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Glossary of Chess Terms
To take an offered piece, as in the King's Gambit Accepted opening 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4. See also "Decline".
An aggressive move, line of play, or position. When mentioned in regards to a playing style, it indicates sharp or tactical tendencies.
The use of attack as a defense, rather than passively trying to cover weaknesses.
A developed piece that is actively participating in the conduct of the game. Active pieces form the basis of any attack.
Where the current position of the game favours one side over another. A material advantage refers to having a higher point count than the opponent. A permanent advantage is one with a lasting effect, such as an advantage in material or superior pawn structure. A positional advantage is an advantage in time, space, mobility, pawn structure, or control of critical squares. A temporary advantage is one that may eventually disappear, such as a lead in development.
The ability to take advantage of the opponent’s inaccuracies while playing accurately yourself.
The modern and most popular way of recording chess moves, using single letter piece identifiers and unique alphabetic file and numeric rank identifiers.
A technique used by computer programmers to cut down on the number of possible moves a computer has to evaluate before choosing the best move.
Calculation of possible moves and variations for a position.
Written comments about a game or position. May include variations from the main line of play.
To exchange the positions of the king and rook other than by castling. Also known as "Castling by hand".
Trying a bit too hard, or making an odd use of pieces.
1. An aggressive move or series of moves in a certain area of the board.
2. Threatening the capture of a piece or pawn or an empty square.
The first rank on the board for each player. It can become weak late in the game if the rooks don't cover it enough.
1. A pawn at the base of a pawn chain that can't move forward due to one or more enemy pawns on the adjacent files.
2. A pawn which stands on an open file and cannot be protected by any other pawn.
A bishop whose movement is restricted by friendly pawns on its colour squares. These friendly pawns are in turn restricted by enemy pawns or pieces, thereby being unable to vacate squares for the bishop.
Base of pawn chain
The very last pawn in a diagonal chain. It is the weakest point due to it not being supported by another pawn.
A lineup of pieces that move similarly on a single file or diagonal, usually pointing toward a critical point in the enemy's camp. Batteries can be created by Queen and Rooks on a file or rank, and Queen and Bishops on a diagonal.
A rash playing style characterized by frenzied attacking with one or two pieces, perhaps with little regard for strategy or danger.
Where a player is so tied up he has trouble finding useful moves. See "Squeeze".
Two bishops against a bishop and knight or two knights. Two bishops are effective together because they control diagonals of both colours, and work very well in open positions. See "Opposite colour bishops".
Immobilization of an enemy pawn by placing a piece (preferably a knight) on the square directly in front of it.
The square directly in front of an isolated or backward pawn. This square can also serve as an outpost square, as an occupying piece cannot be chased away by pawns.
A horrible mistake where material is lost, serious tactical or positional concessions are made, or the game is lost.
1. Published opening theory.
2. The library of opening moves maintained by a computer chess playing program.
A person who memorizes opening theory. Taking someone "out of book" refers to avoiding theory and playing a new or unorthodox move, which may confuse a book player.
A pawn move that proposes a pawn trade in order to increase space or relieve a cramped position.
Penetrating the enemy's position, whether by a pawn break or the sacrifice of pieces or pawns.
A game containing a very deep strategic idea, a beautiful combination, or an original idea or plan.
Broad pawn centre
Three or four centre pawns abreast, which indicate very aggressive intentions. The opponent of such a "big centre" must look to restrain it and break it up.
A piece hemmed in by friendly pieces and pawns. Such a piece will have a difficult time actively participating, and may also interfere with the development of other pieces.
The working out of variations mentally, without moving the pieces.
A move considered as a starting point in the analysis of variations.
A marked pawn with which a player engages to deliver checkmate, in giving extreme odds to a weaker opponent.
Moving a piece to a square occupied by an enemy piece, thereby removing the enemy piece from the board, out of play. Once a piece is captured, it may never return to the game.
1. The act of moving the king and rook simultaneously. This is the only time in the game where two pieces can be moved in the same turn. Castling consists of moving the king two squares either right or left, and placing the rook on the square beside the king closest to the centre. There must be no pieces between king and rook, neither piece may have already moved, and the King may not move out of Check, over it, or into it. Castling is usually worthwhile because it moves the King to a safer position in the wings behind pawns, and the rook to a more powerful position in the centre of the board at the same time.
2. Unsophisticated term for Rook.
To move pieces towards the centre. This can be useful if there is no obvious alternative plan.
Placing of pieces and pawns so they both control the centre, and influence other areas of the board. Pieces usually have maximum mobility (and therefore power) when centrally placed.
The four centre squares e4, d4, e5 and d5. The area bounded by c3, c6, f3 and f6 is also considered central. The d and e files are the centre files. The centre of the board is of great strategic significance, as pieces placed there generally have the greatest scope.
The attack on two or more pawns abreast on the 4th rank by an opposing pawn in order to break up their formation.
