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Chess Terms


Back Rank Mate - A checkmate that occurs because the King is trapped on his own back rank and cannot escape due to being blocked by his own pieces.

Backward Pawn - An unsupported pawn which cannot be moved immediately into the protection of another pawn.

BCE - Basic Chess Endingsby Reuben Fine, the standard American book on endings.

Bad Bishop - A Bishop blocked or hemmed in by its own pieces.

Blindfold Chess - Chess played without sight of the board or men and without written notes.

Caissa - The guardian deity of chess invented by chess players and not a legitimate mythological figure.

Castling long - Castling with the Queen's Rook.

Castling short - Castling with the King's Rook.

Center - Generally refers to the four center squares of the chessboard. Expanding this to files it refers to the King and Queen files and to a lesser extent the Bishops files.

Closed - Chess positions and games in which the players have little mobility. Opposite of Open.

Correspondence (or Postal) Chess - Chess played by mail. Books and notes may be consulted BUT NOT other players or computers.

Discovered Check - Check by a piece whose action came about because another piece was moved.

Double Check - Checks simultaneously obtained by the moving of a piece which in itself provides a check while also revealing a discovered check due to its movement.

Doubled Pawns - Two pawns of the same color on the same file.

En Passant - (Fr. "in passing") The capture of a pawn which has moved from its second rank to its fourth rank by an opposing pawn which stands on its own fifth rank.

En Prise - (Fr. "in take") Capable of being captured.

Exchange - The winning of a Rook by a Bishop or Knight, while losing the minor piece but gaining an important advantage in force.

Fianchetto - (It. "to place on the flank or side") The development of a Bishop to its respective B2 or G2 square.

File - Any one of the vertical rows of squares on the board.

Fish - A weak player. Other names: "Pigeon", "Weakie", "Woodpusher", etc.

Force - The number and power of men. If one player has more and better men, he is ahead in force or material.

Forced Move - A move which a player is compelled to make in order to avoid mate or the loss of material.

Fork - Simultaneous attack by one piece on two or more of the opponent's pieces.

Gambit - An opening in which a pawn or piece (or more) is sacrificed for positional advantage.

Hanging - Synonym for "En Prise".

Hanging Pawns - Two or more unconnected pawns unsupported by others.

Interpose, to - To place a piece between the enemy piece which gives check and your own King. Note: a check given by a Knight CANNOT be stopped by interposing.

Isolated Pawn - A pawn which is not supported by other pawns of the same color on adjacent files.

J'ajeute - (Fr. "I adjust") Notice given by a player when he wants to adjust a piece so that the "touch - move" rule will not apply.

Material -The number and power of men. If one player has more and better men, he is ahead in force or material.

Mobility - Freedom of movement.

MCO - Modern Chess Openings, standard book on openings.

Open File - A file from which the pawns have been cleared away.

Piece - Any piece on the board except the Kings and pawns. Queens and Rooks are called Major pieces and Bishops and Knights are called minor pieces.

Pinned Piece - A piece that cannot move because an opponent's piece would have a check on your King if it did.

Strong Square - One adequately guarded or controlled by one's own pieces.

Rank - Any one of the horizontal squares on the board.

Space - The number of squares controlled.

Skewer - Attacking a piece of high value which must move and thus reveal a lesser pieces behind the attack. Also known as an X-ray attack.

Tempo - (Lat. "time") A tempo is a unit of time expressed in terms of a move. A player who takes two turns to accomplish the same thing that could have been done in one turn is said to have "lost the tempo" or lost a move.

Touch-move - The rule of chess that requires the player with the turn to move or capture the first piece touched.

Unsupported Pawn - One not protected by another pawn. At the beginning of the game, ALL pawns are unsupported.

Weak Square - One which a player cannot guard except with great difficulty.

Zugzwang - (Ger. "forced move") A position is which one is forced to move but any move will lead to loss of material or defeat. Used particularly in positions where the opponent, had he the first move, would drive no advantage.

Zwischenzug - An intermediate move or a move inserted before a necessary or expected move, such as a retaliatory capture, exerting a threat that the opponent cannot ignore.


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