[Last modified 3/22/04]
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The Chess Odyssey terms
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Additional reference material:
International Chess Dictionary (5 languages)
U.S. Chess Hall of Fame Member Profiles
Glossary of Chess Variant Terms
World Chess Champions
Pawn Power Glossary
** = Women's World Champion
A variation of the Sicilian Defense involving 2)...Nc6 3) d4, cxd4
4) Nxd4, g6.
Accelerated Pairing System: A Swiss System pairing method starting with four groups instead of the usual two; it is designed to produce a clear winner in as few rounds as possible.
Accept: To respond to a gambit opening by capturing the material offered.
Action Chess: See Quick chess.
Active defense: To attack the opponent in the process of defending your position.
Active piece: A developed piece that is free to attack the opponent.
Active position: A position with a lot of possibilities for putting pressure on or attacking the opponent.
Adams, Michael: England's top-ranked grandmaster.
Adjournment: The suspension of a tournament game, to be finished later. Since the creation of sudden death time controls (shortening the time required for tournament games), adjournments have become extremely rare.
Adjudication: In cases where a game is unable to be completed, adjudication is the process by which an impartial strong player determines the game's probable outcome. As with adjournments, since the advent of sudden death time controls, the need for adjudications has largely been eliminated.
Advance variation: A variation of the French Defense that includes 3) e5.
Advanced pawn: A pawn that has crossed the midpoint of the chessboard.
Advantage: Superiority in material and/or strategic position on one side of a game.
Advantage in time: See Tempo.
Agreement: A type of draw where the players agree that neither side has a realistic chance of winning, and they decide to end the game without a winner or loser.
Alburt, Lev: Former Soviet grandmaster who now lives and teaches chess in the U.S. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 2003.
*Alekhine, Alexander: Considered the fourth official World Chess Champion, he was champion twice--1927-1935 and 1937-1945.
Alekhine Defense: The opening 1) e4, Nf6.
Alexandria, Nana: WGM and Honorary Chairperson of the FIDE Committee on Women's Chess.
Algebraic notation: The most common method currently used for recording chess moves. Vertical files are identified alphabetically, while horizontal rows are identified numerically (e.g., White's lower lefthand corner is always a1). Thus, each square has only one name. See also our Symbols/Notation page.
Amateur: Any chess player ranked below master level.
Analysis: The examination of the critical positions and various potential lines of play that have occurred or could occur in a chess game. Post-game analysis means going over all the moves of a finished game, identifying particularly good or bad moves, and examining how the winner's strategy succeeded and/or the loser's strategy failed.
*Anand, Viswanathan: Ranked #3 in the world, 'Vishy' is the strongest chess player in the history of India, where he is extremely popular. He was FIDE Knockout World Chess Champion in 2000.
*Anderssen, Adolf: One of the greatest tacticians in chess history. Unofficial World Chess Champion, 1851 and 1862.
Annotation: Written commentary on the moves of a game, most helpful when authored either by one of the competitors or by a highly ranked player.
Announced check: The optional practice of announcing "check" after making a move placing the opponent's king in check. Beginners may feel this is considerate, while more advanced players may think it is unnecessary and/or annoying to point out check. However, since the king cannot be captured in standard chess, if your opponent doesn't notice that he/she is in check and starts to make an illegal move, you need to point out the check to him/her (this is one of the rare situations in tournament chess when a player is allowed to "take back" a move).
Announced mate: The largely obsolete practice of calling out an impending forced checkmate (e.g., "mate in four"), generally considered irritating nowadays.
Arbiter: The European term for a qualified tournament director.
Ashley, Maurice: The first African-American grandmaster in the U.S.; also a well-known chess ambassador and chess teacher.
Attack: An aggressive move or series of moves. An attacking player attempts to lead the pace of the game and may gain advantages in time and/or by weakening the opponent's position.
B: Abbreviation for bishop.
Baburin, Alexander: Grandmaster, author and publisher of Chess Today.
Back rank mate: One of the most common middlegame mates, it involves checkmating the White king on the first rank or the Black king on the eighth rank, using a lateral-moving piece (queen or rook).
Backward pawn: A pawn that is lagging behind (i.e., not isolated, but can no longer be protected by other pawns). May be at the back of a pawn group.
Bad bishop: A bishop whose pawns, particularly the central pawns, are on the same-colored squares as the bishop, limiting mobility.
Bad move: Indicated by "?" in notation.
Base of pawn chain: The last and weakest point in a pawn chain.
Battery: Doubled rooks on a file, or queen and rook on a file, or a queen and bishop on a diagonal.
Benjamin, Joel: American grandmaster and several-time U.S. champion.
Benko, Pal: Hungarian/U.S. grandmaster and endgame expert. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1993.
Benko Gambit: The opening 1) d4, Nf6 2) c4, c5 3) d5, b5.
Benoni Defense: The opening 1) d4, c5.
Berliner, Hans: Correspondence Chess World Champion and pioneer computer chess researcher/theorist. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1990.
Bind: A position where one side's possibilities are significantly limited.
Bird's Opening: 1) f4.
Bisguier, Arthur: American grandmaster and New York chess personality. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1994.
Bishop: A minor chess piece that moves diagonally.
Bishop pair: Two bishops versus a bishop and a knight or two knights; generally better materially, depending on the position.
Bishop's Opening: An opening involving 1) e4, e5 2) Bc4.
Bishops of opposite color: When one side has a single bishop moving on the light squares, and the other side has a single bishop moving on the dark squares. In the middlegame this gives the attacker the advantage; in the endgame it favors the defender, often allowing a draw.
Blindfold chess: When a game is played without looking at the board. Moves are called to the "blindfolded" player (normally simply sitting with his back to the board), who visualizes the position on the board in his mind. Alekhine and Koltanowski were both famous for their blindfold simultaneous exhibitions.
Blitz (a.k.a. Speed Chess): Standard chess played with clocks set at very short time controls (generally 5 minutes), with one major rule difference--the king MAY be captured as the final move of the game.
Blockade: To stop the progress of an enemy pawn by placing a piece in front of it.
Blunder: An obviously bad move, often leading to loss of material. Indicated by "??" in notation.
Board: The 64-square playing surface for a chess game. Players should check for correct orientation (i.e., that the square to their lower right is light in color) before starting a game.
Body check (a.k.a. shouldering): A technique most commonly seen in king and pawn endings in which one king blocks the other king from approaching his pawns; it may or may not involve opposition.
Bogo-Indian Defense: The opening 1) d4, Nf6 2) c4, e6 3) Nf3, Bb4+.
Boleslavsky, Isaak: A top Soviet grandmaster of the post World War II period and one of the most important opening theoreticians of all time.
Book: Standard, well-analyzed moves in the opening, used by top players and documented in chess literature.
*Botvinnik, Mikhail: "The father of Soviet chess." Considered the sixth official World Chess Champion, Botvinnik was actually champion three separate times--1948-1957, 1958-1960 and 1961-1963. Founded the Botvinnik Chess School, which produced dozens of top grandmasters. Inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2003.
Breakthrough: An infiltration into the opponent's position. See also Pawn breakthrough.
Bridge: "Storming the bridge" is the term Coach Pete uses referring to invading your enemy's territory through the four center squares--the pawns are the foot soldiers who pave the way.
Brilliancy: A game, generally involving a sacrifice, which shows exceptional creativity and/or shrewdness of calculation. Some tournaments give a "brilliancy" or "most beautiful game" award.
Brilliant move: Indicated by "!!" in notation.
Bronstein, David: Famous Soviet grandmaster of the 1940s-1960s and an important theoretician.
Browne, Walter Shawn: Six-time U.S. champion and founder of the World Blitz Chess Association (WBCA). Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 2003.
Budapest Defense: The opening 1) d4, Nf6 2) c4, e5.
Bughouse (a.k.a. Siamese chess): A crazy, fast-moving (generally 5-minute time controls) chess variant involving two boards/sets and four players (two teams of two). Pieces you capture from your board may be passed off to your teammate (sitting next to you), to be placed on any legal square on their board at their next turn, and vice versa (your partner feeds pieces to you as well). Thus, it is possible to have a very unusual inventory of pieces on the board at a given time (e.g., four white rooks, three black bishops, etc.). Pawns may suddenly appear on the seventh rank and promote to queen on their next move, checkmates may be accomplished via an overwhelming combination of pieces, etc. A win is accomplished by checkmating first on either board, or by winning on time (one of the opponent's flags falls first).
Bullet chess: Chess games lasting under 3 minutes (generally one minute).
Buried piece: A piece trapped behind its own army.
Bye: An unplayed round in a tournament. See our Competition page for further info.
**Bykova, Elizaveta (Soviet Union): The third official Women's World Chess Champion, 1953-1956, and again 1958-1962.
Byrne, Donald: 20th century International Master/deceased brother of Robert Byrne. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 2003.
Byrne, Robert: Strong U.S. grandmaster, as well as New York Times and Chess Life columnist. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1994.
Caissa (pronounced Ky-ee-suh): The mythical muse, or goddess, of chess.
Calculation of variations: Mentally picturing possible move sequences and anticipating their consequences, without actually moving the pieces.
Campomanes, Florencio: Highly controversial former FIDE president.
Candidate: A player who competes in the eliminating contest for the privilege to challenge the World Chess Champion.
Candidate move: A possible move in a given chess position, deserving careful consideration.
*Capablanca, Jose Raul: Often regarded as the most naturally gifted chess player in the history of the game, he was the third official World Chess Champion, 1921-1927. Inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2001.
Capture: To move a piece or pawn to a square occupied by an enemy piece or pawn, removing the enemy piece or pawn from the board. Indicated by an "x" in notation (e.g., "Nxe5" indicates a knight captured a piece or pawn on the e5 square).
Caro-Kann Defense: An opening beginning with 1) e4, c6 2) d4, d5.
Castle: See Rook.
Castling: The only time in a chess game when you are allowed to move two of your pieces during one turn, or the king more than one space at a time, it involves moving the king two squares to either side on the back rank, and then moving that side's rook over the king to the square on the other side of him. This move may happen only once per side in a game, usually in the opening phase, and only under certain conditions (refer to castling rules). The purpose of castling is to move the king to a more protected location, while developing the rook to a center file.
Castling long: To castle queenside.
Castling short: To castle kingside.
Catalan: The opening 1) d4, Nf6 2) c4, e6 3) g3.
Category: Number indicating the average strength of the field of players in a tournament, used by FIDE to calculate title qualifications--e.g., in a category 1 tournament the average FIDE rating of the competitors is in the range 2251-2275, and a category 19 averages 2701-2725.
CBS: See Classic bishop sacrifice.
Center: The four squares in the center (e4, e5, d4 and d5), considered strategic "high ground." One of the major goals of the opening in a chess game is to control the center of the board.
Center-Counter: See Scandinavian Defense.
Center pawns: The pawns on the queen and king (d and e) files.
Central Chess Club: Famous chess club in Moscow.
Centralization: The strategy of bringing one's pieces to the center.
Chaturanga: Originating in India, this may be the oldest form of chess, and includes such differences as noncontrasting squares, a "counselor" instead of a queen, and "elephants" instead of bishops.
Cheapo (a.k.a. cheap shot): A tactical trick used to attempt to compensate for a disadvantage.
Cheapo potential: Playing for cheapo potential means purposely injecting chaos into a position, with the intention of increasing a position's capacity to yield cheap shots.
Check: A move that directly attacks the enemy king. Indicated by "+" in notation.
