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When you start learning how to play chess, the most important step is to learn the names of chess pieces and their individual purpose. Since chess is a game of rules, you need to know how each piece moves and under what circumstances. 

A standard set has a total of 32 pieces and each player has access to 16 pieces. At the beginning of each game, you will have access to 8 pawns, 2 bishops, 2 knights, 2 rooks, 1 queen, and 1 king. Here’s a look at the original names of chess pieces, their positions and moves – 


Pawns, formerly known as infants or foot soldiers, are considered to be the most complex chess pieces. When you begin a game, you start off with 8 pawns. The first time that you move a pawn, you can take it two squares forward. After this, the pawn can only move one square ahead. 

However, pawns are quite unusual because they can only capture another piece when they move diagonally. They can never capture a chess piece moving forward or backward. If there is another piece blocking the forward move, pawns have to stay put. If a pawn makes its way to the other side of the board, it can be exchanged for any previously captured piece, including the queen. 


While pawns capture their enemy diagonally, the bishop’s only move is diagonal. Formerly known as elephant, the bishop can move as many squares as it wants – from one side to another. Players have access to two bishops, one standing on white and the other on black. 

Players should note that if their bishop starts on a white square, it can only move diagonally on white. Same rule applies to bishops that start off on the black square. Bishops are essential because they can be used to protect other chess pieces on the board.


When learning the names of chess pieces, it is also essential to learn their moves. Knights have the head of a horse and move in a way that is different from all other pieces. Each knight can move three squares at any given time. However, a knight can only move two squares front and one square to the right. 

Simply put, this move makes the shape of ‘L’ on the chess board. Players should note that the knight can never be blocked by other pieces and can easily jump over them. The only tricky square for the knight is the corner, as this is where it’s most vulnerable to being captured.  


Rooks, formerly known as chariots, are powerful pieces that can easily cover the entire chess board. They can move from one side to another crossing as many squares as they want. They can also stop anywhere on the board. However, rooks can only move forward, sideways, or backwards. 

Players often use rooks in conjunction with other pieces to capture the opponent’s chess pieces. They can also be used to protect vulnerable pieces from attacks. An easy way to remember the rooks move is to keep in mind the ‘+’ sign. 


The queen is one of the most important chess pieces on the board. This is because she can move and attack in any manner she wants. The queen can move forward or backward like rooks or diagonally like bishops. However, she cannot jump over other pieces like knights. 

Once a queen is captured, she is out of the game. This can put players in a difficult position, especially if the opponent has the queen piece still safe. To get back the queen, players can push a pawn to the end of the other side and exchange it for a queen.  


When learning the names of chess pieces, players should know that the king has never had a name change. Since the times of chaturanga, considered to be the origin of chess, the king has remained the most essential piece on the board. 

However, the king is also one of the weakest pieces on the board. He can only move one square at a time – either forward, backward, or sideways. Furthermore, the king can never move in any square that can be dangerous because once the king is lost, so is the game! 

Now that you know so much about the transformation of chess pieces, you may want to create a unique collection of your own. Check out Square Off’s Grand Kingdom Set, a handcrafted board with intricately designed chess pieces and automated movements. And if you wish to splurge, you can also check out a rollable tournament-size e-chessboard.