Chess Terms

A Glossary of all the chess terms you need to know from A-Z.

# A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


3 Check Chess

3 Check Chess (also called 3+ chess) is a popular and exciting chess variant only with one additional rule: you can win by checking your enemy’s king 3 times.

The first player to deliver the 3 checks wins. You can also win by checkmating (whichever comes first). Try it now.

4 Player Chess

4 player chess is a game where 4 people play chess at once on the same board. It’s a game for families, friends, and anyone who wants to enjoy the strategy of chess in a new way.

Red, blue, yellow, and green are the colors assigned to the different sets of playing pieces. Red is always the first player, and play continues clockwise around the table from there.

In 4 Player Chess, there are 160 squares on the board instead than the usual 64 since three extra ranks have been added to each side. Click here to play now.

Click here to Play 4 Player Chess

50-move rule

A rule in chess that states a player can claim a draw if no capture or pawn move has been made in the last 50 moves by either player. This rule is in place to prevent endlessly long games with no progress towards checkmate.

960 (Fischer Random) Chess

A variant of chess invented by former World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer, also known as Fischer Random Chess. In 960 Chess, the starting position of the pieces is randomized, creating a new and unpredictable game each time.

3-fold repetition

A rule in chess that states a player can claim a draw if the same position on the board is repeated three times, with the same player to move each time. The positions don’t need to be consecutive, but the board position, the possible moves, and the rights to castle must be identical.

960 possible starting positions in chess

Fischer Random chess has 960 possible starting positions. This is because each piece has 8 possible squares it can start on, except the king, which can only start on certain squares, and the bishops, which must start on opposite-colored squares.

50/50 rule

The rule that states a player can claim a draw if the same position has occurred five times with the same player to move, or if 75 moves have been made without a pawn move or capture, regardless of any claims from the players.

4-move checkmate

A very quick checkmate that can occur if one player makes a few weak moves at the beginning of the game. The checkmate typically involves a quick attack on the f7 square, and can be achieved in as few as four moves.

960 Opening Theory

960 Opening Theory is the study of openings in Fischer Random Chess, also known as Chess960. The randomized starting positions create different patterns and structures than traditional chess openings, leading to unique strategies and tactics.

960-specific opening traps

Traps in Chess960 or Fischer Random Chess are specific to certain setups of pieces that only occur in this variant of the game. Players need to be aware of these traps and avoid falling for them.

960 Castling

In Fischer Random Chess, the starting position of the king and rooks is randomized, leading to different possible castling moves. Castling in Chess960 can be done by moving the king two squares towards the rook and then moving the rook to the square the king skipped over.

960 Pawn Promotion

In Fischer Random Chess, pawns can promote to any piece on the board, regardless of whether the original piece has been captured. The pawn promotion rule is the same as in traditional chess.

960 King Placement

In Fischer Random Chess, the king can be placed on one of five squares in the initial setup, either on one of the two central files, or on one of the three squares in the back rank. The king placement has a significant impact on the strategy and tactics of the game.

960 Queen Placement

In Fischer Random Chess, the queen can be placed on any square in the back rank, rather than having a fixed starting position as in traditional chess. This leads to different setups and strategic considerations in each game.


Absolute Pins

Absolute Pins are those in which the King cannot be legitimately moved away from the attack line. (Because moving the king would expose him to a check)


In chess, adjournment refers to a time-out that a player can take in order to consider their next move. It’s a strategic move that allows the player to take some time away from the game and then come back later. Also referred to as sealed moved.

Absolute pin

An absolute pin is a tactical maneuver in which the pinned piece—which, when attacked by an opponent’s queen or rook lying directly behind it on the board—is unable to move out of check.


This term refers to a chess piece that has several squares available for its next move and threatens several other pieces on the board—suggesting an aggressive style of play.

Algebraic notation

A system of notation used to record chess moves. It uses letters to identify the columns and numbers to identify the rows, with each move being recorded as the starting square and the ending square.

Alekhine’s Defense

A chess opening named after the former World Chess Champion Alexander Alekhine. It is a hypermodern defense in which Black invites White to occupy the center with pawns, planning to attack it later.

Anastasia’s Mate

A checkmate pattern named after the famous Russian chess composer, Anastasia Nikolaevna. It involves a rook and a knight working together to deliver mate to the opponent’s king.


A chess opening system used by White against the Sicilian Defense. The Anti-Sicilian aims to avoid the highly theoretical lines of the mainline Sicilian and take Black out of their comfort zone.


An official who is responsible for enforcing the rules and regulations of a chess tournament. The arbiter ensures that the players are adhering to the rules, and can make decisions on disputed moves or other issues that arise during the tournament.

Attacking Chess

A style of chess in which a player takes the initiative and tries to put pressure on their opponent, often with aggressive moves and sacrifices. Attacking chess requires a good understanding of tactics and an ability to calculate accurately.


Back rank

Back rank refers to the eighth rank for white pieces and the first rank for black pieces. It is commonly referred to as “back” because it is at the far end of the board.

If a player has an opposing piece on his/her back rank, then he/she will have trouble getting that piece out of the way because there are no pawns or other pieces behind it to protect it from attack.

Back-rank mate

Back-rank mate is a checkmate position that occurs when the king is under attack by an enemy bishop or queen on its own back row. It is a common endgame mistake and occurs in both amateur and professional games.


A player’s move that prevents the opponent from moving the piece that they want to move.

Back rank

The row of squares on the player’s home side of the board where their pieces start the game. The back rank is vulnerable to back rank mate tactics and players must be careful not to leave their king trapped on this row.

Bad Bishop

A bishop that is blocked in by its own pawns, limiting its mobility and power. Bad bishops are often seen in closed or blocked positions, and can be a strategic weakness if not handled correctly.


Two pieces that are lined up behind each other on the same file, rank, or diagonal, such as a queen and a bishop or a rook and a queen. A battery can be used for a powerful attack on the opponent’s position.

