Chess Pieces List

chess pieces

One of the many things chess is known for is the wide variety of pieces used in the game, each of which has a different role, strengths, and weaknesses inherent in how they move and operate. Each chess piece has an important role in a well-played game, from the seemingly insignificant but invaluable pawns to the versatile, devastating power of the queen. Here, we take a brief look at each piece on a chessboard, examining how they can move, what they can do, and when and how they should be used. 


List of Chess Pieces

  1. King
  2. Queen
  3. Rooks
  4. Bishops
  5. Knights
  6. Pawns

1. King

chess pieces king

The king is undoubtedly the most important piece in chess, but it is also one of the most vulnerable and limited. The object of chess is twofold, and both of a player’s goals relate to the two kings on the board: firstly, a player seeks to capture, or “checkmate,” their opponent’s king, while secondly, they seek to prevent their own king from being checkmated. Once a king is checkmated, the game is over, and a win goes to the player who checkmated their opponent.

Aside from the pawns, the king is one of the most limited chess pieces in terms of movement. A king can move in any direction–upwards, downwards, sideways, or diagonally–but it can only move one square per turn. Additionally, the king must follow certain rules regarding its movement. A king cannot enter a square occupied by one of its fellow pieces. A king cannot move into a “check” position, which is the term used to define when a king is directly within the line of attack by an opposing piece. Additionally, if a king is placed in check by the actions of an opponent, the check must be broken before any other piece can move, either by moving the king out of check or placing another piece between the king and the attacking piece. A final move the king can make is called “castling,” which involves the king moving anywhere from one to three spaces while switching places with the nearest rook, offering the king protection.

2. Queen

chess pieces queen

As opposed to the king, the queen is one of the most mobile and dangerous pieces on the chessboard. However, this also makes the queen a favorite target, and losing one’s queen can easily be the end of a player’s hopes of winning a chess match. The queen is primarily defined by its incredible freedom of movement, as a queen can move in any direction, both straight and diagonal, for the entire length of the board and can capture any of the opponent’s pieces. However, the queen cannot jump over any of its own pieces, so its movements are restricted if there are other pieces in the way.

Skilled chess players often go to great lengths to protect their queens, as they are one of the keys to an easy checkmate. A usual tactic for chess masters involves trying to get the queen to the center of the board as quickly as possible, in order to use it to capture pieces and defend the king. When using the queen, chess players should be wary of their opponents’ two knights, as the knights’ unusual, L-shaped pattern of movement means that a queen can sometimes be vulnerable to a knight and simultaneously be unable to attack them directly. Some unusual chess strategies have involved sacrificing the queen early in a match, but this is rare, and those who are successful in this strategy tend to be natural-born chess players who are more willing to take risks due to their talent. 

3. Rooks

chess pieces rooks

The rook is one of the most simple yet valuable pieces on the chessboard, and is an excellent defensive and offensive piece. Designed to resemble a castle tower, a rook's movements are very straightforward in that they can move vertically or horizontally along the board for any length of open squares, but not diagonally. In this way, the rook is slightly less versatile than the queen.

Rooks are often important parts of a chess strategy, but players need to be wary when using them, as they are vulnerable to a wide variety of pieces. Many chess players keep their rooks back for the early parts of a match, doing their best to hold onto them to help with cleaning up pieces later in the game, and eventually with checkmating. Moving a rook out into the middle of the board early can be dangerous due to the possibility of an easy attack by pawns, knights, and bishops. A valuable tactic many chess players use is to unite their rooks by moving them close to each other, as the two rooks can then defend each other and prevent captures. The rook is also the other piece that can be used to castle, in which it exchanges places with the king in order to give it additional protection.

4. Bishops

chess pieces bishops

Bishops are often among the lesser-used chess pieces on the board, but many chess players also ignore their usefulness, so they should be used to their full effect. Bishops are unique because of their movement pattern. A bishop can only move diagonally on the chessboard, meaning that it must stay within the colored squares that it starts on. However, bishops can move for any amount of unobstructed diagonal squares. This makes them very useful for capturing pawns, rooks, and often checking kings.

Many chess players try to preserve their bishops as long as possible because bishops can be very useful near the end of the match, due to their ability to restrict an enemy king’s movements and make checkmating easier. Bishops can occasionally be useful for quick attacks and captures early in a match, but they are very vulnerable to pawns and thus should be used wisely. Though bishops are valuable, they are often considered less valuable than a rook or a queen, meaning that most chess players will be more willing to sacrifice a bishop if necessary.

5. Knights

chess pieces knights

Knights are undoubtedly the most unusual and quirky pieces on a chessboard, and they often serve as a vital part of strategy for many master chess players. The knight is defined by its unusual pattern of movement, which is in the shape of a capital “L.” A knight can move two squares forward, backward, left, or right but must then also move one square in a perpendicular direction to the square it moved to. This means that, at any given time, a knight can only move to one of up to eight places on the chessboard. While this movement pattern may seem frustrating, it does come with one advantage, which is that the knight can jump over any piece on the board that is in the way of its movement.

Knights are among the pieces that many chess players move out onto the board early in the game, as their unique style of movement makes them valuable for capturing other pieces that cannot reach them with their normal moveset. Many players often try to get their knights to the center of the board early in the game, as this is where they are best at attacking. Their unique movements mean that, in many cases, a knight can only be attacked well by another knight, but it is important for chess players to watch out for their knights and be certain that they are not recklessly endangering them. 

6. Pawns

chess pieces pawns

Of all the pieces on the chessboard, the pawn is often considered the most disposable, but this can sometimes be a misconception. While pawns are limited in their movement and abilities, they can be extremely useful as both defensive and offensive pieces, if one employs them correctly. Pawns are also the most numerous pieces, as each player gets eight of them to start, as opposed to their two bishops, two knights, two rooks, one queen, and one king. The movement pattern of pawns is simple: they can only move forward, and they can only move one square at a time. There are a few instances in which these rules do not apply, however. The first is that a pawn can move forward two squares on its first move. The second is that a pawn can capture any piece that is one square diagonally forward from it. The final rule is known as the “en passant” rule, which states that a pawn can capture another pawn that is directly horizontal to it if that pawn has just moved two spaces on its opening move. To do so, the capturing pawn moves diagonally forward to the square behind the pawn it is capturing en passant. 

A final, important rule of pawns that all chess players should be aware of is what happens if one of their pawns should reach the back row of squares on the enemy’s side. When this occurs, the player gets to “promote” their pawn to any rank of piece they wish, making it either a knight, bishop, rook, or queen. The only restriction to this is that a pawn cannot become a second king. This rule is what keeps many chess players from losing too many of their pawns early on in a match, as saved pawns can often come in handy if a player manages to clear their opponent’s side. Players should also be wary of entering what is known as a “pawn ram,” where two opposing pawns meet in squares that are directly in front of each other, as this makes both of them incapable of movement and can also block other pieces from moving.