A Glossary about Chess

Chess is one of the oldest and most complex board games in history. This complexity is accompanied by a multitude of technical terms that describe the rules, explain special regulations or describe certain chess constellations. In their entirety, they represent the chess jargon and are also an expression of the fascination that chess has established over the centuries.

The following is an alphabetical list of the most important chess terms.


Active play:

Active play refers to a style of play in which a chess player endeavours to make active and aggressive moves in order to put pressure on the opponent.


Analysis Board:

An analysis board is a physical or software-based tool used by chess players to analyse chess positions and check possible moves.


Balanced Position:

A balanced chess position is a game situation in which neither chess player has a clear advantage. Both sides have similar chances and the position is balanced.


Bishop Endgame:

The bishop endgame is the phase of a chess game in which there are only a few chess pieces left on the board, including at least one bishop on each side.


Bishop Promotion:

The bishop promotion occurs when a pawn reaches the opponent's back rank and is promoted to a bishop. However, this is a rare conversion as a queen promotion offers more advantages.



The bishop is a chess piece that can move diagonally across the chessboard. Each player has two bishops, one on the white squares and one on the black squares. The bishop is a minor piece.


Blitz Chess:

Blitz Chess is a variation of chess in which the players have very little time to think, usually less than five minutes per player for the entire game.



A blockade occurs when a chess piece blocks the movement of another chess piece by occupying the square to which the opponent's piece wishes to move.



A blunder in chess is a serious mistake that gives the opponent an obvious advantage and often results in the loss of the game.



A breakthrough is a tactical manoeuvre in which a chess player attempts to break through the opponent's position by opening a line or weakening the pawn structure.



Castling is a special move in chess. The king moves two squares to the left or right and is then jumped over by the rook of the respective side. However, the king must not have moved beforehand, there must be no chess pieces between the king and rook and neither the king nor the chess squares involved in the castling may be threatened.


Centre Attack:

In chess, a centre attack is a strategic or tactical attempt by a player to occupy the centre with his chess pieces.



In chess, the four central chess squares are referred to as the centre. They have the coordinates d4, d5, e4 and e5.



A check represents the moment in chess when a king is threatened by the attack of an opponent's chess piece. The check is called out and forces the player to bring his king to safety or to protect it.


Checkmate Pattern:

A checkmate pattern describes a positional pattern from which a certain mate can be brought about over several moves. The opponent has no chance if a checkmate pattern is recognised and executed precisely.



Checkmate describes the moment in the game when a king can no longer escape from a threat. The game ends and the player of the attacked king loses the game.


Chess Computer:

A chess computer is a computer that has been specially programmed to play chess. The term is somewhat outdated and is mainly used for electronically supported physical chess games. The term artificial intelligence is used for online games.


Chess Move:

A chess move describes the movement that a player makes with a chess piece. In chess notation, a distinction is made between a full move, consisting of the moves of both players, and a half-move (see half-move), the move of a single player.


Chess Notation:

Chess notation describes the sequence of moves in a chess game and is used to record, document and analyse chess games. Over the centuries, there have been various chess notations and a transition from a descriptive chess notation to a coordinate-based chess notation.


Chess Piece:

The term chess piece describes one of the pieces used in chess. These are the following, sorted in ascending order of value: pawn, knight, bishop, rook, queen and king.
Chess: Chess is one of the oldest and best-known board games in the world. Its terminology is explained in more detail here in the glossary.



The chessboard is the playing field on which chess is played. It has 64 chess squares, which are arranged in an 8 x 8 square board with alternating light and dark colours.


Closed File:

A closed file is a file on the chessboard where the pawns of both players are still facing each other. If they block each other, this can restrict tactics with the chess pieces.


Closed Position:

A closed position is a position on the chessboard in which most of the lines are blocked by pawns. A closed position makes tactical play more difficult for both chess players.


Correspondence Chess:

Correspondence chess is a game variant in which the players exchange their moves by post, e-mail or special online platforms instead of executing them in real time. The thinking times are not defined here due to the non-binding nature of the game.


