chess terms and definitions cheat sheet

Chess Terms and Definitions Cheat Sheet

There are a lot of terms and definitions to remember in chess, so it’s nice to have a page to refer to if you need help. I recommend bookmarking this page so that you can come back to it easily.

Attack – When a piece is moved to a square that puts it into a position to capture (or put into check if the piece is a King) a piece.

Blunder – A drastic mistake in chess that has no logical or foreseeable benefit.

Capture – To remove an enemy piece from play with a friendly piece.

Castling – The only move in the game that allows you to move two pieces at once and move your king a distance greater than one square. No pieces can be between the king and the desired rook to castle with, the king couldn’t have made a move yet, the king can’t be in check, and the castling move cannot put the king into check.

Check – When an enemy piece is in position to “capture” the king. The king can’t be captured, so it is referred to as “check”. When a king is in check, their next move requires them to either block the threatening move with a friendly piece, capture the threatening piece, or move the king to a safe square.

Checkmate – The signal that the game is over. At this point, the opponent who has received “Checkmate” has their king both in check and no moves to get them out of check.

Draw – A draw occurs when players agree that the game is an even tie; it’s neither a win nor a loss.

  • Draw by Repetition (Threefold Repetition) – If both players make the same moves three times in a row (such as moving pieces interchangeably between two squares), then a draw by repetition is called.

En Passant – En Passant can best be explained with pictures.

A white pawn is on f5. The black pawn on e7 is unable to move forward one space without being threatened by the white pawn.

So instead, the black pawn moves forward two spaces.

But because of en passant, the black pawn is still vulnerable. The above picture shows a completed capture of the black pawn using en passant.

Fianchetto – When a bishop moves above a knight after the knight pawn has been moved forward.

Fork – A fork occurs when a piece is threatening two enemy pieces at once. Forks can result in a painful stab to your opponent. For example, if your piece is moved to a position where it’s attacking both the enemy king and queen, and your piece isn’t vulnerable to any other enemy pieces, then your enemy is forced to move their king, thus securing a queen capture.

GrandMaster (abbreviation: GM) – The highest chess ranking achievable by man. A GM’s ELO rating is required to be above 2500.

Promotion – When a pawn reaches the very end of the board, they are able to undergo promotion. This allows a pawn to promote to any other piece (of their own color) except for the king. Since in almost all cases players promote their pawns to a queen, the term “queening” is generally used instead.

Passed pawn – A pawn that has made it past all other enemy pawns, therefore being unstoppable to promotion. Passed pawns are strong advantages because it forces your opponent into a defensive position.

Resignation – When a player surrenders the game and gives the win to the opponent. Most professional matches usually end in either draws or resignations, as they can calculate their available moves left, realizing that there is no path to victory.

I highly recommend this book below if you are truly interested in chess and would like to expand your knowledge on terminology (and more). The information listed here are the simple terms that will get you by.
Click here for a hard copy that you can add to your home library.

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  1. Chess is real thinking man’s game, I remember learning to play it when I was very young as I used to play my father and my two older brothers.

    I may not have won too many games with them but I enjoyed playing chess and I’ll never forget the one rule my father told me.

    It was concerning the placement of the board and he said that ‘white is right’, that is the corner square on your right hand side closest to you, must be white.

    Otherwise the game will not count and that you will have to correct the placement of the board and start again. This is a good post about chess, well done.

    • Hello Adrian!

      That’s a wonderful rule! It’s true that if the game board isn’t facing the proper direction, it’s not a real game of chess.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post, and look forward to more!



  2. I always wanted to learn more about Chess.

    It’s actually exciting to get introduced to some of these terms. I play lots of draughts.I guess one of the reasons that I haven’t played chess is because I was always intimadated by the game.

    Your article had helped to break that fear of mine and now I will learn as each day goes by.Will also check out the book that you recommend.


    • Hello Roopesh!

      Chess is nothing to be afraid of, I can assure you! It may be difficult at first, but with enough practice, you can dominate the battlefield.

      Happy Chessing,


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