CHESS STRATEGY

Basics   Pieces   Tactics   Openings   Middle Game   End Game   Glossary
algebraic notation
the international system of recording games that is in general use today, in which files are lettered a through h and ranks are numbered from 1 through 8, with a1 being the lower left square from White's point of view. In the long version of algebraic, a move is written by giving the piece abbreviation (in English, K for king, Q for queen, R for rook, B for bishop, N for knight, and nothing for pawn), the coordinates of the starting square, either the symbol "-" (meaning "moves to") or "x" (meaning "captures at"), and the coordinates of the destination square; e.g., a move might be written Ng1-f3 or f5xe6. In short-from algebraic, the starting square is omitted, as is the "-" or +x" symbol, and pawn captures omit the rank unless necessary; e.g., Nf3 or fe.

candidate moves
possible moves available to a player in a given turn

castling
a special move that each player may make at most once in the game, involving a king and one rook. To castle, a player moves his or her king two squares toward either rook, then jumps that same rook over the king and stops on the square adjacent to the king. For castling to be legal, the squares between the king and rook must all be empty, neither the king nor rook may have moved previously, the king may not be in check, and after the move neither the king nor the rook may be on a square that is under attack.

check
to threaten a king with immediate capture; a king under such direct attack is said to be "in check." Though some players think they must announce "check" aloud when playing a game, such behavior is considered annoying and amateurish in tournament play.

checkmate
a position in which a king is in check and cannot avoid being captured next turn; the end of the game

chessboard
the 64-square checkered board used to pay chess

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chessman
any piece or pawn; a chess set contains 32 chessmen

closed game
a slow, positional game in which few or no pawns have been exchanged; compare open game

combination
a sequence of moves, often involving a temporary sacrifice, that results in winning material or checkmating the opponent

descriptive notation
a system of recording games, once popular in English-speaking countries, that has limited use today. Files are named for the piece that begins in them--e.g., QR for queen's rook, K for king--and ranks are numbered up the board from 1 through 8 from the point of view of the player making the move. Thus the square a1 in algebraic notation is QR1 for White moves but QR8 for Black moves. A move is written by giving the piece abbreviation (in English, K for king, Q for queen, R for rook, B for bishop, N for knight, and P for pawn), the coordinates of the starting square, either the symbol "-" (meaning "moves to") or "x" (meaning "captures at"), and the coordinates of the destination square. Unless necessary, the first letter of a two-letter square designation is dropped, e.g., Q-QB2 would be written simply Q-B2 unless the queen could also have moved to KB2.

development
the movement of pieces from their starting positions during the opening

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discovered attack
an attack made by a piece whose line of attack was just unblocked by another piece's move

discovered check
a check given by a piece whose line of attack was just unblocked by another piece's move

double check
a situation in which a king is in check from two different pieces at once; such a situation can only come about when one of the checks is a discovered check. The only way to get out of double check is to move the king.

doubled pawns
two pawns in the same file belonging to the same player, which are usually much weaker than two pawns on different files

draw
an outcome in which neither player wins or loses; in tournament play, a draw is worth half a point to each player, while a win is 1 and a loss 0. A draw may come about by stalemate, repetition of position (including perpetual check), insufficient mating material, the 50-move rule, or mutual agreement of the players.

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en passant
a method of capture in which a pawn on the fifth rank takes a pawn on an adjacent file that has just made a two-step advance; the capturing pawn moves one square diagonally forward, as though the captured pawn had made only a one-square advance

endgame
the last phase of many games, when there are relatively few pieces and pawns on the board

English opening
advancing the queen's bishop's pawn two ranks as the first move of a game (in algebraic notation, c2-c4)

exchange
the trading of a piece or pawn for another, e.g., "an exchange of queens" or "an exchange of knight for bishop." The term "the exchange" refers specifically to the trade of a rook for a minor piece; the player who captures the rook is said to "win the exchange" and then "be up the exchange," while the other player "loses the exchange" and then is "down the exchange."

fianchetto
the development of a bishop just in front of the knight's starting square

50-move rule
a rule stating that if each player makes 50 moves without a pawn being moved or a piece being captured, either side may claim a draw. The rationale of this rule is that if nothing important happens in 50 moves, chances are that no one will win however many moves are played. Official chess have created a few exceptions over the years to give players opportunities to win certain unusual endgames; but as computers continue to analyze pawnless endgames such as R+N vs. R and find more and more situations in which wins can be forced but require more than 50 moves, the rule may have to be rethought.

