Chess is one of the oldest games introduced in the 6th century. Since its inception, this game has gone through many changes in terms of the number, names, designs, and meanings of its game pieces. A game of chess demands the utmost focus of mind. To be fully in control of your craft, it is vital to understand each piece’s function, value, and movements.
The modern chess set has a total of 32 pieces sorted as two sets of 16 pieces each. Each set comes in a distinct color and constitutes 8 pawns, 2 rooks, 2 bishops, 2 knights, 1 queen, and 1 king. These pieces are popularly known as chessmen and materials.
Chess Piece Types
The player on each side plays with 16 pieces of six types. Sets are mostly available in black and white or off-white colors. Each type of piece behaves differently when it comes to occupying the opponent’s piece and moving forward. Let’s find out more about all the six types of materials in detail.
With eight pieces per set, pawns exist in the majority in a chess game. These pieces are placed in the second row from the end of the chessboard and depict the arrangement of frontline soldiers on the battlefield. This pawn sequence is referred to as a Pawn structure.
Pawns are not able to move horizontally or vertically. Instead, they move only in diagonals. A pawn moves through one square in one go, except for the very first turn in which the player can move it through two squares at once. If the opponent’s piece comes in the way of your pawn, you also get to capture that piece. Thus, pawns enable you to increase your chances of winning the game, as long as you keep using these pieces smartly and strategically.
Rooks (Tower or Castle)
Rooks are shaped to look like towers or castles, which is also where the name of these pieces draws its inspiration from. A chess game features four rooks, 2 for each side of the game. The movement of this type of piece is unlimited, provided there is no other piece placed ahead of it. You can move it horizontally or vertically and backwards or forwards however you wish and can afford to.
Two pieces featuring the horse’s head make up a set of knights for one player. In other words, the chess game includes four knights. The function of this piece has been the same ever since the game was created. However, minor changes in the representation of the horse’s head have been made.
Unlike rooks that cannot move over another chessman standing in their way, knight pieces allow you to jump over other pieces standing ahead of them. That is, as long as you follow the advised L-shaped pattern while moving it. For instance, move it one square towards the left or right and then two squares upward or downward from there. This perpendicular moving ability of a knight makes it less powerful without the combination of pawns.
There are four bishops in a chess game. Both players get two bishops to put right beside the queen and king. Since bishops offer movement in diagonal direction only, they remain in the same colored squares they start from. You can move a bishop to as many squares as you want as long as they are unoccupied. Saving your bishops can help you keep the game in your hands.
In the beginning, elephant figures were used to represent bishops. Bishops could also move two squares at a time in the earlier version of chess. However, as the game evolved over time, these features were changed.
King and Queen
The King, as the name implies, is the most powerful and important member of the chess set. Every player plays with a single king. The main goal of the game revolves around the defense of the king piece from a checkmate.
The King moves one square at a time without any restriction of direction. It can freely proceed to horizontal, vertical, and forward positions. However, two kings can not sit adjacent to each other as this move brings the game to an end since it leads to a checkmate. Kings can capture a piece of the opposite side if it comes in their way unsupported. This technique also comes in handy to save the king from being attacked by a checkmate situation.
The queen features a crown on the top. A complete chess board has two queens, one for each player of the game. The middle position of the first row from the player’s side is appointed for the queen only. Except for the jumping ability, there is no limitation in the movement of the queen. You can move it to the left, right, up, down, and slanting position. Thus, a queen has directional moving characteristics similar to those of bishops and rooks.
Values of Each Chess Piece
In chess, value is the determinant of the status or strength of each piece and is denoted as points. The higher the points are, the more valuable the piece will be. If you know the value of all the pieces, you will be able to make better decisions in the game while trading a piece for another. Also, you will have a good idea about whether you should take the risk of sacrificing a valuable piece.
Starting from the minor and least valuable piece, the pawn is worth a single point. Interestingly, once a pawn reaches the other end of the chessboard, it can be promoted to any piece you choose other than the king. After promotion, that particular pawn piece enjoys the value of the piece you selected.
Bishops and knights both share the value of three points. Next in line are rooks that have a value of five points. Based on this value, rooks are considered major pieces that are stronger than bishops, knights, and pawns.
The Queen holds the most strength and power in chess as it is valued at nine points. Even the combined power of all the eight pawns is incomparable in front of a single queen. However, two rooks together can beat the power of a queen.
Finally, we come to the King. Beginners unacquainted with the rules of chess often expect the King to have the most value, given how it is the most important piece as well as the ultimate objective of the game. Even though the assumption appears logical, it is incorrect.
The King of chess has no value, because this piece can not be captured. Rather, it incurs a checkmate from the opposing king, and the game ends with a king checkmated. So, your priority should be to avoid trapping your king in a position from where it cannot easily move. There is no harm in sacrificing a major piece for the king’s sake, given your other pieces are in stable positions.
Chess is a two-player game played with 16 pieces arranged on opposite sides. To become an expert at the game, you must know the strategic value of each piece. Also, you should be well aware of the moving and jumping abilities of every piece.
To sum up, the king and queen are the most powerful pieces of chess. Rooks, worth five points, are also quite strong pieces. Bishops and knights are equally strong with three points. Last but not least, pawns have one point each. You can promote a pawn to any high-value piece of your choice except the King, as soon as the pawn finishes its way down to the opponent’s end of the board.