The Online Chess Glossary for Kids and Parents

IM Daniel Rensch Apr 27, 2010 83146 reads
Welcome to the Glossary and Dictionary:  
Below you will find a list of commonly used chess words, phrases and terms -- defined just for kids! It is our pleasure to provide this list of original, "kid-friendly" definitions and example sentences of popular "chess vocabulary". We promise to keep this list current and available for you to reference as needed. Enjoy!

Absolute Pin
  • The phrase "absolute pin" is used when a piece is pinned (see "pin"), and it would be absolutely illegal to move the pinned piece away from the attack. Example: "I moved my bishop to attack, and pin my opponent's knight to his king. I knew that my bishop was putting the knight in an absolute pin, because my opponent would never be able to move that pinned knight as long as the king was behind it."

  • To accept in chess is also to agree. A chess player might "accept" a draw offer from his/her opponent. In chess, a player often "accepts" a pawn sacrifice (see "sacrifice") by capturing it (this is also known as a "gambit". See "gambit"). To accept a piece often implies that you have captured that piece. Example: "I accepted my opponent's sacrifice by capturing the knight".

Activity/Active Piece
  • To have an active piece or "active pieces" is to have your pieces in position, or on the squares where they are creating threats. Although a piece does not have to be "centralized" in order to be active, most of the time a piece that is in the center of the board is an active piece.

  • To adjust your pieces is to touch them, not with the intention of moving them, but to make sure the piece is fully on the square that you meant for it to be on. Players will often say, "I adjust" to their opponent when they need to adjust their pieces. Example: "Suzy moved her knight to d5, but the piece fell over after she moved it, so she told her opponent "I adjust" and she picked up her knight and placed it once again on its proper square: d5".

  • To have the advantage in chess means that your position is better. Sometimes, a player might have a "slight advantage" which means his/her position is a little bit better than his/her opponent's position. To find out who has the advantage, a number of factors are usually added up: Material (see "material"); Piece Activity (see "activity"); King Safety; and Pawn Structure (see "pawn structure") would be the most common factors to help a player figure out who has the advantage.

Algebraic Notation
  • Algebraic Notation is the modern (new and used by the best players in the world) way of keeping track of the moves played in your chess games. Most "tournament style" chess boards have letters and numbers on the sides (letters ranging from a-h and numbers from 1-8). Algebraic Notation is a system of using those letters and numbers so that every moved played in a chess game has a name. Example: "To start the game as white, Billy decides to move his knight from g1-f3. He then writes, in Algebraic Notation, 1. Nf3." Even though the word 'knight' starts with the letter K, because king also starts with the letter K, we use N for the word "knight" in chess."

Analog Clock
  • An "analog clock" is a chess timer that, like a digital clock, keeps track of your total time remaining in the chess game you are playing. An analog clock looks like a regular clock, with a big hand for the minutes and a little hand for the hours -- the hands show each player the remaining time for the rest of their moves in the game.

  • Analysis is the written (or digital on a computer) result of a series of moves and/or descriptions of what could happen, did happen or might have happened in a chess game. See also "analyze".

  • To "analyze" a position is to try and figure out what you should have or could have done, or what your opponent should have or could have done in chess game. If you analyze your chess games, you can learn from your mistakes as well as your opponent's mistakes. The best chess players in the world spend hours, and sometimes days analyzing their own games.

  • Annotation is another way of referring to analysis (see "analysis"). To make annotations on a scoresheet (see "scoresheet") is to make written notes about the different possibilities that could have occurred in that chess game.

  • The person who writes about a game. In between the moves that were actually played, an annotator describes other things that could have happened, tells about the players' general strategies (see "strategy"), or tells the reader which moves were mistakes. An annotator could be one of the players who played the game, or another person.

Arabian Mate

  • The "Arabian Mate" is a checkmate (see "checkmate") that involves one player's knight and rook giving checkmate to the enemy king, while that king is trapped in the corner. Example: "Tim had his knight on f6 and his rook on h3, so he captured the h7-pawn in front of the enemy king. Tim realized that this was an "Arabian Mate" because the knight was defending his rook, while his rook gave checkmate to the black king." The Arabian Mate is also called a "helper mate" (see "helper mate").

Arabian Mate Note: The term "Arabian" started because of the game "Chaturanga" (see "chaturanga") -- as a direct reference to Chaturanga's (and therefore chess) time and place of invention.

  • An arbiter is the person who helps chess players with the rules and restrictions that are required during a chess tournament. Every chess tournament --whether online or "over the board"-- has guidelines and rules that chess players need to learn, know and follow. The arbiter (see also "Tournament Director") knows these rules, and therefore helps with this process of "playing by the rules". In a tournament, for example, all players must move a piece or capture an opponent's piece if they touch it. An arbiter or tournament director will help to enforce these rules.

  • To attack a piece is to create a threat (see "threat"). This means that you move one of your pieces to a square where, if your opponent does nothing, you would be able to capture one of your opponent's pieces on the next move. 
  • An "attack" in chess can also be the cooperation of a few pieces (or perhaps all of the pieces) towards one direction of the board. This direction may be the kingside or the queenside, aimed at a weak square, or sometimes an attack can be directed towards one piece in particular, like the enemy king (see "mating attack").

Back Rank (Mate)
  • A back rank mate is when either the rook or queen is attacking the enemy king, and this enemy king is trapped "on the back rank" (which means either the 1st or 8th rank) by his/her own pawns, and therefore can not move off of the "back rank".

Backward Pawn
  • A backward pawn is a pawn that has been left behind by the pawns directly surrounding it (for example, the two pawns directly surrounding the b-pawn are the a and c pawns). This pawn then became stuck or "backward" when an enemy pawn moved far enough up the board to prevent this pawn from moving forward at all because of either direct capture or En Passant (see "En Passant").

Bad Bishop
  • A bad bishop is a bishop that has been "blocked in" by his/her own color pawns. For example, this bishop will have limited options or mobility (see "mobility").

Base of Pawn Chain
  • [See "pawn chain(s)"] The base of a pawn chain is the pawn at the beginning of the chain. For example, if white has a pawn chain along the squares of f2, e3, d4, and c5 the base pawn is the f2-pawn. This pawn is considered to be the most important pawn in terms of keeping the chain together, and generally it is the hardest  pawn for the enemy (in this case black) to attack.

  • A battery is created when two or more pieces are lined up, directly attacking one point, pawn, or square on the chess board. The term "battery" is normally used when major pieces (see "major pieces") such as the queen and two rooks are lined up on an open file, attacking one square or pawn on the chess board. If they (the queen and rooks for example) are to make this huge breakthrough (perhaps the capture of the pawn) the battery is usually powerful enough to destroy the opponent's position.

  • To have a "bind" on your opponent, or to be in a bind, is another way of describing a position where a player is "tied down and struggling to find a good plan for his/her pieces". To be in a bind is generally to have less space (see "space") and/or options for your pieces.

Bishop Pair
  • To own the bishop pair is when either side has two bishops versus the opponent's one bishop and knight or two knights. Because bishops perform well in open positions, and because most positions will eventually become open [as exchanges (see "exchanges") are likely to happen], the bishop pair is usually considered to be a slight advantage (see "advantage"). If a player possessed the two knights, he/she might try to keep the position closed in order to prevent the bishop pair from taking over the chess board.

Blindfold Chess
  • A "blindfold" chess game is played only "in the minds" of two opponent's. This means that the players decide on a move, announce the move to their opponent [usually using Algebraic Notation (see "Algebraic Notation")], and then wait for their opponent to tell them what he/she would like to play. A chess board is not necessary to play "blindfold chess". Blindfold Chess is difficult, and it is only practiced "well" by very experienced (Master level and higher) chess players.

Blitz Chess
  • A blitz chess game is a game of chess played with very little time on the clock for either player. Normally, a "blitz" game is played with 5 minutes for each player to complete the entire game. See also "rapid chess", and "bullet chess".

Blockade/Blockading Square
  • To make a blockade is to place a piece in front of another piece, and thus prevent that piece from moving forward. The most common blockade might be placing a piece (usually a knight) in front of a pawn. Placing a piece in front of a passed pawn (see "passed pawn") is usually a good idea, and knights are very good when blockading because they are the only pieces that attack over and around other pieces.
  • The term "blockading square" usually refers to the square directly in front of a pawn, and that square is best occupied by a knight, as noted above.

  • A blunder is a bad move that changes the course (direction) of the game. For example, if a player is in an equal position and "makes a move that is a blunder" his/her position can be immediately worse, and sometimes losing. In chess notation (see "symbols"), a blunder is often given the "?" symbol. Example: "Jane moved her queen to a square that was guarded by the enemy knight. Her opponent immediately captured the queen for free. Jane realized afterward that she lost the game because she had blundered away her queen".