Development Advantage:

A development advantage occurs when a player has developed more pieces compared to his opponent or when his pieces are better placed.


Development Lag:

A development lag occurs when a player has developed fewer chess pieces compared to his opponent or when his pieces are not yet placed in optimal positions.


Discovered Check:

A discovered check occurs when a king is placed in an attacked position not by an active attack on it, but by the withdrawal of an opponent's chess piece.


Double Attack:

A double attack is a move in which one chess piece attacks two of the opponent's chess pieces simultaneously. This means that the opponent is in zugzwang, as he cannot defend both chess pieces at the same time.


Double Check:

A double check occurs when a king is attacked by two opposing chess pieces at the same time (usually by withdrawing). The chess player's only option is to escape with the king to a safe square.


Double Pawn:

Double pawns are two pawns of the same colour on the same line in front of each other. They can be a weak point as they block each other and are more difficult to defend.



A draw is a draw in chess. It occurs when no king can be checkmated by regular chess moves or the players agree on a draw.


En Passant:

"En passant" is a special rule in chess that states that a pawn that moves two squares forward in its first move may be captured by an opponent's pawn (in the corresponding position) as if it had only moved one square forward.



The endgame is the phase of a chess game in which only a few chess pieces remain on the board. The endgame often requires precise calculations, as every move can decide the outcome of the game immediately.



An exchange is a situation in which a chess player deliberately trades one of his chess pieces for an opponent's chess piece. This is usually done to simplify the chess position, gain material or improve a strategic position.



A fianchetto is an opening move in which a player moves his bishop to the square next to one of his marginal pawns (usually b2 or g2 for White or b7 or g7 for Black) in order to occupy a strong diagonal position and control the centre.



A fork is a tactical situation in which a chess piece attacks two or more of the opponent's pieces simultaneously. Typically, the chess piece attacks a valuable opponent's piece while simultaneously threatening a less valuable piece.



A gambit is an opening strategy in which a chess player deliberately sacrifices material, often a pawn, in order to gain a better position, faster development or attacking chances.


Game Phase:

There are three game phases in chess, which occur earlier or later depending on the course of the game. These are the opening, the middlegame and the endgame.



A half-move describes the move of only one player. In comparison, a full move always describes the half-move of the white player and the subsequent half-move of the black player.



An inaccuracy in chess describes a slight mistake that is not decisive for the game. Inaccuracy describes an alternative move to one or more better moves that could have been made in the given game situation.



The player who can determine the main course of the game with his move has the initiative in chess. Initially, this lies with the white player and can change to the black player in the course of the game.


Isolated Pawn:

An isolated pawn is a pawn that has no neighbouring pawns of its own colour and is therefore on its own. It is difficult to defend and represents a weak point.




King Safety:

King safety refers to the protection of the king against attacks or tactical threats from the opponent. A secure king position is important to ward off potential attacks and protect the king from imminent danger.



The king is the most important piece in chess, as the main aim of the game is to bring the opponent's king into a position where it is threatened and can no longer be defended. This situation is then referred to as checkmate.


King's Gambit:

In the King's Gambit, the white player sacrifices a pawn on f4 in order to capture the centre and support the development of his pawns. The name refers to the kingside on which the sacrifice takes place.


King's March:

The King's March is a sequence of moves involving the king in the attack. The march is the more spectacular the earlier the king makes its moves, taking the risk into account.



The kingside is the side of the chessboard on which the kings are positioned at the start of the game.



The knight is a chess piece in chess and is characterised by a unique movement pattern. It moves two chess squares in one direction and then one chess square to the side. It is also the only chess piece that can jump over other chess pieces. The knight is a minor piece.


Knight Endgame:

The knight's endgame is the phase of a chess game in which there are only a few chess pieces left on the board, including at least one knight on each side.


Knight Promotion:

The knight promotion is a promotion option that can be chosen for a pawn that reaches the opponent's back rank. It is rarely used, but can be a better choice than the queen in certain situations.




Major Piece:

Major pieces are chess pieces of higher value. These are the rook and the queen. Minor pieces, on the other hand, are the knight and the bishop.