Checkmate (or simply "Mate"): A move that directly attacks the enemy king and for which there is no defending response. It is the object of the game and one way in which a chess game can be concluded. Indicated by "#" in notation.
**Chen, Zhu (China): The ninth official Women's World Chess Champion, 2001-present.
Chess Base: German publisher of the most widely used chess database software, as well as several of the strongest chess-playing programs.
Chess Journalists of America: "An American organization of chess journalists created to promote high quality chess journalism, to provide assistance to the working journalist through articles and contacts and to recognize chess journalism at its best through an annual awards program."
Chess Life: Monthly magazine of the USCF.
Chess problem: Composed puzzles for the purpose of mental exercise, not always relating to practical chess positions.
Chessmaster: See Master.
**Chiburdanidze, Maya (Soviet Union): The sixth official Women's World Chess Champion, 1978-1991.
Chigorin, Mikhail: The first great Russian master and contemporary of Steinitz.
Choosing colors: A common way to decide who will play White in a casual game is to have one player hide a pawn of each color in each hand, "mix them up" behind their back, and hold them in front again for the other player to choose between.
Christiansen, Larry: Strong U.S. grandmaster and former U.S. champion.
Ciudad de Leon: The location in Spain of a major tournament on the annual international calendar, this one involving "advanced chess" (computer-assisted play).
CJA: See Chess Journalists of America
Class tournament: An event in which players compete against other players within their rating class.
Classic bishop sacrifice: A standard attacking method beginning with the sacrifice Bxh7+ for White and Bxh2+ for Black.
Classical: A style of play that was once standard, emphasizing the necessity of physically occupying the center squares with pieces and pawns.
Classical variation: Many opening systems have "classical" variations--e.g., the classical variation of the French Defense is ...3) Nc3, Nf6, and the classical variation of the Silician Defense is 5)...Nc6.
Clearance sacrifice: A sacrifice made for the purpose of clearing a line or freeing a square.
Clock: A double-faced timer used to regulate a chess game. See our Clock Rules page for more info.
Clock hand: Official chess rules require a player to press the clock with the same hand he used to make his move.
Closed game/position/system: An opening in which pawns remain on their files, slowing the forward motion of the pieces; knights are more helpful in closed positions, since they can jump over pawns. Double queen pawn (d4, d5) and English openings (c4) are generally closed systems.
Closed tournament: See Invitational tournament.
Colle, Edgar: International Master and many-time champion of Belgium.
Colle System: An opening developed by Edgar Colle and championed by his friend George Koltanowski for many years. The moves are: 1) d4, d5 2) Nf3, Nf6 3) e3, c5 4) c3.
Collins, John: Influential New York-area chess master in the 1950s-1960s. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1991.
Combination: A series of forcing moves with an unifying purpose, leading either to winning material, improving one's position, or checkmate. May involve an initial sacrifice of material.
Compensation: One or more advantage(s) balancing out one or more disadvantage(s) in a position.
Completed move: Once a player lets go of the piece he has moved (and presses the clock, if applicable), the move is complete.
Connected pawns: Pawns that are guarded by, or guarding, a fellow pawn on an adjacent file (may or may not be part of a pawn chain).
Connected passed pawns: Connected pawns on files with no enemy pawns in front of them--this can be very powerful in the endgame.
Connected rooks: Rooks doubled on a file or rank, working in tandem.
Consolidation: To adjust your position so that your pieces are coordinated, and thus more effective.
Control: To dominate a particular square, line or sector of the board, the center of the board being considered most desirable.
Coordinate squares (a.k.a. related squares): In many king and pawn endings, one side can only win if his king can occupy a given square while the opposing king is on another specific square. See Opposition for an example. The squares in question are said to be coordinate squares.
Coordinating one's pieces: Getting your pieces to work as a team, toward a particular purpose.
Correspondence chess: Chess played by letter, postcard, fax, phone or email. Games may take days, weeks, or even years to complete, and players are usually allowed to consult books.
Corus: Sponsor of the top tournament held annually at Wijk aan Zee.
Counterattack: When a player under attack responds with an attack of his own, rather than simply defending against the opponent's attack.
Countergambit: A violent attempt by Black, involving the sacrifice of a pawn or more, to wrest the initiative from White at an early stage of the game.
Counterplay: Active operations that attempt to balance the opponent's aggression.
Counting: 1. To determine whether a piece is safe on a square on which a series of captures is possible by counting the number of defenders--if they equal or exceed the number of attackers, the piece is usually adequately defended. 2. Masters' lingo for calculation of variations.
Cramped position: A position in which there is insufficient space to coordinate one's pieces.
Crippled majority: A pawn majority that cannot produce a passed pawn.
Critical position/move: A possible "turning point," where the next move may end up determining the game's ultimate outcome.
Crosstable: The formal listing of the final results of a tournament. Crosstables provided by the USCF include pre- and post-tournament ratings.
Dake, Arthur: American grandmaster and the strongest player in Oregon history. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1991.
Danish Gambit: An opening involving 1) e4, e5 2) d4, exd4 3) c3.
Dark square system: An opening system for Black that involves attacking White on the dark squares (e.g., as in the King's Indian).
Decisive: An advantage that with proper play should lead to a win.
Decline: To respond by ignoring the material offered in a gambit opening.
Decoy: A sacrifice with the purpose of luring an enemy piece to a particular square.
Deep Blue: IBM computer specifically designed to beat the world champion at the time (Kasparov). Two matches were played a year apart. In 1996 Kasparov won, but he lost a 1997 rematch with "Deeper Blue."
Deep Fritz: Kramnik played this computer in 2002 and the match was drawn.
Deep Junior: Kasparov played this computer in 2003 and the match was drawn.
Defense: A move or sequence of moves intended to stop the opponent's attack.
deFirmian, Nick: Strong American grandmaster and the current editor of Modern Chess Openings.
Deflection: A tactical maneuver intended to remove an enemy guard. See also Distraction.
Demolition sacrifice: A sacrifice designed to destroy a position, usually the king's position.
Denker, Arnold: American grandmaster and chess activist. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1992.
Denker Tournament of High School Champions: The annual tournament of high school state champions played simultaneously with the U.S. Open every year, and awarding scholarships to up to two top finishers.
Descriptive Notation: Two different types: English & Spanish. A method of notation found in older chess publications that names the squares based on the pieces which occupy them at the start of the game, either from White's perspective or from Black's.
Desperado: When a piece which is destined to be lost is used to capture any possible enemy material.
Destruction (a.k.a. "removing the guard"): A sacrificial technique employed in order to destroy the opponent's defender.
Develop: To bring a piece into play by bringing it off the back rank to a position where it can be more effective and have more mobility.
Diagonal: A row of squares of the same color running obliquely across the board rather than up and down (file) or side to side (rank).
Discovered attack: A powerful tactic occurring when one piece is moved out of the way, uncovering an attacking piece behind it.
Discovered check: A particularly potent double attack, when one piece moves out of the way, revealing another piece checking the opponent's king.
Distance to conversion: Endgame king-pawn term; see Rule of the Square.
Distraction: A tactical motif, typically with the purpose of driving an opponent's piece from its defending position.
Dortmund: A major international tournament held every summer in Germany.
Dos Hermanas: A major international tournament held every spring in Spain.
Double attack: A move that threatens two things at once--e.g., skewers, forks and discovered attacks are all double attacks.
Double bishop sacrifice: A specific attacking method wherein both bishops are sacrificed in order to break up the opponent's king position: Bxh7+ (Bxh2+) is combined with Bxg7+ (Bxg2+).
Double check: An extremely powerful type of discovered check, in which the king is simultaneously checked by two pieces, often imminently leading to checkmate.
Double king pawn opening: One of the most common categories of opening systems (e4, e5), resulting in an "open" game.
Double queen pawn opening: Another common category of opening systems (d4, d5), this one resulting in a "closed" game.
Doubled pawns: A pair of pawns of the same color on the same file, one in front of the other.
Doubled rooks: See Battery.
Dragon: The Dragon is a variation of the Sicilian Defense, continuing with 2) Nf3, d6 3) d4, cxd4 4) Nxd4, Nf6 5) Nc3, g6.
Draw: A tied chess game. In formal competition, a half point is awarded to each player. A draw can result from both players running out of time on the clock before a win is claimed, a stalemated position, a claim of three-move repetition of a position, insufficient mating material on both sides or on the time winner's side at the end of the time control, the 50-move rule (very rare), or, most commonly, by agreement between the players.
Draw offer: The proper way to make a draw offer to your opponent is to first make your move (your opponent has a right to see your move before considering your offer), then make the draw offer and finally press the clock. Your opponent then considers and responds to the draw offer on his/her own time. If your opponent does not agree to it, it is considered rude to repeat the draw offer on subsequent moves until the position on the board has changed noticeably.
Drawing chances: When the weaker side appears to have significant opportunity to reach a drawn position, rather than lose the game.
Drawing lots: A random drawing held before a major round robin tournament to determine color assignments and playing order.
Drawn position: A position in which neither side can find a way to win.
Duffer: A poor chess player.
Dutch Defense: The opening 1) d4, f5.
Dvoretsky, Mark: Russian international master, widely regarded as the best chess trainer in the world today.
Dynamic: See Active play.
Dzindzichashvili, Roman (a.k.a. "Dzindzi"): Strong grandmaster from (former Soviet) Georgia, now a U.S. resident.
ECO: Encyclopedia of Chess Openings.
Edge: See Rim.
Edmondson, Ed: Former USCF Executive Director, inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1995.
Eleanor of Aquitane: Possibly the inspirational character for the increased powers of the queen piece in the 15th century (alternatively argued to be Queen Isabella). Eleanor was an extremely influential monarch who ultimately was married to two kings in her lifetime, and was also the mother of two kings, including Richard the Lionhearted. Her political maneuvers included leading palace rebellions against her husband, King Henry II, who had her locked up for 19 years in order to subdue her.
Elo, Arpad: Credited with inventing the rating system named after him. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1987.
Elo rating: The most common rating system in current use. See our Ratings page for more info.
En passant capture: En passant is French for "in passing." A pawn is considered en passant when it has advanced two squares on its first move, landing next to an enemy pawn. In this situation the enemy pawn is allowed by chess rules to capture the en passant pawn as if it had only advanced one square, but this may only occur on the opponent's next move.
En prise: French for "in a position to be taken." A piece is en prise when it is undefended and thus vulnerable to capture without cost to the opponent. See also Hanging a piece.
Endgame: The third and final stage of a chess game, when there are few pieces on the board, movements of the kings become more aggressive, and pawn promotion becomes a critical issue.
English opening: A category of opening systems beginning with 1) c4, generally resulting in a "closed" game.
Epaulet mate: A mating pattern in which the losing king's escape is blocked by his own pieces on either side of him.
Equal chances: A position in which the likelihood of either player winning appears roughly the same.
Equalize: To work to achieve a position where both sides have equal chances--e.g., White has the initiative in the opening and Black works to equalize this.
Escape square (a.k.a. "flight square"): A square to which a king in check may move out of check.
*Euwe, Max: The fifth official World Chess Champion, 1935-1937.
Evaluate: To judge the relative winning chances of either player.
Evans, Larry: American grandmaster and Chess Life columnist, inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1994.
Evans Gambit: An opening that begins with the moves 1) e4, e5 2) Nf3, Nc6 3) Bc4, Bc5 4) b4....
Evergreen Game: A good example of a "brilliant game," it was played in 1852 by Anderssen and Dufresne. Steinitz felt it would always remain as fresh as the day it was played, and named it thus.
