There are six types of chess pieces. Each piece has a different way of moving.
- The pawn (P,♙♟) is the weakest piece. It is also the most common, with half of each player's pieces being pawns. The pawn can move one space forward to an empty space or capture a piece diagonally ahead of it. If a pawn is in its starting position, it can move two spaces forward, as long as both spaces are empty. However, right after the pawn moves like that, a horizontally adjacent opponent pawn can move to the space your pawn passed through and capture your pawn. This is called en passant. If a pawn reaches the top row (the opponent's first), the player chooses to promote it to a queen, or less commonly, a knight, rook, or bishop.
- The rook (R, ♖♜) moves and captures any number of spaces horizontally or vertically. It cannot jump over other pieces while doing so. It has a special move, called castling, which also involves a king.
- The knight (N, ♘♞) is the only piece that can jump over other pieces. It moves and captures in a L-shape - two squares horizontally and one square vertically, or one square horizontally and two squares vertically. This makes it the only piece that can make a move or capture that the queen could not (excluding castling, en passant, and promotion).
- The bishop (B, ♗♝) moves and captures any number of squares diagonally. It cannot jump other pieces. Because of the way it moves, it cannot leave the color of square that it is on.
- The queen (Q, ♕♛) is the most powerful piece in the game. It moves and captures any number of squares horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. It is considered a major disadvantage to lose your queen.
- The king (K, ♔♚) is the most important piece in the game. It moves and captures one square horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. It cannot be captured; if it is under attack by an opponent's piece, it is in check. If the king is in check, a move must be made to get the king out of check (by moving the king out of the way, capturing the attacking piece, or blocking the line of attack). A player may not put him/herself in check. If a player cannot get out of check, he/she loses.
The pieces can be divided into four categories: the king, major pieces (queen and rooks), minor pieces (knights and bishops), and pawns. In many contexts, the pawn is not considered a "piece".
The pieces can be given various score values. Here is a common one:
- Pawn = 1 point
- Knight = 3 points
- Bishop = 3 points
- Rook = 5 points
- Queen = 9 points