Useful Chess Terms And Chess Moves You Need To Know

chess terms

There are some chess terms that beginners wouldn’t know what it means…   And sometimes my daughter will ask me some chess names or chess moves that I’m not familiar or sure about either.  

So, I gathered some chess terms that I wanted to know myself like Zugzwang or Zwischenzug (don’t even know how to say that…lol) and I believe will benefit you as well.  

Below are some quick guides about useful chess terms and chess moves you should know.

Useful chess terms and chess moves you need to know briefly explained (alphabetical order)

Check out this recommended article:
Practice your chess tricks skills here

Back-Rank Checkmate

I’ve seen this type of checkmate very often, especially with beginners (and average chess players like me) but I did not know that there was a chess term regarding this one… πŸ™‚  

I do know that there is a checkmate at the Back rank, but I did not realize that Back-Rank Checkmate refers to checkmate by a Queen or a Rook.  

Back-Rank Checkmate means that a King has been checkmated horizontally by either your Queen or a Rook.  

The most common Back-Rank checkmate happens when the King is trapped by its pawn. That is why I do practice opening my last pawn (usually at the Kingside) after getting into Kingside castling.  

This can prevent being trapped by your pawn.

Also read: What happens in chess when you don’t say check?

Backward Pawn

Backward Pawn is considered to be a weak pawn…   But…   This type of pawn has its advantage, and I believe an active player knows how to work with Backward Pawn.  

A Backward Pawn means that it cannot safely move or advance without being easily attacked by an enemy pawn, and what happens is this type of pawn can be very difficult to protect by its same color pawn.  

It is indeed a weak pawn because if you have a backward pawn, your opponent can easily apply pressure on it and can be very difficult to protect.  

The other thing you need to keep in mind is that backward pawn can also be very difficult to attack, only if you have made the structure or positioning very difficult to break or attacked.

Blunder

They say that this can be explained with regards to a different type of chess players.  

A Blunder is a tactical error, a miscalculation of move or something that is not expected to happen in chess because maybe with some constraints on the part of the chess player who committed the blunder.  

If a chess player is a Grand Master and commits a simple miscalculation of chess moves, then that could be considered a blunder because we don’t usually expect a Grand Master to make a simple blunder.  

That is one type of chess player if its a Grand Master who commits an error then they can say that its a blunder.  

But…  

What if a Blunder happens with a novice or someone who is just learning chess game, then that could only be a weak player or someone who doesn’t have the right skill set, can we consider that as a blunder? What do you think?  

To make it easy to understand, let’s say that a Blunder is a wrong move that will lead to a definite loss of the game.  

When we trace or simulate a chess game, there will always be that one Blunder move that causes a chess player to lose the game.

Castling

This is a special move where the King and Rook makes a move called castling.  

It is believed that the purpose of creating the castling move is to speed up the game, maybe by letting the Rook move out of its initial position.   This castling move puts the King on a more safer place.  

Castling can be done either on the Kingside or the Queenside, when castling on the Kingside the King moves two squares towards the Rook, and then the Rook on the Kingside will position on the opposite side of the King.  

When castling on the Queenside, the King moves two squares toward the Rook, and then the Rook moves on the opposite side of the King.

(You may also like to read this article: Can you get out of check by castling? )

Check

One of the most important rules in chess is the word “Check”…   This means that your King is in danger, and you need to protect it or save it.  

A check can be achieved, for example, if your opponents directly attack your King. When this happens to you during a game, you then need to put your King to safety no matter what immediately.  

If your King can no longer move to safety, then your King has been checkmated.

Checkmate

This another important rule in chess, this is the main objective or goal of the game wherein you can capture the King.  

Not exactly but the game is over when you hear the word “Checkmate”…  

When you checkmate your opponent, it means the King can no longer move to safety; there are no legal moves left.  

The chess game can end with a checkmate in any stage of the game.

Chess Combination

Chess combination or combination is like a combo of moves…   Usually, lethal moves that can give you an advantage or win over your opponent in chess.  

The combination can be initiated by sacrifice and what usually happens is that your opponent seems like to have no other choice but to go through the sequence or combination that you have planned.  

