Chess Pieces: Every Important Thing You Need To Know

By Gary Flores •  Last Updated: 1 week ago •  10 min read

Chess pieces come in a wide variety of styles, and if you're just learning the game and are unfamiliar with the standard ones, it can be very confusing. I've always had regular or standard chess pieces at home, though I've always fancied collecting themed sets.

So, what exactly are chess pieces? These are the pieces you use to play the game of chess. There are 32 game pieces that come with your chessboard; sixteen pawns, two kings, two queens, four bishops, four knights, and four rooks. Then you set up 16 pieces on each side of the board, to start playing the game.

Now that you know what chess pieces are, let's go over how they look in real life and how they're shown in books and on the internet. We'll also show you the basic board set up, how each piece moves, how many points each piece is worth, what their names mean historically, and other details I've learned over the years.

Chess pieces table reference

Most beginners have not seen or are unfamiliar with the pieces and symbols you may find when reading chess books or playing online. So, here is a table that lists the names of each chess piece, pictures, and the symbols that go with them.

chess pieces table reference

In the following sections, we will explore the important details of each piece, but first, we will look at how they are set up.

The Set up

To avoid making an error in putting up your pieces, start placing the white pieces where the number 1 is printed. If your chessboard does not have letters or numbers printed on the board, you can follow the setup below and remember that there should be a white square at the bottom right of your board.

Here is a visual representation of how the chess pieces are arranged on a chessboard.

chess board setup

I recommend reading this article that explains all the important details of setting up a board.

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1. The Pawn

The pawn is the smallest, most numerous, and widely regarded as the weakest of all the chess pieces and is valued or worth one point. I have, however, played many games where I both won and lost because of the pawns' superior number and occasionally because of their possibility of becoming other pieces. This indicates that the pawn can be quite strong in a game, depending on how you use it.

How does the pawn move?

All pawns can move either two squares or one square from their starting position. If the player chooses to move the pawn one square from its starting position, it can only move forward one square from that point on.

So, it's important to know that pawns can move two squares at the starting position and another thing you should know about pawns is that they capture diagonally.

When using a pawn to capture another piece, you should move it diagonally one square forward (see image below).

Learn more about pawn moves.

Meaning of pawn in chess

Pawns can be laborers or workers, and in chess, the pawns can also represent frontline soldiers or low-ranking soldiers.

Low-ranking soldiers can become high-ranking officials and, like chess pawns, they can also be promoted and win the game.

Read more about what is pawn promotion.

Different languages for pawn

Here are some lists of different languages for pawns.

LanguageTranslation for Pawn
AfrikaansPion
ArabicBaydaq
ChineseDiǎndàng
EstonianEttur
FinnishSotilas
GermanVerpfänden
HindiMohara
IndonesianBidak
JapanesePōn
KoreanPon

2. The Rook

The rook is the second most powerful piece on the board with a value of 5 points. It is undeniable that the rook is a powerful piece, but if not developed properly, it can be rendered ineffective due to its position in the corners of the board. And the fact that numerous pieces block it – in order to free the rook, you must move and develop the other pieces first, and a special move such as castling will speed up its development.

How does the rook move?

Rooks can easily trap or checkmate a king in the endgame, and their range allows you to cover many squares. You can easily win a game with your King versus your opponent's King, even with only one rook instead of two.

The rook does not move or capture diagonally, but it can move backwards on ranks and files horizontally or vertically (see image below).

Learn more about rook moves.

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.

Meaning of 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.

Rooks are my favorite piece since, in my opinion, they are really powerful and you can still win with two Rooks against a Queen and King.

Different languages for rook

Here are some lists of different languages for rooks.