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file
any of the eight vertical lines of squares on a chessboard

fork
a simultaneous attack on two or more opposing pieces with a single piece or pawn

half-open file
a file in which only one player has a pawn

hole
a square on the third rank where the opponent's pieces can settle without being repelled by pawns

initiative
the ability to make threats and to force the opponent to be on the defensive

insufficient mating force
a situation in which checkmate is impossible because of a lack of material; for example, in an endgame with only two kings and a White knight, neither side has a way to mate the other; such a game is drawn

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interpolation
when the opponent makes a threat, a move that creates a new, greater threat that the opponent must answer, after which the player may go back and defend against the original threat; a temporary diversion

king's pawn opening
advancing the king's pawn two ranks as the first move of a game (in algebraic notation, e2-e4)

kingside
the right half of the board from White's point of view, where the kings start

major piece
a queen or a rook

mate
another word for checkmate

material
pieces and pawns

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middle game
the phase of the game between the opening and endgame, beginning after most pieces have been developed and lasting until exchanges have reduced the material significantly

minor piece
a bishop or a knight

open file
a file on which neither player has a pawn

open game
a game in which potential lines of attack have been opened through pawn exchanges, often giving rise to sharp tactics

opening
the early phase of the game in which pieces are developed and kings are usually castled

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patzer
a weak player

pawn structure
the configuration of the pawns; e.g., see doubled pawns, open file, half-open file, holes

piece
most often used to mean any chessman except a pawn; occasionally used to mean any chessman including a pawn

perpetual check
a situation in which one player continuously checks the other player's king and announces his or her intention to continue checking indefinitely; if the player with the king cannot prevent the checks from continuing, the game is drawn (compare repetition of positions)

pin
a situation in which a piece cannot move without exposing another, more valuable piece (such as the king) to direct attack from an opposing bishop, rook, or queen

promotion
the immediate transformation of a pawn into the owner's choice of a queen, rook, bishop, or knight when the pawn reaches the last rank

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queenside
the left half of the board from White's point of view, where the queens start

rank
any of the eight horizontal line of squares on a chessboard; ranks may be referred to as "first," "second," "third," etc. from either player's point of view, e.g., "Pawns start on the second rank"

repetition of moves
if the same position arises three times and it's the same player's turn to move each time, a player may claim a draw

resignation
a concession of defeat; a player whose position is hopeless will normally resign rather than play out the game to checkmate

sacrifice
to give up material voluntarily in order to gain an advantage that more than compensates for the loss

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shot
a forced combination of moves in which a player sacrifices material but quickly recovers even more material

skewer
a situation in which a bishop, rook, or queen attacks an opposing piece of greater value and, if the opposing moves, can capture another piece lying beyond

stalemate
a position in which a player whose turn it is to move is not in check and has no legal move--that is, any move the player makes will put his or her king in check. A stalemate ends the game and counts as a draw.

tempo
a unit of time equal to one turn; e.g., a player who moves a piece and then moves it back to its original square has lost two tempi

trap
a line of play that appears favorable on the surface but that will backfire; also, to cut off the escape routes of a piece and doom it to being captured

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values of the pieces
numbers assigned to indicate the relative worth of pieces and determine whether or not a particular exchange is worthwhile; the most widely accepted values are pawn = 1, knight = 3, bishop = 3, rook = 5, and queen = 9, though in reality values vary according to the position and the phase of the game

wing
a player's pieces to the left or right of the center squares

wood
an informal word for material

zugzwang
a position in which any move a player makes loses, even though the player might not be in trouble if it were the opponent's turn

zwischenzug
another word for interpolation

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