This can be very exciting to watch, and if you want to do this, you need to have at least foreseen a three move combination (depending on the chess positions it can even be more than three).  

The combination can happen through great forks tactics, smart pin tactics, incredible sacrifices, and other brilliant chess tactics.  

The important thing you need to remember is that chess combination or combination when properly executed should always lead to your main objective, either a material advantage, a draw may be or even a forced checkmate.

Chess Endgame

This is the part of the chess game where only a few chess pieces are left on the board, and if you are following the game, you can already predict who is going to win the game.  

Chess Endgame has been described in a lot of different ways, but the only thing you need to know about chess endgame is that it is the most crucial part of the game.  

The chess endgame should be studied well by chess players, because no matter how good your chess opening moves or middle game strategies if you don’t have a sound knowledge about chess endgame, then it’s not impossible to make losing moves in your chess endgame.

Chess Opening

This is where it all starts, and the chess opening is one of the most studied parts of the chess game…  

There are several chess openings you can learn and practice on your own.   A chess opening is essential to learn because this will set the stage for a successful plan of attack.

Most chess players study the most popular chess openings for white and master it during their early stage of learning chess.  

A better idea is to learn chess openings for both white and black when you have an excellent foundation about chess opening then you have a good headstart compared to other chess players who only study chess opening for white.  

Chess opening can be defined as the control over the center of the board, giving adequate access to your minor chess pieces and making sure that your King will not be easily attacked during the opening game.

You may also be interested in learning “chess notations” click the link to check it out!

Closed Game

Chess experts say that games are also determined by the pawn structure…  

The closed game means that your pawns can no longer move because the pawns are being stopped or blocked by opponent’s chess pieces or mainly your opponent’s pawns…  

Also, you will notice that in a closed game, not only the pawns have difficult mobility of movement, but you will find almost all your chess pieces cannot achieve full mobility in the board.  

They say that type of game is a closed game.   Typically, a chess player tries to break a closed game by sacrificing or making several exchanges.  

You need to study excellent closed game chess matches, that will help you to have an excellent grasp on how to play with a closed game in chess.

Deflection

Most of the time when you play chess games you are trying to occupy an important square or trying to remove your opponent’s chess piece on a square that you think is going to help you win the game.  

That type of tactic is called Deflection or Chess Deflection…   You try to remove or force your opponent’s chess piece to move, and by doing so, you have the opportunity to advance.  

Sometimes it happens that your opponent when deflected will expose the King, your opponent will lose a valuable chess piece, or even a forced checkmate can occur.  

When the opportunity to deflect your opponents move appears, most of the time you are going to give up a lot of your material to gain an advantage.

Discovered Attack

A definition of Discovered Attack is that moving a chess piece to reveal a check or an attack to your opponent.  

This is a really powerful move because the chess piece that you move can also create another attack, thus having a double attack or simultaneous attack.  

Discovered Attack can be very devastating to your opponent and can also determine the result of a chess game.  

Usually, this happens with an attack to your King, a check that forces your King to be immediately placed on a safety mode.

A smarter move will be to use the other chess piece to move into a more useful square and continue advancing to a material advantage or even a forced checkmate.

Double Check

You can simply look at Double Check as a single chess move but attacking your King simultaneously.  

The King will be under check by to chess pieces. And the only way to escape the check is to move the King.  

The King will be forced to move since two chess pieces are attacking the King; you cannot block the check of one chess pieces and not blocking the other chess pieces.  

Double Check cannot be stopped by capturing one attacking chess piece, that is why the only move is your King should be out of the way of a check from the two chess pieces.  

Double check does not occur too often in popular games, but when this happens, it’s either to gain a material advantage or force a checkmate.

Doubled Pawns

When you capture a chess piece with your pawn, and your pawn ends up in front or behind another pawn with the same color, then you have intentionally or unintentionally created Doubled Pawns.  

Is this going to be good or bad?   Well, since Double Pawns are two pawns positioned in the same file, some chess experts say that it is not a strong pawn structure and should be avoided.  

I guess that is true in some scenarios, but I’ve read from other chess experts that Doubled Pawns are neither good or bad; it depends on the structure of your chess pieces.  

Sometimes it can be the reason that your King got exposed or sometimes it can also be a helpful pawn structure in protecting an important square in your game.

