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Chess piece

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Title: Chess piece  
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Subject: Bishop (chess), Knight (chess), Pawn (chess), Queen (chess), Chess
Collection: Chess Pieces, Chess Sets
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Chess piece

Original Staunton chess pieces, left to right: pawn, rook, knight, bishop, queen, and king
Chess pieces

A chess piece, or chessman, is any of the 32 movable objects deployed on a chessboard used to play the game of chess. In a standard game of chess, each of the two players begins a game with the following 16 pieces:

In playing chess, the players take turns moving one of their own chess pieces. The rules of chess prescribe the types of move a player can make with each type of chess piece.

The pieces that belong to each player are distinguished by color. The lighter colored pieces, and the player that plays them, are referred to as white. The darker colored pieces and their player are referred to as black.


  • Terminology 1
  • Moves of the pieces 2
  • Chess sets 3
    • Table sets 3.1
    • Pocket and travel sets 3.2
    • Computer images 3.3
  • Relative value 4
  • Piece names 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


In chess, the word "piece" has three meanings, depending on the context.

  1. It may mean any of the physical pieces of the set, including the pawns. When used this way, "piece" is synonymous with "chessman" (Hooper & Whyld 1992:307) or simply "man" (Hooper & Whyld 1987:200).
  2. In play, the term is usually used to exclude pawns, referring only to a queen, rook, bishop, knight, or king. In this context, the pieces can be broken down into three groups: major pieces (queen and rook), minor pieces (bishop and knight), and the king (Brace 1977:220).
  3. In phrases such as "winning a piece", "losing a piece" or "sacrificing a piece", it refers only to a bishop or knight. The queen, rook, and pawn are specified by name in these cases, for example, "winning a queen", "losing a rook", or "sacrificing a pawn" (Just & Burg 2003:5).

The context should make the intended meaning clear (Burgess 2009:523) (Hooper & Whyld 1992:307).

Moves of the pieces

a b c d e f g h
a8 black rook
b8 black knight
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
g8 black knight
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
e7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
d2 white pawn
e2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
d1 white queen
e1 white king
f1 white bishop
g1 white knight
h1 white rook
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Chess starting position. Squares are referenced using algebraic notation.

Each piece type moves in a different way.

  • The rook moves any number of vacant squares forwards, backwards, left, or right in a straight line. It also takes part, along with the king, in a special move called castling.
  • The bishop moves any number of vacant squares diagonally in a straight line. 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 moves any number of vacant squares in any direction: forwards, backwards, left, right, or diagonally, in a straight line.
  • The king moves exactly one vacant square in any direction: forwards, backwards, left, right, or diagonally. It can also castle in conjunction with a rook.
  • The knight moves on an extended diagonal from one corner of any 2×3 rectangle of squares to the furthest opposite corner. Consequently, the knight alternates its square color each time it moves. The knight is the only piece that jumps over any intervening piece(s) when moving (castling being the only special instance in which pieces jump over one another).
  • The pawn moves forward exactly one space, or optionally, two spaces when on its starting square, toward the opponent's side of the board. When there is an enemy piece one square diagonally ahead of 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. If the pawn reaches a square on the back rank of the opponent, it promotes to the player's choice of a queen, rook, bishop, or knight (Just & Burg 2003:13–16).

Pieces other than pawns capture in the same way that they move. A capturing piece replaces the opponent piece on its square, except for an en passant capture. Captured pieces are immediately removed from the game. A square may hold only one piece at any given time. Except for castling and the knight's move, no piece may jump over another piece (Just & Burg 2003:13–16).

Chess sets

A St. George style set

Table sets

The variety 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, or modern treatments such as Star Trek or The Simpsons. Themed designs are generally intended for display purposes rather than actual play (Hooper & Whyld 1992:76). Some works of art are designs of chess sets, such as the modernist chess set by chess enthusiast and dadaist Man Ray, that is on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.[1]

Chess pieces used for play are usually figurines that are taller than they are wide. For example, a set of pieces designed for a chessboard with 2.25 inches (57 mm) squares typically have a king around 3.75 inches (95 mm) tall. Chess sets are available in a variety of designs, with the most well-known Staunton design, named after Howard Staunton, a 19th-century English chess player, and designed by Nathaniel Cook. The first Staunton style sets were made in 1849 by Jaques of London (also known as John Jaques of London and Jaques and Son of London) (Just & Burg 2003:225).