Centre fork trick
A series of moves where a knight is sacrificed for a centre pawn, knowing that it can be recovered by a pawn fork and the enemy's central pawn structure will be destroyed by doing so.
The king’s and queen’s pawns.
The act of attacking the opponent's king. When check takes place, a player usually calls out "check" so the opponent is aware of the threat. The opponent must get out of check on the next move, either by moving the King, capturing the attacking piece, or moving another piece between the King and the attacking piece.
Threatening the capture of the enemy king such that it cannot escape. This wins the game for the attacking side.
1. A playing style based on the formation of a full pawn centre. The strategic concepts involved are seen as ultimate laws, and therefore rather dogmatic.
2. An era where all players used this style and those that did not were considered irregular.
A move that clears a square for use by a different piece. The new piece can use the square to better advantage. A "clearance sacrifice" is where the vacating piece is sacrificed to make room.
A position where the pawn structure is fixed, the centre cluttered with interlocked pawns. Knights thrive in such positions, and play is generally focused on the flanks.
A sacrifice and forced sequence of moves to gain a certain advantage.
An equivalent advantage that offsets an advantage of the enemy's, for example material vs. development, space vs. superior minor piece, or three pawns vs. knight.
Connected passed pawns
Two or more same-colour passed pawns on adjacent files. See "Passed pawn".
When the two rooks are on the same rank or file, with no pieces or pawns between them. Rooks are very strong when they are connected, as they support each other.
Taking care of your position before continuing active operations. This could mean adding protection to critical pawns or squares, improving the placement of pieces, or making the king safer.
The domination or sole use of a square, group of squares, file ordiagonal. One is also "in control" when one has the initiative.
Unique square identifiers, made up of a number indicating rank and a letter indicating file.
The launch of an attack by the defender, rather than making more defensive moves. Designed to place the opponent on the defensive.
See "Counter attack".
Aggressive actions by the defender. Counterplay may equalize the chances, may be not quite enough to equalize, or may seize the initiative and gain an advantage.
Disadvantaged in space, leading to a reduction in mobility of one’s pieces.
A point where the evaluation of the position will obviously favour one side, or where it will equalize. The position is delicately balanced and the slightest mistake could be disastrous.
A check in reply to a check. Typical of queen endings.
A move which alters or makes certain the result of a game. A decisive move may make an advantageous position a winning one. A decisive error may lose the advantage or the game.
1. The offering of material in order to get an enemy piece to move.
2. The lure of an opponent’s piece to a square that is particularly vulnerable.
1. Any move or plan that is intended to meet or stop an enemy's threats or attack.
2. Name used for openings initiated by black, such as Petroff Defense, French Defense. etc. These systems are called defenses due to black having the second move, and being forced to respond to white's first move.
A tactic which forces an opponent piece from a square where it had to be, either because it was defending a piece or square or because it was blocking a threat.
Sacrificing material to destroy the pawn cover or other protection around the enemy king. Usually a point of no return.
The moving of pieces from their starting positions to new positions where their mobility and activity are increased. To bring pieces into play.
A diagonal row of squares. Diagonals are named by the coordinates of their starting and ending squares.
The creation of an attack from one piece caused by the moving away of another piece that was masking it. These are potent moves, as they may enable a piece to move away from a threat in safety, or enables two attacks to be launched simultaneously.
Check given by one piece as the result of the moving away of another piece that was masking it.
A move to upset a defensive formation.
The number of squares between two pieces. This is a crucial calculation in endgames to determine whether a king can stop a hostile passed pawn.
The launch of two threats simultaneously. It is different from a fork in that either or both threats need not be a capture.
A simultaneous check given by moving one piece to give check, thereby also unmasking another piece which also gives check.
Two pawns of the same colour on the same file, put there by a capture. These pawns are generally considered to be weak, but they can control valuable squares and create open or half-open files.
A game that ends in a tie, where each player is awarded half a point. A draw occurs when 1) there's not enough material to force mate; 2) there is a stalemate; 3) a 3-time repetition of position has been reached, or 4) there is mutual agreement.
The suggestion by one player to the other that they agree to call the game a draw. When playing manually, the correct way to make a draw offer is to make your move, say clearly "Draw?", and then start your opponent's clock. Never make a draw offer when it's your opponent's turn to move.
Dynamics are represented by the aggressive potential in a move or position.
Dynamic play occurs as a result of frequent structural changes that demand constant reevaluation of one's strategy. These changes are usually as a result of tactical threats or significant changes in the pawn structure.
Two functionally identical positions on the same board, one the mirror image of the other, due to the arrangement of the defender’s pieces being effectively symmetrical. This allows the same attack to be made down either side of the board.
An internationally accepted mathematical system for ranking chess players, created by Arpad Elo. International Grandmasters are typically in the range 2500 to 2700, world champions often over 2700. The standard deviation is 200 points. The scale is such that a player at 1800 would be expected to beat one at 1600 by the same margin as a player at 2600 against one at 2400. Many games must be played before an Elo rating can be estimated with confidence. The Elo rating is the foundation for the award of FIDE titles.
