishop equipments that you should check out;

The Bishop’s Opening (Chess is Fun book 8)

Italian 2. Bc4 Playbook: 200 Positions Bishops Opening for White (Chess Opening Playbook)

Winning with the Bishop’s Opening (Batsford Chess Library)

5. The Queen

The most frustrating part of the game of chess is losing the queen chess piece in the beginning of the game. The reason this happens is that you move your queen very early in the game.

If you know how to take advantage against an opponent who move their queen really early in the opening then you have a greater success in winning the game.

So, when you lose your queen early in the game you can get it back using your pawn, that is amazing, right? You can also check this article about having two or more queens in chess.

What is the function of the queen?

The queen can move on different squares diagonally, horizontally and vertically on different color of squares and can move backwards too (see image below)! Having the queen in endgames can easily checkmate the opponent’s king.

The function of the queen is basically to protect the king and attack simultaneously, when you know how to use your queen really well – you can be unstoppable!

There are books I recommend below which you should check out especially chess opening and combinations!

Recommended queen chess equipments for beginners

Here are some list of queen equipments that you should check out;

The Queen’s Gambit Declined: Move by Move

Queen’s Gambit Tactics: Chess Opening Combinations and Checkmates

Understanding Queen Endgames

Queen’s Gambit Playbook: 200 Opening Chess Positions for White

6. The King

The last chess piece that we are going to learn is the king, many says that this is the most important piece on the board – well, I say yes and no! Yes, the king is very important since the ultimate aim of the game is to checkmate the king!

I can’t say that the king is the only important piece on the board, actually I believe all the chess pieces are very important, including your tactics and chess strategy.

What is the function of the king?

The main function of the king is to avoid getting checkmate, that does not mean the king cannot attack a piece! The king can only move one square at a time, it can move diagonally, horizontally, vertically and it can move backwards as well (see image below).

The king captures by occupying the square of its opponent just like other chess pieces, but it cannot move on a square that it can be checked by its opponent.

Note: The king can never be captured!

Recommended king chess equipments for beginners

Here are some list of king equipments that you should check out;

The King’s Gambit

Starting Out: King’s Indian

The King’s Indian Attack – Move by Move

How does each chess piece move?

The next thing you should learn is how the chess pieces move – there are basic moves and special moves that you need to be familiar with when you are just starting to play chess.

I will be going to show you the complete basic moves first and also the special move!

Here are the basic moves of each chess pieces:

The King moves one square at a time. 

Note: Although the King moves one square at a time, the King is the most important chess piece on the board.

See the move of the King below:

King-moves

The Queen moves like a Bishop and Rook. 

Note: Most of the time the Queen is the main piece to checkmate the King.

See the move of the Queen below:

Queen-moves

The Bishop moves diagonally.

Note: The Bishop is very useful for direct and long range attacks!

See the move of the Bishop below:

Bishop moves

The Knight moves in an L-shape pattern.

Note: It is the only chess piece that can jump over any other chess piece.

See the move of the Knight below:

Knight moves

The Rook moves vertically or horizontally

Note: The Rook is very powerful especially in the end game but develops a little bit later during the opening game.

See the move of the Rook below:

Rook moves

The Pawn moves one square at a time but has some really cool special moves.

Note: The Pawn can be very powerful especially if they get the chance to reach the end of the opposite board.

See the move of the Pawn below:

pawn-moves

Related article: A Helpful Guide To Pawn Promotion

Now that you are familiar with the basic moves of each chess piece. It's time to check each chess piece if they do have some special moves in chess.

The King does have a special move called castling.

Note: Castling should be done early in the game to avoid having your King stuck in the starting position and be vulnerable for attacks.

See the special move of King below:

castling-step-1
The first step is the King moves on the g1 square
Castling chess
The second step is move the Rook around the King and on the f1 square
Castling chess
This is the Kingside castling should look like

The Queen does not have any special moves, but the Queen can be used for pinning, forks, skewers, and x-ray tactics.

Queen moves
Pinning the Black Knight
Queen moves
Fork attack of the White Queen
Skewer the Black King and Black Queen
Xray tactics together with the White Bishop to capture the Black Queen and Black Bishop

The Bishop does not have any special moves, but the Bishop can be useful for pinning, forks, skewers, and x-ray tactics.

Pinning the Knight
Fork attack of the White Bishop
Skewer attack of the White Bishop
Xray attack of the White Bishop on the Black Rook

The Knight doesn't have any special moves, although it's the only chess piece that can jump over other chess pieces. The Knight is very useful for attacking pieces using forks.

Knight moves
White Knight fork attack of the Black Queen and Black King

The Rook does not have any special moves, but the Rook is useful for skewers, pinning, forks, and x-ray tactics.

