How Chess Works

By: Meredith Bower  | 

Chess Pieces

Each chess piece has its own movement capabilities. It's also assigned a point value, which only indicates its strength. Beginning players tend to focus on the direction the pieces can move, but soon it becomes second nature, and players start seeing the pieces in terms of how they can attack their opponent. Being able to visualize and strategize is key to winning the game. Let's look at the pieces in the order they are set on the chessboard, beginning in position A-1.

The rook, which looks like a castle, is worth five points. It has the ability to move along the ranks and files in a straight line. It may not jump over other pieces or share a space with another piece of the same color. But the rook may capture an opponent's piece and remove it from the board. The rook is considered a long-range piece that moves in the direction of a cross [source: Andrews].


The knight, which looks like a horse, starts the game between the rooks and bishops. Although it's only worth three points, its power is in the way it moves. Knights move in an L shape over three squares. In other words, it moves two spaces in one direction, turns and moves one more space. Although they travel shorter distances, they can change direction, which is helpful in capturing the opponent's pieces. If a knight starts on a light square, he will end up on a dark square and vice versa [source: Andrews].

The bishop, the piece topped with a miter, is worth three points. It can only move diagonally and so is restricted to the color on which it begins. Bishops are also not allowed to jump, but they can capture and remove an opponent's piece. Bishops can cover great distances in an X formation [source: Andrews].

The queen, who is slightly shorter than the king, is the most powerful piece and worth nine points. She has the ability to move in the same directions as both the rook and the bishop. Although she may not jump another piece, she can move in eight different directions making her the most powerful attacker [source: Andrews].

The king is considered priceless in value, but not as powerful as the queen. Although he can move in any direction, he may only move one square at a time. He stays on the board throughout the entire game and may not be captured. He is the target and when he is threatened or under attack, he is in check and must move to save himself. When a king is unable to escape or get out of check, the game is over [source: Andrews].

Finally, each player has eight pawns. They line up across the second and seventh ranks, their home base. Although pawns are only worth a point each, they occupy space and can serve as a defense. They only move one square at a time and are restricted to moving forward (never backwards) along the file. Pawns may not capture a piece on the square directly in front of them, they capture diagonally forward [source: Andrews].

As you move your pieces move around the board, you not only want to defend your king, but also capture your opponent's pieces and remove them from the board.

Now let's look at some of the rules of the game itself.