“In chess, as a purely intellectual game, where randomness is excluded, - for someone to play against himself is absurd ... It is as paradoxical, as attempting to jump over his own shadow.” - Stefan Zweig
Chess is a board game that’s existed for centuries and is so popular that it’s been classified as a mind sport and players like Kasparov, Capablanca, Alekhine, Aronian, Anand, Carlsen, and even the artificial intelligence Deep Blue have left their mark on the sport.
In the game, the pieces play a critical role and your objective is to use this 16-piece army to capture your opponent’s king. When your opponent’s king is in an inescapable position, they’re in checkmate.
In this article, we’ll look at the various pieces on a chessboard, how they move, what they’re worth, and how you can use them to win matches. If you want to become a good chess player, you need to know this stuff.
The Queen: The Strongest Piece on the Board
The piece that you should fear most is the queen. Originally, this piece was the vizier before becoming the queen as we know it today.
It’s said that this piece became the queen during the medieval period because Queen Isabella I of Spain was a huge fan of the game. It was decided that the queen could move horizontally, vertically, and diagonally as far as she likes.
The queen is so powerful that she has a value of 9, the highest of any of the pieces. Queens are powerful and shouldn’t be brought out too early in the game except in the case of a few specific strategies.
“Any married man will tell you that life is like a game of chess - everything is centered around the queen.” – Ilya Katsnelson
All joking aside, the queen is also used in Scholar’s Mate and The Kiss of Death. You can also sacrifice the queen to gain a material or tactical advantage later. If you play effectively with the queen, your opponents will fear you.
Using and Protecting Your King
You probably know that the king is the most important piece and also the most vulnerable piece in your army. Your king decides whether or not you win the game. You have to use the piece intelligently.
You don’t want your king to be found in a position where he’s susceptible to being captured and, if he’s found to be in check, he has to move or be protected. If you can’t do this, you’re in checkmate.
The king can only move one square at a time. However, he can move in any direction. While the king can capture material, he can’t do so if that would put him in check, which means he can never capture the opponent’s king.
With a value of 0, the king is hardly considered the most valuable piece on the board. However, it is the one piece you have to protect and can be useful in stopping pawns from being promoted in the endgame. Furthermore, he can also castle. You can protect your king with castling as it allows the rook to protect him on the back rank.
When you learn to play chess, you need to learn how to effectively protect your king from checkmate while also working towards putting your opponent’s king into check. To become a great play, you have to protect this almost useless king.
The Knight: The King of Openings
Each piece has its strength and weaknesses and the knight is a fine example of this. Thanks to its movement, it’s a very useful piece in certain situations.
Here’s a quick introduction to what it can do and how you can use it.
The knight is often represented by a piece that looks like a horse and each player has two of them. The way it moves is quite interesting: it moves 2 squares horizontally or vertically and then 1 square perpendicularly to that. It’s a good idea to position your knights in the centre of the board to take advantage of the 8 squares it can move into.
It should be noted that the knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces without capturing them. This means that it’s the only piece other than the pawn that can be moved at the very start of the game. This is why there are a good number of chess openings that begin with the knight. Here are some of them:
- The Réti Opening
- The Alekhine Defense
- Nimzowitsch Defence
- Two Knights Defense
- Petrov’s Defense
- East Indian Defence
- Benko Gambit
Despite its value of 3, the knight is still a very versatile and useful piece. However, during the endgame, it’s impossible to checkmate your opponent with just a knight and a king. Instead, advanced players can use the knight to achieve checkmate with other pieces.
How to Use the Rook in Chess
You’ll never master the game of chess if you don’t learn how to effectively use all the pieces, which is why we recommend learning about how to use the rook as it’s a powerful piece that can help in a lot of different types of checkmate.
In earlier versions of the game, the rook wasn’t a tower, but rather a chariot known as a rukh. This is what gave us the term rook, but the piece is often represented by a turret.
In the game of chess, the rook can move horizontally or vertically in any direction as far as it likes. Unlike the knights, it cannot jump over other pieces and, unlike the bishops, it cannot move diagonally.
The rook is an interesting piece and has a value of 5. The starting position of the rooks is in the corners of the board and each player has two of them.
Here are some tips for using the rook.
- Kingside or queenside castling can be used to protect your king and bring the rook into play. Castling can be both a defensive and offensive move at the same time.
- The ideal placement for a rook is on an open or semi-open file where it won’t be blocked by your pawns.
- The rook is particularly useful in delivering checkmate as it can quickly move on the opponent’s king.
- The Philidor Position, The Lucena Position, and The Umbrella Method all use the rook.
Each chess grandmaster likes the rook as it can be a powerful piece in the endgame. If you’d like to learn how to play like a grandmaster, you’ll need to learn how to use the rook.
The Bishop: The Master of the Diagonal
In the game of chess, the bishops are the pieces that begin the game alongside the king and the queen. In a lot of strategies, the bishops can be particularly useful in delivering check. To use it, you first have to open a route for it to use.
In earlier versions of chess, the bishop was an elephant or al fil in Arabic. It could jump two squares diagonally and could not be captured. When chess reached Europe, the elephant was replaced with the bishop.
This is why the piece appears to wear a mitre. This piece is particularly unique as it’s one of the few pieces outside of the monarchy that isn’t a military position or weapon.
Each player has two bishops which are referred to as the light-squared and dark-squared bishops as since the bishop can only move diagonally, it will spend the entire game on either light or dark squares depending on its starting location.
A pair of bishops can be particularly useful in delivering checkmate. You may hear about good and bad bishops:
- A good bishop has no pawns in their way.
- A bad bishop is obstructed by pawns.
A bishop has a value of 3. Due to its movement, the bishop cannot deliver checkmate on its own but a pair of them can. Keep in mind that it’s quite common to sacrifice a bishop to gain a piece of greater value.
Now you should know a little bit more about the game of chess. To learn even more about the rules, check out our other articles.
You can also learn how to play with private tutorials from the tutors on the Superprof website.