Draw

They say that a Draw or Chess Draw is not very common for beginners or even average players (like me)…   Chess Draw is part of chess where the game has come to a halt, or the game can no longer be continued because of several legal reasons.  

The game can be a draw when both chess players agree to discontinue the game, or the game is tied.  

The game can also be a draw when there is no legal move to be taken by either of the players or when specific rules such as Fifty-move rule or

Threefold repetition has occurred during a game.   In a competitive chess game if the game is a draw both chess players will get 1/2 points each.

En Passant

This is a special move by pawn, but with special conditions as well…  

This is a type of pawn capture can only happen to a pawn that moves two squares from its starting position, and an adjacent enemy pawn captures that pawn as if it the captured pawn only moved one square.  

En passant was created for that purpose alone, to have a counter over the two square moves of a pawn from its starting position.

Exchange

Chess Exchange, when defined means that its a sequence of trade where both chess players exchange pieces for a better position or a material advantage…  

If you can exchange a minor chess piece for a Rook for example, then you can consider your chess exchange successful.  

The problem may be realized later on when the exchange for a Rook was deliberate, and you have fallen for a chess trap.  

When we speak about exchange or chess exchange, we cannot include the King; we cannot trade a King with any other chess pieces.   Exchange is only legal with the other chess pieces except for your King.

Fianchetto

This is a chess move where the Bishop and Pawn in “b and g” files are involved…  

Fianchetto is an Italian word that means the development of a Bishop by moving it one square to its diagonal position.  

The important usage of Fianchetto is that it attacks the center square of the chess board, and Fianchetto of a Bishop serves two purposes, attack and defend at the same time.  

One of the problems of a Fianchetto is when the diagonal is blocked by your chess piece or your opponent’s chess pieces.

Flank Opening

Chess Flank Opening is typically being played by a white chess player, and the move is not the usual e4 and d4 move…   The Flank Opening is playing against the sides of the “e and d” file or moving your chess pieces usually a pawn on the bottom of the centersquares.  

It’s like you are trying to attack the center square instead of occupying the central square using your first move.  

You will notice that this type of plays can be seen from Grand Master levels or very competitive chess players.  

Novice or beginner chess players don’t use this type of opening – for me it’s good to have an idea about flank openings when I teach my daughter, but we stick to the familiar opening for now.

Gambit

You might be familiar with this type of openings; you will see this type of openings with white using the Queen’s Gambit or King’s Gambit…  

Gambit is an Italian word that means “to trip,” and when used in chess this means a chess move that offers sacrifice in the opening move usually sacrificing a pawn, for the sake of gaining a positional advantage.  

There are other advantages to offering a Gambit.   Chess experts say that a Gambit especially if taken or accepted makes your opponent focus on the material advantage and wasting efforts to hold on to that advantage, while you develop your chess pieces faster and plan an attack.

Half-Open File

This is a file that has only one pawn; it can either be a Black Pawn or White Pawn…  

There is only one pawn on a particular file and pressure, or attack can be applied usually by a Rook or a Queen to that pawn.  

So, when we say Half-Open File, there is only one pawn, and the other pawn on that file has been either captured or has captured a chess piece and transferred to another file.

Isolated Pawns

This type of pawn is truly alone in the chess board; there are no pawns on each side of the file for an Isolated Pawns…  

Considered to be a weakness since different attacks can be applied, and chess pieces can use the front square of an Isolated Pawns to become an outpost without being attacked by another pawn.  

Worse Isolated Pawn is the one in a Half-Open File, definitely vulnerable for an attack.

Open File

This file means that there are no chess pieces (pawns) on this file…   This can be taken advantage by either chess players to provide a plan of attack or for better positioning of its chess pieces.  

This is a place where Rook or Queen should be positioned, and it would be very advantageous for you.

If you were able to position your Rook or Queen on an open file, then it will be able to limit the movement of your opponent on that particular open file.

Opposition

This happens with the two Kings; they are just one square apart facing each other…   This happens in an end game usually.  

Opposition means that with the two Kings, whoever does not move has the opposition. If it’s your turn to move, then your opponent has the opposition.  