Rook moves
Rook Pinning the Black Bishop
Rook moves in chess pieces
Rook Skewer's attack on the Black King
Rook moves double attack
Fork attack of Rook
Rook moves xray attack

The Pawn has at least 3 special moves in chess;

Here are the special moves of the Pawn:

First, the Pawn can move two squares from its initial position and one square after.

pawn-special-move

The second special move is that it can capture pieces using a special move called en passant.

Related article: What is the point of en passant in the game of chess?

When you are using an online chess app just like this you will be asked to choose which piece you want to promote your pawn.

Pawn's third special move is promotion – pawns can turn into any chess pieces of its same color except for King if it reaches the board's last opposite rank.

Now that you know the basic moves and special moves of each chess piece – I would like to share some of each piece's meaning.

What does each chess piece mean?

There are some interesting stories and facts about what each chess piece means. In this section, we are going to learn about them.

You might want to learn about this so you can teach them to your friends… 😉

When I was studying chess during my younger years, I already have an idea of what the game of chess and each chess piece means…

I always thought of the chessboard as the battleground, and the white and black pieces represent a Kingdom.

Now here is where all the pieces come together.

Wooden chess board with chess pieces
Pawns, Rooks, Knights, Bishops, Queens and Kings board setup

Let me share my thoughts and ideas about the meaning of each chess piece.

What is the meaning of the Pawn in chess?

Chess players have eight pawns each, and it is a fact that a kingdom needs laborers or workers, but in this case, the pawns can also represent the frontline soldiers.

I consider them the bravest, and each of the pawns has a chance to become a high-rank official, just like in the real world. If they do their job well, they can get promoted and can win the game of chess.

What is the meaning of the Rook in chess?

For me, the Rook looks like the tower of the castle; if you look at a real-life castle, there are towers where archers can be positioned and attack.

The archers from the tower can make long-range and attack in their front, back, and side, just like the Rook's move in a chess game.

I always like the Rooks because they are really powerful, for me, and you can still win the game if you have two Rooks against a Queen and King.

What is the meaning of Knight in chess?

The Knight also referred to as a horse, is considered a professional soldier. It is called a Knight, just like a soldier in medieval times where a Knight is an elite soldier bound to protect the King.

I like to imagine the Knight in chess as a guy riding a horse. Knight is important in the game of chess as it is the only chess piece that can jump over any chess piece.

What is the meaning of Bishop in chess?

The Bishop in chess, according to experts, represents the church or religious entity. The meaning of Bishop is referred to as a senior member of the Christian clergy if we search the dictionary.

I imagine Bishop in chess as a person holding a staff that is considered holy.

What is the meaning of Queen and King in chess?

Well, in chess, the King is the most important piece on the board, and in real life, that is true at the same time; it is very powerful as a ruler of a particular Kingdom. However, in chess, the King's moves are considered weak.

Compared to the Queen in chess, which has the power of the Rook and Bishop. Queens in real life are rulers as well, and considered to be powerful too!

Which chess pieces are most valuable?

The most valuable chess pieces are the queen with 9 points and rooks with 5 points, the king and bishop both have a value of 3 points! The king does not have any value since the goal is to checkmate the king and can never be captured!

What are the equipment used in chess?

The main equipment in chess are the chess board which can be a silicone board, a wooden chess board, a plastic chess board or a magnetic chess board. The other equipment used in chess are the different chess pieces, and you can also have a chess clock if you want to play like the pros!

Other useful equipment used in chess is the chess score book or chess score sheets!

Wrapping Up

There you go, you've just learned the chess moves, names even saw the pictures of each chess piece, including its meaning.

I made this article for beginners in mind, but this can be very useful as a reference for special moves and interesting meanings of the chess pieces you are playing.

Remember there are 16 chess pieces on each side, and they consist of only 6 different types of chess pieces – king, queen, pawn, rook, knight and bishop!

A complete chess set will include 2 kings, 2 queens, 16 pawns, 4 rooks, 4 knights, and 4 bishops which will total 32 chess pieces.

Now that you know all the chess pieces, and you learn more information about the chess pieces — I suggest you start playing chess with your friends using your chess equipments, or you can also play online like me in this website.

If you are playing chess online, you must also be familiar with each chess piece's image or symbol. You don't want to commit any blunder just because you thought the King is a Queen… lol! 

If you want to learn more about some chess guides, you can check out this page

I hope you learned something new; if you want to share this with your friends or family who want to learn chess, I would very much appreciate it! Enjoy learning chess!

Gary Flores

Hi there! I'm a dad with kids who loves to learn how to play chess by learning online - also, this is my way of refreshing my knowledge about this game of tactics & strategy. I created chessdelights.com to inspire people who are also learning, re-learning or teaching their kids the game of chess.
Pro Chess Players Study These Checkmate Traps!

Download your playbook to play traps like a pro! In this playbook, you will learn traps you can play with popular chess openings! King's Gambit ,Caro-Kann Defense, Italian Game, Ruy Lopez Opening and more...

Download The FREE Playbook

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Chess pieces names, functions, equi...
Chess pieces names, functions, equipments & more