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An Introduction to the Chessmen

The game of chess is played between two players on a board divided into 64 squares, alternating from light to dark, with each player taking it in turns to move one of the pieces. The aim of the game is to checkmate your opponents King.

The Chessmen

The pieces and pawns are called chessmen. The following table shows how they are normally represented in printed material and the names of these pieces.

Chessman Name

king.gif (964 bytes)


queen.gif (946 bytes)


rook.gif (917 bytes)


bishop.gif (931 bytes)


night.gif (964 bytes)


pawn.gif (902 bytes)


Setting Up the Board

The board is always set up so that each player has the light square on the right-hand side. (Remember: light on the right). The queen always stands on the square of her own colour. Thus, the light coloured queen must stand on the light coloured square. A good way of remembering this is the saying: The queen is a fashionable lady. She likes her dress to match her shoes! The board is set up as follows:

setup.gif (27623 bytes)

In all printed diagrams it is usual for the White army to be at the bottom of the board and the Black army at the top. We will be following this convention in all subsequent diagrams unless otherwise stated.

The Pawn

At the beginning of the game each side has 8 pawns. Except on its first move, a pawn may only move one square forward at a time. Pawns can never move backwards. When a pawn makes its very first move it has a choice; it can either move one square or two. However, it moves one square in all following moves.

pawnb.gif (5616 bytes)

  • The pawn on the a file has not moved yet so it may move two squares forward.
  • The pawn on the e file has already moved so it can now only move one square forward.
  • The pawn on the h file has not moved yet but it does not have to move two squares forward on its first move. It may move only one square forward if it so wishes!

If the square immediately in front of the pawn contains another piece then the pawn is unable to move forward. It is blocked. None of the pawns in this diagram can move.

pawnd.gif (5644 bytes)

Although a pawn moves straight forward it captures by talking one square diagonally forward. In the diagram below White can capture either the rook or the knight.

pawnc.gif (5580 bytes)

Captures by all chessmen are carried out by removing the captured piece from the board and replacing it with the piece that has done the capturing. In the diagram below, the pawn has captured the rook.

pawne.gif (5362 bytes)

Pawn Promotion

When a pawn reaches the other end of the board it can be changed for any other piece of its own colour, except the king. This is called promotion. The diagram below shows the pawn's journey to become a queen.

promote.gif (20175 bytes)

Although it is more usual for a pawn to be promoted to a queen, it may be promoted to a rook, a bishop, or a knight. If there is not a spare queen, a rook turned upside down (or any other suitable object) is place on the board to represent a queen . A pawn is promoted by removing the pawn from the board and placing the chosen piece on the promotion square.


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