  • The term "book" in chess is another way of saying "main line" (see "main line") or "theory" (see "theory"). Example: "Timmy was following book in the opening, and because he had these main line moves memorized, he was able to gain time on the clock".

  • The word breakthrough in chess refers to a position that is closed or semi-closed (see "closed' and "semi-closed") and one player makes a surprising move that "breaks" into their opponent's position. Generally the term breakthrough is used to describe a pawn pushing forward, and breaking through their opponent's blockade (see "blockade") in some way. Example: "The position was closed, and so Bryan made a breakthrough with his pawn and the position became open".

Brilliancy Prize
  • A brilliancy prize is rewarded during a tournament (though not all tournaments have them) to the player who showed the most original and usually, unexpected idea or plan in his/her game. Winning a brilliancy prize is an honor and a recognition of your creative play and big imagination.

  • Is a popular and fun "different way to play chess". Bughouse is played on two chessboards by four players in teams of two. Normal chess rules apply, except that captured pieces on one board are passed on to the players of the other board (the teammate), and your teammate then has the option of putting these pieces on their board.

Bullet Chess
  • A bullet chess game is a game of chess played with very little time on the clock for either player. "Bullet" is defined as anything less then 3 minutes, without time increment (see "increment") for either player. While "lightning chess" is also a term used to describe these fast games of chess, lightning chess generally refers to games with less than 1 minute for either player.

  • "Bust" is a term used when someone exposes an idea, thought to be good by your opponent, and shows that the idea was not very good at all. It is a term often used when someone "busts" their opponent's Opening preparation (see "Opening"). Example: "Bill played a move he though was okay, but John completely busted the move with a surprise tactic (see "tactic")".

  • A bye is something a player requests during a tournament when her/she is unable to play the game that round. A bye must be requested from the Arbiter/Tournament Director (see either "arbiter" or "tournament director") well before the start of the round. Example: "Michael requested a bye for round 2 of the four round chess tournament so that he could go and play his soccer game".

  • To calculate in chess is to try and see ahead in the game, without moving the pieces. A player who has "good calculation skills" is capable of thinking far in advance about what he/she might do, as well as what the opponent might do. (See also "visualize".) Example: "In Chess Class, David learned that trying to calculate ahead without moving the pieces is a very good idea in chess".

Candidate Move
  • A candidate is another way of saying "option". When two people run for president of the United States, you have the "option" to vote for either "candidate". Looking for candidate moves in chess means that you are not playing too fast, and that you are trying to consider more than one option for your move that turn. Example: "Tom's chess coach told him that finding candidate moves is a very good thing, and that he should practice finding candidate moves on every turn".

  • Capture simply means that you are taking one of your opponent's (see "opponent") pieces off of the board by moving your piece to that square. You "capture a piece" by moving your piece to occupy the square that your opponent's piece is currently on.

  • To castle is to move your king and one of your rooks at the same time. Castling is the only time in chess when you are allowed to move two of your own pieces in one move! You can castle when: 1 -- Your king is still on its original square and hasn't moved yet; 2 -- One of your rooks (either on a1 or h1) is still on its original square and hasn't moved yet; 3 -- Your king is not in check, will not "move through check" while castling, nor will the king be in check at the end of castling. 

Castling by Hand
  • Because castling is considered to put your king in a very safe position on either g1 or c1, if you have lost the right to castle (by either moving your king or rook) then you may still try to "castle by hand". Castling by hand refers to the idea of trying to get your king to either g1 or h1 (or c1 and b1 on the queenside -- see "queenside"), where it is safest, and get your rooks into the center, even if you can't do it in one move like you can with regular castling.

Castling Long
  • Castling Long is the term commonly used to describe castling queenside (see "queenside"). This is called castling long, because it is a longer jump for the rook to castle on the queenside then it is to castle on the king's side of the board (kingside -- see "kingside").

Castling Short
  • To castle (see "castle") on the side which requires a shorter jump by the rook. It is also called "castling on the kingside". Usually indicated in notation by "0-0". See also "kingside". 
  • The word center in chess refers to the center, or middle, of the board (typically the e4, d4, d5, and e5 squares). The center can be described as the literal center (the four squares mentioned before) or it can extend to the squares f4, e4, d4, c4, c5, d5, e5, and f5). This term is used commonly in the Opening (see "Opening") stage of the game as a recommendation for where you should develop (see "develop") your pieces. Example: "Daniel learned that bringing your pieces towards, and constantly trying to attack the center, is a great plan".
Center Pawns
  • The center pawns are considered to be the e and d pawns for both white and black. The term "center pawns" can also extend to the f and c pawns as well. (See "center").
  • The term "centralization" means "to centralize", and this word is used to describe the act of "bringing your pieces towards the center". The "centralization" of a piece means that that piece is placed on a good square, and this square is usually either e4, d4, d5, or e5.


  • Chaturanga is one of the first and oldest forms of chess. Chaturanga was invented in India around 6th century (a long time ago), and although the rules were probably a little different then the game of chess we play today, Chaturanga is thought to be the ancestor of chess.
  • A cheapo is a fun term used to describe a move that is playing for a trick that your opponent is likely to see. This type of tactic (see "tactic") is NOT forced, nor is it usually a logical plan. If your opponent misses this "easy to find and therefore cheap" tactic, then he/she has "fallen for a cheapo"! Playing a cheapo is sometimes called playing "hope chess", because you are hoping your opponent will "fall for it"
  • When either king (white's king or black's king) is being attacked by an opponent's piece. To "put your opponent in check" is to attack his or her king with one of your pieces. If a king is in check, it must find safety immediately!

  • Checkmate is the end of a chess game. When either white or black's king is being attacked by the opponent's piece, and 1 -- the king can not move to safety; 2 -- the checking (attacking) piece can not be blocked; 3 -- the checking piece can not be captured (see "capture"). The goal of every chess game you play is to checkmate the opponent's king!

  • The word "classical" may have a few different meanings in chess, but it is usually used to describe a move or idea of some kind. For example: 1 -- You will find many Openings (see "Opening") with the word "classical" placed in front of a variation (see "variation") of that Opening. This often means that the Opening variation has been played for many years, and at one point in time, the variation was probably considered to be the best way of playing; 2 -- The word "classical" in chess can also be used as a way of saying the "original or old-time" way of playing a position. All this implies is that the move (that is being called classical) has been around for a long time. Example: "Erik played the Classical Variation of the French Defense Opening, because he knew it was a good move that has been played by Grandmasters for many years". 3 -- Classical can also be used to describe "out-dated" or older versions of "how to play chess". In this way, you should compare "classical" to Hypermodern, as its opposite.

Clearance/Clearance Sacrifice

  • Clearance or a Clearance Sacrifice is a term used to describe a breakthrough (see "breakthrough") of some kind. This means that you have captured (see "capture") one of your enemy's pieces, and when you captured, you busted (see "bust") open the position for the rest of your pieces to attack (see "attack"). In this case, a Clearance Sacrifice (see "sacrifice") means that you gave up some material in order to blow open the position and make way for the rest of your pieces to get in the game.

Clock/Chess Clock

  • A clock or chess clock is a timer. Either an analog (see "analog clock") or digital (see "digital clock") clock is used to track how much time is being used for the game. It is typical for a chess tournament to require the use of a chess clock, as this helps the players keep track of their time. If a player "runs out of time on the clock" during a chess game, he/she will "lose that game on time". The only situation where a player would not lose the game on time if he/she ran out of time on the chess clock, would be a case of Insufficient Losing Chances (see "Insufficient Losing Chances").

Closed File

  • A closed file (see "file") is a file with pawns for both white and black still on the board. A closed file is not open (see "open file"), and is therefore not good for rooks and/or queens.

Closed Game

  • The term "closed game" is used to describe a position with little to no open files (see "open files" and "files") and no open diagonals (see "diagonals"). This means that the pieces which move well in the open (like rooks and bishops) will have a hard time getting into the game. Knights are good pieces for 'closed games' because they can hop over, around, and switch colors of attack on the chess board.


  • A combination is a series of moves, one after another, that leads to a forced result. For example, you play one move, which leads to another, and then another, and this is all forced (see "forced")! Finding a "tactical combination" (see "tactic") usually leads to an advantage (either material or even checkmate) of some kind. Example: "Danny played a combination which, lead to the win of his opponent's queen after a forced series of moves".


  • In chess the word "compensation" means to "get something in return for what you have given up". For example, if you sacrifice ("see sacrifice") a pawn, but you receive an attack (see "attack") against your opponent's king in return, then your attack against your opponent's king is your compensationExample: "Richard decided to give up his knight, but he got two pawns as compensation for his sacrifice".