Blindfold chess

A form of chess where the players cannot see the board, but must rely on their memory and visualization skills to play the game. Blindfold chess is a challenging and impressive feat, and is often used as a demonstration of mental ability.


A strategy where a player blocks the opponent’s pawns from advancing by placing their own pieces in front of them. A blockade can restrict the opponent’s mobility and limit their control of the board.

Boden’s Mate

A checkmate pattern named after the English chess player Samuel Boden. It involves a knight sacrifice on f7, which opens up lines of attack for the queen and other pieces to deliver mate to the opponent’s king.



A chessboard is a board divided into 64 squares of alternating colors. The board is positioned so that each player has a light-colored square on their right, and the white pieces occupy the first rank while the black pieces occupy the eighth rank.


Castling is a move in which a king and rook are moved simultaneously. It is the only move in chess where two pieces can be moved at the same time.

It is represented by the king moving two squares towards either of the rooks, followed by the rook on that side moving to the square directly adjacent to the king.

To Castle Kingside, first move the King two spaces toward the Rook, to g1, then move the Rook to the other side of the King, on f1. This is also called Castling Short

To Castle Queenside, do the same thing. Move the King two spaces toward the Rook, to c1, and move the Rook to the other side of the King, on d1. This is also called Castling Long.

Castling is only allowed if certain conditions are met:

  • The king must not have moved previously during this game
  • The rook must not have moved previously during this game
  • There cannot be any pieces between the king and rook.

Caro-Kann Defense

A chess opening for Black that begins with the moves 1.e4 c6. The Caro-Kann Defense is a solid and popular defense that seeks to control the center of the board from a distance.


A chess move where the king and one of the rooks are moved at the same time. Castling is an important defensive move that gets the king out of the center of the board and puts a rook on an open file.


The four squares in the middle of the chessboard (d4, d5, e4, e5) are known as the center. Control of the center is an important strategic objective in chess, as it provides more space for pieces and more mobility.


A threat to capture the opponent’s king on the next move. When a player’s king is in check, they must respond by moving their king out of danger, blocking the attack, or capturing the attacking piece.


A winning condition in chess, achieved when the opponent’s king is in check and cannot escape capture on the next move. The game ends immediately when a player is checkmated.

Closed Position

A chess position where the pawn structure and piece placement make it difficult for either side to create open lines of attack. Closed positions often require a slow buildup and careful maneuvering of pieces.


The practice of teaching and guiding chess players to improve their game. Chess coaches can provide guidance on strategy, tactics, openings, and other aspects of the game.

Color Complex

The set of squares on a chessboard that are all the same color, either light or dark. The color complex can have an impact on the strategy and tactics of a game, particularly in relation to bishop placement.


A term used to describe the benefits that a player receives in exchange for a positional or material disadvantage. Compensation can come in the form of extra mobility, strong pieces, or attacking opportunities.

Correspondence Chess

A form of chess where the players make moves by mail or email, rather than playing in person or online. Correspondence chess games can take months or even years to complete.

Crazyhouse Chess

A chess variant where captured pieces can be dropped back onto the board as one’s own pieces. Crazyhouse Chess is a highly tactical and dynamic variant that requires quick thinking and creativity.

Critical Square

A square on the chessboard that, if controlled, can give a player a significant advantage or lead to a tactical opportunity. The critical square can vary depending on the position of the pieces.

Cutting Off

A strategic concept in chess that involves blocking the opponent’s pieces from reaching important squares or files. Cutting off can limit the opponent’s mobility and force them to make awkward or passive moves.



If one of your pieces is under attack, there are four ways to defend against the attack. The first way is to simply move away.

The second way to defend against an attack is by capturing the attacking piece. Here, Black attacks White’s Queen with his Bishop. Not a very smart move by Black, as White can capture the Bishop on his next turn.

The third way to defend an attacked piece is by interposing another piece in the path of the attacker. Here, when Black attacks White’s Queen with his Bishop, White can deflect the attack by moving his Pawn to d4.

The last way to defend the attacked piece is by protecting it. On this set-up, the Black Bishop is under attack from the White Rook. Instead of moving away, Black can protect the Bishop by moving his Knight into position. Now, if the Rook takes the Bishop, Black can take back with his Knight.

Now, let’s look at defense from the point of view of the attacker. If you’re attacking one of your opponent’s pieces and he protects it with another piece, you’ll want to know how to get rid of the defender.

On this set-up the White Rook is attacking Black’s Bishop. Black defends the Bishop with his Knight. To get rid of the defender, White attacks it with his Bishop. If Black doesn’t move any of his pieces away, White will win the exchange with Bishop takes Knight, Pawn takes Bishop, and Rook takes Bishop.

Here’s another situation where an attacked piece is defended. White would like to take Black’s Knight, but it’s protected by the Rook on a7. White can move his Bishop to d4, thus attacking Black’s Rook. Black will now have to decide whether he wants to save his Knight or his Rook. Knowing how to defend your pieces and attack your opponent’s defenders will make you a stronger player.

Dark Bishop

The bishop that can move only on the dark-colored squares. In the initial position, White’s dark-square bishop is located on c1; Black’s is on f8. Each player has one dark square bishop and a light-square bishop.


A tactical move in chess that lures an opponent’s piece to a less desirable square or position, in order to set up a subsequent attack or trap.


A tactical move in chess that forces an opponent’s piece away from its defensive role, leaving another square or piece vulnerable to attack.


A chess piece that is destined to be captured, but can be used to gain an advantage or create a distraction before it is captured.


The process of bringing pieces into play and activating them in the opening phase of a chess game. Good development can give a player an advantage in space, mobility, and control of the board.


A line of squares on the chessboard that are connected diagonally. Diagonals can be used for long-range attacks by the bishop or queen, and can also be used to control important squares in the center of the board.