Staunton pieces made of rosewood
Staunton pieces made of plastic

Wooden White chess pieces are normally made of a light wood, boxwood, or sometimes maple. Black wooden pieces are made of a dark wood such as rosewood, ebony, red sandalwood, or walnut. Sometimes they are made of boxwood and stained or painted black, brown, or red. Plastic white pieces are made of white or off-white plastic, and plastic black pieces are made of black or red plastic. Sometimes other materials are used, such as bone, ivory, or a composite material (Just & Burg 2003:224,226).

Staunton chess pieces on chess board with chess clock

For actual play, pieces of the Staunton chess set design are standard. The height of the king should be between 3.35 to 4.13 inches (85 to 105 millimetres). United States Chess Federation rules call for a king height between 3.375 and 4.5 inches (86 to 114 mm). A height of about 3.75 to 4 inches (95 to 102 millimetres) is preferred by most players. The diameter of the king should be 40–50% 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 about 1.25–1.3 times the diameter of the base of the king, or 2 to 2.5 inches (51 to 64 millimetres). Squares of about 2.25 inches (57 mm) are normally well suited for pieces with the kings in the preferred size range. These criteria are from the United States Chess Federation's Official Rules of Chess, which is based on the Fédération Internationale des Échecs rules (Just & Burg 2003:224–27).

The Grandmaster Larry Evans offered this advice on buying a set (Evans 1973:18):
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—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.

Pocket and travel sets

Some small magnetic sets, designed to be compact and/or for travel, have pieces more like those used in shogi and xiangqi – each piece being a similar flat token, with a symbol printed on it to identify the piece type.

Computer images

On computers, chess pieces are often 2D symbols on a 2D board, although some programs have 3D graphics engines with more traditional designs of chess pieces.

Unicode contains symbols for chess pieces in both white and black.

Relative value

The value assigned to a piece attempts to represent the potential strength of the piece in the game. As the game develops, the relative values of the pieces will also change. A bishop positioned to control long, open diagonal spaces is usually more valuable than a knight stuck in a corner. Similar ideas apply to placing rooks on open files and knights on active, central squares. The standard valuation is one point for a pawn, three points for a knight or bishop, five points for a rook, and nine points for a queen (Hooper & Whyld 1992:438–39). 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.

Piece names

Language King Queen Rook Bishop Knight Pawn Chess Check Checkmate
figurine ♔ ♚ ♕ ♛ ♖ ♜ ♗ ♝ ♘ ♞ ♙ ♟ ... + #
Afrikaans K Koning D Dame (lady) T Toring (tower) L Loper (runner) R Ruiter (rider) (P) Pion Skaak Skaak Skaakmat
Albanian M Mbreti Msh Mbretëresha (queen) Ku Kulla (tower) O Oficeri (officer) Ka Kali (horse) (U) Ushtari (soldier) Shahu Shah Shah mat
Arabic م مَلِك
malik : king
و وزير
wazïr : vizier
ر رخ/طابية
rukhkh / ṭābiya : fortress/castle
ف فيل
fīl : elephant
ح حصان
ħiṣān : horse
ب بيدق/عسكري
baidaq : pawn / `askarī : soldier
كِش مَلِك
kish malik
كِش مات
kish māt
Armenian Ա
A Ark῾a
T T῾agowhi
N Navak
P P῾ił
Dz Ji
Z Zinvor
Շախմատ (Ճատրակ)
Šaxmat (Čatrak)
Basque E Erregea D Dama G Gaztelua A Alfila Z Zaldula (P) Peoia Xake Xake Xake mate
Belarusian К кароль Вз візыр Лд ладзьдзя А афіцэр В вершнік (Л) латнік Шахматы Шах Мат
Bengali R রাজা
M মন্ত্রী
N নৌকা
H গজ/হাতি
G ঘোড়া
B বোড়া/সৈন্য/পেয়াদা
দাবা (daba) কিস্তি
Bulgarian Ц цар (king) Д дама (lady) Т топ (cannon) О офицер (officer) К кон (horse) (П) пешка Шахмат/Шах Шах (Шах и) мат
Catalan R rei D dama/reina (lady/queen) T torre (tower) A alfil C cavall (horse) (P) peó Escacs Escac/Xec Escac i mat
Chinese K
(Wáng, king)
(Hòu, queen)
(, chariot)
(Xiàng, elephant)
(, horse)
(Bīng, soldier)
(Guójì Xiàngqí)
(Jiāngjūn, general)
(Jiāngsǐ, checkmate)
Czech K král (king) D dáma (lady) V věž (tower) S střelec (shooter) J jezdec (rider) (P) pěšec (foot soldier) Šachy Šach Mat
Danish K konge (king) D dronning (queen) T tårn (tower) L løber (runner) S springer (jumper) (B) bonde (peasant) Skak Skak Skakmat
Dutch K koning (king) D dame/koningin (lady/queen) T toren/kasteel (tower/castle) L loper/raadsheer (runner/counsellor) P paard (horse) (pi) pion Schaken Schaak Mat/Schaakmat
English K king Q queen R rook B bishop N/Kt knight (P) pawn Chess Check Checkmate
Esperanto R reĝo (king) D damo (lady) T turo (tower) K kuriero (courier) Ĉ ĉevalo (horse) (P) peono Ŝako Ŝak Ŝakmato
Estonian K kuningas (king) L lipp V vanker O oda R ratsu (E) ettur Male Tuli Matt
Finnish K kuningas (king) D daami/kuningatar (lady/queen) T torni (tower) L lähetti (messenger) R ratsu (horse) (S) sotilas (soldier) Shakki Shakki Matti/Shakkimatti
French R roi (king) D dame (lady) T tour (tower) F fou (jester) C cavalier (rider) (P) pion Échecs Échec Échec et mat