Excellent move: Indicated by "!" in notation.
Exchange ahead: A player is said to be "the exchange ahead" when he has taken a rook in exchange for one of his minor pieces.
Exchanging pieces (also commonly called "trading" or "swapping"): The trading of pieces of equal value, unless otherwise stated. See also Losing the exchange and Winning the exchange.
Exchange sacrifice: Intentionally giving up a rook in exchange for a minor piece in order to achieve a goal.
Expansion: To gain control of an increasing amount of space on the board.
Expert: A player with a USCF rating of between 2000 and 2199.
Fairy chess: Chess compositions that in one or more ways do not conform to official chess rules (e.g., see Helpmate).
Family fork: See Royal fork.
FEN: See Forsythe-Edwards notation.
Fianchetto: Italian for "on the flank," it refers to bishops developed on the long diagonals at b2, g2, b7, or g7.
FIDE: The acronym for Fedération Internationale des Échecs, the French name for the World Chess Federation. See our USCF/FIDE page for more information.
FIDE master (FM): Lowest title granted by FIDE; see requirements.
Fifty-move rule: If fifty consecutive moves occur without a piece being captured or a pawn being moved, the game may be considered a draw.
Figurine notation: Invented by Chess Informant magazine, figurine notation is a system of recording the moves of a chess game using small pictures of the pieces and pawns, rather than their names.
File: A vertical column on a chessboard, denoted in algebraic notation by a letter name (e.g., the "a" file, "b" file, "c" file, etc.).
Final Four of College Chess: The top four finishers of the Pan American Intercollegiate tournament each year are automatically qualified to play the "Final Four" college team competition, held in April.
Fine, Reuben: U.S. grandmaster and one of the half dozen strongest players in U.S. history. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1986.
Fingerfehler: German for "finger slip," it is an obviously bad move made without thinking.
Firepower: Coach Pete's term referring to the sum total of the attacking force of a player's army, taking into account both material and positional factors.
First board: See Top board.
*Fischer, Robert or "Bobby": U.S. grandmaster, strongest player in American history, and one of the half dozen strongest players in chess history. The eleventh official World Chess Champion, 1972-1975. Charter inductee into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. Inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2001.
Fischer clock: A clock capable of incremental time controls in which a specific number of seconds are added to a player's clock after he has made his move in order to avoid desperate time scrambles at the end of a game. Increments differ from time delay in that unused time will accumulate from move to move.
Fischerandom: A chess variant credited to Bobby Fischer in which the back rank pieces are randomly shuffled, eliminating the relevance of opening theory.
Fish: Slang term for a chess player who has little skill or experience.
Fixed center: A central formation characterized by blocked pawns.
Fixed pawn structure: A structure in which the pawns have little or no mobility. A position may be fixed in a sector or globally.
Flag: A physical feature (usually a small red flag) on an analog chess clock indicating when a player's time has expired. As the minute hand approaches 12:00, the flag is pushed upward. When the minute hand reaches 12:00 it no longer holds it up and the flag falls.
Flag fall (a.k.a. "flagging"): Flag fall refers to the instant a player's time expires, whether or not the clock being used is equipped with a flag.
Flank: The a, b, and c files on the queenside (queen's flank) and the f, g, and h files on the kingside (king's flank).
Flank development/Flank opening: Openings emphasizing control of the center from a distance. See also Hypermodern.
Flight square: See Escape square.
FM: See FIDE master.
Focal point: Technical phrase for the target square from which checkmate is to be delivered.
Fool's mate: The shortest possible chess game ending in checkmate. Examples include 1. g4 e5 (or e6) 2. f4 (or f3) Qh4 mate and 1. f3 e5 2. g4 Qh4 mate.
Forced move: A move for which there is no legal or reasonable alternative. When we create a situation on the board where an opponent is forced to make a certain move, we have taken the "lead" at that point in the game and may also calculate farther ahead.
Foresight: The ability to anticipate potential strategic or tactical operations.
Forfeit: A game is considered forfeited (lost) by one or both players if they don't show up for a game; however, unplayed games do not affect a person's rating.
Fork: A tactic in which one piece simultaneously attacks two of the opponent's pieces. Knights are especially useful in forking an opponent's major pieces.
Forsythe-Edwards notation: A method of writing down the position of an unfinished game, devised by Scottish player David Forsythe. Beginning at the top left-hand corner of the board (a8), the position of the pieces, pawns and unoccupied squares are recorded, rank by rank. White's pieces/pawns are recorded using capital letters, while Black's are in lowercase (alternatively, Black's pieces and pawns may be circled to distinguish them). For example, the starting position is recorded as "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR."
Fortress: An endgame technique in which a player is able to create an impregnable position and thus draw the game, despite having a material deficit.
Forward pawn: The lead pawn in a pawn formation.
Four Knights Game: An opening that commonly begins with the moves 1) e4, e5 2) Nf3, Nc6 3) Nc3, Nf6, ending with the four knights occupying central squares.
Four-Move Checkmate: See Scholar's Mate.
Franklin, Benjamin: American Founding Father and 18th century chess player. Wrote The Morals of Chess. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1999.
Freedom: An important goal for one's pieces. A free piece has a lot of possible moves and is not required to perform defensive duties.
French Defense: An opening most commonly beginning with 1) e4, e6 2) d4, d5.
Fried Liver Attack: A variation of the Two Knights' Defense to the Italian Game.
Frontier line: Nimzowitsch's term for an imaginary line running between the fourth and fifth ranks.
Gain a tempo: See Tempo.
Gambit: Italian for "trip up." A gambit is a type of opening variation in which one side offers to sacrifice at least a pawn in order to gain a lead in development/tempo, domination of the center, and/or attacking chances.
Game of the Century: The Fischer-Byrne game at the 1956 Rosenwald tournament in which Fisher (age 13 at the time) brilliantly sacrificed his queen and rook to achieve checkmate.
**Gaprindashvilli, Nona (Soviet Union): The fifth official Women's World Chess Champion, 1962-1978.
Geller, Yefim: (Former) Soviet grandmaster active in the 1950s-1990s, Geller was an important opening theorist and one of the strongest players in the world during the second half of the 20th century.
General principles: Guidelines helpful to beginning players. As they gain experience, players increasingly learn the exceptions to these guidelines.
Gens una sumus: Latin for "we are one family," it is FIDE's official motto.
Getting out of check: In most circumstances there are three ways to get out of check: the king may move away, a piece may be interposed between the attacking piece and the king, or the attacking piece may be captured. If, however, the attacking piece is a knight, the king must run or the knight be captured. In double check, the only way to save the king is to move him.
Ghost: A ghost is a threat on the chessboard which exists only in your mind.
GM: See Grandmaster.
Good bishop: A bishop whose pawns, particularly the central pawns, are on opposite-colored squares from the bishop, leaving him free to move about.
Goring Gambit: A variation of the Scotch Game; the opening moves are 1) e4, e5 2) Nf3, Nc6 3) d4, exd4 4) c3....
Grading: British numerical system for ranking chessplayers (not an Elo rating).
Grand Prix: A special contest sponsored by USCF. All USCF players are eligible to participate. To qualify as a Grand Prix event, the tournament must offer a prize fund of more than $500. Throughout the year, "points" are awarded to those players who win open sections of tournaments that qualify as Grand Prix events. The amount of Grand Prix points available for each tournament is determined by the amount of prize money offered. At the end of the year, points are tallied and the winner is awarded a large cash prize.
Grandmaster (GM): A title awarded by FIDE to players meeting an established set of performance standards, including an high Elo rating. It is the highest title, other than World Champion, attainable in chess; see requirements. Once earned, the title "grandmaster" cannot be taken away. According to FIDE records, as of 6/14/03 there were a total of 869 grandmasters in the world (only six of whom are women). Compare with the title "Woman Grandmaster" (WGM), which has a different set of requirements.
Grandmaster draw: Disparaging term for a draw occurring early in a game, without any real battle having taken place.
Gresser, Gisela: A top American female player of the 1950s-1960s, inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1992.
Grigoriev, Nicolai: One of the foremost composers of endgame studies, particularly king and pawn studies.
Gruenfeld Defense: The opening 1) d4, Nf6 2) d4, g6 3) Nc3, d5.
Guard: A piece or pawn defending another piece or pawn.
Giuoco piano: Italian for "quiet game," it is a possible response Black can use with his kingside bishop in the Italian Game, continuing with 3)...Bc5.
Hahn, Anna: 2003 U.S. Women's Champion.
Half-open file: A file containing one or more pawns belonging to the opponent, and none belonging to oneself.
Handicap: A means of trying to equalize chances in a game played between opponents of greatly differing strengths. There are several possible methods of implementing a handicap. The stronger player may, among other things: give his opponent more time on the clock (very common), give his opponent two moves in a row at the opening of the game, treat a draw as a loss, play several opponents at the same time, or remove one or more of his pieces from the board before play begins.
Hanging a piece: To leave a piece unprotected and thus vulnerable to capture; see also En prise.
Hanging pawns: Steinitz's term for two adjacent pawns on the fourth rank which cannot be supported by other pawns, are not passed pawns, and which are on half-open files.
Harkness, Kenneth: U.S. chess organizer. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1997.
Harkness Score: See Median score.
Harmony: The condition of one's pieces working well together.
Hastings: A town in Sussex, England that has been the site of a chess congress every year since 1920.
Heavy piece: See Major piece.
Hedgehog: A resilient structure, normally for Black, in which most of the pawns are placed on his third rank and the bishops are usually fianchettoed.
Helms, Hermann: Longstanding New York Times chess columnist of the first half of the 20th century. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1988.
Helpmate: A type of fairy chess composition in which both sides help checkmate Black's king.
Holding: Effectively defending while under attack.
Hole: A square that cannot be defended by a pawn, making it a natural base of operations for an enemy piece. Compare with Outpost.
Horowitz, I.A. (a.k.a. "Al"): International master and founder of Chess Review, the first major American chess magazine. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1989.
Hypermodern: The theoretical school that arose in reaction to the classical approach, proposing that control of the center is better achieved from a distance than from physical occupation of the center squares.
See International Arbiter.
ICCA: See International Computer Chess Association.
ICS: See Internet chess server.
Illegal move: A move which is in violation of the rules of chess (e.g., moving the rook like a bishop, placing one's own king in check, etc.). An illegal move must be taken back and replaced with a legal move using the same piece, unless no legal move is possible with that piece. If an illegal move is discovered several moves after it occurred, the game must be returned to the position it was in before the illegal move was made, as best recalled by both players. In Sudden Death, a two-minute time penalty is given for an illegal move (two minutes are added to the offended player's clock).
Illegal position: An illegal position resulting from one or more illegal moves, or from setting up a position incorrectly.
Ilyumzhinov, Kirsan: Controversial current FIDE President.
IM: See International Master.
Imbalance: A significant difference in advantage between the White and Black positions. An imbalance may be material or positional.
Immobility: A deficiency of possible moves for a piece. For example, a knight may be immobilized by pawns controlling the squares to which he might otherwise move.
Immortal Game: Famous game played between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky at Simpson's-in-the-Strand, London.
Inactive piece: A piece contributing nothing toward placing pressure on the opponent's position.
Indian Defense: A family of openings in which Black responds to White's 1. d4 with Nf6.
Initiative: Term describing the type of advantage held by a player who is leading the pace and direction of a game (e.g., via a series of threats or forcing moves), placing the opponent on the defense. Such a player is said to have "the initiative."
Innovation: See Novelty.
