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Term Time ...

Although two people from different countries can play a game of chess without even speaking the same language, chess enthusiasts often use phrases which sound completely foreign to those who don't play the game even though they are from the same land.


Therefore, click on this link to learn the language of Chess ....

A-Z of Chess ...

An alphabetical list of various chess terminology.


Reproduced from "Chess Battle Manual" by permission of the Delancey UK Schools' Chess Challenge.


3Cs junior in action  ???


An attack is normally when you make a move which "threatens" something. For example, you might be threatening to take an opponent's piece or to deliver a checkmate - if your opponent attacks one of your pieces you should look to defend it.


Your back rank is the horizontal row closest to you - where all your pieces (except pawns) start the game. Your opponent's back rank is therefore the row furthest away from you. In the castled position, back rank checkmates are very common (see "Top Tips").


A combination is a sequence of moves leading to an advantage - often the moves are "flashy" or involve a sacrifice (see 'S ... Sacrifice'). Usually a "tactical motif" is involved (see 'T ... Tactics').


Development refers to activating your pieces effectively - normally including getting safely castled. You can be said to be 'well developed' when you have brought out both knights, both bishops, castled and found something useful for the rooks to do.


This is the third stage of a chess game - well played chess games typically have thre stages, though many badly played chess games don't get out of stage one ! We normally say we have reached the endgame when both queens have left the board. It is important to play the endgame stage well.


This refers to placing the bishop on the long diagonal. With the white pieces you would 'fianchetto' your bishops on g2 and b2 - whereas black would do so on b7 and g7.


A gambit is a chess opening where one side sacrifices a pawn (or more) in return for other advantages - ie: a lead in development, an attack against the king or more space. There are many examples including Kings Gambit, Queens Gambit, Danish Gambit, Moller Gambit and Goring Gambit.


This refers to rooks and queens, the most valuable pieces on the board (not including the king, which is priceless).


This is where a player makes a move which is against the Laws of Chess. This is normally done by accident. In a friendly game just take the move back and make another. In competition chess, different rules apply.


This is a French term meaning "I adjust". In chess there is a touch piece rule which means if you touch a piece you have to move it. The exception to this is if you say "J'adoube" or "I adjust" before touching the piece - for eample, if you are just placing it neatly into the centre of the square.


This term refers to the "king's side of the board". For white players this is to their right, for black players to their left. So if you castle kingside as white you castle to the right. The term is used when describing the action - for example, "white has a strong kingside attack".


The second stage of a chess game - this ocurs after the opening stage. The middlegame begins (and the opening ends)when both sides have completed developing their pieces. In the middlegame it is important to make plans, improve the position of your pieces and look out for tactics.


This refers to how players taking part in a competition keep a record of their games. Thanks to notation you can play over your games at a later date and it is why we have a record of games played by the great (and not so great) players of the past.


This is a checkmate involving both rooks or one rook and the queen and is one of the basic checkmates.


The first stage of a chess game. This stage lasts from the first move to the moment when both sides have completed their development. Many typical opening lines have names - usually they are named after places in which they were first played or the players who first played them. Serious chess players have their favourite openings that they learn in great detail (like revising for an exam).


This is one of the ways that a game can end in a draw, where one side cannot prevent the other from continually gving check. The games ends when the exact position has been repeated thre times.


This refers to the "queen's side of the board". For white players this is to their left; for black players to their right. So if you castle queenside as white you castle to the left.

The term is used when describing the action - for example, "white has a strong queenside attack".


A game can end when onen player resigns (To resign is to "give up".  This sounds defeatist but tournament players generally do not play on to checkmate when their position is absolutely hopeless.  However, we recommend you don't resign when you are starting out, especially as your opponents are likely to be beginners also and may mess up !


A move which involves giving up 'material' (see "V ..Value of the pieces") for some other advantage - for example, a lead in development, an attack against the king or more space.  Sacrifices are among the most unexpected and beautiful moves in chess - and many 'combinations' and 'tactics' involve a sacrifice.


Tactics are short term combionations, attacks and threats. They are the bread and butter of the game and all aspiring players will need to develop their own 'tactical vision'. There are many special tactics which have their own name - see the Delancey UK Schools' Chess Challenge website for more details.


'Promotion' refers to getting a pawn to the 8th rank (end of the board)and 'promoting it' (ie 'swopping it') for another piece, usually a queen.  An under-promotion is where you choose another piece other than a queen (ie knight, bishop or rook). There are certain (rare) scenarios where an under-promotion is a good move - normally to avoid stalemating the opponent.


Learning the value of the pieces is a crucial component to being a good chess player. 'Material' is often used to describe the total value of pieces a player has. So if you capture a rook (worth 5pts) in return for a pawn (worth 1pt) you can say "I have won material" (equal to 4pts in this example).


A wekness could represent a badly protected square, a bad pawn structure (more of an advanced concept) or perhaps a badly defended king.  Good chess players try and avoid creating weaknesses in their own camp and look to create and exploit them in their opponent's.


This is an international chess tournament in Copenhagen (Denmark) formerly known as the Politiken Cup. Masters play every year and is one of the strongest tournaments in the world.


This is a name of an opening - it is actually a sub variation of the 'Sicilian Dragon' (which is itself a sub variation of the 'Sicilian Defence') - there are 100s of chess openings !  The position is reached after the following moves: 1.e4,e5  2.Nf3,d6  3.d4,cxd4  4.Nxd4,Nf6  5.Nc3,g6  6.Be3,Bg7  7.f3


There are some positions in chess where, if you could, you would prefer to make no move at all. Unfortunately you cannot do this - you must make a move. In these situations you are said to be in "Zugzwang". The translation of this German phrase is "compulsion to move'. Zugzwang is one of the most powerful weapons available in the endgame - for eaxmaple, to force checkmate with a king and rook versus a lone king you need to use Zugswang - see the Delancey UK Schools' Chess Challenge website for more details.

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