Here is a sampling of chess terms that turn up from time to time:
The written body of high-level chess play. "Book" moves are
standard. A book player memorizes openings and their variations, and goes
to pieces if his opponent strays from the accepted line.
A combined move of king and rook permitted once for each side during a game.
The king moves two squares to either side, and the rook toward which it
moves is placed on the square the king passed over. This is the only move
in which the king moves more than one square at a time and in which more
than one piece is moved. Castling cannot be done when the king has already
moved, when the affected rook has already moved, when the king is in check,
when the square over which the king must pass is under attack, when the
king would be in check after the move was completed, or when any of the
squares between the king and the affected rook are occupied.
The four squares in the geometrical center of the board. The opening moves
are meant to gain control of the center.
Paired clocks used in all sanctioned tournaments and in many club games.
After a player moves he punches a lever that stops his clock and starts
his opponent's. Each clock, therefore, registers only the elapsed time for
one player. If a player exceeds the time limit set on his clock, a flag
falls and he loses the game, even if he has a winning position.
One in which the maneuvering is tight and the pieces, as a rule, lack long-range
operating space. Such games are sometimes called "positional,"
because they are quiet, with the opponents struggling for subtle advantages,
rather than open and alive with tactical possibilities.
A series of moves which, unless the player has miscalculated, will force
an immediate win or an overwhelming advantage. A combination sometimes starts
with a sacrifice of material.
The process of moving pieces from their starting positions so they can protect
their own territory and put pressure on the opponent.
A row of squares running obliquely across the board rather than up and down
(a file) or side to side (a rank).
A player, by moving a piece, uncovers an attack on an opponent's piece.
If the attacked piece is the king, the move is called discovered check.
Two pawns in tandem on the same file. Ordinarily, a liability because, unable
to protect each other, they are vulnerable.
Two rooks in tandem on the same file. Because they protect each other and
act in concert, their power is more than double the power of a single rook.
The final stages of a game. Most pieces have disappeared from the board,
and the king, instead of hiding, becomes an active participant.
From the French, "in passing." Abbreviated e.p. One pawn can capture
another e.p. if the capturing pawn has reached the fifth rank and the captured
pawn is moved two squares forward on an adjacent file. The capture is made
as though the opponent's pawn had moved only one square forward.
French again. A piece is en prise when it is left exposed to capture with
nothing to show for it.
The trading of a minor piece (bishop or knight) for a rook. To sacrifice
the exchange is to trade the rook for the minor piece.
A bishop played to the side of the board is said to be fianchettoed. Usually,
the bishop is played to g2 or b2 (g7 or b7 for black), from which position it
sweeps along the long diagonal to the opponent's a8 or h8 (a1 or h1 for black)
square. The word is from the Italian fianco - the flank or side.
The rows running from player to player, named for the pieces that occupy
them at the start of.-the game. From left to right they are, for white,
the queen rook file, queen knight file, queen bishop file, queen file, king
file, king bishop file, king knight file, king rook File. The order, read
from right to left, is correct for the black side.
An attack on two or more pieces simultaneously. Though any chess piece -
except a rook pawn - can execute a fork, the knight makes a specialty of
An opening maneuver in which a pawn is offered in return for a strong position
or a chance to attack.
A bishop free to operate without interference from its own pawns.
A family of openings in which Black replies 1...Nf6 to White's 1. d4.
There does not seem to be much agreement on the origin of the term, but
most historians believe it derives from the style of play in India where
- because pawns did not have the right to make a two-square initial move
- games tended to be leisurely and conservative.
To place a pawn or piece between an attacked king and the attacking piece.
KING'S PAWN OPENING
The move 1. e4. Bobby Fischer's favorite opening. Moving the king pawn
opens lines for the king bishop and the queen, occupies a key central square
and prevents the opponent from occupying squares diagonally in front of
The queen and rooks. Because of the number of squares they command (a queen
can command 27 squares, not counting the one she occupies, a rook 14) they
are considered the heavy artillery of chess.
The highest rankings in chess, earned by competing in major tournaments.