Insufficient Losing Changes: When a player using a nondigital-delay clock has less than 5 minutes remaining, he may claim a draw if he is clearly not losing but thinks he could end up losing on the clock in the final stages due to sudden death time pressure. The rule specifies that it must be a position in which a C player would draw against a master with no trouble. Since some tournaments are run without a master present to judge this, the use of digital-delay clocks is recommended to obviate this rule.
Insufficient mating material: A situation in which one or both players lack enough pieces to mate their opponent, leading to a draw. Insufficient mating material is generally considered to include a lone king, a king and a bishop, a king and a knight, or, in most cases, a king and two knights.
Interference: A tactical motif in which an enemy piece is lured into blocking a key line or square.
Intermezzo: See Zwischenzug.
International Arbiter (IA): A title first awarded by FIDE in 1951. An arbiter is nominated by his federation and may be selected by the qualification committee if he (1) has complete knowledge of the rules of chess and FIDE regulations, (2) is objective, (3) has knowledge of at least two FIDE languages (English, French, German, Spanish and Russian), and (4) has experience officiating four important tournaments, two of which must be international.
International Computer Chess Association (ICCA): Organizes the World Computer Chess Championship every three years, and the World Microcomputer Chess Championship every year.
International Master (IM): A title established and awarded by FIDE. An international master is a stronger player than a FIDE master but not as strong as a grandmaster; see requirements.
International Rating List: FIDE publishes this list of the world's strongest players based on its own Elo-type rating scale.
Internet chess server (ICS): Any of several Internet servers permitting users to play real-time chess games with others online.
Interpose/interposition: A defensive move in which a piece or a pawn is placed between an enemy attacker and one's attacked piece.
Interzonal Tournament: Historically, one tournament in a series of competitions held by FIDE to select a challenger to the World Champion (currently, procedures relating to arranging the world champion match are being reworked). Winners of the 14 Zonal championships would compete in an Interzonal tournament, first held in 1948. The top players from the Interzonal would play in Candidate matches until a challenger emerged.
Intuition: A player's instincts for the possibilities in a position, guiding him in situations where calculation alone doesn't reveal a clear line of play. Intuition also helps a player select which moves to explore/analyze in more detail.
Invasion square: A square in enemy territory on which the attacker's piece may safely land.
Invitational tournament (a.k.a. "closed" tournament): An event requiring qualification or invitation in order to participate.
IQP: See Isolated queen pawn.
Isolani: In general, an isolated pawn; specifically, an isolated queen pawn.
Isolated pawn: A pawn whose adjacent files contain no pawns of its own color. An isolated pawn is weak because it and the square in front of it cannot be defended by other pawns.
Isolated queen pawn: Specifically, a d-pawn without pawns of like color on the c and e files.
Italian Game: An opening that begins with the moves 1) e4, e5 2) Nf3, Nc6 3) Bc4....
J'adoube (pronounced zha-doob): French for "I adjust," this is the traditional phrase a chess player uses to indicate they are adjusting a piece on the board without the intention of moving it to another square.
K: Abbreviation for king.
Kaidonov, Gregor: Strong grandmaster from the former Soviet Union, now living in the United States.
Karjakin, Sergei: Ukrainian who holds the record for youngest grandmaster ever (age 13).
*Karpov, Anatoly: The twelfth official World Chess Champion, 1975-1985; also FIDE champion, 1993-1998.
Kashdan, Isaac: Top American player of the 1930s-1940s. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1986.
*Kasparov, Garry (Azerbaijan): The thirteenth official World Chess Champion, 1985-2000, and still the highest-ranked grandmaster in the world.
Kavalek, Lubomir: Czech/U.S. grandmaster and chess columnist for the Washington Post. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 2001.
Keene, Raymond: British grandmaster, author and chess organizer.
Keres, Paul: The strongest player in Estonian history. Keres was one of the top grandmasters in the world from the late 1930s until his tragically premature death in the mid 1970s.
Key move: The unique first move in the solution to a chess problem.
*Khalifman, Alexander: Strong Russian grandmaster, teacher and founder of the St. Petersburg Chess School. Khalifman was the FIDE Knockout World Chess Champion in 1999.
Kibitz: One who offers unsolicited advice, as in one who comments during a game or during analysis following a game. Kibitzing within the hearing of the players is not allowed during tournament play (Coach Pete says: "The price of watching someone else's game is keeping your mouth shut!").
Kibitzer: One who kibitzes.
KID: See King's Indian Defense.
King: The goal of a chess game is to checkmate your opponent's king while keeping your own king safe; therefore the king is the piece of highest value in a chess game and needs the most protection. A king moves one square in any direction, except when castling.
King hunt: The process of driving the opponent's king out of his shelter and chasing him with the intention of checkmating him.
King pawn: The pawn in front of your king at the start of the game.
King pawn opening: The opening 1) e4.
King safety: One of the most important goals in a chess game; castling is done with this purpose in mind.
King's Gambit: An aggressive opening for White, involving 1) e4, e5 2) f4.
King's Indian Defense: The opening 1) d4, Nf6 2) c4, g6 3) Nc3, Bg7 4) e4, d6.
Kingside: The side of the board housing the kings at the start of a game, it is the same from both White's and Black's perspectives (the e, f, g, and h files).
Kmoch, Hans: International master and author of Pawn Power in Chess, an influential work on the theory of pawn play.
Knight: A chess piece which moves in an L-shaped pattern, either two squares vertically and one square horizontally, or two squares horizontally and one square vertically. The knight is the only piece that can "hop over" other pieces.
Knight fork: A double attack by a knight.
Knight's Tour: A chess puzzle in which the knight is moved 64 times, landing on each square of the chessboard only once. See Ulysses Challenge #3 and its solution for details.
Knockout tournament: A tournament in which you are eliminated from the competition if you lose a game or a match.
Koltanowski, George: U.S. International Master and Coach Pete's original chess teacher, friend and mentor. Koltanowski was one of the most important figures in U.S. chess history. Inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame in 1986.
Korchnoi, Viktor: Strong grandmaster from the 1950s to the present day. Korchnoi was the first top Soviet grandmaster to defect to the west (Switzerland, 1976). He is noted for his combative, materialistic and original style.
Kotov, Alexander: Soviet grandmaster and author. Kotov wrote Think Like A Grandmaster, which was published in the early 1970s and proved to be one of the most influential books in modern chess history.
Kotov's Tree of Analysis: A method of structuring one's calculation of a position. While Kotov's methodology has been refined by subsequent writers, his fundamental concept of using "candidate moves" to define the search parameters in a complex position is the bedrock of modern calculation technique.
*Kramnik, Vladimir: The fourteenth and current official World Chess Champion, 2000-present, and the second highest-ranked grandmaster in the world.
Krush, Irina: Only 19 years old as of 2003, Irina is a popular role model with many chess accomplishments, including: International Master (first American woman to win that title), Woman Grandmaster, and 1998 U.S Women's Champion.
Krylenko, Nikolai: Soviet Minister of Justice who used his power to spread organized chess through the newly formed union in the 1920s-1930s, with the goal of replacing religion as a pastime of the people.
Ladder: A method of ranking chess players within a club or other group. Any player may challenge someone one step above them on the ladder. If the challenger wins, he moves up the ladder and his opponent moves down.
Languageless code: A symbolic method of annotating a chess game first developed by the publisher Chess Informant, which allows players to share annotations despite language barriers. Also referred to as "international code." See our Symbols/Notation page for details.
Larsen, Bent (a.k.a. The Great Dane): Larsen is the strongest player in Danish history, and was among the best players in the world in the 1960s and 1970s.
Larsen's Opening: The opening 1) b3.
*Lasker, Emanuel: The second official World Chess Champion, 1894-1921. Inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2001.
Laws of Chess: See Rules of chess.
Legal move: Any move permitted by the rules of chess. If a player cannot make any legal moves and his king is not in check, the game is considered stalemated, resulting in a draw.
Légal's Mate: A mating sequence appearing in the game between M. de Kermar Légal and Saint Brie in about 1750, consisting of the moves: 1) e4, e5 2) Bc4, d6 3) Nf3, Bg4 4) Nc3, g6 5) Nxe5, Bxd1 6) Bxf7+, Ke7 7) Nd5#.
Leko, Peter: Brilliant young Hungarian grandmaster and one of four current (2003) contenders for the title of World Champion.
Lever: When two opposing pawns are diagonal to each other on adjacent files, in a position to capture each other.
Light square system: Similar to a dark square system, only typically more solid (e.g., as in the Nimzo-Indian).
Lighthouse position: Coach Pete's phrase for a recognizable type of position in the middlegame or endgame that a player can use as a guide.
Linares: Small city in Spain which has been the site of numerous top international tournaments.
Line clearance: The process of opening a rank, file or diagonal for one's pieces.
Liquidation: The process of simplifying a position through exchanges. When a superior position is liquidated to a simpler position which is easier to play, Coach Pete refers to this process as "reduction."
Living Chess: The " performance" of a chess game wherein the pawns and pieces are represented by real people; often a re-enactment of a famous game.
Lombardy, Father William: U.S. grandmaster, Catholic priest and a significant figure in U.S. (particularly New York) chess from the 1950s to 1970s.
London System: The opening 1) d4, d5 2) Nf3, Nf6 3) Bf4.
Long algebraic notation: A form of algebraic notation which includes the name of the square the piece moves from, as well as the destination square--e.g., 1) e2-e4, e7-e5 2) Ng1-f3, Nb8-c6, etc.
Lose: A chess game may be lost via checkmate, resignation, time forfeit or other type of forfeiture.
Lose on time: A player loses on time if he has not completed the required number of moves in the allotted period. If the opponent does not have sufficient mating material, the game is a draw.
Losing chances: The degree of realistic possibilities for losing in an otherwise apparently equal position.
Losing position: A position in which one side appears certain to lose, assuming best play on both sides.
Losing the exchange: To give up a rook for either a bishop or a knight.
Loyd, Sam (a.k.a. The Puzzle King): Legendary American composer of chess problems. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1986.
Lucena position: An important winning method in endgame theory. The Lucena position is the starting point for the method in which the superior side promotes a pawn in the endgame of king/rook/pawn vs. king/rook. It was first analyzed in a book by the Italian chessmaster Lucena, published in 1497.
Luft: German for "air." See Escape square.
Mackenzie, George: Scottish born American
chessmaster and Civil War soldier. Dominated the New York
chess scene for many years, winning the American Chess Championship in
1880. He was inducted into the U.S.
Chess Hall of Fame in 1992.
Magic square: In a king and pawn vs. king ending, a magic square is a square that, regardless of who is on the move, may be occupied by the attacking king, leading to a winning position by clearing a path for the pawn so it can promote. There may be three or more magic squares in a given position. See Ulysses Challenge #1 for an example.
Main line: The most commonly played variation in a specific opening.
Major pieces: Queens and rooks.
Man: Any chess piece, including pawns.
Maneuver: A series of moves unified by a central idea. Whereas a combination is unified by a tactical idea, a maneuver is unified by a strategic idea, such as the weakening of the opponent's pawn formation.
Manhattan Chess Club: One of the two major/historical chess clubs in New York City.
Marinello, Beatriz: Current USCF president.
Marshall, Frank: Grandmaster and many-time U.S. champion. One of the world's premiere players in the first part of the 20th century. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1986.
Marshall Chess Club: One of the two major/historical chess clubs in New York City.
Master: Title given by the USCF to players achieving a rating of 2200 or more.
