What Chess Pieces Represent

Bernie Hubble
Written by
Last update:

What Chess Pieces Represent – Meaning & Symbolism

The meaning of each chess piece represents a certain weapon the piece can use to capture others. Learn the meaning behind the chess pieces by understanding the variations of the soldiers from past wars and far away countries. Chess is an ancient game that will continue to fascinate and challenge players for centuries to come. One of the reasons that the game is as popular as it is has to do with its characters.

The characters are represented by the Kings, Queens, Knights, Bishops, Rooks and Pawns. Just knowing who they are isn’t enough to get you very far since knowing how they work together and against each other is what makes chess so compelling. Here’s what each of the chess pieces represent and their role in the game:


The king could be equated to a sergeant or any member of the military who is a fighting part of the battle. The king must stay away from harm…all the time.

A king can only move one space at a time.

If a king goes out of the game, then your opponent wins.

The King’s purpose is to protect the other pieces and to make sure that the player wins the game. Or better said: not lose the game. The king can only move one square at a time in either direction. His allegiance never wavers even if you are playing against him. The King is the most valuable piece on the board and he is the last piece to be captured.

The King represents the soul of a person, though in chess it is a separate and distinct piece of its own. It occupies the most valuable real estate on the board, and protecting this piece is the objective of other pieces. The King cannot move by itself and is completely dependent on its ally, the Queen, to accompany it during its movements.

Having no special abilities of its own as well as no protection of any kind, the King is the most vulnerable piece in the game. However, this is the only piece that can move an unlimited number of times a single turn in any direction.


Queen can move diagonally as well as forward and backward.

The queen is the most powerful chess piece in the game.

Her power comes from her ability to move in eight different directions. This gives her power and flexibility on the board. Compared to all the other pieces, the queen is the only that can reach any square on the board at any given time.

The queen can move in any of the eight forward directions. She can move sideways or diagonally.

On the third rank (the middle row of the board) the queen can even move one space to the left or right.

The queen is the only piece that can skip over an obstacle and capture a rook. However, a rook must have an open escape route in order for the queen to capture it.

The queen has a unique defensive ability.

If she is threatened (meaning it is possible for an opposing piece to take her), and she is not the closest piece to the attacker, the queen can capture the threatening piece.

A mother or wife is also a queen, so the queen represents a female warrior.

Rocks and Towers

A castle sits on the side of the board. Its unique shape represents not only the traditional ideas of what people think of when they hear the word “castle” but also the relation of the castle to the game of chess.

Castles were first made as a place of refuge in war time for the king and his family and were called “citadels”. There could be many reasons that the king or his family would need to take refuge in the castle, such as death threats, a revolt against his rule, or an attack from a foreign nation seeking to conquer his land.

Castles are still a refuge for people even today. Global turmoil and wars still occur, and humans seek refuge in castles both in their homeland and in so-called safe havens around the world.

Castles also represent a medieval time in history when warriors were much more important than they are today. The pieces used in this game were primarily pawns. The king, queen and knight were represented as they are in the chess game today. The connection between chess and castles has many meanings, but a very important reason for the connection is that both chess and castles have been around for many centuries.


Bishops can move diagonally as well as horizontally or vertically. Bishops are used in a manner similar to that of an attack dog.

There are two bishops in a game of chess, each represented by a line of squares on the board. In some variants of chess, the bishops can move diagonally. This allows significantly more flexibility than rooks, which can only move horizontally and vertically.

In USA chess notation, the white bishops are written on the top of the board, while the black bishops are on the bottom. Each symbol in the diagram represents a square on the board.

The bishop is known as “the longest,” “the strongest,” or “the wisest” of all the chess pieces…” It may take two moves to transfer the bishop to the other side of the board, but the bishop is such a valuable asset that few chess games are won without their help.


Knights gain the most freedom of movement on the chessboard by moving in an L-shaped pattern. A knight could also be used as a horseman or a knight in chess.

Knights have a special move on the chess board. They can move any number of squares in one direction and then they can move to the adjoining square at a ninety degree angle. The Knight’s role in the game is to threaten the King. Pawns are sacrificed for the Knight since their value is high, but the Knight still must protect the King and keep him safe.

The knight is a noble warrior mounted on a horse and wielding a sword. He’s the only piece that can jump over other pieces to reach his desired destination, making him the most unique chess piece of them all.

In the olden days, knights were considered one of the most trustworthy and appropriate for a mission. This is why knights are often referred to as “knights in shining armor”. The fact that a knight uniquely attacks by jumping over opponents is also in line with the old saying that says knights “get by on guts, not gadgets.” This position is known as “Queenside” and is located in the middle of the board, adjacent to the “Queen”. The knight is one of the most difficult pieces to learn how to play, but it is also one of the most valuable piece in the endgame.


The pawn could be equated to the common soldier. It is often the smallest piece on the board and should be seen as the weakest piece. It can only move forward into the battle.

Lewis Carroll was a brilliant Victorian mathematician, logician and author of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. He also had a grounding in symbolic logic.

His acerbic satire, The Hunting of the Snark, was published in 1876. It was written to poke fun at youth organizations and idealistic reformers (it’s often said to mock the Freemasons).

The satirical allegory warns of the dangers of blindly following dangerous ideals and egotistical leaders.

The chess pieces in the Snark parody are a symbol of the challenge to avoid the too-clever and too-clever-by-half and instead make common sense your prime evaluation criterion if you want to get the better of the game.

The Snark is a creature that can be found, the poem tells us, “its head is a collie dog and it bites and it barks.” It’s a silly image that doesn’t warrant serious thought.

There are four allegorical Snark narratives. Here are the characters found on the chess board with their allegorical meaning.