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Sunday, September 2, 2012

[56] The game of chess - vocabulary and a short lesson

Hi! Today the topic of my article will be completely different from what I have been focusing on so far. I want to write a few words about chess - one of the most popular (if not the most popular) board games in the world. In this post you will find some vocabulary related to the game and you can just learn it, or use it when necessary (Also, I put some more interesting words or phrases in bold). For those who are more interested in the topic I am going to give some kind of instruction, or tips, how to play (succesfully;P). Have fun reading the article!

(Let`s remember that chess, among other games like for example darts, is uncountable and followed by singular forms (e.g. chess IS).

Chess is an old game and its history dates back to the 6th century. Undoubtedly, nowadays it is played in all corners of the world, by people at really various age. Of course, most people simply derive pleasure from playing chess but the popularity of the game grew so rapidly and immensely that people started competing with one another in various contest and tournaments, obviously including the World Chess Championship. The world-class chess master is also known as a grandmaster.

The game is played on a checkered chessboard which is comprised of squares arranged in an eight-by-eight box. In its classical form it is a two-player game, however, chessboards for, for example, three players were also invented (they are less popular, after all). Each player has sixteen pieces at his/her disposal. Pieces and their translation are presented below:

 king - król
queen - królowa
castle/rook - wieża
bishop - goniec
knight - skoczek
pawn - pion

Each player posseses one king, one queen, two castles two bishops, two knights and eight pawns at the beginning of the game. Usually, the white-black opposition is used as regards two sets of pieces used in games. The pieces are arranged on the chessboard in the following way:

In the first row ( for example: from 1a to 1h) we can see: rook, knight, bishop, queen, king, bishop, knight, rook. Pawns are placed in the second row (e.g. 2a - 2h). The aim of the game is to attack and take (remove from the chessboard) pieces belonging to the other player. That`s why one needs to move the pieces. Each piece has its own range of movements. Ranges of movements for each piece are presented below:

King can cover the distance of only one square. That`s why it is extremely important to defend it all the time, especially in the first phase of the game. We may for example do castling - a special movement of king and rook. Castling is explained below.

Rook can move vertically and horizontally, so to say, as you can see in the picture on the left. It can cover any number of fields, depending on the wish of the player, however it cannot cross, or pass over other pieces, regardless of their colour.

Bishops move diagonally. Like rooks, they can cover as many fields as possible, except for passing over other pieces.
Knights are the only pieces that can leap over other ones. The shape of their moves is L-shape, so: either two squares vertically and one horizontally, or two squares horizontally and one square vertically. They are very useful pieces in attacking the opposite side - sometimes players forget to calculate the range of their movements and can be easily attacked by these pieces.
The most powerful and thus dangerous piece is queen. It is like rook and bishop put together. It is extremely difficult to attack the opponent without this piece and only more advanced players can play succesfully having lost their queen. That`s why we should be careful when using queen in the proceedings of the game.

Pawns move forward to the closest unoccupied square. In the first movement of a pawn we may cover two fields, but ONLY in the first movement. They take diagonally, as opposed to their usual movements, which, as I wrote, go forward.

The most important piece on the checkboard is king so the game ends when either king is checkmated (put in danger) by the opposite pieces. It needs to be stressed here that kings cannot be taken (so removed from the chessboard); they can only be put in danger by the range of movements of the opposite figures. When the   threatened king has no way out, the game is won by the opposite player. When for exaple player 1 threatens to check the opposite king, he says "check" ("szach"). Player 2 has to defend his/her king either by covering it with the rest of his/her pieces, or by escaping from the range of movements of the opponent. The animation below shows an example of a game played by two opposite players (up to 25 movements by each player, until the game is won by white pieces). Let`s see what the consequences of particular movements are and what reactions in the opposite player they provoke.

More vocabulary:

check - szach
checkmate - szach mat
castling - roszada
en passant - 'bicie w przelocie'
taking - bicie
to be checked, to be in check - być zaszachowanym
grandmaster - arcymistrz

As we can see, the taking (capturing) takes place when for example white pawn "takes" the position of any black piece. That`s why players need to heavily concentrate on what is happening on the chessboard and to follow the movements of the opponent. This is also why chess is demanding in terms of the intellectual effort that has to be put by players trying to play at higher levels and introduce more sophisticated stratagies in their games.

There are three more rules which are worthy of remark. These are: castling. en passant and promotion.

Castling is a special movement that each player is allowed to do once in a game. It is more or less exchanging positions between king and rook, however they do not take their original positions. The mechanism of castling can be seen here (in fact two, there are two ways to perform castling):

Castling can be done on condition that:

  • the king is not in check
  • neither of the pieces involved in castling have been already moved in the game
  • there are no pieces between king and rook
En passant: 

When a pawn advances two squares from its starting position and there is an opponent's pawn on an adjacent file next to its destination square, then the opponent's pawn can capture it  en passant (in passing), and move to the square the pawn passed over. However, this can only be done on the very next move. It is quite difficult to catch the moment when the condition for performing en passant happens, so beginners usually do not pay attention to do so, or ignore this rule whatsoever. But when we decide to play against more experienced players we must stay concentrated in order not to give him or her this beautiful chance to take our pawn en passant. This is also shown in the picture: 

The animation includes one more special movement, that is, promotion. As we can see and may easily guess, a pawn can turn into queen (but also into rook, bishop, or knight) when it covers eight squares and is able to stand at the first row of the opponent`s area. Almost everyone immediately decides to get queen as it is the strongest piece on the board.

As regards my own tips, personally I can recommend that we do castling as soon as possible, which makes our king safer than in its initial position. To do so, we must move forward our bishop from f1 and a knight from g1 in the very first phase of the game. It is also recommended that we move our pieces towards the middle area of the chessboard, rather than play on both extreme sides. It helps concentrate the power of our pieces in the central part of the board. Then they will just stay together and it`s like people - together we just feel more at ease in the dark forest, right?:) We must also remember that our pieces should defend one another with their ranges of movements. If we meet this condition, we can attack and defend at the same time!!!

I am aware of the fact that this post may include a lot of chess theory, but maybe this article will inspire some of you to take up playing chess as a form of entertainment, or intellectual practice. Or, if you roughly know the rules, you can just have some more playing now! Also, you may find the following websites helpful if you want to know more, or play more:

http://www.chess.com/ - a nice site devoted to the game

http://www.chessforums.org/ - a forum where you can get a lot of useful stuff concerning... well, everything:)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chess - we like Wiki, don`t we? Here you can find some little extension of what I have just put here:) Enjoy and good luck!!!


  1. Great! I've always wondered how to play chees and now I think that this is too difficult to me:D

  2. I think it is only the impression. Playing chess is really easy and entertaining, but of course it`s more and more difficult to play better and better :)

  3. I think its really great post , very interesting. I read this like book worm. I usually don't find information about English . Finally I find suitable page ! :)