Discovered Attack

A tactical move in chess where one piece moves to reveal an attack by another piece. The discovered attack can put the opponent’s king or valuable pieces in danger, and can be a powerful tool in the right situation.

Double Attack

A tactical move in chess where one piece attacks two of the opponent’s pieces at the same time. The double attack can be used to gain material or create other tactical advantages.

Double Bishop Pair

A strategic advantage in chess where a player has both bishops on the board, rather than having one bishop and one knight. The double bishop pair can give a player more control of the board, particularly in open positions.

Double Check

A tactical move in chess where both the king and another piece are put in check at the same time. Double check can be very powerful, as the opponent must move their king out of check or block the attack.

Doubled Pawns

Two pawns of the same color on the same file. Doubled pawns can limit a player’s control of the board, particularly in the endgame, and can be a strategic weakness if not handled correctly.


En passant

A special move that can be made by a pawn if an opponent’s pawn moves two squares forward directly in front of it. The pawn can only be taken in the player’s next move

En Passant

A move in chess where a pawn captures an opposing pawn that has moved two squares forward from its starting position and is currently adjacent to the capturing pawn. This is the only time a pawn can capture diagonally without landing on the square the captured piece is on.


The stage of a chess game that occurs when most of the pieces have been exchanged or captured. Endgames require a different type of thinking and strategy than the opening or middlegame.


The act of trading one piece for another. In chess, the most common exchange is trading a minor piece (bishop or knight) for another minor piece, or a minor piece for a pawn.

Exchange Sacrifice

A sacrifice of one or more pieces by one player to gain an advantage in position or material in return. The most common form of an exchange sacrifice is sacrificing a rook for a minor piece.


A notation used in algebraic notation to indicate a pawn capture on the f6 square, typically written as “exf6”. Similarly, “dxe5” would indicate a capture with a pawn on the d-file.



A checkmate tactic where one piece attacks two enemy pieces simultaneously, usually with its own support (another piece).


A chess opening setup in which a bishop is developed to the second rank on a long diagonal, usually g2 or b2 for White and g7 or b7 for Black. The fianchetto can provide extra control of important squares on the board.


A vertical column of squares on the chessboard. The files are labeled a-h from left to right, starting from White’s side of the board.

Fool’s Mate

The quickest possible checkmate in chess, achieved in just two moves. It involves a bishop and queen delivering mate to the opponent’s king on f7.

Forced Move

A move that must be played in a particular position, usually because there are no other legal moves available or because the consequences of not making the move would be too severe.


A position in chess where a player has set up a solid defensive structure that is difficult for the opponent to break through. A fortress can be a powerful tool for holding a draw or even winning in a difficult position.

French Defense

A chess opening for Black that begins with the moves 1.e4 e6. The French Defense is a solid and popular defense that seeks to control the center of the board from a distance.

Fried Liver Attack

A chess opening trap in the Two Knights Defense that involves a bishop sacrifice on f7. The Fried Liver Attack can be very dangerous for Black if they are not familiar with the opening.


The International Chess Federation, the governing body of international chess competitions. FIDE organizes and regulates many of the major chess tournaments and events around the world.

FIDE Rating

A numerical rating system used by FIDE to rank chess players based on their performance in tournament play. The FIDE rating system is used by many national chess organizations and is recognized as the standard rating system for international chess competitions.

Fischer Random Chess

Also known as Chess960, a chess variant in which the starting position of the pieces is randomized, with certain restrictions. Fischer Random Chess requires a different set of strategies and tactics than traditional chess, and is often used as a test of skill and creativity.



In chess, a gambit is a strategy by which one player offers a sacrifice of material (mainly a pawn) in order to gain some advantage. This usually occurs on the first few moves of the game.

The two most popular types of gambits are The Queen’s gambit and the King’s Gambit. However, there are many other types of gambit chess.


A grandmaster in chess is the highest title that a chess player can attain. The title is generally awarded by the world chess organization FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), which organizes the world chess championship. The requirements for becoming a grandmaster are very strict, and only about 1721 players in history have reached this rank. (as of July 2022)

The first step on the road to becoming a grandmaster is achieving the title of the international master, which is given to players who have met certain criteria, including having at least 2300 Elo points in their rating system.

After achieving this level, players may be eligible to become grandmasters in several ways: winning an international tournament with at least nine players; getting enough points under an old system, or having two other grandmasters recommend them for promotion.


A chess opening where a player sacrifices material (usually a pawn) in order to gain a strategic or tactical advantage. Gambits can put pressure on the opponent and disrupt their plans, but can also be risky if not played correctly.


The highest title awarded by FIDE to a chess player, indicating that they have achieved a very high level of skill and success in tournament play. Grandmasters are considered to be among the best chess players in the world.

Grünfeld Defense

A chess opening for Black that begins with the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5. The Grünfeld Defense is a popular and flexible defense that seeks to counterattack in the center of the board.


A defensive move in chess that protects a piece or square from attack. Guarding can be an important part of a defensive strategy, particularly in the opening and middlegame phases of the game.

Gustavus Attack

A chess opening trap in the Philidor Defense that involves a bishop sacrifice on h7. The Gustavus Attack can be very dangerous for Black if they are not familiar with the opening.


A time control in chess that gives each player 90 minutes to complete the game, with no time increment or delay. G/90 is a standard time control used in many US chess tournaments.

Game Clock

A clock used to time chess games and ensure that each player has a fair amount of time to make their moves. Game clocks can be analog or digital, and can use a variety of timing methods such as Fischer or Bronstein modes.

Good Bishop

A bishop that has a clear path of movement and is not blocked in by its own pawns. Good bishops can be very powerful, particularly in open or semi-open positions where they can control important diagonals.

Greek Gift Sacrifice

A tactical idea in chess that involves sacrificing a bishop on h7 in order to open up lines of attack on the opponent’s king. The Greek Gift Sacrifice can be a powerful and surprising way to launch an attack.

