Getting Started In Chess : Part 4 – How To Move The Pieces

We are close to sitting down and playing our first game! The next step in this journey is learning how the pieces move. Before I get to that I want to explicitly mention that in chess the white pieces move first. I probably didn’t have to say that, but for completeness sake, I wanted to make sure I said it.

The good news is that we only have six pieces to cover.  I find it amazing that a game that is synonymous with being complicated only has six unique pieces.


The pawn is often the most underrated of all of the pieces. On most chess sets, the pawn is the smallest piece on the board which gives the impression that it is weak. However, a coordinated pawn rush is a beautiful devastating maneuver that can crush your opponent’s will to fight. It’s also one of the few pieces with some strange move rules that we will get into shortly. Each player begins a chess game with eight pawns, standing in front of their other eight pieces.

Pawns are both simple and complex in their movements.

  • Pawns can move forward one square, if that square is unoccupied.
  • If it has not yet moved, the pawn has the option of moving two squares forward provided both squares in front of the pawn are unoccupied.
  • A pawn cannot move backward.
  • Pawns are the only pieces that capture differently from how they move. They can capture an enemy piece on either of the two squares adjacent to the square in front of them (i.e., the two squares diagonally in front of them) but cannot move to these squares if they are vacant.
  • The pawn is also involved in the two special moves en passant and promotion.
    • En passant is a French expression which means “in passing”. In Chess, en passant is a special pawn capture rule. It can only occur immediately after a pawn moves two squares from its starting square, and it could have been captured by an enemy pawn had it advanced only one square. In this case, the opponent is allowed to capture the pawn “as it passes” through the first square. The result is the same as if the pawn had advanced only one square and the enemy pawn had captured it.

    • If a pawn reaches the other side of the board, it will be promoted.  This means the pawn may be converted to a queen, rook, bishop or knight. Some people assume that your promotion choice is limited to pieces that have been captured by your opponent. That is not a rule. The choice is not limited to previously captured pieces. It is theoretically possible to have up to nine queens or up to ten rooks, bishops, or knights if all pawns are promoted.


The Bishop is restricted to moving on diagonals. Each player starts out with two Bishop, each one residing on its own color. The color square that it starts on is  where it will remain for the entirety of the game.

  • The Bishop can move in any direction diagonally, so long as it is not obstructed by another piece.
  • The Bishop piece cannot move past any piece that is obstructing its path.
  • The Bishop can take any opponents piece on the board that is within its bounds of movement.

The value of the Bishop, just like the knight, is equal to 3 pawns.


The Knight is the only chess piece that can jump over other pieces! The Knight moves in an L-shape from any square on the board. This movement is difficult to visualize. Hopefully the diagram that follows will make it clearer.

  • The Knight can move forward, backward, left or right two squares and must then move one square in either perpendicular direction.
  • The Knight can only move to one of up to eight positions on the board.
  • The Knight takes opponents pieces by landing on the square where they are situated.
  • The Knight can skip over any other pieces to reach its destination position.

A fun chess fact to know is that every time the Knight moves, it lands on the opposite color from where it started.


The Rook is allowed to move along one whole file vertically and horizontally and can take any opponents piece which is in its way.

  • The Rook can move forward, backward, left or right.
  • The Rook can move anywhere from 1 to 7 squares in any direction, so long as it is not obstructed by any other piece.
  • The Rook takes opponents pieces by landing on the square where they are situated.

It’s as valuable as 5 pawns.


The Queen is like a combination of the Rook and Bishop. The Queen has the greatest freedom of movement. She can move diagonally, horizontally and vertically as many squares as desired, and takes pieces by moving on to their square.

  • The Queen can move in any direction on a straight or diagonal path.
  • The Queen cannot “jump” over any piece on the board, so its movements are restricted to any direction of unoccupied squares.
  • The Queen can be used to capture any of your opponent’s pieces on the board.

Thanks to this powerful range of movement, she is the most valuable chess piece on the chessboard after the king, worth 9 pawns!


The King is somewhat limited in it’s movement. The King can move in any direction, but only one square at a time. The entire goal of the game is to protect this piece while attacking your opponents. You can lose other pieces, but when the king is trapped, you lose the game!

  • The King can move one single square in any direction.
  • The King cannot move to a square that puts it into a “check” position.
  • The King can participate in a move known as “castling”, where the piece can move up to three squares while exchanging places with a rook chess piece.

The value of the King is undefined as it can’t be captured or exchanged.

Castling is the only time when more than one piece moves during a turn. This chess move was introduced in the 1500´s to help speed up the game.

During the castling, the king moves two squares towards the rook he intends to castle with, and the rook moves to the square through which the king passed.

Castling is only permissible if all of the following conditions hold:

  • Neither king nor rook involved in castling may have moved from the original position;
  • There must be no pieces between the king and the rook;

The king may not currently be in check, nor may the king pass through or end up in a square that is under attack by an enemy piece (though the rook is permitted to be under attack and to pass over an attacked square)


I did a lot of research to get ideas on the best way to present this material and I want to give credit to:




Thank you for reading to the end. I hope your day is blessed and your chess games sharp!

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