LanguageTranslation for Rook
AfrikaansToring
ArabicYakhdae
ChineseChē
EstonianVanker
FinnishTorni
GermanTurm
HindiKaua
IndonesianBenteng
JapaneseRūku
KoreanSagikkun

3. The Knight

The knight or horse is a chess piece that can jump over other chess pieces and is valued or worth 3 points. What I like about the knight is that it is so powerful and useful in closed games, and if you know how to use it well, you can inflict a lot of damage on your opponent even launch double- or triple-attacks.

If you want a chess piece that moves differently from the rest, then the knight is your go-to chess piece. 🙂

How does the knight move?

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.

Learn more about knight moves.

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.

Different languages for knight

Here are some lists of different languages for knight.

LanguageTranslation for Knight
AfrikaansRidder
ArabicFaris
ChineseQíshì
EstonianRüütel
FinnishRitari
GermanRitter
HindiShooraveer
IndonesianKsatria
JapaneseKishi
KoreanGisa

4. The Bishop

The bishop is a long-range chess piece and is valued or worth 3 points, just like the knight. However, unlike the knight, bishops are weak in closed games but extremely strong in open games. Many players may swap their bishop for a knight, yet former world chess champion J.R. Capablanca believes that the bishop is a better piece than the knight.

You can also check this article about bishop vs knight.

How does the bishop move?

There are so many tactics and strategies you can do with the bishop, especially if you have both bishops which means you have control over the light and dark squares.

The bishop can only move on the color of the square where it is placed and can only move diagonally.(see image below).

Learn more about bishop moves.

Meaning of bishop in chess

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

Different languages for bishop

Here are some lists of different languages for bishop.

LanguageTranslation for Bishop
AfrikaansBiskop
Arabic‘Usquf
ChineseZhǔjiào
EstonianPiiskop
FinnishPiispa
GermanBischof
HindiBishap
IndonesianUskup
JapaneseShikyō
KoreanJugyo

5. The Queen

The queen is the most powerful piece in chess, with a value of nine points. My simplest victory in chess always comes when I capture my opponent's queen, and I still have mine. This is due to the fact that the queen can make most of the moves of a bishop and a rook which can quickly wreak havoc, resulting in an easy win.

How does the queen move?

The queen can move on different squares diagonally, horizontally and vertically on different color of squares and can move backwards too (see image below). In endgames, it's easy to checkmate the other player's king if you have the queen.

Learn more about queen moves.

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!

Meaning of queen in chess

The Queen in chess has the power of the Rook and Bishop. Queens in real life are rulers as well and are considered to be powerful.

Different languages for queen

Here are some lists of different languages for queen.

LanguageTranslation for Queen
AfrikaansKoningin
ArabicMalaka
ChineseNǚwáng
EstonianKuninganna
FinnishKuningatar
GermanKönigin
HindiRaanee
IndonesianRatu
JapaneseJoō
KoreanKwin

6. The King

The king is the piece in chess that if gets trapped and can't move or have nowhere to go, can cause the game to end – what we refer to as checkmate. Which makes the king the most important piece on the board that doesn't have value or points.

The king is the only piece that cannot be captured or removed from the board. That's why the game automatically ends when the king is checkmate.

How does the king move?

So, the ultimate goal of the king is to avoid getting checkmate, but that does not mean the king cannot attack a piece. The king can attack a piece, especially when it comes to endgames; the king can be very powerful.

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 its opponent can check.

Learn more about king moves.

Meaning of 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.

Different languages for king

Here are some lists of different languages for king.

LanguageTranslation for King
AfrikaansKoning
ArabicMlik
ChineseGuówáng
EstonianKuningas
FinnishKuningas
GermanKönig
HindiRaaja
IndonesianRaja
JapaneseŌ
KoreanWang

Frequently Asked Questions

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

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.

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

Gary is a chess enthusiast and has three children who also enjoy learning the game. He is a co-author of the "Chess Fundamentals" book's ChessDelights Edition. He founded ChessDelights.com in order to brush up on his understanding of this tactic and strategy game. He also enjoys encouraging those who are learning, re-learning, or instructing their children in the game of chess.
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