There are about 90 grandmasters in the entire world. (Circa 1972)
A position or series of moves that leads inexorably to one in which the
king must be mated.
MATE OR CHECKMATE
A position in which a king is attacked and cannot escape. The end of the
The phase of the game following the development, and the one in which much
of the action takes place. With many pieces on the board and possibilities
of attack on all sides, the king normally stays well hidden in this phase.
The bishops and knights. A knight can command 8 squares, a bishop 13.
The ability to move about freely on the board.
One of the Indian defenses, characterized by the sequence: 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 Bb4. Named after Aron Nimzovitch, author of a book modestly titled
My System. One of the many stories about Nimzovitch is that, in a
losing position, during a tournament, he swept the pieces off the board and
thundered, "Why must I lose to this idiot?"
A file cleared of pawns. It offers a corridor for attack, especially if
occupied by doubled rooks.
The more-or-less standardized and analyzed patterns of moves that both sides
make at the start of a game. Some are named after people (Ruy Lopez), some
after places (Budapest Counter-Gambit), some after pieces or moves (Four
Knights Defense). Some are descriptive (Giuoco Piano, or quiet game).
A position in which opposing kings stand on the same rank, file or diagonal,
separated from each other by only one square. The player whose move brings
the kings into opposition holds an advantage that, in an end-game, can be
A pawn unopposed, on its own or adjacent files, by a pawn of another color.
By being advanced to the eighth rank it can become any piece its owner chooses.
A passed pawn, therefore, is a source of worry for the other side and a
precious advantage for its owner. Two united passed pawns on adjacent files
constitute a formidable weapon.
A sort of infinite cycle in which one side gives check, the other side gets
out of check, the first side checks again in the same way - being unable
to do otherwise without risking the loss of the game - and so on. It constitutes
A position in which a piece may not be moved because another piece would
be subject to capture. If the piece subject to capture is the king, the
pin is absolute and the pinned piece cannot legally be moved.
See closed game.
The promoting of a pawn that has reached the eighth rank. Ordinarily, a
pawn is made a queen, since this is the most powerful piece. But sometimes
a pawn is promoted to a lesser rank, especially if promotion to a queen
would bring about a stalemate.
A row of squares running from side to side of the board Each side numbers
the ranks from one to eight, starting with the rank nearest him and running
to the rank nearest his opponent.
The piece that looks like and is sometimes called a castle. This can be
confusing, because "castle," in chess, is a verb.
Probably the most frequently played Black defense to 1. e4. Its characteristic
move is 1...c5. The theory behind the tactic is that it is an aggressive
attacking move, involving, ultimately, the opening of the queen-bishop file
for Black. The Maroczy Bind (named after Geza Maroczy, a Hungarian master)
is a variation of the Sicilian.
A situation in which one side is unable to make a legal move although the
king is not in check. A stalemate is a draw.
A pattern of chessmen - the ordinary design found in plastic, wood, jade
or whatever - named after Howard Staunton (1810 - 1874), a British chess
champion who was challenged by Paul Morphy, the New Orleans-born chess genius.
Staunton was more or less the unofficial world champion, but if his willingness
to meet Morphy over the board is any indication, he kept his title more
by footwork than by chessboard skill.
The "master plan" of a game, as opposed to the tactics - the carrying
out of that plan.
As in music, time. Plural, tempi. In chess, there are basically three elements
- space, time and material. Space and material are self-evident. Time, however,
is more subtle. Initially, White, having the first move, has a time advantage
(and thus, the initiative). But White can, by making useless moves, waste
time. To make a wasteful move is to "lose a tempo." Over the board,
tempi, space and material can be exchanged back and forth for one another.
Departures from the accepted or standardized lines. But variations - if
they have any value - often end up standardized themselves.
A position in which one side, if it should not blunder, ought to go on to
checkmate the other. Winning a won game is sometimes impossible for beginners,
but ought to be a foregone conclusion for grandmasters - which is why
grandmasters often resign in positions that do not look hopeless to beginners.
A situation in which a player would prefer not to move at all. Since the
rules require a move on his turn, the player is forced to weaken his position.