Connected Passed Pawn

  • (See "passed pawns"). The term, connected passed pawns, sometimes referred to as "connected passers" refers to a pair (which means two) of connected passed pawns. This means that a player possesses two passed pawns, and these passed pawns are "connected" on two adjacent files ("see files"). For example,if a player had a and b pawns, and they were both passed, this would mean that he/she had "connected passed pawns".


  • In chess, the term "consolidation" refers to the process of "making your position solid or whole again". This means to "regroup" and "re-position" your pieces to better squares then they are currently occupying. Consolidation is "to consolidate" your pieces.


  • To "create counterplay" means that you are reacting to your opponent's attack (see "attack") or threats (see "threat") not by defending, but by attacking on your own turn. You are "countering" his/her ideas and attacks by creating "counterplay" of your own. You have probably heard the term, "the best defense is a good offense", which essentially means that instead of "defending your opponent's threats" you are "creating your own threats against his/her position". Example: "Mike's queen was being attacked by Jane's knight, but instead of moving his queen, Mike decided to attack Jane's queen as a means of counterplay".


  • To be "cramped" is to be blocked and to be restricted. This means that you don't have many options for your pieces, and that your pieces are literally blocking each other from finding good squares. Your pieces are "in the way of one another". Being cramped is not a good thing, and it means that your pieces are suffering to find freedom and good squares.

Critical Position

  • The term "Critical Position" means that you have reached the moment in the game where every move you and your opponent make could determine the "result" (meaning who wins) the game. The "critical position" is considered to be one of the most, if not the most, important moment in the game and it is usually the move where both players will take a lot of time on their chess clock (see "clock").


  • To "decline' is the opposite of accept (see "accept"). This means that your opponent offers you something, and you choose not to take it. It could be that your opponent offers you a draw, and you say no (this would mean that "you have declined his/her offer for a drawn/tie game). You can also "decline" a gambit (see "gambit"). This could mean that your opponent has offered you material (see "material"), but instead of taking this material, you decided to do something else. This means that you "declined the material", because you did something else instead of capturing (see "capture") the material.


  • A decoy is a distraction. Often a player might use a decoy to get his/her opponent (see "opponent") to think about something else, while the player is actually threatening (see "threat") something else. A decoy is a type of tactic (see "tactic").


  • To play defense, or defend, is to protect. One might "defend" a pawn with a piece, or you might "play defense on the kingside (see "kingside")" in order to stop your opponent's threats on that side of the board. By moving your pieces into position to guard and protect either a piece or a square, you are defending.


  • A tactic which distracts an opponent's piece from doing its job, such as defending an important square or blocking something. Example: "Paul Morphy put his opponent in check by the queen. The only way to get out of check was to take the queen by a knight. So the knight was deflected away from its job of blocking the d-file, allowing Morphy's rook to come up to d8 and checkmate."
  • Demolition means "destruction"; demolition in chess means to break something up, such as the pawn structure (see "pawn structure") around the opponent's king. It could also mean destroying a defending piece, allowing a player to win whatever that piece was defending.

Descriptive Notation
  • A more old-fashioned form of chess notation (see "notation"). Moves that the players make are written down "descriptively", rather than by using letters and numbers to point to the squares on the board. For example, "B-KN3" means "bishop to the king knight's third square"; the "king knight's third square" is the third square up from where the king's knight started out. In the more commonly used algebraic notation (see "algebraic notation") that move would be written "Bg3". Descriptive notation is generally considered to be more confusing and is rarely used anymore.
  • In a situation where a piece is going to be captured (see "capture") anyway, that piece may try to take out any enemy piece, even just a pawn. This tactic (see "tactic") often happens when both sides have pieces under attack; both sides pieces are going to be lost, so one (or sometimes both) players try to get at least something for their piece. 
  • The act of bringing one's pieces out from their starting positions to places where they can take part in the battle. A "lead in development" means that you have more pieces taking part in the game than your opponent. If a player is "behind in development", that means he/she has more pieces sitting at home and less pieces developed (in the game) than the opponent.


  • The word "deviation" in chess is the opposite of the term "main line". (See "main line" and also see "sideline"). To deviate, is to make a move that is not the most common or "main line/expected" move in the position. If a player "deviates" from the main line, then he/she is playing something that was not expected.
  • A line of squares, which are all one color (either white or black) going both up and over at the same time. For example, there is a diagonal going from the bottom left corner (a1) to the top right corner (h8). This is one of the two "long diagonals". Bishops and queens move along diagonals.


  • A diagram is a picture taken of the chess board while the pieces are setup in a particular position. While reading any one of our educational articles here on, you will likely come across diagrams of the chess board designed to help you learn more about the different strategies (see "strategy") of chess.
Digital Clock
  • A chess clock which runs on electricity and shows the time in numbers on a screen. The clock is used for timing a game of chess.
Discovery, Discovered Attack/Check
  • An attack which happens when an attacking piece moves out of the way, opening a line for another attacking piece to threaten the opponent. Imagine a white knight in front of a white bishop, which is pointed at a black queen. The white knight moves out of the way, opening the way for the bishop to threaten to take the black queen. This is a discovered attack. A discovered check is the same thing, but the threatened piece is the king, so it is a check.
Double Attack
  • An attack on two things at once. This often happens as a result of a fork (see "fork") or discovered attack (see "discovered attack"). The advantage of a double attack is that it is hard for the defender to defend two things with one move, so he/she might lose one of the pieces.
Double Check
  • A check by two attacking pieces at the same time. This always happens as a result of a discovered check (see "discovered check"). Imagine a black rook pointed at a white king, with a black knight in between. The knight moves, putting the white king in check, and also opening the way for the black rook to check the king. So the king is in check by both the knight and the rook at the same time. This is double check.
Doubled Pawns
  • Two pawns of the same color which stand one in front of the other [on the same file (see "file")]. Since pawns all start off next to each other, each on a different file, the only way for two pawns of the same color to get to the same file is by capturing (see "capture"). Doubled pawns are often a weakness (see "weakness"), since they cannot protect each other and also cannot move as easily (one might be blocking the other).
  • A tie in chess, where nobody wins. In a tournament, a draw usually means each player gets half a point (while a win gets a whole point and a loss gets no points).
Draw Offer
  • When one player asks his/her opponent to agree to a tie game. A player may "offer a draw" when the position is very equal (nobody has much chance to win) or for various other reasons. The opponent who receives a draw offer can either accept it (see "accept"), in which case the game is a draw; or decline it (see "decline"), in which case the game continues.


  • In chess the word "dynamic" can have a few different meanings and uses:
  1. A "dynamic" position could mean that a position has chances of attacking moves (see "attack") for both white and black at the same time.
  2. A position of "dynamic equality" could refer to a position where both sides are playing to attack completely different areas of the board or they might be playing with different ideas in mind, but the position is still roughly equal. So rather then just saying the position is equal, we may use the term "dynamically equal" to say that the position is tricky, but still equal.
  3. The term "dynamic move" is used to describe a move that is aggressive, puts pressure on your opponent, and is perhaps a surprising move too.
  4. A "dynamic piece" might be a piece that is active, afgressive, and creating threats that are different than the rest of the pieces on the board.
ECO (Encyclopedia of Chess Openings)
  • Short for "Encyclopedia of Chess Openings", a book which is constantly being updated and which lists all the openings (see "opening") and shows many ways the game can go at the start. It gives thousands of variations (see "variation") and analysis (see "analysis") describing what the authors think of them. It also has a coding system which allows chess players to look up the starting moves by a number, such as "B78" (which is a ECO Code for the Dragon Sicilian, a particular type of opening).
Elo Rating
  • A number which describes a chess player's level of skill, on a scale from 100 to about 3000. (See "rating"). The system was invented by Arpad Elo; the player's Elo rating goes up if he/she wins, and down if he/she loses. More points are gained by beating a higher-rated player, and more points are lost by losing to a lower-rated player.
En Passant
  • French for "in passing"; a special rule that allows pawns to capture (see "capture") enemy pawns which have skipped by them -- moving two squares on their first move instead of one. A pawn which moves up two squares in one turn can be captured as if it had only moved one square - as it was "passing through" that square - by an opponent's pawn; however, En Passant must be done immediately following the move by the enemy pawn of two squares. If a player decides not to capture En Passant immediately after the opponent moved, then he/she has lost her right to capture En Passant.
En Prise
  • French for "in take"; it means a piece which can be captured (see "capture") by the opponent. For example, if a knight is attacking a queen, that queen is said to be en prise
Endgame (Ending)
  • The last part of the game, which takes place after the middlegame (see "middlegame"). The endgame is generally believed to start when most of the pieces have been traded, especially if the queens are traded. Usually in the endgame it is not possible to start a mating attack, and players instead try to win material (see "material") or promote a pawn (see "promotion"). 
  • When nobody has an overall advantage. The players may each have their weaknesses (see "weakness"), well-placed or badly-placed pieces, or even different amounts of material (see "material"); but if it all balances out, that is called "equality".
  • When each player captures a piece of the same value from the opponent. Example: "Jon captured Betty's knight, and then Betty captured Jon's knight. The two players exchanged knights, and nobody gained any points of material."
  • A rook against a bishop or knight is called "the exchange". If you win a rook for one of your minor pieces (see "minor piece") you have "won the exchange", and your opponent "lost the exchange". If you have a rook against a minor piece, you are "up the exchange".
Exchange Sacrifice
  • To let your opponent take a rook in return for a minor piece (see "minor piece") is to make an exchange sacrifice. Since a rook is worth more points than a knight or bishop, you lose points by making an exchange sacrifice; that is why it is a sacrifice (see "sacrifice").