Green Square

A square on the chessboard that is considered to be relatively safe or advantageous for a piece to occupy. Green squares can vary depending on the position of the pieces, and can be an important strategic consideration in the game.


Half-open file

A half-open file (also called a semi-open file) is one that has at least one pawn placed on it. It is considered to be half-open because there are two pawns to either side of the file, but not in the file itself.

Hanging Piece

A hanging piece is a chess piece that has been left in a vulnerable position on the board. It is also called an unprotected piece or en prise.

Half-Open File

A file on the chessboard where only one player has pawns, and the other player’s pawns are either missing or have been exchanged. Half-open files can be used to control important squares and launch attacks against the opponent’s pieces.

Hanging Pawns

Two adjacent pawns on the same file that are not protected by other pawns. Hanging pawns can be a strength or a weakness, depending on the position of the pieces and the tactics of the game.


A preliminary tournament in a chess tournament system that determines the players who will qualify for the final stage of the competition. The Hauptturnier is often used in Swiss-system tournaments to reduce the number of players and ensure a fair and competitive final stage.


A school of thought in chess strategy that emphasizes control of the center from a distance, rather than occupying it with pawns. Hypermodernism seeks to delay pawn advances and counterattack from the flanks or diagonals.


A proposed idea or explanation in chess that is subject to testing and verification through play and analysis. Hypotheses can be used to develop new strategies and tactics, or to evaluate existing theories in the game.


A concept in chess theory that refers to the persistence of an advantage or disadvantage in a position, even after the cause of the advantage or disadvantage has been removed. Hysteresis can be an important strategic consideration in evaluating the strength of a position or move.



An imbalance occurs when one player has an advantage over another. This can occur in a number of ways:

  • The first player has more pieces on the board than the second player
  • The first player’s pieces are stronger than the second player’s (for example, if one side has only pawns and bishops while the other side has pawns, knights, rooks, and bishops)
  • The second player’s pieces are weak or scattered while the first player’s are concentrated in groups


In chess, the term “initiative” refers to a player’s ability to control the flow of the game and force their opponent into positions they don’t want to be in. A player who has the initiative is able to make good moves that will help them win—or at least make it more likely they’ll win—while their opponent is unable to do anything but react.

Certainly! Here are some chess terms starting with the letter “I”:

Illegal Move

A move in chess that violates one or more of the rules of the game, such as moving a piece to an illegal square or putting one’s own king in check. Illegal moves can result in a penalty, such as a time penalty or loss of the game.


A tactical move in chess that blocks an opponent’s piece from its intended move, often by sacrificing a less valuable piece or pawn. Interference can disrupt an opponent’s plans and create tactical opportunities for the player making the interference.


A tactical move in chess that interrupts a series of moves or threats, often by making a surprise move or attack. Intermezzo can be used to gain material or create other tactical advantages.

Isolated Pawn

A pawn on a file that has no friendly pawns on adjacent files. Isolated pawns can be a strategic weakness, as they are vulnerable to attack and can limit a player’s control of the board.

Italian Game

A chess opening that begins with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4. The Italian Game is a popular and aggressive opening that seeks to control the center of the board and launch attacks against the opponent’s king.


A strategic advantage in chess that refers to a player’s ability to dictate the course of the game and set the tempo of play. Initiative can be gained through tactical moves, strong development, or control of key squares and pieces.

Invitational Tournament

A chess tournament that is restricted to a limited number of players, usually based on their ranking or other qualifications. Invitational tournaments often feature top players and offer high-level competition and prize money.


A position in chess that is extremely difficult to break through or disrupt, often due to a strong defensive structure or well-placed pieces. Ironclad positions can be a powerful defensive tool and can be used to hold a draw or even win in difficult positions.



j’adoube (French for “I adjust”) is the international signal of a player’s intention to adjust something on their chess board. When playing with the touch-move rule, saying this allows them to move pieces without being subject to that regulation

The verb adouber, meaning “to dub,” is rarely used in contemporary French outside of this context. A local language equivalent—like, say “I am adjusting” —is generally also acceptable

Jaenisch Gambit

The Jaenisch Gambit is a very aggressive way for Black to play against the Ruy Lopez opening. It results from 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5, Black plays 3 … f5. The variation is named after Carl Jaenisch (1813 – 1872).


A French phrase used in chess to indicate that a player wishes to adjust the position of a piece on the board without actually making a move. J’adoube is often used before the start of a game or during a break to adjust the pieces on the board.


A tactical maneuver in chess that involves a series of exchanges or threats between two pieces or sets of pieces, often resulting in one player gaining a material advantage or positional advantage.


A Spanish word used in chess to refer to a group of pawns that are arranged in a defensive formation, often in front of the king. Juntas can be a powerful defensive tool, but can also limit a player’s mobility and control of the board.


A move in chess that involves a piece moving directly from its current square to a square that is not adjacent, often over one or more intervening pieces. Jumping moves are often used by knights and can be used to create unexpected threats or surprise attacks.


A slang term used in chess to refer to a position or game that is chaotic, messy, or difficult to understand. Jungle positions often feature a large number of pieces on the board and can be unpredictable or difficult to navigate.


A concept in chess theory that refers to the reasoning or logic behind a move or strategy. Justification can be used to evaluate the strength of a move or to analyze the thought process of a player.


A French phrase used in chess to indicate that a player is accusing their opponent of cheating or violating the rules of the game. J’accuse can be a serious accusation and is often only used in extreme circumstances.


A chess tournament or event that involves a large number of players or teams from different regions or countries. Jamborees can be a fun and social way to play chess and meet other players from around the world.



Chess notation symbol for the king.


Kriegspiel is an unorthodox chess game in which the players only know for certain their own pieces’ positions. They must deduce where the opponent’s pieces are by questioning an umpire. It is played on three boards with partitions between them.

