Guide to Moving the Chess Pieces

A Guide to Moving the Chess Pieces

If you’re looking to master the game of chess, then it’s going to be necessary for you to know the different movements of each piece on the chessboard.

Starting Position

Pieces place on the chessboard

Here is how to place the chess pieces on the chessboard before starting the game:

  • The king and queen are in the middle, that is, the king is on the e-file and the queen is on the d-file. To never forget which is which, you can remember the phrase “queen on her own color”. Meaning, the white queen is placed on a light square and the black queen is placed on a dark square.
  • The two bishops are next to the king and queen, i.e. on the c- and f-files.
  • The knights follow the bishops, they are on the b- and g-files.
  • The rooks are at the end, that is to say on the a- and h-files.
  • The pawns are in front of each piece, that is, on the second rank.

Moving the Chess Pieces 

The King

The king can move in any direction, whether horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. However, he can only move one square at a time and cannot leap over another piece.

The Queen

The queen can move as many squares as she wants in any direction on the board, whether horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, but she cannot leap over another piece.

The Rook

The rook can move as many squares as it wants, but only horizontally and vertically (not diagonally) and it cannot leap over another piece.

The Bishop

The bishop can only move in a diagonal direction, but cannot leap over another piece. At the start of the game, the two bishops are placed on the chessboard so that one is on a dark square and the other on a light square. Throughout the game, a bishop will respect the color of its starting position: if it starts on a dark square it will never step on a light square, and vice versa.

The Knight

The knight moves in an “L” shape. That is to say, it can move two squares horizontally or vertically and then one perpendicular square. The knight can also move one square horizontally or vertically and then two perpendicular squares (still an “L” shape, only turned over). A knight who is on a light square will not land on another light square when moving. The knight is the only piece in chess that can leap over other pieces.

The Pawn

Moving the pawn at the start of a chess game

A pawn can only move one square forward, except in its first move, when it can move two squares forward if it wants. A pawn can move forward only when that square is unoccupied. A pawn can capture an opponent’s piece on a square that’s diagonally in front of it by moving to that square. Pawns are the only chess pieces that can never move backward.

In these two images, the black pawn can move two squares forward if it wants because it’s its first move and therefore can land on the d5 square (or d6 if it chooses to advance only one square).

When a pawn reaches an opponent’s back rank, it can be promoted to any piece of your choice except a king. This can allow you to have two queens, three knights, three rooks, etc.

A pawn can also perform a capturing move called “en passant”. If a pawn advances two squares as its first move and lands right next to an opponent’s pawn, the latter can capture it by advancing one square diagonally in its direction (where it will be standing behind the square that was occupied by the now captured pawn). This essentially means that the opponent’s pawn takes the place of the pawn that has advanced two squares, but as if it had advanced only one square.

In these two images, the black pawn performs the en passant maneuver which enables it to capture the white pawn.

Castling

Kingside and queenside castling
Kingside and queenside castling

Castling is a maneuver that the king can perform with the aid of one of the two rooks. When castling is done on the kingside it’s called kingside castling. Contrastingly, castling done on the queenside is called queenside castling.

Kingside castling consists of moving the king two squares towards the rook that’s on the h-file; the king ends up occupying the g-file. The rook moves as well during this procedure, it ends up occupying the last square the king has crossed, which places it on the f-file.

Queenside castling consists of moving the king two squares towards the rook that’s on the a-file; the king ends up occupying the c-file. The rook moves as well, of course, it ends up on the d-file (the last square the king has crossed).

Castling is impossible when the king is in check or when any of the squares between the king and the needed rook is attacked by an opponent’s piece. It goes without saying, castling is only possible when the squares between the king and the rook are unoccupied.

Castling is the only instance in chess where two pieces can move at the same time. It is also the only time the king can move two squares and the rook can leap over another piece.