  • To "evaluate" a position in chess means that you are trying to decide which side (white or black) has the better position. Your coach might setup a position for you to solve and then say, "evaluate this position, and tell me what the best move is for white". This would mean that you should think about it, try to see as many things about the position as you can, and then think of a good move after your evaluation of the position.

  • Italian for "little side". A fianchetto happens when a bishop is developed along its shorter starting diagonal, by pushing the pawn in front of where the knight starts to move the bishop to the longest diagonal on the board (either the a1-h8 or h1-a8 diagonal). A fianchettoed bishop is placed at either the g2 or b2 squares (for White) or the b7 or g7 squares (for Black).
  • Short for the French "Federation Internationale des Echecs". It is the name of the International Chess Federation.
FIDE Master
  • A master-level chess player who has reached the international Elo rating (see "Elo Rating") of 2300. This is the title which is beneath the international titles of Grandmaster and International Master.
Fifty Move Rule
  • The rule which says that the game is a draw if there have been no captures or moves by pawns (for either side) in the last fifty moves of a game. This is to keep games from going on forever when neither player is making any progress. For example, if you have king and rook against a king and rook, you can play that for fifty moves, but if neither side loses a rook or gets checkmated, then it will be a draw. If a rook gets captured, the count would start again.
  • An up-and-down (vertical) line on the chessboard. Rooks and queens can move along the files, which are called by letters in algebraic notation (see algebraic notation), for example, the "a-file", the "b-file" and so on.
  • An unkind word for a bad chess player. See also "patzer".
Fixed Center
  • When one or both sides have pawns in the center of the board which cannot move, either because they are blocked by the opponent's pawns, or because the squares where they could move to are well controlled by the opponent.
  • A part on an analog chess clock (see "chess clock") which falls, showing that a player has lost by running out of time. "To flag" means that you lost on time; players often say "flag" or "flagged" even if a digital clock is used (i.e. there is no actual flag).
  • The side of the board (see also "wing"). Not the center.
Fool's Mate
  • The fastest possible way to get checkmated, also known as the "two-move checkmate". This happens when White moves his/her f- and g-pawns in the first two moves, allowing Black to come down with the queen and give checkmate on the h4 square.
  • Forced means "the only way possible". If a move is forced, then there are no other options. Example: "Tom played a move that forced me to give up my knight, and I had no choice."
  • To forfeit a game is to lose. The term forfeit can also mean that someone resigned (see "resign"). To have a "forfeit loss" means that someone lost the game without even showing up to play. If a player is more than one hour late for a game, he/she will be given a "forfeit loss".
  • A fork is a double attack (see "double attack"). Most of the time, we use the term fork to describe a double attack by the knight or the pawn. Example: "Our coach told us that when a knight attacks the enemy king and queen at the same time, this is called a Royal Fork."


  • The word formation is another way of saying "setup". A strong (good) formation or setup of your pieces might have them all placed in the center (see "center") of the board, or it might mean that your pieces are on good squares to attack (see "attack")."A good attacking formation" means "a good setup for your pieces to start an attack".
  • A fortress is a wall or blockade (see "blockade") that extends through out a certain area of the board, and would be very difficult to breakdown. To have a fortress surrounding your king, would suggest that your king is very safe.
  • A gambit is an opening where one player sacrifices (allows the opponent to take) a small amount of material, such as a pawn or two, in the hopes of getting something in return for their sacrifice (see "sacrifice"). Often gambits involve sacrificing a pawn for a lead in development or control of the center. It is easy to remember "gambit", since it sounds like "gamble". When you are sacrificing material, you are taking a bit of a gamble.
Good Bishop
  • A bishop which is on the opposite color of most of its pawns. Since bishops always stay on the same color squares, if most of that side's pawns are on the opposite color, they will not block the bishop; so it will be able to move around the board freely.
  • The highest international title which one can get (except for world champion) in chess. To become a grandmaster you need to get an international Elo rating (see "Elo Rating") of 2500, and fulfill three norms (see "norm"). "GM" is short for grandmaster.
Grandmaster Draw
  • A very short draw by agreement, without any real battle and often agreed beforehand. Players do this for practical reasons, but sometimes it is frowned upon. 

Half-open File
  • A file which has only one side's pawn on it. So it is "open" for the side which does not have a pawn, and he/she can use it for the rooks. See also "open file" and "file".
  • When a piece can be taken for free, without recapture from the opponent.
    (See also "en prise"). For example, if a rook can be taken by a pawn, that rook is said to be "hanging", regardless of whose move it is.
Hanging Pawns
  • Two of one side's pawns, standing side-by-side, with no other pawns of the same color on either side of them. For example, if White has pawns on d4 and c4, and no pawns on the b- or e- files, then he/she has hanging pawns.
Heavy Piece
  • A rook or a queen; see also "major piece".

Helper Mate

  • A "helper mate" is a checkmate (see "checkmate") that involves more than one piece, and the term is used to describe a position (see "position") where the piece giving checkmate is protected (helped) by another piece.
  • A square which a player will never be able to cover with a pawn. To be considered a "hole", a square must be important and in disputed territory; squares deep in one player's territory (on the first or second rank) can never be covered by pawns but are not considered holes. Holes are important, because if a square cannot be covered with a pawn, there is a good chance the opponent's piece might occupy it. (See also "outpost".)
  • A kind of chess philosophy (strategy) which says that you don't have to put your pawns in the center (see "center") in order to control it; you can control the center instead by pieces from a distance. Compare to "classical". This developed in the 1920-s, and Richard Reti and Aron Nimzowitsch were the main thinkers behind it.
Illegal Move
  • An "illegal move" is a move that is not allowed under the rules of chess. The rules of chess are in place to guide the players to know what moves are allowed, and what moves are not allowed. So, an illegal move is a move that is not legal.
  • In chess the word "imbalance" may refer to a trade, a position, or a type of material (see "material"):
  • An imbalanced trade refers to a trade that was not equal for both players. One of the players received the "better end" of the trade, and therefore the trade was imbalanced.
  • An imbalanced position, or a position with imbalances, can refer to a position with often unclear (see "unclear") but not the same type of chances for either player.
  • material imbalance refers to a situation where the material count for each player equals the same amount of total points, but the type of material is different. For example, three minor pieces (totaling nine points) is the same total value as the queen (also worth nine points), however the type of material (three minors vs a queen) is obviously completely different, and should be used differently.
  • Some tournaments use a time control (see "time control") with increment. This means that you might get, for example, 90 minutes for a game, but you also get thirty seconds added for each move you make. In this case, the 30 seconds added is the "increment".
Indian Defense/Defenses
  • A group of openings that are usually reached by Black meeting the move 1.d4 with 1...Nf6. This includes all defenses to the main 1.d4 openings except for the Queen's Gambit.
  • The player who is making threats and attacking is said to have the initiative. This means he/she is setting the pace in the game and the opponent has to go along and deal with the threats. 
Insufficient Losing Chances
  • A rule which allows a player to claim that his/her opponent does not have a realistic chance to win on the board and is only trying to win on time. This is to prevent players from playing a totally drawn position to try to win on time. You can only make this claim if you have less than five minutes and if there is no delay on the clock (see "time delay"). The tournament director (see "tournament director") has to decide if the game should be a draw, if it should keep going as it is, or if you should switch to a clock with delay.
Insufficient Material
  • When there is not enough material left on the board to create a checkmate, then it is an automatic draw. For example, if there are only two kings left, that is insufficient material, since there is no way to checkmate, so the game is an immediate draw. Also, if there is only a king against a king and bishop or king and knight, that is also insufficient material, since a lone bishop or knight cannot checkmate. 
  • Means "getting in the way". Usually this means sacrificing a piece in order to get in the way of a defending piece. 
International Master
  • The second-highest international title which one can get. To become an international master, you must reach an Elo rating of 2400 and make three international master norms (see "norm"). "IM" is short for international master.
  • To move a piece in between an attacking piece and the piece that is attacked. For example, if a bishop checks the king, the check could be blocked by interposing a knight.
  • To include some move before doing something else. For example, imagine White can take the black queen. He is going to take the queen, but he might first interpose a check to the king, forcing it to move, before taking the queen. See also "zwischenzug" and "zwischenschach". 
  • A sort of "feeling" about what might be the best move or plan in a position. Intuition is something that a player develops from the experience of playing similar positions. Intuition makes it possible to "guess" what might be the best move without calculating (see "calculate/calculation") everything. 