Mate describes the moment in the game when a king can no longer escape from a threat. The game ends and the player of the attacked king loses the game. Mate is the short expression for checkmate.



The term material describes the qualitative assessment of the value of the chess pieces, measured against the equivalent value of a pawn.


Material Advantage:

Material advantage means that a player is superior to his opponent in terms of the total value of his chess pieces.


Material Disadvantage:

Material disadvantage means that a player is inferior to his opponent in terms of the total value of his chess pieces.


Material Gain:

A material gain occurs when a chess player captures an opponent's chess piece of higher value with one of his own chess pieces of lower value. The difference in value between the chess pieces represents the win.


Material Loss:

A material loss occurs when a chess player loses one of his own higher-value chess pieces to an opponent's chess piece of a lower value. The difference in value between the chess pieces represents the loss.


The middlegame describes the phase of the game in which both players have completed their openings and developed their chess pieces. In the middlegame, both players make tactical moves that no longer follow a standardised pattern.


Minor Piece:

In chess, the term minor piece refers to the bishop and the knight. In contrast to the queen and rook (major pieces), minor pieces have fewer movement options and are generally less valuable.


Move Sequence:

The move sequence describes the order of both players' moves. It is usually written in chess notation and works via coordinates.




Open File:

An open file is a file on which there are no more pawns. Players gain a tactical advantage if they are the first to occupy it with a rook or queen.


Open Position:

An open position is a position in which there are no more pawns on the central lines, leaving more room for other chess pieces to move.



The opening is the initial phase of a chess game in which the players develop their chess pieces and prepare them for the middlegame. There are many different opening variations with different strategies and objectives.


Passed Pawn:

A passed pawn is a pawn that has no opponent's pawns on the same or neighbouring column and can therefore advance freely without being immediately blocked or captured. Free pawns have the potential to develop into a queen.


Pawn Endgame:

The pawn endgame is a phase of chess in which there are mainly only pawns left on the chessboard. The chess players aim to convert their pawns into queens.


Pawn March:

A pawn march is a technique in which a player moves a group of pawns forward in order to gain space on the board, weaken the opponent's position or build up an attacking position.


Pawn Promotion:

Pawn promotion occurs when a pawn reaches the opponent's back rank. The pawn can then be converted into another piece (usually a queen, knight, bishop or rook can also be converted).


Pawn Sacrifice:

A pawn sacrifice is a move in which a player sacrifices a pawn to gain a strategic advantage, such as a better position for his chess pieces, attacking chances or opening lines.


Pawn Structure:

Pawn structure refers to the arrangement of pawns on the chessboard. A solid pawn structure can provide a good defence and control the centre, while a weak pawn structure can be vulnerable to attack.



The pawn is a chess piece that stands on the second row of each player's side and can move one square forwards. In its first move, however, it has the option of advancing two squares. He moves straight forwards, but captures his opponent's chess pieces diagonally.


Piece Development:

Piece development is about positioning your own chess pieces optimally in order to build up pressure, control the centre and create a solid foundation for the rest of the game.


Piece Exchange:

A piece exchange occurs when the chess pieces of both players capture each other in an alternating sequence. This can be done with a tactical motive or out of zugzwang.


Piece Setup:

The piece setup refers to the positioning of the chess pieces on the chessboard at the start of the game. It can vary depending on the variant of the game.



A pin occurs when a chess piece is tied or "pinned" because it is defending another, more valuable chess piece by blocking an attack.


Position Evaluation:

The position evaluation is the evaluation of the chances of both players in a certain chess position.


Position Repetition:

A position repetition occurs when a chess position occurs for the third time under the same conditions and with the same player making a move. In this case, the player can request a draw.


Positional Setup:

A positional setup refers to a specific constellation of chess pieces during the course of a chess game.



A promotion occurs when a pawn reaches the opponent's back rank and is replaced by a queen, rook, bishop or knight. The conversion must be carried out by a player, there is no right of choice.



A quality is often used synonymously with the term material value. It describes the current material value of the chess pieces under consideration in a game situation and helps to put them into perspective.



