The Four Major Chess Units: Pawn, Knight, Bishop, Rook

The Four Major Chess Units

There are four major chess units: pawn, knight, bishop, and rook. Each is worth a different number of points.

The Knight is worth three points because of its unique L-shaped movement and the ability to jump over enemy pieces. To describe the movements of a Knight you would use notation like Nd2e4. This limits confusion about other pieces that could also move to that square.


The pawn is the lowest-rated piece in chess, but it’s also one of the most powerful. This is because the pawn can capture diagonally, and it can control adjacent squares. It can help you create closed positions by blocking the opponent’s pawns.

In general, the more squares a pawn can cover, the higher its value. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your pawn structure early on in the game.

For example, a Black pawn on the fifth row is more valuable than a pawn on the third row. This is because the square f 5 has a high c (s) value, and it helps to support Black’s central control and counterplay against White.


The knight is a strong piece, particularly in cluttered middle game positions where it can attack from multiple sides. It can move two squares horizontally and one vertically, and can also jump over pawns or other pieces that are blocking its pathways.

Unlike the bishop, which is confined to square colors, a knight can land on light and dark squares alike. This allows it to capture pawns and other pieces, as well as deliver devastating forks and smothered mates!

Because of this, the knight is generally worth more than a bishop, though in end games the bishop often wins if it can protect the king. To make the most of your knights, try tactics like outposting and using them as a threat to enemy pawns.


The Bishop thrives in open positions, especially when it can control 1 or 2 long diagonals. It’s better than the Knight in endgames with pawn chains on both flanks since it can multitask – it can either attack or help its own pawn promote (or stop the opposite pawn from promoting).

A good Bishop can work well on both sides of the board and usually doesn’t get blocked by pawns. For example, the White Bishop on g2 exerts pressure on the black queenside and controls important squares in the center without getting impeded by the opponent’s pawns.

It’s best to have a Bishop pair, since it can offer compensation for sacrificed material. However, a lone Bishop can be useful in certain positions as we will see below.


As the name suggests, the rook is a piece that reminds you of towers. It can move horizontally or vertically through any number of unoccupied squares, but it cannot jump over pieces.

Rooks are powerful because they can attack multiple pieces at once. They also can be used to defend a piece by occupying the same square as an enemy piece and thus blocking its movements.

However, a rook is most effective when it has open ranks and files to work with. It can also be a huge advantage when placed on the back rank, where it can threaten the opponent’s king. Nevertheless, it’s not recommended to launch rook pawns down the flanks in the opening of a game. This can weaken a potential king shield and can lead to poor positions later on.


The queen is the most powerful piece in chess. It is worth more than a rook and bishop combined. The more squares the queen controls, the stronger it is.

Queens work best when they can attack the enemy king or there are many loose pawns in the opponent’s camp. It is weakest in closed positions where it is less maneuverable.

Beginners often overdevelop the queen, hoping to plunder the enemy position and deliver an early checkmate. This is a mistake. A queen sacrifice should always be based on a strategic advantage, such as improving the position of your pieces or opening up space for your king. Otherwise it will be a waste of material and the player who makes the sacrifice will soon lose the game.

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