French "in passing." It occurs when a pawn moves two squares from its starting position, and passes an enemy pawn that has advanced to its fifth rank. The advanced pawn on the fifth rank may choose to capture the pawn as if the pawn had only moved forward one square. This capture must be made immediately after the two square advance, or else the right to capture "en passant" is lost. In chess notation an en passant capture is labelled "e.p."
French "in take" A piece or pawn that is unprotected and exposed to capture.
The final phase of the game when there are few pieces left on the board. The endgame generally starts after queens have been exchanged or when the immediate goal is to promote a pawn.
Where neither player has a discernible advantage over the opponent.
A trade of pieces. Trading a minor piece for the opponent’s rook is called "winning the exchange". Trading a rook for the opponent’s minor piece is called "losing the exchange". See "Point count".
Where a player willfully trades a rook for a minor piece in return for compensation of some kind. See "Compensation".
Increasing the amount of space directly under your control. To expand, push pawns forward in an attempt to increase the boundaries of your territory.
Italian "on the flank". The development of a bishop to b2 or g2 (b7 or g7 for Black).
Federation Internationale des Echecs, the world governing body for chess. Founded in 1924, it organizes world championship competitions, draws up rules of the game, and awards the international titles to top players.
Fifty move rule
A game can be drawn when fifty moves have been made by each player without a capture or pawn advancement.
A row of eight squares from one end of the chessboard to the other. In Algebraic Notation these are labelled a to h, starting from the queenside of the board.
Where the centre of the board is occupied by multiple pawns and some of them are fixed in place by opposing pawns. In some cases, pawn movement is possible but the advancing pawns will be subject to capture.
Fixed pawn structure
Pawn set-ups where there is little or no possible mobility. Since there will be little pawn play, strategies are easier to determine.
The files that do not belong to the centre, that is the a, b and c files on the queenside, and the f, g and h files on the kingside. Certain openings that focus on flank development are called "flank openings." Typical first moves for these openings are 1.c4; 1.b3; 1.Nf3; etc.
Attacking on either the kingside or queenside. Such attacks are much more successful when the centre is closed.
Fluid pawn structure
Structures where future pawn movement is likely. Strategy may be difficult to determine, as a change in the pawn structure necessitates a change in strategy.
A weak square near the enemy king. This is targeted by the attacker, and the defender may find it difficult to protect. More than one focal point makes an attack stronger.
Checkmate in the manner of 1. f3 e3 2. g4 Qh4*
Your army. All pawns and pieces are units of force.
A move or series of moves that must be played to avoid loss of the game or catastrophic loss of material.
A move which leads the opponent into a forced move or moves.
An advanced square which cannot be attacked by a hostile piece of inferior rank. Foreposts are ideal squares for attacking knights as they have a short range. An absolute forepost is where the position is unassailable. A contingent forepost can only be attacked at the cost of creating a weakness elsewhere.
A form of double attack where one piece threatens two enemy pieces at the same time. In a triple fork, three enemy pieces are threatened.
A defensive blockade to keep out the enemy forces, especially the king.
A pawn that is at the very front of a pawn chain. It is the only pawn contained in the chain that does not protect another pawn.
A direct attack on an enemy pawn that is located on the same half-open file as your heavy pieces.
Italian "a trip up". Where the first player voluntarily sacrifices a pawn or piece in the opening for positional or developmental advantage. A counter-gambit is where the second player makes a similar sacrifice for similar aims.
Basic rules that serve as guidelines for less advanced players. Basic rules don't apply to all situations, and more experienced players learn when to apply them in each specific position.
Threats created in the mind of inexperienced players due to lack of confidence or fear of their opponent.
1. A bishop not hindered by friendly pawns on the same colour squares.
2. A bishop with adequate scope.
Capture a piece, perhaps making a positional concession in the process.
The highest title (apart from World Champion) that a chess player can achieve. It is bestowed by FIDE upon players who have achieved certain performance norms. Abbreviation GM. Other titles (in order of importance) are International Master and FIDE Master.
A quick, uninteresting draw.
A file with pawns of only one colour on it. This file is closed to the pawn owner, and open to the other player.
A pawn or piece subject to immediate capture. Also "En prise".
Rooks and queens, also known as "major pieces" or "heavy artillery."
To hang on, to allow a successful defense.
A square that is undefendable by pawns. Such a square serves as an excellent home for enemy pieces, especially the knight.
A move made contrary to the rules of chess.
A noticeable difference between the white and black armies. This may include material advantage, superior pawn structure, space, development, the initiative, or a superior minor piece.
A move which has obvious unfavourable results, and so is to be avoided.
A piece not directly involved in the flow of the game.
The player that is on the attack, or otherwise applying pressure to the opponent on the defensive, is said to "have the initiative."
A novel move or idea in an established line of play.
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