Invitational Tournament

  • A chess tournament that players are only allowed to compete in if they have been invited to play.
Irregular Opening
  • An opening where one player plays something very unusual in the first few moves. Openings (see "opening") which involve one player moving pawns on the wing, for instance, are irregular. 
Isolated Pawn (Isolani)
  • A pawn which does not have any other pawns of the same color on the files on either side of it. For example, if white has a pawn on d4 and no pawn on the c- or e- files, then he/she has an isolated pawn. This can be a disadvantage, since it cannot be guarded by pawns, so pieces might get stuck guarding it.
  • French for "I adjust" (see "adjust"). If a piece is sitting a little bit out from the center of a square on the chessboard, you may want to fix it. But according to the touch move rule you would have to move any piece you touch. So you need to say "I adjust" before fixing the piece. Many players say "J'adoube", since this is understood by chess players everywhere.
  • To talk about a game which you are watching, in such a way that the players can hear. This is a very bad thing to do if it is a serious game, and probably not very polite if it is a casual game. Sometimes kibitz is used to describe people who are just watching a game and not saying anything.
King Hunt
  • An attack (see "attack") on the king which involves the king being chased out of its home and going on a long journey, trying to escape from enemy pieces. Sometimes a king can be chased all the way into the opponent's half of the board in a king hunt.
  • The side of the board where the king starts out. For White, this is the right-hand side of the board; for Black, it is the left-hand side. The kingside includes the e-, f-, g-, and h-files.
Knight on the Rim
  • A knight on the side of the board (one of the wings). Usually it is better to have your knights in the center (see "center") of the board, where they have more mobility (see "mobility") and can reach more important squares. So a knight on the rim is often in a bad position. There is a famous saying that rhymes "a knight on the rim is dim", meaning that the knight on the side of the board is not very good.
  • Liquidation basically means trading pieces. Players often liquidate by making many equal trades to reach an endgame (see "endgame"), either to more easily use a material advantage (see "advantage" and "material"), escape from an attack (see "attack") by the opponent, or sometimes to make a draw (see "draw").
Long Diagonal
  • The long diagonal stretches from one corner of the board to the one farthest away. For example, one long diagonal starts on the square a1 and goes up to h8; the other starts on h1 and goes to a8. These are the two longest diagonals on the board, each having eight squares.
Lucena Position
  • A well-known position from endgame (see "endgame") theory (see "theory") where one side has a king, rook, and pawn; and the other side has a king and rook. The side with the pawn can win if this position is reached, using a method called "building a bridge, or the Lucena Method" to escape the defender's attempt to give perpetual check.  
  • "Air" in German. Usually in chess this means making an escape square for your king by pushing one of the pawns in front of the castled position, so it will not be checkmated (see "checkmate") on the back rank (see "back rank").
Main Line
  • The most commonly played moves in an opening (see "opening"). An opening variation that has been played a lot and is very popular. Example: "The game followed a main line. So many players had already played the first fifteen moves before." 
Major Piece
  • A rook or queen. These are the most powerful pieces, able to checkmate on their own needing only the help of their king. Compare to "minor piece": a knight or bishop.
  • A greater number of pawns on one side of the board. Usually either a "kingside majority" or a "queenside majority". Typically the advantage of a pawn majority is that it can result in a passed pawn (see "passed pawn").
  • A series of moves by one or several pieces with the goal of improving their position(s) on the board. Usually these are quiet moves without tactical threats. Example: "Billy used a maneuver to bring his knight to the strong outpost square."
  • A player who is considered to have reached a certain level of achievement in chess. You can become a "national master" by achieving an ELO rating over 2200; internationally there are the FIDE Master, International Master, and Grandmaster titles, which require higher achievements.
  • A series of games played between the same two opponents. Matches are often held to determine the champion of something (a city, school, or the world!). 
  • Short for "checkmate". The end of the game, where a king is in check and has no way to get out of check. See "checkmate".


  • The pieces and pawns (not counting the king) and their point value.  To "lose material", for example, is to lose pieces or pawns, or trade pieces or pawns for something of a lower value. Example: "John traded his knight for a pawn. Because a knight is worth 3 points and a pawn is worth 1 point, John lost material in that trade".
Material Advantage
  • A superiority [or advantage (see "advantage")] in the total value of one's pieces and pawns. If you have more valuable pieces (for example, a queen against a knight and bishop) then you have a material advantage. Example: "Alice won a rook for a bishop. Since a rook is worth five points and a bishop is worth three points, Alice gained a material advantage.

Mating Attack

  • An attack (see "attack") on the king, with the goal of giving checkmate.
Mating Net
  • A situation where the king is trapped in an area where it can be easily checkmated (see "checkmate"). A player might "create a mating net" by cutting off all escapes for the enemy king, often by relatively quiet, non-checking moves.
  • The phase of the game after the opening (see "opening") but before the endgame (see "endgame"). Usually the middlegame starts when the players have brought out their pieces and are no longer following an opening line that they know. The middlegame is typically considered to end when there are very few pieces on the board, or when queens and some of the other pieces have been traded.
  • A very short win (or loss), usually defined as less than twenty-five moves.
Minor Exchange
  • Having a bishop trade against the opponent's knight.  A player might "win the minor exchange" if he/she succeeds in trading a knight for their opponent's bishop. Some players consider that a bishop is slightly stronger, although it depends on the position. Example: "Bobby traded his knight for his opponent's bishop. Therefore he won the minor exchange, which he felt might give him the advantage." 
Minor Piece
  • A bishop or knight.  Compare to "major piece", a rook or queen.
Minority Attack
  • A strategic plan in which a player advances a smaller number of pawns against a greater number of pawns on one wing (either the kingside or queenside). Usually the goal is to create weak squares or pawns in the opponent's position, and to open lines. A Minority Attack can be successful because, by definition, if you have two pawns versus three pawns then you also have an open file (see "file") to go along with your pawns.
  • The ability of a piece or pieces to move around freely. For example, a knight in the center (see "center") typically has greater mobility (more available squares to which to move) than a knight on the side or edge of the board. Additionally, a player's entire position may have more mobility, if he/she has more space (see "space").  
  • A single action on the chessboard. In chess, both players always take turns making moves. In chess notation, a move (move 1, 2, 3, etc) is considered complete when each side (white and black) has moved. Example: "The game between Amanda and Robert lasted for thirty moves; each player made thirty moves."

Picture of Dictionary for Glossary 

Multiple Attack
  • Attacking (see "attack") two or more things at once. Usually this is caused by a fork or a discovered attack (see both "fork" and "discovered attack"). The multiple attack is one of the strongest methods of attack in chess, because the opponent will have trouble defending against more than one attack all at once.

 Mysterious Rook Move

  • This phrase was made popular by Aron Nimzowitsch. This is a move by a rook to a file which is closed (see both "open file" and "closed file"). The player might be expecting the file to become open later, or trying to stop the opponent from opening the file.


  • A level of performance in a tournament which is required for a player to earn a certain title. For example, to become a Grandmaster a player must make three "grandmaster norms", in which he/she scores a required number of points against opponents of a certain average rating (see "rating"). 
  • A system for writing down chess games. Most commonly used is the "algebraic notation" system, in which moves are recorded by showing the kind of piece and to which square it moves, e.g. "Ba2" means "bishop to the a2 square". There is also "descriptive notation" which is an older form of notation.
  • The first move played in a game which has never been played before (in that exact position). Usually a novelty is played early in the game, but occasionally in very popular opening variations (see both "opening" and "variation") a novelty might occur quite late in the game.
  • The quality of something being free, e.g. an "open square" has no piece on it.
  • A position (an "open position") that has very few blocked pawns. Pieces are free to move around easily.
  • An "open tournament" allows anyone to compete, compared with an invitational tournament, a scholastic tournament, or a round-robin tournament which all have restrictions of some kind (see "invitational tournament" ,"scholastic tournament" and "round robin").
Open File
  • A file which has no pawns on it. Compare to a "closed file" which is blocked by pawns, thus preventing the rooks from acting freely along the file. A "semi-open file" has only one player's pawn on it, which means the other player can use that file for his/her rook.
Open Game
  • A game characterized by relatively few blocked pawns and more freedom for the pieces.
  • A game beginning with the moves 1.e4 e5 (a double king pawn opening). These are called "open games" because they frequently, though not always, lead to positions of an open center and character.
  • The beginning of a game, from the very first move until all the pieces are developed and the players begin creating middlegame plans.
  • A way of starting the game which has been played before and is well-known. Most of the reasonable first moves fall into an openingExample: "By responding to 1.e4 with 1...c5, I played the Sicilian Defense opening."
Opening Repertoire
  • The openings that a player tends to play with white and black. For example, Bobby Fischer's opening repertoire consisted mostly of playing 1.e4 as white, meeting 1.e4 with the Sicilian Defense as black, and meeting 1.d4 with the King's Indian Defense.