Match: A contest between two players (as distinguished from a tournament) and usually comprised of several games.
Match of the Century: The 1970 match between the USSR and the Rest of the World. The USSR won by one point. Competitors included the following 20th century legends: Fischer, Spassky, Petrosian, Korchnoi, Larsen, Geller, Gligoric, Smyslov, Reshevsky, Botvinnik, Tal, Najdorf and Keres!
Mate: See Checkmate.
Mate in one (or two, or three, or four, etc.): A common type of chess problem in which the solution is checkmate in a certain number of moves, despite the opponent making the best possible moves in response.
Material: The estimated value of a player's fighting force. Depending on the position, pawns are usually considered to be worth 1 point, bishops and knights 3 points, rooks 5 points, queens 9 points, and the king, of course, is priceless. The player with more points is said to have a "material advantage."
Mating attack: An attack with the goal of achieving checkmate.
Mating material: Sufficient material to be able to force checkmate. In addition to his king, the player in question must have at least a promotable pawn, a bishop and a knight, two bishops, a rook or a queen. Just a bishop or a knight is not enough. Two knights may constitute sufficient mating material in situations where the defending side has at least one pawn, or where there is a forced mate on the board; otherwise the position is likely to be a draw either via stalemate, three-move repetition of position or the 50-move rule. In a game where one player runs out of time first, unless the other player has sufficient mating material, the game is considered a draw, rather than a loss for the player who's flag fell first.
Mating net: A positional structure in which the king is trapped and checkmate is imminent.
Mating sacrifice: A material sacrifice made to achieve checkmate.
MCO: Abbreviation for Modern Chess Openings.
McCrary, John: Former USCF president and chess historian.
Mechanical move: A poor move made with little or no thought, based on superficial understanding of a position.
Mechanics' Institute: The major chess club in San Francisco, and one of the most important clubs in the United States.
Median Score: Tie-breaking system applicable to Swiss tournaments. The scores of the opponents of each of the tied players are added, first throwing out the highest and lowest scores. In tournaments with a large number of rounds, two or more of the highest and lowest scores may be thrown out.
Mednis, Edmar: U.S. grandmaster, author and Chess Life columnist. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 2000.
**Menchik, Vera: The first official Women's World Chess Champion, 1927-1944.
Middlegame: The second and most complex of the three phases of a chess game, typically in which most of the combat occurs.
Miniature: A short, often dramatic, game of 25 moves or less, often used for teaching purposes.
Minor pieces: The bishops and knights.
Minority attack: The attack on a pawn majority by a pawn minority, with the object of inducing a weakness.
Mobility: Freedom of movement of one's pieces. A mobile army is more flexible and easier to coordinate.
Modern Benoni: The opening 1) d4, Nf6 2) c4, c5 3) d5, e6.
Modern Defense (a.k.a. "The Rat"): The opening 1) e4, g6 2) d4, Bg7.
*Morphy, Paul: The greatest player of the mid 19th century and the originator of the positional approach to chess. Morphy was a genius with open positions. Unofficial World Chess Champion, 1858. Charter inductee into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame; inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2001.
Motherboard: A form of Bughouse with three players per side, instead of two. Team members on the outer two boards pass captured men to the central board (the "motherboard"), and the central player passes captured men to either of the outer boards as needed.
Move: One move technically consists of two "ply," or parts: White makes a play, followed by Black's response.
My System: Aaron Nimzowitsch's enormously influential work describing his theory of chess, first published in English in 1929.
N: Abbreviation for knight.
Najdorf, Miguel: Popular Polish/Argentinian grandmaster. An exceptionally strong player, Najdorf was an extremely influential force in South American chess during the latter half of the 20th century.
Najdorf variation: A variation of the Silician Defense involving 5)...a6. The Najdorf is one of the most powerful and well-analyzed variations in all of opening theory, and the favorite of both Fischer and Kasparov.
Nakamura, Hikaru: Hikaru is the youngest American grandmaster ever, earning the title in February 2003 at age 15 years, 58 days, beating the record previously held by Bobby Fischer by 127 days.
National Chess Day: October 9th. In 1976, U.S. President Gerald Ford established this date "to give special recognition to a game that generates challenge, intellectual stimulation and enjoyment for citizens of all ages."
National Master: See Master.
Neutralize: To eliminate or stop an enemy threat or advantage.
New in Chess: The name of a highly regarded English language chess magazine from Holland; the same publishers also produce an opening theory quarterly (Yearbook).
Nimzo-Indian Defense: One of Black's most dependable answers to 1) d4, the "Nimzo" runs 1)...Nf6 2) c4, e6 3) Nc3, Bb4.
Nimzowitsch, Aron: Latvian/Danish grandmaster and theorist. Nimzowitsch was among the top players in the world during the 1920s and 1930s, and was one of the originators of the hypermodern approach. His books My System and Chess Praxis are among the most important chess books ever written.
Nimzowitsch Defense: 1) e4, Nc6 2) d4, d5.
Niro, Frank: Former USCF Executive Director.
NM: See National Master.
Norm: Part of a system used by FIDE for the granting of international master and grandmaster titles; see requirements. A norm is a benchmark based on achieving a predetermined score against a specified field of opponents (see also Category).
Notation: System for writing down the moves of a chess game (see our Symbols/Notation page).
Novelty: See Theoretical novelty.
Novice: A beginning chess player.
Nunn, John: Popular British grandmaster, regarded as one of the strongest players in British history. Also one of the most literate and perceptive English language chess writers.
A material sacrifice intended to close a line or block a square. It is
the opposite of a clearance sacrifice. Coach Pete calls this tactic "the
old obstruction play."
Odds: See Handicap.
Official Rules of Chess: USCF publication delineating the official chess rules which must be followed in USCF-sanctioned tournaments.
Old Indian Defense: An opening involving 1) d4, Nf6 2) c4, d6 3) Nc3, e5.
Olympiad: Chess tournament organized by FIDE every two years, in which teams from FIDE member countries compete. It is hoped chess will also eventually become a competitive sport in the regular Olympic Games.
Open file: A file without pawns on it. Such a file is often strategically critical because it provides an avenue down which the heavy pieces (queens and rooks) can easily invade the enemy position.
Open game: A general name for any opening starting 1) e4, e5, leading to an open position. Double king pawn openings usually lead to open games.
Open position: A position whose predominant characteristic is open lines. Typically a pair of central pawns will have been exchanged, and in many cases, all four central pawns are gone.
Open tournament: A tournament with few restrictions on what types of players may participate.
Opening: The initial phase of a game, incorporating the first dozen or so moves. The basic goals of the opening are to develop pieces, control the center of the board, and get the king to safety. There are dozens of standard openings which serious chess players study and may attempt to add to their repertoire.
Opening repertoire: A set of openings that a player is prepared to play in advance of a game to give himself or herself an advantage.
Openings: Standardized, analyzed sequences of proven effective moves made at the start of a game to either establish initiative (for White) or neutralize the opponent's initiative (for Black). There are over 1,000 recorded opening variations.
Opera Box Game: Paul Morphy's celebrated win against The Duke of Brunswick and the Count Isouard during a performance of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" at the Paris Opera House in 1858.
Opposite color bishops: A situation in which one player has only his dark squared bishop, while his opponent has only his light squared bishop. In the middlegame, opposite bishops can be a significant advantage for the attacker. In the endgame, however, such a situation generally favors the defender, often allowing him to draw a position despite being down, even as much as two pawns.
Opposition: An endgame term referring to a position in which opposing kings stand on the same rank, file or diagonal, separated from each other by an odd number of squares. The player not on the move has the advantage, either because he is able to advance past the opponent's king, or because he is able to stop the opponent's king from advancing. This can be decisive in many endgame positions.
Organic weakness: A weakness in the pawn structure that cannot be easily remedied.
Orientation: The way the board is facing. With the correct orientation, each side will have a white square in the lower right corner.
OTB: See Over-the-board chess.
Outflank: To go around a piece. "Outflanking" is a fundamental technique in king and pawn endings, and is used in conjunction with opposition to break through the weaker side's defenses.
Outpost: A square serving as a base in enemy territory, guarded by one's own pawn and not easily attacked by an opponent's pawn. An outpost can be a key strategic factor, and is particularly useful for the effective placement of knights.
Outside passed pawn: The passed pawn which is furthest removed from the kings, thus usually in the best position to promote. It is useful for distracting the opponent's king in king-and-pawn endgames.
Overextension: When a player advances too quickly, creating weaknesses in his position.
Overload: See Overworked piece.
Overprotection: Nimzowitsch's strategy of coordinating one's pieces via excessive protection of a well-placed piece or controlled square.
Over-the-board chess (OTB): Chess games played face to face, as opposed to playing online, correspondence chess or computer chess.
Overworked piece: A tactic in which an opponent's piece is forced to carry out more than one function at a time.
P: Abbreviation for
Pairings: A listing of who plays who in a tournament. Pairing charts are posted before each round and also indicate which board number each player is to play on, and which color of pieces they will have (White or Black).
Pan American Intercollegiate: The top college teams in the Western Hemisphere compete each December--see also Final Four of College Chess.
Palciauskas, Victor: U.S. correspondence chess grandmaster and world champion. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1993.
Pandolfini, Bruce: American chessmaster and teacher. Bruce's character was portrayed by Ben Kingsley in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." He is also a well-known chess author and a regular contributor to Chess Life magazine.
Passed pawn: A pawn not opposed by enemy pawns, either on its own file or adjacent files, increasing the odds of eventual promotion.
Passive: A move which does not make a threat or increase the pressure on the opponent's position.
Patzer: German word for a weak player.
Pawn: The foot soldier of the chess board, pawns move straight ahead one square at a time (optionally two squares on its first move) but capture diagonally. If a pawn reaches the eighth rank, it must be promoted to another piece. Because there are so many of them (eight per side), pawns are a dominant factor in chess strategy. See also En passant, regarding a special type of pawn move.
Pawn break: See Lever.
Pawn breakthrough: Getting a pawn through a defending line of enemy pawns, often by sacrificial means.
Pawn chain: A diagonal row of blocked White and Black pawns which protect each other.
Pawn duo: Two pawns on the same rank on adjacent files. Many openings aim to create a pawn duo on e4/d4 to dominate the center of the board.
Pawn endgame: An endgame that just involves kings and pawns.
Pawn formation: See Pawn structure.
Pawn Game: A teaching game in which each player has only his eight pawns in their original setup. The normal rules of chess apply, and the winner is the first player to get a pawn to the other side of the board. The game can be varied by adding various pieces to the board to allow a student to get a feel for the interplay of pawns and specific pieces.
Pawn grabbing: A "pawn grabber" is a player who wins pawns in the opening at the expense of development. While this dangerous strategy is generally criticized by classical opening theory, contemporary analysis suggests there are situations in which it may be a good strategy.
Pawn island: A group of two or more side-by-side pawns which are separated from any other pawn groups of their own color by at least one file. Pawn islands are generally a weakness because they are harder to defend from enemy attacks.
Pawn majority: When a player has more pawns than their opponent on a given sector of the board.
Pawn minority: When a player has fewer pawns than their opponent on a given sector of the board.
Pawn promotion: See Promotion.
Pawn push: Slang for advancing a pawn.
Pawn roller: An advancing group of pawns of the same color on adjoining files. A pawn roller on central files can be a powerful attacking force because, for instance, two pawns together may control four files, clearing the board of hostile pieces.
Pawn skeleton: See Pawn structure.
Pawn storm: Two or more advancing connected pawns. A pawn storm is typically employed to attack the opponent's king by driving away defenders and eliminating the king's pawn shield.