There are only two kinds of questions that players can ask the umpire: “Can I move here?” and “Are there any?” (meaning pawn captures).

The umpire will make the appropriate moves on behalf of players and announce checks, captures, and checkmates. The game was created by Henry Michael Temple (1862–1928).

Key Square

  1. Means a very important square. The four central squares are usually referred to as the key squares.
  2. The term is also used in pawn endings, to describe a square whose occupation by one side’s king guarantees the achievement of a certain goal, such as the promotion of a pawn or the win of a pawn.


Acronym for King’s Gambit Accepted (KGA). The king’s gambit accepted is a chess opening move that occurs when white advances their f-pawn two spaces. It is one of the most popular openings in chess, with white having won about half the time it has been played in major competitions.


Acronym for King’s Gambit Denied (KGD).

Certainly! Here are some chess terms starting with the letter “K”:


The most important piece in chess, whose capture results in the end of the game. The king is limited to moving one square in any direction and is the only piece that cannot be captured.

King’s Gambit

A chess opening that begins with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.f4, where White offers a pawn in exchange for control of the center of the board. The King’s Gambit is a risky but aggressive opening that can lead to sharp, tactical play.


A chess piece that moves in an L-shaped pattern, two squares in one direction and then one square perpendicular to it. Knights are valued for their ability to jump over other pieces and create unexpected threats.

Knight Fork

A tactical move in chess that involves a knight attacking two or more pieces at the same time. A knight fork can be a powerful way to gain material or create other tactical advantages.

Kotov Syndrome

A concept in chess psychology named after the Soviet grandmaster Alexander Kotov, referring to the difficulty of making decisions and choosing between multiple options in a complex position. Kotov Syndrome can lead to indecisiveness and time pressure, and can be a common problem for players of all levels.

Kramnik Variation

A line of the Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez opening, popularized by the former world champion Vladimir Kramnik. The Kramnik Variation involves playing …Nf6 and …d6 early in the game, rather than the traditional …Nxe4.


A chess variant that is played with hidden pieces, where each player can only see their own pieces and not the opponent’s. Kriegspiel is a challenging and unique game that requires a different set of skills and strategies than traditional chess.


An abbreviation used in algebraic notation to indicate a knight move, typically written as “Kt” followed by the destination square. For example, “Nf3” can be written as “Ktf3”.


Laws of chess

These are the rules that govern the game of chess.

Lightning chess

A game of chess with an extremely short time limit, often five minutes or less per player

light-square bishop

The bishop that can move only on the light-coloured squares. In the initial position, White’s light-square bishop is located on f1; Black’s is on c8. Each player has one light square bishop and a dark-spare bishop.

A lever in chess refers to a pawn move that forces a reaction from the opponent, usually to provoke weaknesses in the opponent’s pawn structure.

Lone King

A situation where a player has only the king left on the board. This usually indicates a serious disadvantage, as the king has limited mobility and power.

Loose Pieces

Pieces that are undefended or weakly defended are called loose pieces. They are vulnerable to attacks and often lead to tactical disadvantages.

Lucena Position

The Lucena Position is a key endgame position in rook and pawn versus rook endgames, where the player with the extra pawn has a winning advantage. Named after the 15th-century Spanish chess writer Luis Ramirez de Lucena.

Losing Chess (also known as Suicide Chess, Giveaway Chess)

A chess variant in which the objective is to lose all one’s pieces or be placed in checkmate is the exact opposite of traditional chess.


In chess slang, capturing an opponent’s piece is sometimes referred to as ‘eating’ or ‘having it for lunch’.


A German word meaning “air”, used in chess to describe a safety hole made for the king to avoid back rank mate threats. For example, a move like h3 or g3 for white (or h6 or g6 for black) creates ‘luft’ for the king.

Légal’s Mate

A common trap in the opening phase of the game, named after the French player Sire de Légal. It usually involves a knight sacrifice that leads to a quick checkmate if the opponent does not respond correctly.


Major Piece

A term used to describe the queen and rooks, as they are the most powerful pieces in terms of their movement and capturing capabilities.


The process of repositioning one’s pieces to more advantageous squares or to launch an attack on the opponent’s position.

Maróczy Bind

A pawn structure that arises primarily from the Sicilian Defense, named after the Hungarian Grandmaster Géza Maróczy. The structure restricts Black’s pawn breaks and can be very difficult to play against.


The collective term for the pieces (excluding the king) that each player has on the board. Material balance is an important factor in the evaluation of a position, and a player is said to be ‘up material’ or ‘down material’ if they have captured more or fewer pieces than their opponent.


Short for checkmate is the position in which a player’s king is in a state of check and there is no legal move to remove it from check. The checkmated player loses the game.


The phase of the game that follows the opening. The middlegame is often where the majority of the action takes place, with players maneuvering their pieces, launching attacks, and attempting to gain an advantage in material or position.

Minor Piece

A term used to describe the knights and bishops. They are less powerful than the rooks and queen but still play a crucial role in the game.


A term that describes the number of legal moves available to a piece. High mobility is typically desirable as it provides more options and opportunities to create threats.

Morphy’s Mate

A checkmate pattern named after the American chess master Paul Morphy. It typically involves a bishop and rook coordinating to deliver the checkmate.

Mouse Slip

A term used primarily in online chess to describe a situation where a player accidentally places a piece on the wrong square, typically due to a slip of the computer mouse.

Muzio Gambit

An aggressive opening in the King’s Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0) where white sacrifices a knight for rapid development and attack. It’s known for leading to wild and complicated positions.

Move Order

The sequence in which moves are made, especially during the opening phase. Move order can be critical in chess, as different move orders can lead to different types of positions and possibly avoid certain lines that an opponent is well-prepared for.

Mutual Zugzwang

A situation in which both players would prefer not to move because any move would worsen their position. This is a relatively rare occurrence in chess.