ჭადრაკი (Čadraki) ქიში
German K König (king) D Dame (lady) T Turm (tower) L Läufer (runner) S Springer/Pferd (jumper/horse) (B) Bauer (peasant) Schach Schach Matt/Schachmatt
Greek Ρ βασιλιάς Β βασίλισσα Π πύργος Α αξιωματικός Ι ίππος (Σ) πιόνι Σκάκι Σαχ Mάτ
Hebrew מ מלך מה מלכה צ צריח ר רץ פ פרש רגלי שחמט שח מט
Hindi R राजा
rājā (king)
V वज़ीर
vazīr (vizir)
H हाथी
hāthī (elephant)
O ऊँट
ūṁṭ (camel)
G घोड़ा
ghoṛā (horse)
(P) प्यादा
pyādā (infantryman)
Hungarian K király (king) V vezér/királynõ (commander/queen) B bástya (bastion) F futó (runner) H huszár/ló (hussar/horse) (Gy) gyalog/paraszt (footman/peasant) Sakk Sakk Matt
Icelandic K kóngur (king) D drottning (queen) H hrókur B biskup (bishop) R riddari (knight) (P) peð Skák Skák Skák og mát
Indonesian R raja (king) M menteri (minister/vizier) B benteng (castle/fortress) G gajah (elephant) K kuda (horse) (P) pion Catur Skak Skak mati
Irish R rí (king) B banríon (queen) C caiseal (bulwark) E easpag (bishop) D ridire (knight) (F) fichillín/ceithearnach Ficheall Sáinn Marbhsháinn
Italian R re (king) D donna (lady) T torre (tower) A alfiere C cavallo (horse) (P) pedone Scacchi Scacco Scacco matto
Japanese K キング (kingu) Q クイーン (kuīn) R ルーク (rūku) B ビショップ (bishoppu) N ナイト (naito) (P) ポーン (pōn) チェス (chesu) 王手/
チェック (chekku)
チェックメイト (chekkumeito)
Korean K 킹 (king) Q 퀸 (kwin) R 룩 (rug) B 비숍 (bi syob) N 나이트 (na i teu) (P) 폰 (pon) 체스 (ce seu) 체크 (ce keu) 체크메이트 (ce keu me i teu)
Latin R rex G regina T turris E episcopus Q eques (P) pedes Scacci Scaccus Mattus
Latvian K karalis D dāma T tornis L laidnis Z zirgs (B) bandinieks Šahs Šahs Šahs un mats
Lithuanian K karalius V valdovė B bokštas R rikis Ž žirgas (P) pėstininkas Šachmatai Šach Matas
Luxembourgish K kinnek D damm T tuerm (tower) L leefer (runner) P päerd (horse) (B) bauer (farmer) Schach Schach Schachmatt
Malayalam K രാജാവ്
Q മന്ത്രി
R തേര്
B ആന
N/Kt കുതിര
(P) കാലാള്‍/പടയാളി
kalal / padayali
ചെക്ക് മേറ്റ്
check mate
Marathi R राजा
V वज़ीर
H हत्ती
O उंट
G घोड़ा
(P) प्यादे
Mongolian Н ноён (lord) Б бэрс (ferz) т тэрэг (chariot) Т тэмээ (camel) М морь (rider) (Х) хүү (paige) Шатар шаг, дуг, цод мад
Norwegian K konge D dronning T tårn L løper S springer (B) bonde Sjakk Sjakk Sjakkmatt
Persian ش شاه و وزیر ق/ر قلعه/رخ ف فیل ا اسب س سرباز شطرنج کیش مات
Polish K król H hetman W wieża G goniec S skoczek (P) pion szachy szach mat (szach-mat / szach i mat)
