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Common Chess Terminology

Activate - To increase the scope, range or aggressiveness of a piece.

Active - Generally, centralized, aggressively posted, or long-ranging.

Advanced Pawn - Any pawn that has moved into enemy territory (the fifth rank or beyond).

Advantage - Any condition that gives one player better chances than another - e.g., more material, better pawn structure, better development, better king safety or more space.

Attack - A direct assault by a single piece or pawn, or a series of moves designed to checkmate, win material or force an advantage.

Begin-game - See Opening.

Blockade - The blocking of a pawn, usually a passed pawn, by stationing a piece directly in front of it.

Capture - To remove a piece or pawn from the board by replacing it with one of your pieces executing a legal move.

Castle - To bring the king to safety by moving the king and rook simultaneously - Castling can be executed one time by each player in a game, either kingside (written as 0-0) or queenside (written as 0-0-0) - Castling is performed by moving the king two squares toward the rook in question and setting the rook on f1/f8 (0-0) or d1/d8 (0-0-0).

Centralization - Movement of a piece toward the center.

Center - The four squares (d4, e4, e5, d5) at the heart of the chessboard - The most important squares on the board.

Check - Any attack on a king.

Checkmate - The object of the game - A position in which one side's king is in check and has no legal moves - The checkmated side loses.

Compensation - Some non-material advantage that balances your opponent's lead in material - generally better pawn structure, better development, better king safety or more space.

Connected Pawns - Pawns side by side capable of supporting one another.

Develop - To facilitate your pieces' movement off the back rank and toward the center.

Development - Moving your pieces off the back rank to the center or to more active squares.

Diagonal - Lines created by squares of the same color (home to the bishops).

Discovered Check - The same as a discovered attack except that the attacked piece is a king and is forced to defend itself.

Double Check - A situation created when the moving piece in a discovered check also delivers check so that the king is attacked twice.

Doubled Pawns - Two pawns occupying the same file as the result of exchanges or captures, generally a weakness.

Draw - A non-decisive game, by agreement, stalemate, repetition, 50-move Rule, insufficient mating material, or perpetual check.

End-game - The final phase of the game, generally after queens are off the board.

En Passant - A special rule governing treatment of pawns moving two squares on their first move and crossing squares protected by a pawn on the fifth (with black on the move) or fourth (with white on the move) rank.

Exchange - To trade pieces or pawns for equal material.

Exchange, The - The loss or win of a rook for a bishop or knight.

File - Vertical lines on the chessboard, lettered a-h.

Fork - Any double attack - A move which attacks two or more pieces, pawns or critical squares at the same time.

Gambit - The voluntary offering of a pawn in the opening, generally for compensation in time and central control.

Hanging - Attacked and unprotected.

King Safety - One of the primary elements of chess, the vulnerability of the king to direct attack.

Kingside - The files on the king's half of the board (e, f, g & h)

Major Piece - A queen or rook.

Material - One of the five elements of chess, usually the most important - Value Ratio (approx.):      Q = 9; R = 5; B = 3; N = 3; P = 1.

Mid-game - The middle, second phase, of a chess game; when most of the pieces are exchanged or captured.

Minor Piece - A bishop or knight.

Open File - A file with no pawns on it, especially useful for rooks to play along.

Opening - The first phase of a chess game, generally lasting 10-15 moves and ending when both sides are castled.

Overloaded Piece - A piece with too many duties, defending for instance a pawn, a bishop and a rook - Often your opponent can capture one of the apparently defended pieces with impunity for recapturing leaves another piece hanging.

Passed Pawn - A pawn with no enemy pawns in front of it or to either side in front of it - Very dangerous because it has a free path to the queening square, on the 8th rank.

Pawn Chain - A string of two or more pawns connected along a diagonal.

Pawn Island - An isolated pawn or group of pawns - The more pawn islands there are in a position, the harder they are to defend.

Pawn Structure - The overall pawn configuration in a position, including passed pawns, isolated pawns, holes, doubled pawns etc.

Piece - A queen, rook, bishop or knight - Not a pawn or king.

Pin - An attack on one piece through another so that the intermediate piece is prevented or discouraged from moving, delivered by one of the long-range pieces - queen, rook or bishop.

Promotion - The replacement of a pawn which reaches the eighth rank with a queen, rook, knight or bishop - Almost always with a queen.

Queenside - The files on the queen's half of the board (a, b, c and d).

Rank - The horizontal lines of the chessboard, numbered 1-8 from white's side of the board.

Sacrifice - The surrender of material for less tangible compensation, usually in the form of space, development, center, initiative, attack, or pawn structure.

Skewer - Related to a pin, an attack on one piece through another intermediate piece which has to move to safety; delivered again by one of the long-range pieces - queen, rook or bishop.

Stalemate - A draw is produced when the side who's turn it is has no legal moves and their king is not in check.

Strategy - The effective planning and commanding of forces to execute one's plans; which in turn lead to a winning game.

Tactics - The actions taken to secure objectives set by strategy through expedient maneuvers. In a chess game, usually referring to a system of forks, pins, skewers, discovered attacks, discovered checks, back rank mates, sacrifices, etc.