Minority Attack

A strategy typically used in pawn structures where one side has fewer pawns on a specific area of the board (the flank or the center). The idea is to provoke weaknesses in the opponent’s pawn structure that can be exploited later.

Max Lange Attack

An aggressive line in the Two Knights Defense. It begins with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.O-O. Named after the German chess player Max Lange.


A series of games played between two players or teams. In chess, matches can be a part of tournaments, championships, or casual play.


A title awarded to strong chess players by national chess bodies and the International Chess Federation (FIDE). It’s often divided into several categories, such as Candidate Master, FIDE Master, International Master, and Grandmaster.


In some variants of chess, a mill refers to an alignment of three pieces of the same color on a rank, file, or diagonal. When a mill is formed, the player can remove an opponent’s piece from the board. Not applicable to traditional chess.


Another term for the king in chess.

Modern Defense

A hypermodern chess opening where Black allows White to occupy the center with pawns on d4 and e4, then aims to undermine and counter-attack this center. It typically starts with 1.e4 g6 or 1.d4 g6.



A new move in a known position, typically discovered in home analysis and then played for the first time in a competitive game. These can often drastically alter the assessment of well-known positions and are an essential part of opening preparation at the highest level.

Nimzo-Indian Defense

A highly regarded chess opening that begins with the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4. It is named after Aron Nimzowitsch, one of the great chess masters of the early 20th century.

Nimzowitsch Defense

An unorthodox chess opening that starts with the moves 1.e4 Nc6. Named after the Latvian-Danish Grandmaster Aron Nimzowitsch, it is a hypermodern opening where black allows white to establish a broad pawn center and aims to undermine it later.


The method used to record moves in a game of chess. The most common form is algebraic notation, where each square is identified by a letter (a-h) and a number (1-8).

Najdorf Variation

A highly popular variation of the Sicilian Defense, characterized by the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6. It was named after the Argentine Grandmaster Miguel Najdorf.

Knight’s Tour

A sequence of moves by a single knight such that it visits every square on the chessboard exactly once. The knight’s tour is a classic problem in chess, demonstrating the knight’s unique movement capabilities.

King’s Knight

In the initial position, the knight on the b-file for White and the g-file for Black.

Knight Outpost

A square where a knight is placed and cannot be attacked by an opponent’s pawn. These are usually in the center or on the opponent’s half of the board, and can serve as an excellent base for attacks.

Knight Fork

A tactical maneuver in which a knight attacks two or more pieces at the same time. Due to the knight’s unique movement, these can often be difficult to foresee and prevent.



The initial phase of a chess game, typically the first 10-15 moves, where players develop their pieces, control the center and ensure the safety of their king. The opening lays the foundation for the middlegame and endgame.


A tactical term for a situation where a piece is given too many defensive assignments, such that it cannot meet all of them. When the opponent attacks this overloaded piece, it may result in loss of material or a weaker position.

Open Game

A game that begins with the moves 1.e4 e5. It is characterized by open lines and tactical play. Famous open games include the Italian Game, the Ruy Lopez, and the King’s Gambit.

Open File

A file (column) on the chessboard that does not contain any pawns. Rooks and queens are particularly powerful when placed on open files, as they can control and move freely along these lines.


A square on the chessboard, often in the opponent’s territory, which is controlled by one player and cannot be attacked by an opponent’s pawn. Knights are particularly effective when placed on outposts.

Opposite-colored Bishops

A situation in which each player has one bishop, and the bishops move on squares of opposite colors. This often leads to a draw in the endgame, even if one side has an extra pawn or two.

Opening Repertoire

The collection of openings that a player has studied and plays regularly. A well-prepared opening repertoire can provide a significant advantage in competitive play.


This is the notation for castling on the king’s side. In this move, the king moves two squares towards the rook on its initial square, and the rook moves to the square the king skipped over.


This is the notation for castling on the queen’s side. In this move, the king moves two squares towards the rook on its initial square, and the rook moves to the square the king skipped over.


Refers to traditional chess played on a physical board as opposed to online chess. Often abbreviated as OTB.



The most numerous piece in the game of chess, each player starting with eight. Pawns have the most complex rules for movement: they move straight ahead (but not backward), capture diagonally, and have the potential to transform into any other piece (except the king) if they reach the opponent’s back rank.

Pawn Structure

The configuration of pawns on the chessboard. Pawn structure is a critical aspect of evaluating a position and formulating strategies, as pawns can create weaknesses or strengths depending on their arrangement.

Pawn Chain

A formation of pawns of the same color on adjacent files, protecting each other. These structures can provide solid defense but may also be a target for attack.

Pawn Majority

A situation where one player has more pawns on one side of the board than the opponent. Pawn majorities can be a strategic advantage, particularly in the endgame, as they can potentially create a passed pawn.

Pawn Island

A group of one or more pawns separated by a file from any other pawns. Pawn islands can be weak because they cannot protect each other.

Passed Pawn

A pawn that has no opposing pawns to prevent it from advancing to the eighth rank, i.e., there are no opposing pawns in front of it on either the same file or adjacent files. Passed pawns can be a significant advantage, particularly in the endgame.


A slang term for a weak or inexperienced chess player.

Perpetual Check

A situation in which one player can continually check the opponent’s king, with no way for the opponent to escape the cycle of checks. This typically results in a draw.

Petrov’s Defense

A chess opening characterized by the moves: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6. It is a symmetrical opening that often leads to open positions.

Philidor’s Defense

A chess opening characterized by the moves: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6. Named after François-André Danican Philidor, a famous 18th-century player.


A situation in which a piece is unable to move without exposing a more valuable piece to capture.


The act of a pawn reaching the eighth rank and then being promoted to any other piece (queen, rook, bishop, or knight) of the same color. The pawn is almost always promoted to a queen, as it is the most powerful piece.


A strategy that involves preventing the opponent’s plans in advance. Prophylactic moves often improve the position’s overall safety or restrict the opponent’s piece activity.