Pawn structure: The arrangement of the pawns of both White and Black on the board. Pawn structure is a major factor in developing good strategy in a given position. There are many standard pawn structures which have been studied in detail.
Perpetual check: An endless series of checks to an opponent's king, not leading to checkmate, and culminating in a draw. While players often refer to "drawing by perpetual check," there is no such actual provision in the rules. Technically such draws occur by agreement or the "triple repetition of a position" rule.
Petite combination: A combination involving only a few moves and/or affording apparently small gains for the side making the combination. Capablanca was a particular master of the petite combination.
Petroff Defense (a.k.a. Russian Game): An opening involving 1) e4, e5 2) Nf3, Nf6.
*Petrosian, Tigran: Petrosian was noted for his profound positional play and prophylactic style. The ninth official World Chess Champion, 1963-1969. Inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2003.
PGN: See Portable game notation.
Phalanx: Greek military formation invented by Alexander the Great and perfected by the Roman legions. In chess, pawns form a phalanx when there are at least two of them standing next to each other on adjacent files. This is typically a strong formation, since a phalanx controls a minimum of four squares immediately in front of it.
Philidor, Andre: French chessmaster and musician of the 18th century. Philidor was the first player to appreciate the importance of the pawns in chess strategy. He is famous for his aphorism, "Pawns are the soul of chess."
Philidor position: An important drawing method in endgame theory. The Philidor position is the starting point for the fundamental method by which the inferior side draws the endgame of king/rook/pawn vs. king/rook. It was first analyzed by Philidor in the 18th century.
Philidor's Defense: An opening involving 1) e4, e5 2) Nf3, d6.
Piece: In the USCF rulebook, "piece" refers to any chessman (including pawns). However, in more common usage "piece" refers only to rooks, knights, bishops and queens. A third possible usage refers more specifically to just a bishop or a knight, as in "I'm up by a piece."
Pig: Slang for a rook.
Pigs on the seventh: Slang for two rooks doubled on the opponent's seventh rank (a.k.a. "the feeding trough"), ready to gobble up the opponent's pieces and pawns, and/or trap the opponent's king.
Pillsbury, Harry Nelson: American master and winner of the great Hastings 1895 tournament. Pillsbury was famous for memory feats, and often played exhibitions that included a dozen chess games and a dozen checkers games, played simultaneously blindfolded while he was also playing double whist (a progenitor of bridge). Pillsbury was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1986.
Pillsbury formation: The Pillsbury formation is characterized by a knight on e5, pawns on d4, f4, and e3, and normally a bishop on d3. It is a standard attacking formation developed by Harry Nelson Pillsbury, which has become a standard method of play in many queen pawn openings.
Pin: One of the most important tactical devices in a chess game. A piece is pinned when it cannot move away from an enemy attack because it is shielding a more valuable piece behind it. If that piece is the king, then the pin is "absolute" because the pinned piece may not legally move. If the shielded piece is any other type, then the pin is "relative" because the pinned piece has the legal option to move.
Pirc, Vasja (pronounced "Peertz"): Yugoslavian grandmaster and an important theorist of the opening sequence which came to be called the "Pirc Defense."
Pirc Defense: The opening sequence: 1) e4, d6 2) d4, Nf6 3) Nc3, g6.
Plan: A unified strategy to gain a specific goal, for instance to gain control over the center or to weaken the enemy king's defenses. Most plans are short-range in nature, encompassing only the next four or five moves of the game. Long-range plans are more general, and are typically made up of a series of short-range plans.
Playbook: Coach Pete's term referring to the tactical weapons a player is prepared to use in a game, depending on how it progresses.
Ply: Technically, moves in a chess game consists of two "ply" or parts--i.e., White takes a turn (one ply), followed by Black's response (two ply). Used most often in the context of computer chess.
Point count: An approximate scale used to judge when it is appropriate to exchange one piece for another. In this system, a pawn is valued at 1 point, a knight or a bishop at 3 points, a rook at 5 points and the queen at 9 points. Various positional factors in a game can change these point values dramatically. (The king is not given a numeric value since he cannot be exchanged, and, of course, in a sense he is priceless; however, when the king actively participates in battle during the endgame he has an approximate working value of 3-4 points.)
Poisoned pawn: A pawn sacrifice in the opening which promises serious trouble for the player accepting it (e.g., White's b2 pawn in some openings).
Polgar family: Well-known Hungarian family which has produced three strong female chess players. See our Girls Only page for more info.
Polgar, Judit: The strongest female player in the history of chess. Judit is the first woman to be able to compete with the elite male "Super Grandmasters" as an equal. She has, at times, been ranked among the top ten players in the world.
**Polgar, Zsuzsa (Susan): Never defeated in a match, she was the ninth official Women's World Chess Champion (1996-1999). Susan, who is Judit's older sister, now lives in the U.S. and continues to be very active in the chess world, serving as the USCF Women's Chess Committee chairperson, and working as a chess trainer and author. See our Girls Only page for more details.
*Ponomariov, Ruslan (Ukraine): FIDE Knockout World Chess Champion in 2002, and one of four current (2003) contenders for the title of World Champion.
Portable Game Notation (PGN): Chess games stored in a cross-platform software format (.pgn) which may be read by all major chess database programs.
Position: The arrangement of the pieces and pawns of both White and Black at a given point in a game. The ability to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a position and to develop an appropriate plan of action is a critical skill among strong players, and is developed over time through serious study and play.
Positional advantage: A type of advantage based on beneficial pawn structure and/or position of the pieces, as opposed to the material balance in a game.
Positional chess: A style of play focusing on long-range considerations, including the gradual building up of small advantages, as opposed to short-term tactical infighting.
Positional mistake: A strategic error, such as poor placement of a piece, as opposed to a tactical error.
Positional sacrifice: A material sacrifice which is not followed by immediate material gain, or even the recovery of the sacrificed material, but instead seeks strategic advantage or compensation through such things as superior pawn structure, better piece coordination, or central domination.
Post mortem: Analysis of a game shortly after its conclusion, usually done by the players themselves.
Postal chess: See Correspondence Chess.
Prepared variation: An opening variation which a player has analyzed in advanced, especially one containing a new move or idea in a standard line.
Preventive sacrifice: The sacrifice of a piece with the purpose of preventing the opponent from castling, usually leading to a direct assault on the king trapped in the middle of the board.
Promotable pawn: A pawn which has realistic chances for promotion.
Promotion (a.k.a. "queening"): When a pawn reaches the last rank on the opposite side of the board it is replaced with either a queen, rook, bishop or knight. The piece a pawn is promoted to does not need to be one previously captured, so there may be two or more queens of the same color on the board at one time, or three knights, etc. The queen is most often used when promoting, since it is the most powerful piece; however, in certain positions a rook or a bishop may be better (i.e., to avoid stalemating), or a knight may be needed to give check or arrive at checkmate. The battle to promote pawns is one of the key struggles in most endgames.
Prophylaxis: Term first used in the context of chess by Aron Nimzowitsch, it is the critical process of anticipating one's opponent's intentions and taking steps to thwart his/her plan. World Champions Tigran Petrosian and Anatoly Karpov have been well-known for their prophylactic styles of play.
Protected passed pawn: A passed pawn that is supported by another pawn.
Q: Abbreviation for
QGA: See Queen's Gambit Accepted.
QGD: See Queen's Gambit Declined.
Quad: A type of round robin or "all play all" tournament with four players in each section; thus, three rounds are played.
Queen: The queen is the most powerful chess piece, as she has the combined powers of a rook and a bishop, and thus is able to move along a rank, file or diagonal.
Queen pawn: The pawn sitting in front of one's queen at the start of the game.
Queen pawn opening: Any opening starting with 1) d4, d5 in which White does not continue with c4 within the next few moves.
Queen's Gambit: An opening beginning with 1) d4, d5 2) c4.
Queen's Gambit Accepted: A possible response for Black to the Queen's Gambit opening, with 2)...dxc4.
Queen's Gambit Declined: A possible response for Black to the Queen's Gambit opening, with 2)...e6.
Queen's Indian Defense: The opening 1) d4, Nf6 2) c4, e6 3) Nf3, b6.
Queen Raid: See Scholar's Mate.
Queening square: The square on which a pawn promotes (eighth rank for White and first rank for Black). The pawn may also promote to a knight, bishop or rook, but it is called the "queening" square because a queen is most often selected.
Queenside: The side of the board on which the queens reside at the start of a game, including the d, c, b, and a files.
Quick chess (a.k.a. Action Chess or Rapid Chess): Timed games of between 10-29 minutes. May be USCF-rated; however, these games fall into a separate rating category from standard chess, which are games lasting 30 minutes or more.
Quiet move: An unassuming move that is not a capture, check, or direct threat.
R: Abbreviation for
Rabbit: Prey for a chessmaster. ;-)
Radjabov, Teimour: Up and coming young grandmaster from Azerbaijan.
Ram: Two pawns butted up against each other; for example, a White pawn on e4 and a Black pawn on e5. Term first coined by Hans Kmoch.
Rank: Any of the eight horizontal rows on a chessboard designated in algebraic notation by the numbers 1-8.
Rapid Chess: See Quick Chess.
Rat: See Modern Defense.
Rating: A numeric approximation of a player's strength based on his tournament results against other players. See our Ratings page for more info.
Reduction: Coach Pete's philosophy of using exchanges to simplify a complex position to a more straightforward position which is easier to play. "Lighthouse positions" often provide a player with the proper direction for reduction by giving a player something recognizable to steer toward.
Refutation: Analysis proving that a previously accepted move or variation is inferior upon comparison to a better one, assuming best play on both sides.
Reinfeld, Fred: U.S. master and prolific author of the 1940s-1960s. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1996.
Related squares: See Coordinate squares.
Remis: German for draw.
Removing the guard: See Destruction.
Reshevsky, Samuel: Polish-born chess prodigy/strong U.S. grandmaster. Many-time U.S. champion. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1986.
Resignation: Graciously surrendering a lost position, rather than taking the time and energy to play it out. The proper way to indicate you are resigning is to either gently tip your king over, or simply say, "I resign."
Restricted position: See Cramped position.
Reti opening: The opening 1) Nf3, d5 2) c4.
Reti study: A famous king and pawn study composed by the Czech grandmaster Richard Reti, in which White achieves a seemingly impossible draw.
Retrograde analysis: A type of chess puzzle in which the challenge is to deduce the previous moves or explain how the position was reached.
Rohde, Michael: U.S. grandmaster and Chess Life columnist.
Rim: The edge of a chess board. "Knights on the rim are dim" is a common expression, because a knight's possible movements are greatly reduced on the edge of the board.
Risk: The possibility of losing in a given position, or of at least reaching an inferior position.
Romantic: A risky style of play involving bold attacks and sacrifices, exemplified well by Adolf Anderssen and just about everybody prior to Morphy.
Rook: The second strongest piece on the board. Rooks move horizontally and vertically.
Rook endgame: An endgame involving only kings, rooks and (usually) pawns.
Rook lift: A maneuver designed to propel the rook off the back rank and closer to the battlezone by bringing it off the first rank (typically to the third rank) and sliding it to the side, in front of its own pawns.
Root, Alexey: Former U.S. Women's Champion, associate director of the chess program at University of Texas, Dallas, and advocate for women's chess.
Round: Any one of a series of games (typically 3-9) played in a given tournament.
Round robin tournament: Also called "all play all." A tournament where each competitor plays one game with every other competitor.
