Chess Basics

How the Chess Pieces Move

chess moves

When playing chess for the first time, chess newbies think that the rook can move in a diagonal direction. A classic rook-ie mistake. Yes, laugh now, but the look on the face of a pro seeing someone doing such a chess move is priceless.

Let’s do a quicker-than-making-a-coffee-order history lesson.

The exact origin of chess dates back to India more than two millennia ago. See, that was faster than ordering a macchiato with cream on top, buttermilk caramel, two cinnamon biscuits sticks, and warm milk, no hot.

Now, get your “coffee” to talk about the game.

Learning names of pieces and how chess pieces move is vital to understanding the game. Chess has rules. But what will happen if a person and Bobby Fisher go to a restaurant with checked tablecloths? 

It does not mean that if he asks for the salt, it will be two hours until it reaches the other side of the table.

It is important to know how a chess piece moves to be able to play the game, thus it is necessary to know how they move. 

The most complex pieces to learn the movement are knights and pawns.     

Each player has exactly 16 pieces:

  • 1 King;
  • 1 Queen;
  • 2 Rooks;
  • 2 Bishops;
  • 2 Knights;
  • 8 Pawns.

The objective in a game of chess is to beat the king through “checkmate”. Now let’s play ball… sorry, chess. 

The first player to move is the one who has chosen the light-coloured pieces. Now you need to find out how the pieces move in chess. Yes, daunting at first, but there is nothing special about it.

Each figure has a trajectory. Their paths are simple and easy to remember. In a basic move, there are pieces unable to go through others. Before making a move, you should think about how and what piece to place to defend the territory or capture the opponents in the next move.


For a successful game, it is not enough to know the main points about how the pieces move in chess. The king is both very important, as in VIP, and the weak link. It can move only one square but in any direction. However, it cannot stand on the square that is already in “check”.

It is the largest piece in chess and moves one square at a time, in all directions. The king is like the game “capture the flag”. It is the one that no one can capture. Its value? The game.


The queen is the most powerful. Like the king, it moves in any direction. It can move through any number of cells, but without jumping over other pieces. Its value is 10 points.


This is a unique piece that combines the capabilities of the king and queen. It can move through any number of cells, but its moves are vertical or horizontal. The rook can also do castling together with the king. Its value is 5 points.


The bishop is considered a light piece. It can move through any number of squares, but only in a diagonal direction. It is worth noting at the beginning of the game, one bishop occupies a dark cell and the other a light one. They cannot change the original color in any way. Each player has two pieces that can move and capture an opponent’s piece in both the dark and light squares. Its value is 3 points. 


The only combat unit in chess is the knight. It can jump over the rest of the pieces (well, it’s a horse, a newbie might say). The cavalry moves in an L-shape fashion, so its movement is limited. 

The knight can move two squares vertically and one square horizontally, and it doesn’t matter their sequence or the direction. Since the knight is able to jump over other pieces, it can “check” the king. This can put the royal in a no-escape position. Its value is 3 points.


Most people know which pieces move first in chess. But there are more complexities in their “walking” style. It can move only a single square in a forward direction and only one diagonally.  On the first move, the pawn can advance a couple of squares. It does not move backward. The pawn has no chance to beat a piece or make a move until the place in front of it is free.

It is the bravest piece in chess. It goes forward and never goes back. To capture a pawn the attacking piece does it diagonally. Its value is 1 point.


At first glance, the pawn seems like a worthless piece. But it has an interesting feature that only experienced gamers know about. If a pawn reaches the opposite side, it becomes any other piece of a higher value. Only the pawn can do this and, as a rule, it becomes a queen.


This means performing two important actions in one move. Move one: secure the king, and two, remove the rook from the corner. The rook in this case acts as a bodyguard. 


The main task of the players is to “checkmate” the opponent’s king. This will finish the game when the main piece is under threat of “check” and cannot be easily avoided. 

If there is no opportunity for an escape, then the king finds himself in the “checkmate” situation and the game is over. The king doesn’t leave the board, as it is done with captured pieces, but rather the game is simply over.


Very often, a draw decides the end of the game. This can happen if there are not enough pieces on the board to checkmate or the usual consent of both players to a draw. Other textbook rules apply to declare a draw. 

Up to this “end of the board” a new player is now able to identify the pieces and how they move. Together with piece-specific moves important in the game. Now, make sure the salt container is shaped like a bishop, a queen, or a rook; in case the chess grandmaster attends dinner and the tablecloth is checkered.

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