A position where the goal is to achieve a certain result in the best way possible, such as checkmating the opponent’s king or winning material. Chess puzzles are a common training tool.



The most powerful piece on the chessboard, able to move any number of squares along a rank, file, or diagonal. Each player starts the game with one queen.

Queen’s Gambit

A chess opening that starts with the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4. It’s called a gambit because White appears to offer the c4 pawn as a sacrifice, but can usually regain it with a good position.

Queen’s Indian Defense

A chess opening that starts with the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6. It is a solid and reliable defense that aims to control the center with pieces rather than pawns.

Queen’s Pawn Game

Any chess opening that begins with the move 1.d4. It can lead to a variety of different structures and setups, making it a flexible choice for White.

Queen’s Pawn Opening

The general term for any chess opening that starts with 1.d4.

Queen’s Side

The half of the chessboard that contains the queen at the start of the game (files d, e, f, g and h for White, files a, b, c, d and e for Black).

Queen Sacrifice

A tactical decision to give up the queen (usually for a minor piece or a rook) to achieve a more important strategic or tactical goal, such as a checkmate or a significant positional advantage.

Quiescence Errors

Mistakes made in the evaluation of a position due to stopping the calculation of a sequence of moves too soon, usually at a point where there is still a lot of forceful play left.

Quiet Move

A move that doesn’t involve a check, capture, or direct threat. Quiet moves are often positional, preparing for future plans or subtly improving the position.

Quick Chess

A general term for games with fast time controls, including Rapid and Blitz chess games.



The rows of the chessboard, running horizontally from one player’s perspective. There are eight ranks in a standard chessboard, numbered 1 to 8.


One of the major pieces in chess. Each player starts with two rooks, which move any number of squares along a rank or file.

Rook Lift

A tactic involving the vertical or horizontal movement of a rook to a more active position, often in conjunction with an attack on the opponent’s king.

Ruy Lopez

A classic chess opening that begins with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5. Named after the 16th-century Spanish bishop and chess enthusiast Ruy López de Segura, this opening has been popular for over 500 years.


To concede defeat before the game has reached a natural conclusion (checkmate or a draw). A player typically resigns when they believe their position is hopeless and they have no chance of winning or drawing.

Royal Fork

A fork (simultaneous attack on two or more pieces) by a knight that includes an attack on the opponent’s king and queen.

Romantic Chess

A term for the style of chess play that was popular in the 19th century. It was characterized by bold attacks, daring sacrifices, and a disregard for material balance in favor of rapid development and direct attacks on the opponent’s king.


A system used to measure the skill level of players, based on their results in games against other rated players. The Elo rating system, named after its creator Arpad Elo, is the most widely used in chess.

Reti Opening

A hypermodern chess opening characterized by the moves 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4. Named after the Czech Grandmaster Richard Reti, it aims for a strong control of the center, flexibility, and a fight for key squares with pieces rather than pawns.

Russian Game

Also known as the Petrov’s Defense, it is a chess opening characterized by the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6. It is a solid choice for Black, aiming for equality rather than trying to seize the initiative from White.



A tactical decision to give up material (usually a pawn or a piece) to gain a more important strategic or tactical goal, such as a checkmate, a significant positional advantage, or to expose the opponent’s king.

Scandinavian Defense

A chess opening that begins with the moves 1.e4 d5. Also known as the Center Counter Defense, it immediately challenges White’s control of the center.

Scholar’s Mate

A simple, four-move checkmate pattern that beginners often use, typically starting with 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6?? 4.Qxf7#. This checkmate takes advantage of players who do not develop their pieces properly or neglect to control the center in the opening.

Semi-Open Game

Any chess opening where White plays 1.e4 and Black responds with any move other than 1…e5. These include the French Defense, the Caro-Kann Defense, the Sicilian Defense, and others.

Sicilian Defense

A highly popular and respected chess opening that begins with the moves 1.e4 c5. The Sicilian Defense allows Black to fight for the center and unbalance the position from the very first moves.


The process of trading pieces to arrive at an endgame, usually with the intent of converting an advantage or neutralizing the opponent’s attack.

Simultaneous Exhibition

An event where a single player (usually a chess master or grandmaster) plays multiple games at the same time against a number of other players.


A tactical motif where a valuable piece is attacked and forced to move, thereby exposing a less valuable piece to capture.

Smothered Mate

A checkmate pattern where the king is surrounded by its own pieces and is checkmated by a knight.


A situation in which one player has no legal moves and is not in check. Stalemate immediately ends the game as a draw.

Steinitz Defense

A chess opening characterized by the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6. Named after the first World Chess Champion Wilhelm Steinitz, it aims to maintain a solid pawn structure and develop pieces harmoniously.

Swiss System Tournament

A type of chess tournament in which players are paired using a set of rules designed to ensure that each competitor plays opponents with a similar running score, but not the same opponent more than once.



A sequence of moves, usually involving a combination, that can result in an immediate advantage. Common tactical motifs include forks, pins, skewers, discovered attacks, and double checks.


A measure of time in chess referring to a single move. Gaining a tempo means to make a move which forces the opponent to respond, thereby gaining the initiative.

Threefold Repetition

A rule in chess that states if the exact same position occurs three times with the same player to move, the game may be claimed as a draw. This often occurs when neither side can make progress without incurring a disadvantage.

Time Control

The amount of time each player has to make their moves in a game. Different types of games (e.g., blitz, rapid, classical) have different time controls.

Touch-Move Rule

A rule in chess that states if a player deliberately touches a piece when it is their turn to move, they must move or capture that piece if it is legal to do so.


A sequence of moves leading to a position that could have arisen from a different move order. Transpositions are often used to confuse opponents or steer the game into a preferred opening.

Trapped Piece

A piece that is unable to move without being captured or causing a significant disadvantage.


A chess tactic where a piece is sacrificed to open up lines of attack against the opponent’s king.