The queen is the strongest and most versatile piece in chess. It can move horizontally, vertically and diagonally across the entire chessboard. The queen is a major piece and, due to its high value, also a favourite target for attack.


Queen Endgame:

The queen's endgame is the phase of a chess game in which only a few pieces remain on the board and one or both sides have a queen.


Queen Exchange:

An exchange of Queens occurs when both players capture each other's queens. This can be by mutual agreement or by force.



The queenside is the side of the chessboard on which the queens are located at the start of the game.



Ranks in chess are the chess squares on the chessboard that run horizontally and alternate in colour. They are labelled with the letters a to h in chess notation.



The move repetition is a form of position repetition in which both players move their chess piece back to the previous position and repeat this change of chess moves. After the third repetition, the game ends in a draw if requested.



The rook is the chess piece that is positioned in the corners for both players at the start of the game. It moves horizontally and vertically across the entire chessboard and is often involved in the game via castling. The rook is a major piece.


Rook Endgame:

The rook endgame is the phase of a chess game in which there are only a few chess pieces left on the board, including at least one rook on each side.


Rook Promotion:

The rook promotion occurs when a pawn reaches the opponent's back rank and is converted into a rook. However, this is a rare conversion option, as converting to a queen offers more advantages.



A sacrifice describes the deliberate capture of one's own chess piece by the opponent with the aim of gaining a tactical advantage.


Semi-Open File:

A semi-open file is a file on the chessboard that is only occupied by one or more of a player's pawns. A pawn conversion to a queen can therefore still take place on this line.


Semi-Open Position:

A semi-open position is a position on the chessboard in which most of the lines are blocked by pawns, but an exchange of pawns has already taken place. Compared to a closed position, there is an asymmetry in the pawn structures.



A skewer is a form of double attack. In this case, a chess piece threatens not just one, but two opposing chess pieces in a line of attack. The opponent can therefore only save one chess piece by withdrawing.



Space in chess describes the degree of spatial freedom, which provides information about how freely chess pieces can move without coming into danger or being blocked.


Space Advantage:

See "Space Gain"


Space Control:

In chess, space control describes the defence of previously occupied areas of the chessboard with the aim of steering the game spatially in a certain direction.


Space Gain:

In chess, a space gain describes the occupation of certain areas of the chessboard in which chess pieces can develop freely or attacks can be coordinated unhindered.


Space Loss:

In chess, a space loss describes the loss of certain areas of the chessboard in which chess pieces could previously develop freely or attacks could be coordinated unhindered.



A stalemate in chess occurs when a player is no longer in a position to make a valid move.


Stalemate Avoidance:

A stalemate avoidance describes a primarily passive style of play by an attacking chess player with the aim of preventing the opponent from inducing a stalemate situation.


Starting Position:

The starting position is the initial position of the pieces on the chessboard before the game begins. It is the starting position from which both players make their moves and develop the game.



The chess strategy describes the plan pursued by a player that extends across all phases of a chess game. Chess strategy must be distinguished from chess tactics.


Tactical Error:

A tactical error is an error that leads to the loss of a chess piece, a loss of material value or the loss of the entire game due to an incorrectly executed manoeuvre.



Chess tactics describe a manoeuvre used by a player in the short term and in a specific game situation. It usually takes place within the different phases of the game (opening, middlegame & endgame).



Tempo is a unit of time in chess that measures the efficient utilisation of a player's move obligation. For example, if a player moves a chess piece twice, although one move would have been sufficient, this represents a loss of tempo.



A threat is a game situation in which a chess piece or a combination of chess pieces directly attacks an opponent's chess piece and makes it difficult for the opponent to react appropriately to this threat.


Time Control:

The time control relates to the time a player has available for all his moves. If a player uses up his time before a checkmate or resignation, he loses the game.



Transposition describes the process of reaching a certain chess position through different move sequences. It is therefore possible to switch from one opening to another with certain chess moves and to change the strategic motivation of the game.













A zugzwang occurs when a player is in a situation where he must act due to a threat, but every move means a deterioration of his position.



An Zwischenzug is a move that a player makes against his opponent's expectations and that is at least as good or even better.

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