  • In chess the "opponent" is the person you are playing against. For example, if you are white then the person sitting across the board playing the black pieces is your "opponent".
Opposite Color Bishops
  • When each side has only one bishop and it travels on the opposite color as the opponent's bishop. Since bishops can never move to a different color square than the one they start off on, it is as if the bishops cannot see each other. This has a big effect on the game.
  • A situation where the kings face each other with one square in between them, in a king-and-pawn ending. The side who is not to move has the opposition - because the opposing king has to step aside.
  • This happens in a king-and-pawn ending, when after the opposition forces one side's king to move out of the way the other side's king then outflanks the opponent. This is the basic principle of winning the ending "king and pawn versus king", where the repeated outflanking allows the side with the pawn to gain control of the path to the queening square.
  • An important square which cannot be controlled by the opponent and where one player hopes to establish a piece. Typically this is a central square, perhaps in the opponent's half of the board, where one player tries to place a knight, although outposts can also be used by other pieces.
Outside Passed Pawn
  • A passed pawn on the wing (rather than in the center) or, in general, distant from where the main battle is taking place. The advantage of an outside passed pawn is that it tends to distract the opponent's pieces from the main battle, since they must stop the pawn from queening.
  • A strategy, first described by Aron Nimzowitsch, where a player protects strong or important points more times than is necessary. The idea is that by protecting the strong point, the pieces become more powerful as well.

Overworked Piece

  • A piece that has too many things to do. For example, a bishop which has to both stop a pawn from queening and guard against a checkmate is overworked. By carrying out one threat (for example, queening the pawn) the opponent could force the overworked bishop to leave its post, allowing the checkmate threat to succeed.
Passed Pawn
  • A pawn which has no opposing pawns either on the file in front of it, or on the files next to it. A pawn which can advance to the queening square without having to worry about being captured or blocked by the opponent's pawns. The ultimate goal of a passed pawn is to reach the other side of the board (8th rank for white or 1st rank for black) and "promote" (see "promotion") to a better piece.


  • Defensive; not aggressive or active. Concerned with defense rather than offense. A move which only only defends and places a piece where it has little mobility is passive. A piece itself can also be passive, if it does little and has little mobility. Example: "Black's c8 bishop in the French Defense is often a passive piece - it is blocked by a chain of pawns." 
  • An unkind term for a bad chess player.


  • A pattern is something that repeats itself, over and over. In chess you might hear or read about the term "tactical pattern" for example, which means a series of tactics (see "tactic") that repeat themselves in one or more positions. You might also need to learn about 'checkmate patterns', which is a plan with the goal of achieving checkmate. Usually, checkmate patterns are used in the endgame (see "endgame") to convert a large material advantage (see "advantage") into a win by checkmating your opponent.
Pawn Center
  • Having several unblocked pawns in the center, usually side-by-side. Example: "White had pawns on e4 and d4, against Black's pawn on d6. So he had a pawn center." A pawn center usually gives good central control; however, sometimes a pawn center can be attacked if it is not well supported. 
Pawn Chain
  • Several pawns on a diagonal, guarding each other. For example, pawns on f3, e4, and d5 form a pawn chain. Pawn chains have the advantage that the pawns guard each other; their disadvantage is that since they are all on one color they leave holes between them which are not guarded.
Pawn Island
  • Pawns of one color which are separated from that side's other pawns by one or more open files. If you have more pawn islands, your pawn structure might be weaker.
Pawn Storm
  • An attacking method where one player advances a group of pawns toward the opponent, usually with the goal of destroying the opponent's king's pawn cover.
Pawn Structure
  • The overall position of the players' pawns; since pawns cannot be moved very fast, the pawn structure often stays the same for a long time, determining what kind of plans the player's use.
Perpetual Check
  • A situation where one player can check the opponent's king forever, but cannot checkmate it. Perpetual check is a draw if the side giving the checks wants it. When perpetual check happens, the players usually either agree to a draw or the same position is repeated three times, resulting in a draw by threefold repetition. See "threefold repetition".
  • One unit on a chessboard. Usually when chess players say "piece", they mean a knight, bishop, queen, or rook. The kings and pawns are not considered "pieces". Example: "The chess teacher said that in the opening we should get our pieces into the game. We understood that this meant to bring out our knights, bishops, rooks, and queen; not to advance our king or push all of our pawns." 
  • When a piece cannot move because it is blocking a more valuable piece behind it from being captured. Think about a bishop attacking a knight, and if the knight moves the bishop will be able to capture a queen on the same diagonal.
Pinned Piece
  • A piece which cannot move because it is pinned; it must stay where it is to shield a more valuable piece from attack.
Pinning Piece
  • A long-range piece (a rook, queen, or bishop) which is aimed at one of the opponent's valuable pieces,  with a less valuable defending piece blocking it.  The pinning piece is the attacking piece in a pin.
  • The long-term purpose of a player's moves. A typical plan might be to create a pawn storm against the opponent's king (see "pawn-storm"), to create a weak square in an opponent's position, or to control an open file. A plan is different from calculation (see "calculation") in that planning involves looking far ahead, but without seeing the exact moves.    
Poisoned Pawn
  • A pawn which can be captured, but its capture causes problems for the player who captures it. Typically this is a wing pawn that gets captured by the queen, resulting in a loss of time and therefore a lead in development for the side which lost the pawn. Such a pawn is called "poisoned" because it made the side which ate the pawn "sick".
  • The location of each side's pawns and pieces on the board at any moment.


  •  "Positional" means the long-term strengths and weaknesses in a player's position. "Positional play" means play that is based around strengthening one's position, or weakening one's opponent's. A "positional player" focuses on building up long-term advantages. Positional is the opposite of "tactical", which is concerned with immediate and temporary things that are happening on the board (see "tactics").
Positional Weakness
  • A long-term weak spot in a player's position, such as a doubled pawn, isolated pawn, backward pawn, or weak square.
  • Literally meaning "after death"; in chess it means a discussion between the two opponents after a game. The players may explore different ways they could have played, or discuss why they made the moves that they did. Example: "In the post-mortem, we discovered that I could have won a rook by a knight fork. Neither of us saw it during the game!"
  • When a pawn reaches the other side of the board from where it started, it turns into another piece (a queen, rook, bishop, or knight). This is called "promotion". It is also called "queening" when the pawn is promoted to a queen. See also "underpromotion".


  • Literally "prevention". This means to stop the opponent from doing something. This strategy was first deeply explored by Aron Nimzowitsch. "Prophylactic thinking" is a very important part of chess strategy, which involves trying to figure out what your opponent wants to do and stopping him or her from doing it.


  • We say that a piece or pawn is "protected" (or "defended" or "guarded") when an opponent can't capture the piece without itself being captured.

Protected Passed Pawn

  • The term "protected passed pawn" refers to a passed pawn (see "passed pawn") that is guarded (protected) by another pawn. If a passed pawn is protected by a piece (like a rook) it is not referred to as a protected passed pawn. Only a passed pawn that is protected by another pawn is referred to as a 'protected passed pawn'.
  • When a pawn reaches the other side of the board from where it started, it can be turned into a queen by promotion (see "promotion"). This is called "queening". A "queening square" is the square where a pawn will have to reach in order to promote.
  • The side of the board where the queen starts out. For White, this is the left-hand side; for Black, it is the right-hand side. The queenside includes the a-, b-, c-, and d-files. "Castling queenside" means to castle on the side of the board where the queen started; to "castle long".
Quiet Move
  • A move which is not a check or capture or direct threat. A quiet move during an attack may be made to cut off the enemy king's escape, for instance. Other quiet moves may have long-term positional purposes.
  • A horizontal (side-to-side) line on the chessboard. In notation, ranks are the numbered lines; for example, third rank, fourth rank, etc.
Rapid Chess
  • Chess played with a fast time control. See "time control". Rapid chess is usually a game where each player is given an hour or less to play all their moves.
  • A way that chess federations measure a player's skill by a number. The main rating system was created by Arpad Elo, and is known as the Elo rating system. If a player wins, his or her rating goes up; if he or she loses, it goes down. How much it goes up or down depends on the rating of the opponent.