Portuguese R rei (king) D dama/rainha (lady/queen) T torre (tower) B bispo (bishop) C cavalo (horse) (P) peão Xadrez Xeque Xeque-mate
Romanian R rege D regină T turn N nebun C cal (P) pion Şah Şah Mat
Russian Кр король (king)
Kr korol'
Ф ферзь/королева (from Persian vizier/queen)
F ferz'/koroléva
Л ладья/тура (boat/siege tower)
L ladʹjá/turá
С слон/офицер (elephant/officer)
S slon/oficér
К конь (horse)
K kon'
(П) пешка
P péška
Serbo-Croatian К/K краљ / kralj Д/D краљицa / kraljica Т/T топ / top Л/L ловац / lovac С/S скaкaч / skakač (П) пjешак / pješak Шах / Šah Шах / Šah Мат / Mat
Northern Sotho К Kgoši Kg Kgošigadi N Ntlosebô/Moshate Mp Mopišopo M Mogale S Seitšhireletšo Chess Check Checkmate
Sicilian R re D riggina T turru A alferu S scecchu (P) pidinu Scacchi
Slovak K kráľ D dáma V veža S strelec J jazdec (P) pešiak Šach Šach Mat/Šachmat
Slovene K kralj D dama T trdnjava L lovec S skakač (P) kmet Šah Šah Mat/Šahmat
Spanish R rey (king) D dama/reina (lady/queen) T torre (tower) A alfil (elephant, in Arabic) C caballo (horse) (P) peón Ajedrez Jaque Jaque mate
Swedish K kung D dam/drottning (lady/queen) T torn (tower) L löpare (runner) S springare/häst (horse) (B) bonde (peasant) Schack Schack Schack matt
Tamil K அரசன்
Q அரசி
R கோட்டை
B அமைச்சர் / மந்திரி
amaicchar / manthiri
N/Kt குதிரை
(P) காலாள் / சிப்பாய்
kālāḷ / cippāy
இறுதி முற்றுகை
iṟuti muṟṟukai
Telugu రాజు
Thai ขุน
(khun, king)
เม็ด (ตรี/มนตรี)
(met (trī/montrī), counselor)
(reūa, ship)
(khōn, elephant)
(, horse)
(บ) เบี้ย
(bīa, menial)
(ruk, invade)
(jon, checkmate)
Turkish Ş/K şah/kral V vezir K kale F fil A at (P) er/piyon Satranç Şah Mat
Ukrainian король Ф ферзь T тура C слон K кінь (П) пішак Шахи Шах Мат
Urdu بادشاہ
Vietnamese V Vua H Hậu X Xe T Tượng M _ Tốt Cờ vua Chiếu Chiếu bí/Chiếu hết
Welsh T teyrn/brenin B brenhines C castell E esgob M marchog (G) gwerinwr Gwyddbwyll Siach Siachmat

(Luiro 2009)

See also


  1. ^ Man Ray set


  • Brace, Edward (1977), An Illustrated Dictionary of Chess, Craftwell,  
  • Just, Tim; Burg, Daniel S. (2003), U.S. Chess Federation's Official Rules of Chess (5th ed.), McKay,  
  • Luiro, Ari (2009), Chess pieces in different languages, retrieved 2011-11-04 

External links

  • FIDE on chess equipment
  • History of Staunton Chess Pieces
  • Chess pieces in different languages
  • Online "Chess Museum" with many historic examples.
  • How chess pieces are made.
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