Learn the Correct Names for Each Chess Piece – A Beginner’s Guide

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Chess. The game of kings! When you think of chess, it’s likely that the first thing that comes to mind is a classic board with two players sitting opposite each other. The pieces on the board are also something that most people associate with chess – there are just so many different ones! It can be confusing for beginners to know what they’re all called and which one does what. In this post, we’ll try our best to clear up any confusion by giving you an easy-to-follow guide on how to name each piece and what its roles are in the game

There are six different pieces in a game of Chess, Pawns, Rooks, Knights, Bishops, Queens, and Kings. There are 32 pieces in total in a chess set, 16 pawns, 4 each of rooks, knights and bishops, 2 Kings and 2 Queens. Equally divided in light and dark colors for each player

Let’s go through each, and help you identify each, most are obvious. This is a light guide, with links to find out more about how each chess piece can move, and the symbolism of chess pieces. Please hit one of those links for a shortcut to find out more.

The names we know today for each chess piece were not standardized until around 1850, some 1200 years or so after chess took some recognizable form as the game we know today.

Table of Chess Piece Names

The icon we would see in online chess apps, with todays’ name, common names in histroy as well as the ancient names from the origins of chess in the east, as well as some common names that are generally accepted, if incorrect.

PieceNamePrevious Name/sAncient NameCommon Name
♔ ♚KingShah
♕ ♛QueenCounselorWazir
♗ ♝BishopElephantAl-Fil
♘ ♞KnightCavalryAspHorse
♖ ♜RookChariotsRukhCastle

I’ll not go into the moving abilities of each piece here, as we concentrate solely on getting the names correct, or why they are shaped the way they are and what the represent. Choose a tile above. You’ll find out the names there too.

For the brief and simple guide to the chess pieces names, please read on

1. King

So far as we can tell, the King has always been the King in modern chess. From the earliest records in chess history he is the Shah, which is of course the title of a former monarch in Iran pointing to the origins of chess.

2. Queen

The Queen is of course the Kings Counsel. And was know as such for some time. She is the most powerful and versatile mover on the board. Loss of the queen can often lead to loss of the game, often by resignation as a player is at a distinct disadvantage being a ‘queen down’.

3. Bishop

The bishop is the religious presence. Previously known in ancient times as Al-Fil, Arabic for Elephant, it is often confused the modern days bishops with the slit in the head signifies the Elephants truck, although more accurately, this is the mitre the bishop wears, although the association is romantic.

4. Knight

Often called the horse by children and adults alike it is no wonder when the knight is represented by a horse’s head in most cases, a complete horse in other, and then the mounted soldier in yet more. The ‘Cavalry’ lends more weight to this misnaming as does the Asp in ancient chess history.

5. Rook

Another with a modern confusion in being called a ‘castle’ – The pieces’ shape does indeed represent a castle but in fact, was previously known as the chariot. The name Rook doesn’t make any logical sense until you know that origin of chess as we know it in the East has Persian for Chariot as ‘Ruhk’ then it all comes together.


6. Pawn

The Pawns were previously known as the Infantry but there is little confusion these days, as everyone would seem to know what a pawn is, even before discovering chess. The smallest, most numerous figure on the chessboard and at the front of the battle.

Have Fun With The Chess Piece Names

When you first start playing chess, it’s important to know the correct name for each piece because that way when someone is talking about a move they’re making or something on their board and says “this rook” instead of just saying ‘the castle’, then there will be less confusion. It also helps players remember which pieces can go where.

There is nothing wrong in calling the Rook a castle, so long as your opponent, friend, family member also knows to what you are referring.

In official surroundings, it is best to keep with the standard chess piece names, but you’ll soon discover themed chess sets, where Batman is the King and Catwoman, the Queen. I’m sure you’ll not be referring to the king and queen when playing with that.

The most important thing about chess, is that you enjoy playing the game, and knowing the names of all the chess pieces is a fundamental start to that journey.

I hope this short article has helped you to understand the names of all chess pieces, and I hope you go on to learn more about this fantastic game.

If you have read this far, please feel fre to have a click around the site and the categories in the menu to learn more about strategy in chess, tactics, rules and tons of informations and questions asked about chess.

Happy Chessing!

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