  • (See "capture"). To recapture means to repeat (do again) the process of capturing. Most of the time we use the phrase "recapture" when our opponent (see "opponent") has captured one of our pieces, and then we capture his/her piece on that same square. Example: Billy's opponent captured his pawn on c6, but billy was able to recapture with his pawn on b7.


  • To show that a move, plan, combination, or opening variation is wrong. Example: "Max played a move that he thought was good, but his opponent refuted it and got a big advantage."
Relative Pin
  • A pin which is not absolute (see "absolute pin"). The pinned piece can legally move, but moving it would lose a more valuable piece. For example, a knight that is pinned to the queen is in a relative pin; according the the rules it can move, but moving it would lose the queen. (See "pin").


  • To give up and admit defeat in a chess game. Resigning a game has exactly the same result as being checkmated - either way it is a loss. Players often resign to avoid wasting time playing a game that they know they are going to lose.
  • Having to do with a past time in history when less was known about chess, and players played "by the light of nature", attacking (see "attack") and sacrificing (see "sacrifice") without worrying too much if their ideas were correct. Sometimes people talk about a modern chess player's style as being "romantic" - or they might call a certain game or move "romantic", if it involves sacrificing pieces and playing carelessly and creatively.
Rook Lift
  • A maneuver where a rook is activated by moving it up and over its own pawns. Usually this happens on the third or fourth rank. This is the alternative to the usual method of activating a rook, by moving it to an open file.
  • A tournament where everybody plays against everybody. Usually this is a smaller (in the number of players) but more important tournament. In a round-robin the order that the players play each other is usually random, but since every player plays against every other player, it is considered to be a very fair method.
Royal Fork
  • A fork between the king and queen. See "fork".
  • The act of giving up material (either making a trade that loses points or simply losing a piece or pawn for nothing) with the goal of getting something else in return. For example, a player may sacrifice the queen in order to open up a square for a knight where it can checkmate the opponent. A player may also make more strategic sacrifices, such as sacrificing a pawn to gain time to develop, or sacrificing a piece to destroy the opponent's king's pawn cover. 
Scholar's Mate
  • A checkmate that often occurs in the games of people who are just beginning to learn chess. It happens after four moves (it is also called the "four-move checkmate") and involves a queen, supported by a bishop, on the square f7 (or sometimes f2), checkmating the opposing king.
  • A piece of paper where players record a game. The scoresheet has a column for White's moves, and a column for Black's moves. The players write both their moves and their opponent's moves in notation. See "notation".
  • A rare tactic in which a repeated discovered check allows one piece to go on a rampage, capturing multiple enemy pieces. See also "windmill". The most famous example of a see-saw happened in the game Torre-Lasker, Moscow 1925.
  • A game beginning with the move 1.e4, followed by any move other than 1...e5. For example, a Sicilian defense (1.e4 c5), French defense (1.e4 e6), Caro-Kann defense (1.e4 c6) or others. See also "open game" and "closed game".
  • A position which is somewhat open (having many open files and diagonals, and few blocked pawn) and somewhat closed (having blocked pawns and few open lines).

  • Positions where there is a lot going on, and the slightest mistake could change the result of the game. Super-charged, "electric" positions; for example, where both kings are facing attacks, or where there are many tactics. Also, a "sharp move" is an aggressive move which causes the position to be more sharp. A player with a sharp style tends to play sharp moves and likes sharp positions, where it is as if the players are walking on a tightrope.
  • A strong, unexpected move which totally changes the game.


  • A "sideline" is the opposite of the "main line" (see "main line"). The term sideline or sidelines is often used to describe opening variations (see "opening" and "variation"). Example: "Billy played the sideline, which is not what I was expecting as I had spent most of my time learning the main line of this opening."


  • To exchange pieces and make the position more "simple". Sometimes players simplify the position in order to win more easily with extra material (it is easier to win with extra material when there are less pieces on the board overall), to defend against the opponent's attack, or to use a long-term advantage.
Simultaneous Exhibition
  • A type of event or show ("exhibition") where a player plays many opponents at one time. Usually his or her opponents are sitting in a circle, each with their own board, and the player giving the simultaneous exhibition walks from board to board, making moves on each. Usually the player giving the simultaneous exhibition is a master and the opponents are weaker players. See also "simul".


  • A move which threatens a valuable piece (such as the king or queen), forcing that piece to move away and allowing the attacking piece to take a less valuable piece behind the valuable one. Imagine a bishop checking a king, forcing the king to move away and allowing the bishop to take a queen which was behind the king. A skewer is the opposite of a pin, since in the skewer the more valuable piece is in front. See "pin".
  • Games played for fun or otherwise not part of a tournament; casual games. Usually during tournaments there is a "skittles room", where players can go and play blitz games for fun (see "blitz chess"), analyze their tournament games (see "post-mortem"), or just talk without distracting the players in the tournament.
Smothered Mate
  • A checkmate by a knight against a king which has no way out because all of its escape squares are blocked by its own pieces. The king's own pieces keep it from moving, while the enemy knight puts it in check. It is called "smothered" because the king is squeezed in by its own pieces and cannot breathe.
  • A move, plan, or position which is correct and cannot be beaten if the players play the best moves. For example, an attack that is sound is one that, even if the defender defends perfectly, will not make the attacker lose the game. Example: "Karpov played sound moves the whole game, and did not allow his opponent to gain any advantage."  
  • In chess the term "space" refers to the amount of open squares a player has available for his/her pieces at any given time. To have more space is to have more options or choices for your pieces. 
Spite Check
  • One final check given by a player who is losing, which only delays his/her loss for one move, while the opponent gets out of check.
  • When a player whose turn it is has no legal moves by any of his/her pieces, but is not in check. A stalemate is a draw. Example: "It was my turn but I couldn't move my king anywhere, since any move would be moving into check. I had no other pieces to move except for one pawn, which was completely blocked. So I was in stalemate, and the game was a draw."
  • strategy is a plan. Strategy usually means that you are thinking long-term, rather than "I go here, he goes there" type of thinking. It means looking far ahead but without seeing the exact moves or positions that you will reach. 
  • study in chess is a made-up position which a composer invented to show some beautiful or deep idea. Also called an "etude".
  •  The way a player tends to play, or the positions he/she likes best. A player's style might be aggressive, tactical, strategic, positional, or others. Example: "Mikhail Tal had a very aggressive, attacking style - he liked open positions where he had a chance to attack his opponent's king. Tigran Petrosian had a very defensive, positional style - he liked to try to create strategic weaknesses in his opponent's position."
Sudden Death
  • A time control where a player must finish the game before his/her clock runs out. For example, a sudden death time control might be "Game in 60", which means that each player must not use more than sixty minutes for the game, or he/she will lose on time.
  • A trick that allows a player who has a bad position to turn the game around. A swindle can only happen if the player with the advantage makes a mistake. Example: "I was losing my third round game, but then I managed to swindle my opponent and win. He fell for my trick because he didn't see the best move."
Swiss System
  • A system for deciding who plays against whom in chess tournaments that are too big for everybody to play everybody (a tournament where everyone plays everyone is a Round Robin. See "Round Robin"). The Swiss system is usually used in big, open tournaments. The system works by having players with the same number of points play against each other, with the top half (by ELO rating. See "ELO Rating") in each score group playing the bottom half.

Symbols (Notation Symbols)

  • Symbols are used in notation (see "notation") to explain whether a move is good or bad, and whether a position is better for white, better for black, or equal. Some symbols include "!" after a move, which means that the move played was a good move. Sometimes you will even see "!!" which means that a move played was a great move, maybe even brilliant. After a move or position is reached, you will also see the "=" symbol, which means that the position is considered to be equal. You may also see a "+/-" symbol which means the position is better for white. 
  • There is symmetry in a position when both players' pieces are arranged in exactly the same way. If the board were folded in half at the middle, each piece would land on the same kind of opposing piece. For example, a white rook would land on a black rook, a white bishop would land on a black bishop, etc. At the beginning of a game, the position is symmetrical. There can also be symmetry just in pawn structure, when each side's pawns look exactly the same, but the pieces might be placed differently.


  • Short term attacks, such as forks, pins, skewers, and other kinds of attacks that take place over a few moves. The opposite of long-term strategy. Example: "If you want to be a great chess player, you need to be good at both tactics and planning. What good is it to plan to win a weak pawn twenty moves from now, if you let your opponent fork your king and rook in an immediate tactic?!"