You can see this with a Pawn plus King against King; opposition can determine who wins in a Pawn and King end game.

Outpost

I’ve encountered this a lot; it’s when you have your opponent’s chess piece positioned on a square and its very difficult to attack.  

Outpost is an excellent strategy that you can use with a Knight and with a pawn that can protect it, and the only way your opponent can remove the outpost is to have a material exchange.  

Useful outpost can be seen in a 4th or 7th rank, this is an excellent spacial advantage, and it gives a lot of pressure to your opponent.

Overloading

It pertains to a chess piece that has at least two purposes in a particular game…   This chess piece, for example, is defending two or more chess pieces, then you can consider that as an Overloading (sometimes called overworked chess piece).  

Overloading can be exploited using attacking the other chess piece that its protecting and then you will be able to capture the other for example.

Passed Pawn

When you are playing in the end game, and you want any of your pawn to be promoted…  

Then you might want to learn about the term Passed Pawn; it is a pawn that has the chance to get promoted because there is no other opposing chess piece that can stop it from getting promoted.  

This can happen with pawn exchanges with your opponent, and learning the right moves for pawn exchanges can help you find your Passed Pawn.

Perpetual Check

This is a check which is unending; this is covered in the Fifty-move rule of chess.  

When your opponent gives you a series of checks, and you cannot do anything about it then you have fallen to Perpetual Check.  

Perpetual Check if not avoided, will be considered a draw.

Pin

When you have a chess piece that is being attacked, and if you try to move that chess piece away, you will give up a more valuable chess piece.  

This commonly occurs with a Knight and a King, when your opponents attack your Knight with a Bishop and moving your Knight will expose the King, that is a Pin.  

In that example, the Bishop is the one pinning the Knight to its King.

Skewer

It’s attacking two chess pieces that are in one line diagonally, vertically or horizontally…  

Yes, just like a Pin attack, but the only difference is that the chess pieces and its importance, the Skewer attack attacks two chess pieces, but the chess piece in front of the attack is more important than the chess piece behind it.  

For example a Skewer by your Bishop against your opponents King (in front) and a Knight (behind the King). Of course, the more valuable chess piece is the King. You are forced to move the King, exposing the Knight.

Stalemate

An exciting end of a game is a draw by stalemate…  

A stalemate is a form of a draw that puts a King to a peculiar situation where the King can no longer make any legal move, but it is not under check.  

This happens most of the time in an end game, and most common examples are pawns and two Kings.

Tempo

This relates to a chess move but also depends on the type of movement you or your opponent makes…  

When you waste a move or your opponent force you to move a chess piece that is not your original plan that moves of that player is said to “lose a tempo.”  

But when you make a move and creates an attack or another useful counter, then you have “gain a tempo.”  

Depending on your move, chess tempo is a term that represents a result of a good or bad movement of your chess pieces.

Zugzwang

A Zugzwang is a type of move that you would want to pass or a move that will cause you to lose the chess game.  

The best example would be during an end game, and your opponent is about to promote its pawn, and you have no choice but to move your King away from the promoting square because you don’t have any other move to make.  

In other words, you are forced to move your chess piece and end up in a losing position.

Zwischenzug

This is another type of move that forces you to move because of an immediate threat, even if you are already attacking your opponent’s chess piece (not the King) with another danger as well…  

If your opponent, for example, attacked your Queen and it is attempting to capture your Queen, instead of moving the Queen to a safe square, which is what your opponent thinks you are supposed to do…  

You then make a check to your opponent’s King, which is an immediate threat and forces your opponent to move the King to safety.  

After your opponent moves the King to safety, then you move your Queen to safety or a better position, they call it Zwischenzug.

Do check out our article about “chess positions

Wrapping Up

Those are some chess terms, or chess names and chess moves that are fun to know when you are just starting or trying to learn chess again.  

Some of the terms above, I haven’t known till now, that is why I added some brief explanation to find out… πŸ™‚  

Now, I understand some of the chess terms that some chess experts are using during a game, and I hope you were able to learn something new today.

If you know other terms that I should add in this article, please leave your comment below.   Would love to learn other chess names, and chess moves from you as well… πŸ™‚

Hey! don’t forget to check out our chess recommendations here, thanks!

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.

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