Royal fork: Slang for when the king and queen are forked.
Royal game: Common name for the game of chess.
Rubinstein, Akiba: Polish grandmaster and one of the greatest players of the first half of the 20th century. Rubinstein was a great endgame player, and was especially famous for his skill in rook and pawn endings.
**Rubtsova, Olga: The fourth official Women's World Chess Champion, 1956-1962.
**Rudenko, Liudmila: The second official Women's World Chess Champion, 1950-1953.
Rule of the square: A technique used in king and pawn endings to determine whether a king can catch an enemy pawn racing to promote. The spaces between the pawn and the promotion square are counted as one side of the square. If the defending king is in the square or on his move can enter the square he is able to catch the pawn, assuming he has a clear path to the promotion square.
Russian Defense: See Petroff Defense.
Ruy Lopez (a.k.a. Spanish Game): One of the oldest recorded chess openings, involving 1) e4, e5 2) Nf3, Nc6 3) Bb5. It was first analyzed in 1561 by the chess-playing Spanish priest Ruy Lopez, in his book Libro del Ajedrez.
Sac: Slang for
Sacrifice: When a player voluntarily gives up material in order to gain an advantage, such as in space, tempo, pawn structure, or attacking force in a specific sector of the board. A gambit is a type of sacrifice, as it involves giving up a pawn in the opening in order to gain a lead in development. Another type of sacrifice is giving up a piece in order to break down the pawn shield in front of the enemy king as part of a mating attack. Sacrifices are often risky, since the eventual consequences are not always calculable.
Sadler, Matthew: One of the strongest of the younger British grandmasters, he has now retired from active play. Author of several high quality chess books.
Safe: A square not guarded by the enemy.
Scandinavian Defense (a.k.a. Center-Counter Defense): The opening 1) e4, d5.
Scholar's Mate (a.k.a. Four-Move Checkmate or Queen Raid): 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Qxf7mate. This opening is one that everybody is likely to encounter at least once in a while, so it's important to be aware of it and how to defend against it. See Coach Pete's page on Trouncing the Four-Move Checkmate.
Schvenningen variation: A variation of the Sicilian Defense involving the Black pawn formation e6/d6.
Schwartzman, Gabriel: Young U.S. grandmaster and teacher.
Score: 1) "Keeping score" means writing down all the moves of a game; 2) "the score" is the indication of players' results in a game, match, or tournament.
Scorebook/scoresheet: Where to record a chess game.
Scotch Gambit: A variation of the Scotch Game (below) in which, after the standard 3)...exd4, White refrains from recapturing the pawn immediately and instead focuses on development with 4) Bc4.
Scotch Game: An opening beginning with the moves 1) e4, e5 2) Nf3, Nc6 3) d4.
Sealed Move: Only necessary when a game is adjourned, it is the last move made before the adjournment, and is recorded on the player’s score sheet, but not played on the board. Both players’ scoresheets are then put in a sealed envelope and given to the arbiter.
Second: One who helps a chess player prepare for a game or match.
Section: A specific group of players who compete against each other in a tournament. Tournaments may have several sections. Players may be placed in sections according to a rating range (or "unrated" status), age or grade, or a variety of other possible categorizing factors.
Seirawan, Yasser: Highly respected international competitor, author, and international chess diplomat, now living in Holland. A native of Seattle, Yasser is the highest-rated player in Northwest history, and one of the top U.S grandmasters.
Semi-closed systems: A family of openings beginning with d4 and followed by any move other than d5 (contrast with double queen pawn openings), resulting in a "semi-closed" game.
Semi-open file: See Half-open file.
Semi-open systems: A family of openings beginning with e4 and followed by any move other than e5 (contrast with double king pawn openings), resulting in a "semi-open" game.
Semi-Slav Defense: A variation of the Slav Defense that continues: 3) Nf3, Nf6 4) Nc3, e6.
Serper, Gregory: Strong grandmaster from the former Soviet Union, now settled in the United States.
Seventh rank (or second rank for Black): Usually the best place for a rook if the opponent's king is still on their back rank.
Shabalov, Alexander: Former Soviet/now U.S. grandmaster and current (2003) U.S. champion. Shabalov is known for his dynamic and often risky style of play.
Shahade, Jennifer: 2002 U.S. Women's Champion, chess writer and popular young role model.
Sham sacrifice: A move which appears to be a sacrifice, but if accepted will yield the player offering the piece an almost immediate gain in material, or a strong positional advantage.
Sharp: A position containing significant tactical complications and, normally, a good deal of risk.
Shirov, Alexei: Latvian/Spanish grandmaster and one of the top players in the world. Shirov is noted for his complex, tactical style of play. He is one of the premier opening theorists in the world, as well as a remarkably talented endgame player.
Short, Nigel: Top British grandmaster who challenged Garry Kasparov for the world title in 1992 and lost.
Short side defense: The standard method for drawing the ending of K/R/P vs. K/R in cases where the Philidor defensive method isn't possible.
Shot: Slang for a strong, and often surprising, tactical move.
Shouldering: See Body Check.
Sicilian Defense (to the king's pawn): Once defined by Larry Evans as, "An opening system invented by the Mafia, which embodies many of their highest principles." [Ha ha!--just kidding]. ;-) Seriously, the Sicilian Defense is the most popular and well-analyzed family of openings in modern tournament chess. It begins with 1) e4, c5, followed by sharp positions and exciting play.
Simplify: To trade pieces in order to quiet down a position, eliminate the opponent's attacking potential, or clarify a situation. The player with the superior position is usually better off simplifying than the player with the inferior position. Simplifying down to just kings and pawns generally makes it easier to promote a pawn.
Simul: Short for Simultaneous exhibition.
Simultaneous exhibition: An event where a strong player plays several opponents at the same time. Multiple boards are set up in a circle or rectangle, and the single player stands inside this area, moving from board to board, making a single move at each pass.
Skewer (a.k.a. X-ray): A tactic in which two of an opponent's pieces on the same line are attacked. For example, if a bishop were to threaten the opponent's rook and, say, the opponent also has a knight in the same line behind the rook. The rook must move to avoid capture, exposing the knight behind it to capture instead.
Skittles: Informal chess. A skittles room at a tournament is an area where you can look over games with someone, talk out loud, eat and/or play in a casual environment in between rounds.
Slav Defense: An opening beginning 1) d4, d5 2) c4, c6.
Smothered mate: A checkmating pattern in which the losing king is unable to move out of check because all the squares around him are occupied by his own pieces.
*Smyslov, Vasily: (Former) Soviet grandmaster known for his extremely well-rounded style. The seventh official World Chess Champion, 1957-1958. Inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2003.
Solkoff score: A tie-breaking system used in Swiss tournaments. A player's Solkoff score is equal to the scores of all his opponents.
Soltis, Andrew: U.S. grandmaster and long time Chess Life columnist.
Sonneborn-Berger score: A tie-breaking system specifically designed for use in round robin (or "all play all") tournaments. An individual's Sonneborn-Berger score equals the sum of the scores of the players he/she has beaten, plus half of the sum of the scores of the players they drew with.
Space: The territory controlled by each player.
Space advantage: When a player controls more of the board than his opponent (may be global or sectoral). Generally means having more mobile pieces, and the ability to better create or defend against threats.
Spanish game: See Ruy Lopez.
*Spassky, Boris: Likeable "Russian bear" and one of the great attacking players in the history of the game. The tenth official World Chess Champion, 1969-1972. Lost his title to Bobby Fischer in an hugely publicized match at the height of the Cold War. Inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2003.
Speculative sacrifice: A player is said to sacrifice "on spec" when his decision is based on his intuitive feel for the possibilities in a position, rather than concrete calculation of possible variations. The late world champion Mikhail Tal was especially known such speculative sacrifices, as is Alexei Shirov today.
Spite check: When a player who is clearly about to be checkmated responds by checking their opponent's king, even though this does not thwart the checkmate, but only delays it.
Square clearance: See Clearance.
Square of a pawn: See Rule of the square.
Stalemate: A position in which the player on the move has no legal options, and his king is not in check, thus the game cannot continue. Stalemates are recorded as a draw (1/2 point to each player) in tournament play.
Standings chart: The posted results of each round in a tournament, sorted by players' current standings. Contrast with Wall chart.
Staunton chessmen: A pattern of chess pieces named after 19th century British champion Howard Staunton and considered tournament standard throughout the world. The set was designed in 1835 by Nathaniel Cook, who later convinced Howard Staunton that they should be designated Staunton chessmen. Originally made by Jaques of London, they are also frequently referred to as "Jaques" sets.
*Steinitz, Wilhelm: Czech/American who was the first to enumerate the principles of modern chess theory, much of it arising from analysis of Paul Morphy's games. Steinitz was also the first official World Chess Champion, 1886-1894. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1987 and the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2001.
Strategy: The logic behind a player's moves. A strategy is a set of definable goals a player wants to carry out, while tactics involve how he/she goes about achieving them. See also Plan.
Study: An especially instructive and/or beautiful position (usually a composition) in which one side is challenged to find a clear way to win or draw the game. Studies differ from some other types of chess problems, in that they could actually occur in a real game.
Style: The individual way a player approaches the game, reflecting his/her personality and preferences. Style shows up best in positions that have more than one reasonable way to continue. In games between players with differing styles (for example, a bold attacker vs. a quiet positional player), the winner is likely to be the one who successfully imposes his/her style on their opponent.
Sudden death: A type of final time control often used in tournaments, in which a specified number of minutes are given to finish a game. The person who runs out of time first loses, if a conclusion has not otherwise already been reached (unless the time winner has insufficient mating material, in which case the game is a draw).
Support point: A square from which one piece can protect a fellow piece.
Sveshnikov variation: A variation of the Sicilian Defense involving 2)...Nc6 3) d4, cxd4 4) Nxd4, Nf6 5) Nc3, e5.
Swindle: A combination employed by a player in a losing position, which converts his position to a win or a draw. While such a turnabout ultimately depends on luck (i.e., the opponent is not forced to play weak moves allowing such a swindle), strong players are adept at creating the conditions in which such mistakes are more likely.
Swiss system tournament: For large tournaments in which a round round format would be impractical, the Swiss system is most often used. Players are paired with opponents achieving similar results in a set number of rounds. For details, see our Competition page.
Symmetrical position: A position in which the placement of each side's pieces and pawns mirrors that of the opponent's. A good deal of theory has been developed regarding proper play in such positions.
computer database comprised of all the possible endgame variations involving a
limited number of pieces. Tablebases allow top computer programs to play
out such endgames perfectly.
Tactics: The "hand-to-hand combat" of the chessboard, involving making immediate threats and following through on them, or, as the defender, countering them, as need be. Specific tactics include pins, forks, skewers, checking the opponent's king, capturing the opponent's pieces or pawns, traps, promoting pawns, making forcing moves to gain a tempo, forcing stalemate to avoid losing, etc.
Take back: Sometimes kids and/or beginning chessplayers change their minds after making a move and want to take it back and replay it. However, this is illegal according to chess rules. Players might agree to allow take backs in casual play, but it's not good practice because it prevents the development of the self-discipline required to sort through all the possible moves to determine the best one, rather than making an impulsive move.
*Tal, Mikhail (Misha): Latvian grandmaster noted for his daring, complex style, wit and passion for chess. The eighth official World Chess Champion, 1960-1961. Inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2003.
Tarrasch, Siegbert (Germany): Top grandmaster, author and teacher. Tarrasch popularized many of Steinitz's strategic ideas.