  • A tactician is a style of player who is very good at - or likes - tactics. A player who is good at finding forks, pins, and other small attacks, as opposed to long-term strategy. Example: "Alekhine was a good tactician - you had to be very careful or you might lose a piece against him to some kind of fork or you could be cleverly checkmated!"
  • Technique is a term used to describe the process of converting a better position or winning advantage into a won game.
  •  A single move which improves your position. For example, you "gain a tempo" if you get the chance to develop a piece while your opponent uses the time to do nothing useful. You can also "gain a tempo" if you are able to make a useful or developing move while creating a threat that forces your opponent to defend with an otherwise useless move.
  • Moves or positions which have been played or studied before. Theory is what the human race believes to be correct about chess - for example, opening theory includes the starting moves and variations which have been played before and what people generally think about them. There is also endgame theory, which includes positions which are known and considered to be won, lost, or drawn. Example: "According to endgame theory, king and queen should win against king and rook."
  • A move which one side plans to make, which would be bad for the opponent. Example: "If it were my move, I could checkmate my opponent. So I had a threat of checkmate. It was his move, so he had to defend against my threat, or he would lose." Threats can be as big as a threat to checkmate or a threat to the opponent's queen, or as small as a threat to weaken his/her pawn structure. 
Three-fold Repetition
  • When the exact same position of both sides' pieces is reached three times in a game, then the game can be drawn. All of each sides' pieces have to be in the same squares, and it has to be the same player's move. It doesn't have to be three times in a row, but if three times in a game the board looks exactly the same, then a player can claim a draw.
  • A way to decide who gets a prize at the end of a tournament if two or more players have the same number of points. It is usually used if there is some prize which cannot be divided, such as a trophy. There are different tiebreak systems; sometimes they use the average of a player's opponents' ratings, sometimes the opponents' total scores, sometimes the total number of wins or the number of times a player played black. Example: "Ivan and Luis had the same number of points, but Ivan got the trophy because he had better tiebreaks - his opponents were higher rated."
Time Control
  • The amount of time that the players have to finish a game. A chess clock is used to keep track of the time (see "clock").  A common time control for scholastic tournaments is "game in thirty minutes". This means that each player has thirty minutes to play all of his/her moves; if more than thirty minutes is used, he/she will lose the game. Blitz chess uses a time control of five minutes per game (see "blitz chess"). Also, there is the classical time control, "forty moves in two hours, and sudden death in an hour."
Time Delay
  • Some electronic clocks (see "clock") allow the players to use a time delay. This means that the clock waits - usually - five seconds before it starts counting off time. If a player uses less than five seconds for a move, no time is subtracted from his/her clock. This means that if a position is very easy, such as king and queen versus king, a player will not lose on time by simply not being able to play the moves fast enough.
Time Pressure/Time Trouble
  • Time pressure, or time trouble, happens when a player has very little time to play his or her moves. This means that the player cannot think for a long time and it often leads to mistakes. It usually happens if a player used too much time (see "clock") earlier in the game, and not much time is left in the time control. See "time control".
Touch Move
  • A rule, which is used in all serious chess, that if a player touches a piece, he/she has to move that piece. If a player touches one of the opponent's pieces, that player has to capture (see "capture") the piece if it is possible.
  • A chess competition, where many players compete against each other. A tournament has at least three players; if it has only two then that is called a "match" (see "match").

Tournament Director

  • A tournament director is the person who helps chess players with the rules and restrictions that are required during a chess tournament. Every chess tournament --whether online or "over the board"-- has guidelines and rules that chess players need to learn, know and follow. The tournament director (see also "arbiter") knows all of these rules, and therefore helps with this process. In a tournament, for example, all players must move a piece or capture an opponent's piece if they touch it. A tournament director or an arbiter will help to enforce these rules.


  • A trade is also an exchange (see "exchange"). To trade in chess is to give one of your pieces for one of your opponent's (see "opponent") pieces of the same or similar value.


  • A transposition in chess occurs when, through a series of moves, a position is reached that is more commonly seen through a different series of moves. However, it is nonetheless the same exact position that is on the chess board, even though the moves were different. Example: "Tom noticed that the position had transposed into a the same position that he more commonly sees reached by a different move order." 


  • A trap is a plan for your opponent to miss something important and therefore blunder (see "blunder"). Usually, the term trap is used when either you or your opponent are trying for a tactical (see "tactic") trick of some kind. This is trick is not usually forced (see "forced") when we use the term trap. 


  • Triangulation is a very advanced way of "out-maneuvering" the enemy king with your own king in order to gain the opposition (see "opposition"). Usually this involves the creation of an imaginary triangle, if one were to draw lines between the three squares used in this maneuver (see "maneuver")
  • A position where it is too complicated to tell who has the advantage (see "advantage"). Example: "I couldn't tell if White stood better, if Black stood better, or if the position was equal! All I knew was that it was very complicated. So I wrote that it was an unclear position."
  • To remove an important defensive piece, with the goal of attacking what it was guarding. Usually undermining has to do with pawn chains (see "pawn chains"); undermining a pawn chain means to attack the base pawn (see "base pawn"), trying to knock it out so you can destroy the whole chain.
  • Promoting (see "promotion") a pawn to a piece less than a queen (in other words, promoting a pawn to a knight, rook, or bishop). Since the queen is the strongest piece, players almost always choose to promote their pawns to queens. But sometimes underpromotion occurs when there are special reasons that a player needs a weaker piece rather than a queen.
  • Unusual play; moves or style that is different than the way most people play, or different from the ways of playing which are generally considered to be correct.
  • To break or escape from a pin (see "pin"). A player may unpin by: 1) moving the valuable piece away, thus allowing the pinned piece to move freely; 2) putting a less valuable piece in between the valuable piece and the pinned piece; 3) blocking the pin by putting a less valuable piece in front of the pinned piece; or 4) chasing away the pinning piece.
  • To vacate is to leave a place; in chess, vacating means to clear one of your own pieces out of the way so another one of your pieces can use that square or file (see "file"). There can be vacating sacrifices, where you intentionally lose one of your own pieces to make way for a different one.
  • variation is one way a game could go, or could have gone; it is a series of moves by White and Black that are forced or logical. A variation may be a series of moves that a player thinks about, but if he/she decides not to play the first move of the variation, it will not happen in the game.
  • variation is also one possible way of playing within a larger opening. For example, the "Averbakh variation of the King's Indian Defense", is a reference to a possible variation of a bigger Opening [the King's Indian Defense is an Opening (see "Opening")].


  • To "visualize" is to try and see the position, or a series of moves "in your head", without actually moving the pieces on the chess board.
Waiting Move
  • A move that does not do anything but take up a turn. Sometimes a player may make a waiting move because there is nothing else to do in the position; sometimes it may force the opponent to make a move that worsens his/her position, and possibly put them in zugzwang (see "zugzwang").
Weak Pawn(s)
  • A pawn that cannot be easily guarded, especially a pawn that cannot be guarded by another pawn, such as an isolated pawn (see "isolated pawn"), doubled pawn see "doubled pawn", or backward pawn (see "backward pawn").
Weak Square
  • A square which is strategically (see "strategy") important (it is usually in an important area of the board, such as in the center or in the opponent's side of the board) and cannot be easily guarded. A weak square usually cannot be easily guarded by one side's pawns, and can often become an outpost (see "outpost") for the other side. Also known as a "hole".
  • A rare tactic in which a repeated discovered check allows one piece to go on a rampage, capturing multiple enemy pieces. (See also "see-saw"). The most famous example of a windmill happened in the game Torre-Lasker, Moscow 1925.
  • The far sides of the board, as opposed to the center. Generally it means the a-, b-, g-, and h- files. A "wing gambit" for example is an early sacrifice of the b-pawn.


Winning Position
  • A position where a player should win the game, if both players play the best moves. For example, if you are up a queen you might have a winning position. A winning position is not the same as a win; frequently you hear players say such things as "I had a winning position but made a terrible mistake and lost".
X-Ray/X-Ray Attack
  • An "x-ray" is a machine which sees through things. An x-ray in chess is when one of your long-range pieces (a rook, bishop, or queen) acts "through" your opponents piece to attack (see "attack") or defend (see "defend") beyond it.
  • A German word meaning "move-need". This is a situation where every move a player could make causes him/her to lose (or worsens the position), while not moving (if that were possible) would save the game.
  • A German word meaning "in-between check". This is a check that is inserted -- in between -- a forcing sequence of moves, which changes the result of the sequence. See also "zwischenzug".
  • A German word meaning "in-between move". An - often unexpected - move inserted in a forcing sequence of moves, which changes the result of the sequence. See also "zwischenschach".