The Powerful Pieces of Chess

Chess is a game that requires strategy and planning. It also helps develop executive functioning. These skills are important for children to have in order to navigate through life successfully.

Chess rules have evolved over the centuries from chess-like games that were played before the 6th century. Some of the changes were to give pieces more mobility.

The King

The king is the most powerful piece in the game of chess. It moves one square/tile/block in any direction and cannot be captured by opponent pieces. However, it must remain completely surrounded by its own color pieces in order to avoid being put into a dangerous position known as “check” which ends the game.

In the beginning and middle phase of a game, the king is relatively vulnerable and seeks safety behind its pawns or off to the sides of the board. As the game enters the endgame phase and the number of enemy chess pieces diminishes, the king becomes active as an offensive piece by marching to the center of the board.

Like all other pieces, the king can only move to an adjoining square that is not being attacked by any enemy piece (Diagram #1). Moving to a square that is being attacked by an opposing piece puts the king into danger and is illegal. The king can also perform, in tandem with the Rook, a special move known as castling. It is recommended to castle when the King has been pushed to one side of the board by enemy pawns (Diagram #2). Castling allows the King to become more powerful as an offensive piece in the final stages of a game.

The Queen

The queen is one of the most versatile pieces in chess and offers an incredible range on the board. It can move on all squares vertically and diagonally, combining the powers of both a bishop and a rook. It is most powerful when the board is open and the opponent’s king is poorly defended or there are loose (unoccupied) enemy pieces. It can execute forks and is also well-equipped for defense with its long range.

Beginners often develop the queen early in the game, hoping to plunder the enemy position and deliver an early checkmate. However, this can expose her to attack by enemy pieces and is not usually a good idea.

The modern chess queen was introduced in the 12th century and spread from Spain to Europe and Russia through at least three routes. Prior to that, it was known as the ferz or vizier. It became a key piece in chess with the advent of the Renaissance and the invention of printing, and was eventually adopted by shogi (Japanese chess). There are some chess sets that feature a queen piece that moves like a knight, but this is not widely used.

The Rook

The rook (also called the castle or a tower) is a major piece, second only to the queen in its power. It is a very important element in the middle and end game of a chess match as it can destabilise enemy pieces by capturing them from their positions. It can move forward, backward and sideways but cannot move diagonally like a knight or bishop.

This feature makes the rook a very powerful weapon as it can reach far into enemy territory. It is also capable of a type of checkmate known as back-rank mate that can only be delivered by rooks.

The rook is sometimes referred to as a heavy piece because it, along with the queen, can checkmate an enemy king without any help from minor pieces such as the bishop or knight. But that’s not really fair because both the rook and the queen are more than just a big castle, they are also very mobile and able to reach many squares across the board. That’s why they are so deadly when they have control of a file.

The Bishop

A good chess player knows that the Bishop is one of the strongest long-range pieces. It can move diagonally to any square that isn’t occupied by another piece and captures by landing on an enemy piece. A Bishop can also be used to attack pawns but does best when it can freely move.

The Bishop did not exist in the original chess game, Shantranj, and was replaced by an animal called an alfil. The cut on the piece that resembles a bishop’s mitre actually originally symbolized an elephant’s trunk and was introduced to make carving easier.

As the game spread to Europe, the bishop came to be associated with the church and took its current name. Some countries have kept the animal connection while others have changed it to a camel to suit local tastes. Different cultures view the piece differently but the Bishop’s wide range of movement gives it a huge advantage. In fact, two Bishops on opposite color squares can force a king to surrender. This is a great way to gain an early advantage in the game.

The Pawn

When one first begins playing chess, the Pawn seems like a pretty insignificant piece. After all, it is only worth 1 point and its movement powers are minimal compared to the other pieces. But a pawn can have a huge impact on the game once it makes it to the other side of the board and becomes promoted, which can change the entire course of the match.

A pawn moves straight forward one square and can capture diagonally forward one square. A pawn can also make its initial move on the second rank two squares forward, provided that the square it is moving to is unoccupied. Once a pawn reaches the opponent’s back rank, it can be captured ‘en passant’, meaning that the pawn is taken by a piece that moves to that square in the opponent’s next move, but is not adjacent to the pawn.

These pawn capture rules are based on the movement of the Pawn in Chaturanga, the oldest known form of Chess, developed more than two millennia ago in India. They were slightly changed when chess arrived in Europe and gained an initial double step and the concept of en passant capture.