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How the Pieces Move

Chess is a very popular game, and most people can identify a chess set when they see one. But not everyone knows all of the rules of chess! Players new to chess may ask, “Can this piece jump?” or, “What does my horse do?” This section is intended to teach new players how each of the six chess pieces move.

The Rook (♖ or ♜)

The rook is a long-range piece whose movement is very straightforward! It is a powerful piece that often becomes a force to be reckoned with in the endgame.

  • The rook may move forward, backward, left or right.
  • The rook may move as many squares in a straight line as you wish, so long as it is not blocked by another piece.
  • The rook may capture an enemy piece within its line of movement.

The rook may also participate in the special king move called “castling.” Read more about it here.

The Bishop (♗ or ♝)

The bishop is our second long-range piece that moves diagonally. It has excellent mobility, but can only cover half of the squares on the chess board.

  • The bishop may move in any direction diagonally, forward or backward.
  • The bishop may move as many squares diagonally as you wish, so long as it is not blocked by another piece.
  • The bishop may capture an enemy piece within its line of movement.

The Queen (♕ or ♛)

The queen is the third and final long-range piece and the most powerful piece on the board. It can move like a bishop or a rook and can see more squares on the board than any other piece.

  • The queen may move forward, backward, left, right, or diagonally in any direction.
  • The queen may move as many squares in a straight line or diagonally as you wish, so long as it is not blocked by another piece.
  • The queen may capture an enemy piece within its line of movement.

The Knight (♘ or ♞)

The knight is a medium-range piece and the only piece in the game that can “leap” or “jump” over other pieces. Its move can be thought of as the shape of an uppercase “L.” Some new players may find its movement quite tricky!

  • The knight may move two squares in any direction forward, backward, left, or right, followed by one square in either perpendicular direction.
  • A good rule of thumb is to count, “One, two, turn!”
  • A knight will only ever see a maximum of eight squares.
  • The knight may skip over other pieces on its way to its destination square.
  • This can be considered “leaping” or “jumping” over the pieces that might block the movement of other pieces.
  • The knight may not move onto a destination square already occupied by the player’s own piece.
  • The knight may capture an enemy piece on its destination square.

The King (♔ or ♚)

The king is the most important piece on the chess board; if he is trapped and checkmated, you will lose the game! The king is a short-range, slow piece, but can be a formidable asset in the endgame.

  • The king may move one square in any direction forward, backward, left, right, or diagonal.
  • The king may not move onto a destination square already occupied by the player’s own piece.
  • The king may not move into “check.”
  • This means the king may not move onto a square that would allow it to be captured!
  • This also means a king may not move next to the enemy king.
  • The king may capture an unguarded enemy piece on its destination square.
  • Capturing a guarded piece would be moving into check!

The king may also initiate the special move castling, discussed fully here.

The Pawn (♙ or ♟)

Finally, we have the weakest piece in chess. This short-range piece may seem inconsequential, but its apparent weakness belies its extraordinary value in providing structure and defense.

  • On each pawn’s first move, the pawn may move one or two squares forward.
  • After its first move, the pawn may move one square forward.
  • The pawn may never move backwards.
  • The pawn may not move forwards onto a destination square occupied by another piece.
  • The pawn may capture an enemy piece one square diagonally forward.

Pawns may also sometimes use two special moves, en passant and promotion, fully explained here.