A technique used in the endgame to lose a tempo (a move) and thereby change the position to the player’s advantage, often forcing the opposition in a king and pawn endgame.

Two Knights Defense

A chess opening that begins with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6. It can lead to extremely complex positions and sharp tactics.



The act of promoting a pawn to a rook, bishop, or knight instead of a queen when it reaches the eighth rank. Although less common, underpromotion can be useful in specific situations to avoid stalemate or to achieve a specific tactical goal.


The action of moving a pinned piece out of the line of attack, or interposing another piece between the pinned piece and the attacking piece.


A term used to describe a move or series of moves, usually involving a sacrifice, that does not have a solid basis in calculation or strategy. An unsound sacrifice or combination may work against an unprepared opponent, but it does not stand up to accurate play.

Urusov Gambit

A chess opening characterized by the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4. Named after Prince Sergei Urusov, it is an aggressive gambit aiming to control the center and develop quickly for an attack.

Utilitarian Move

A move in chess that simultaneously serves multiple purposes. For example, a move could potentially develop a piece, control a central square, and prepare for castling.

Undefended Piece

A piece that is not protected by any other piece or pawn. Undefended pieces can be vulnerable to tactics such as forks and pins. It’s generally a good practice to keep all pieces defended unless there’s a specific strategic or tactical reason to leave a piece undefended.


Vančura Position

A specific position in rook and pawn versus rook endgames, with the pawn on the rook’s file. Named after Josef Vančura who analyzed it in 1924, it is usually a draw despite one side having an extra pawn.


A sequence of moves that can occur from a certain position. In the analysis or study of chess, players often look at different variations to understand the possibilities in a position.

Vienna Game

A chess opening that begins with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3. It aims for a rapid and flexible development of the pieces. Depending on Black’s responses, it can lead to quiet positional play or wild tactical battles.


A term sometimes used to describe a line of pawns, especially when they are connected and defending each other.


A term used to describe a piece or square that can potentially be attacked or targeted by the opponent. Understanding and exploiting vulnerabilities in the opponent’s position is a key aspect of chess strategy.

Vukovic Mate

A checkmate pattern involving a rook and a bishop (or a queen acting as a bishop) against the opponent’s king. Named after the Croatian chess player and writer Vladimir Vukovic. In this pattern, the rook delivers the checkmate while the bishop cuts off the king’s escape square.


Weak Square

A square that can no longer be defended by a pawn. Control of weak squares can often be used to gain a positional advantage.


A series of checks and captures by one player that can result in significant material gain. The pattern typically involves a discovered check in conjunction with a rook, bishop, or queen.

Wing Gambit

A type of gambit (sacrifice) involving a pawn on the b or g file. Wing Gambits can be seen in several different openings, and are typically used to disrupt the opponent’s position and quickly seize control of the center.


A colloquial and somewhat derogatory term for a novice or poor chess player. The term implies that the player moves pieces without a clear plan or understanding of the principles of the game.

World Chess Championship

The tournament or match that determines the World Champion of chess. It has been held since 1886, with the format changing several times over the years.

Wrong Bishop

In pawn endgames, the term refers to a situation where the bishop’s color doesn’t match the promotion square of the remaining pawn. As a result, it’s impossible to force checkmate if the opponent has only the king left.

Wrong Rook Pawn

In endgames, a situation where the pawn is a rook pawn (on the a or h file) and the square it will promote on is the same color as the opponent’s bishop. In this case, the game is a draw if the defending king reaches the corner in time.


Chess terminology has a few terms starting with the letter ‘X’. Here are a few:


Also known as a skewer, it is a tactic where a line piece (rook, bishop or queen) indirectly attacks an enemy piece through another piece.


Also known as Chinese chess, it is a strategy board game for two players. While not a form of chess in the traditional sense, it shares many strategic and tactical elements with chess.


A standard way of referring to the files on a chessboard, where ‘x’ can be any number from 1 to 8 representing the rank. For example, the square e5 would be referred to as 5E.


In chess commentary, an ‘X-factor’ can sometimes refer to an unexpected element or player in a tournament or match, which could potentially influence the outcome. It’s not a standard chess term, but rather a borrowing from general English usage.


Again, like with ‘X’, chess terminology doesn’t have many terms starting with the letter ‘Y’. Here’s a term that does:

Yugoslav Attack

The Yugoslav Attack is a chess opening that is a line of the Sicilian Defence, Dragon Variation, which begins with the moves: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6. The Yugoslav Attack is one of the most aggressive counter-attacks Black has to the Sicilian Defence.

If we stretch a bit, you could use:

Youth Chess

This isn’t so much a term as it is a category. Youth Chess refers to chess games, tournaments, and education aimed at children and adolescents. Many national and international tournaments have specific categories for different youth age groups.

Y Coordinate

In descriptive notation, the ‘Y Coordinate’ refers to the number (1-8) that helps to identify the specific square a piece is on. For example, in the algebraic notation ‘e4’, ‘4’ is the Y coordinate. However, this term isn’t used very often in the chess world.


Like with some other letters, chess terminology does not have many terms starting with the letter ‘Z’. Here are a few:


A German term that translates to “compulsion to move”. It is a situation in a chess game where one player is put at a disadvantage because they must make a move – every possible move will worsen their position.


Another German term, translating to “intermediate move”. It is a chess tactic where a player, instead of playing the expected move (commonly a recapture), first inserts a move which attacks a higher value piece (often called a “check” or a “discovered attack”).


Chess, like many games, is a zero-sum game, meaning one player’s gain is the other’s loss. In the context of a chess game, if one player wins, the other player loses. In the case of a draw, neither player wins or loses.

Zukertort System

The Zukertort is a flexible opening system named after Johannes Zukertort, a leading world player in the 19th century. It can be used against virtually any black defense and will be part of a Double Queen’s Pawn (DQP) opening.