Tarrasch variation: A variation of the French Defense involving 3) Nd2.
Tartakower, Saviely: Strong Polish grandmaster and chess wit. Tartakower was famous for quips such as, "The winner of a chess game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake."
TD: Abbreviation for tournament director.
Team tournament: An event in which several players compete as a team. The most common format is match play, in which the players on one team face those on another team in a match contested on several boards (typically four). The team winning the most games wins the match point. Each team will play a number of matches in such a tournament. This is the format of the Chess Olympics and the U.S. Amateur Team Championships, as well as the Oregon Scholastic Team Championships. Other events may be organized as combined individual/team tournaments, in which the scores of some or all of the individual players on a team (once again, typically four) are totaled to produce a team score. This format is used in the U.S. National Scholastic Championships, and also the qualifying tournaments for the Oregon State Scholastic Championships.
Tempo: Italian for "time," this term refers to a single move in a chess game ("tempi" means two or more moves). To "gain a tempo" means to get ahead of your opponent by a move at the beginning of a game, which may translate to a lead in development of pieces, an advantage such as control of the center squares, etc. This may be accomplished by forcing one's opponent to waste a turn because of having to move the same piece twice or defend a piece rather than making a preferable move. The opponent in such a situation is said to "lose a tempo" because they get behind by a move. The goal of gaining a tempo is the rationale behind many gambit-type openings. See also Initiative.
The Week in Chess (TWIC): An extremely popular, frequently updated webzine, great for keeping up with top international chess news and downloading games.
Thematic move: A move which advances a key element of a player's strategic plan. For example, if White had the idea of attacking Black's king castled on the kingside, the move Qh5 would be a thematic move because it brings the White queen into the Black king's attacking zone, .
Theoretical novelty: A new move or idea in an established opening variation.
Theory: Well- known opening, middle game, and endgame move sequences and positions, as well as the variations they lead to, which have been analyzed by masters and published in books, magazines and/or computer databases.
Threat: An aggressive move leading to winning material or some other type of advantage on a subsequent move, if the opponent does not counter it.
Three-fold repetition: See Triple repetition of a position.
Tie-Break System: Any of a number of methods for determining a single winner in a tournament which has resulted in a tied score. See our Competition page for more info.
Time control: In competitive chess, a time control is a specified amount of time each player has on the clock in which to either complete the game or make a required number of moves.
Time delay: A feature on some digital chess clocks in which a certain number of seconds (usually 5) is added to the beginning of each move for both players; this added time does not accumulate from move to move. The purpose is to take some of the pressure off in "time crunch" situations.
Time forfeit: See Lose on time.
Time pressure: When there is little time left on the clock for making each move before one's allotted time expires, making blunders more likely. In a time control requiring that x number of moves be made, having less than one minute per move on the clock is generally considered a time pressure situation. In sudden death controls, time pressure is generally considered to be less than five minutes on the clock in which to complete the game.
Time scramble: A situation in which both players are under time pressure.
Time trouble: See Time pressure.
Timman, Jan: Strong Dutch grandmaster and editor of New in Chess magazine.
TN: See Theoretical novelty.
Top board (a.k.a. first board): 1) The strongest player on a team, who will be paired against the strongest players on opposing teams in a team tournament; 2) board #1 in an individual tournament, on which the top-ranked player competes unless/until an opponent knocks him or her out.
Topalov, Veselin: World class Bulgarian grandmaster, currently ranked among the top ten players in the world.
Torre Attack: The opening 1) d4, Nf6 2) Nf3, e6 3) Bg5.
Touch-Move rule: According to the USCF rule book, "a player on the move who deliberately touches one or more pieces of the same color, in a manner which may reasonably be interpreted as the beginning of a move, must move or capture the first piece touched that can be moved or captured." However, if such a move would be illegal this rule cannot be enforced. Also, it does not apply in situations where a player was adjusting a piece and not intending to move it (in which case they must either announce "I adjust" or "J'adoube"--the French phrase which means the same thing). While players sometimes do not enforce the touch-move rule with each other during casual games, it's important to be aware that it is a fundamental rule of chess, not just for tournament play.
Tournament: A competition among more than two chess players.
Tournament book: Less commonly produced than they once were, a tournament book is a collection of some or all of the games of a tournament. Tournament books often also include annotations of interesting or important games, as well as crosstables, background information on players, etc.
Tournament director: According to USCF, rated tournaments involving more than 49 participants are to be run by a local tournament director meeting certain requirements (e.g., a certified TD must be a chess player themselves, with an established rating). Smaller or unrated tournaments may be run by a "club" director, which requires fewer qualifications, although they must be familiar with the USCF Official Rules of Chess. Senior directors, national directors and international arbiters are the more experienced TDs who run large events. In general, a tournament director's role is to act as an impartial referee by resolving potential disputes, overseeing pairings, and enforcing official chess rules, as well as whatever additional rules may apply in a particular tournament.
Tournament organizer: The individual responsible for the venue, prize distribution, and other details necessary to run a successful tournament.
Tournament types: See Round Robin, Knockout, Swiss System, Open, Closed, Invitational.
Trade: See Exchange.
Trading queens: Exchanging queens is a common strategy when a player is either ahead in material or facing a strong enemy attack.
Transition: Moves made at the point when a game is changing phases (i.e., from the middlegame to the endgame). Transitions are often difficult to play well and can have a decisive impact on the outcome of a game.
Transposition: Obtaining the same position in a standard opening by using an alternative series of moves. For example, the French Defense is usually reached by 1) e4 e6 2) d4 d5. However, 1) d4 e6 2) e4 d5 transposes to the identical position.
Trap: A tactic designed to trick the opponent into making a mistake or losing material.
Trending down: A position is said to be "trending down" for a player when their chances are decreasing.
Trending up: A position is said to be "trending up" for a player when their chances are increasing.
Triangulation: A technique used generally in king and pawn endgames in which one side's king deliberately takes an extra ("round about") move in getting to a key square, in order to gain the advantage in opposition. See also Opposition.
Triple repetition of position: An official rule which applies when the same exact position is repeated three times in a game, though not necessarily on consecutive moves, and requiring that the same player be on the move at each repetition, with both players having the same move possibilities. If a player can demonstrate this (another good reason to keep an accurate score sheet), he/she may claim a draw, which is better than a loss in the case of an inferior position. See also Perpetual check.
Tripled pawns: Three pawns of the same color on the same file.
Trompowksy Attack: The opening 1) d4, Nf6 2) Bg5.
TWIC: See The Week in Chess.
Two Knights Defense: A possible response for Black to the Italian Game, involving 3)...Nf6.
Unclear position: A position wherein it cannot be determined with certainty which side has the advantage.
Underpromotion: Promoting a pawn to a piece other than a queen; useful in certain situations for specific reasons.
Unit: Term referring to either a piece or a pawn.
Unrated: A player is unrated if they have never played a rated game, or if they have not yet received an official rating from USCF. A tournament, or section thereof, may also be unrated, as long as it doesn't contain any players with a published rating.
USCF: United States Chess Federation. The official governing body for chess in the United States. See our USCF/FIDE page for more info.
amount a piece contributes to the overall firepower of an army.
Variation: A series of moves within a game which have an unifying purpose. Opening variations are established series of moves at the start of a game.
Vienna Game: An opening that begins with the moves 1) e4, e5 2) Nc3....
Vukcevich, Milan: U.S. master from Cleveland inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1998.
Waiting move: A move purposely designed to put the opponent on move without changing the basic structure of the position.
Waitzkin, Josh: Now a grown man and an international master, Josh is the true character on which the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer is based.
Wall chart: Tabular information periodically posted at a tournament which shows players sorted by their original rankings and to which cumulative results are added. Contrast with Standings chart.
Weak square: A tactically or strategically important square which cannot be easily defended.
Weak square complex (usually dark or light): A collection of related weak squares for one side--e.g., if Black had pawns on h7, g6, f7, e6 (all light squares) and no dark-squared bishop available for defending those squares, he could be said to have a "weak dark square complex."
Weakness: An attackable target in a player's position, such as an exposed king position, a hanging piece, etc.
WFM: See Woman FIDE Master.
WGM: See Woman Grandmaster.
Whisper: Spectator comments on a chess game in progress which are made outside of the players' hearing range (common practice on the Internet as well).
Wijk aan Zee (pronounced Vike-on-zay): Dutch site of the annual Super GM tournament sponsored by Corus.
Wild: A position featuring complex and often unclear tactical possibilities, in which both players have significant chances of either winning or losing.
WIM: See Woman International Master.
Win: Achieving a win is the chief goal in a game of chess, of course, and may result from checkmating your opponent, accepting your opponent's resignation, or time forfeit by your opponent.
Winawer variation: A variation of the French Defense involving 3) Nc3, Bb4.
Wing: See Flank.
Winning chances: The level of realistic possibilities for victory in an otherwise apparently equal position.
Winning move: A move leading directly, though perhaps not immediately, to a winning position.
Winning position: A position in which one side appears certain to win, assuming best play on both sides play.
Winning the exchange: To give up either a knight or a bishop for a rook.
Wolff, Patrick: U.S. grandmaster, two-time U.S. champion and chess columnist for the Boston Globe.
Woman FIDE Master: Title granted by FIDE (see requirements).
Woman Grandmaster: Title granted by FIDE (see requirements).
Woman International Master: Title granted by FIDE (see requirements).
Woodpusher: Derogatory term for a player who shows little or no understanding of chess.
World champion: The top chess player in the world at a given point in time, proven via the appropriate competitive results. The first "official" world champion was Steinitz, and the lineage follows with Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov and, currently, Kramnik. Ever since Kasparov broke with FIDE in 1992, various organizations have claimed the right to name the "true" world champion. However, the title has traditionally been passed from champion to champion via an extended head-to-head match (the last such match occurred in London in 2000, when Vladimir Kramnik wrested the title from longstanding world champion Garry Kasparov). Plans are currently underway to reunify the world title through the following matches: the winner of Kramnik (generally accepted to be the current official world champion) vs. Leko will play the winner of Kasparov vs. Ponomariov (the current FIDE world champion), in order to determine the current, undisputed world champion.
World Chess Federation: See FIDE.
x: Symbol indicating capture in notation.
**Xie, Jun (China): The seventh official Women's World Chess Champion 1991-1996, and again 1999-2000.
X-ray: See Skewer.
Yugoslav Attack: White's
most common attacking idea in the Sicilian Dragon, in which he supports the
center with f3 and castles queenside in preparation for carrying out a kingside
Yermolinksy, Alex: (Former) Soviet/U.S. grandmaster, several-time U.S. champion and author.
Yusupov, Artur: World class (former) Soviet grandmaster now living in Germany, former World Junior Champion, several-time candidate for the world championship, well known student/teaching partner of Mark Dvoretsky, and outstanding chess author.
Zeitnot: German for "time trouble."
Zug: German for "move."
Zugzwang: A German term which means "compulsion to move," it is an endgame situation in which a player would prefer to pass rather than make a move because all of his possible moves lead to deterioration of his position.
Zukertort, Johannes: Strong grandmaster who lost the first official world championship match to Wilhelm Steinitz in 1867.
Zukertort System (also known improperly as the Colle-Zukertort): The opening 1) d4, d5 2) Nf3, Nf6 3) e3, c5 4) b3.
Zwischenzug (a.k.a. intermezzo): A German term meaning "in between move," it is a tactic in which a strong move interrupts an expected sequence of moves, altering the course of the game (for example, a check interrupting a series of exchanges).
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