Medieval Pieces

“Pawns are the soul of the game.”

– François-André D. Philidor


Image result for chess pieces

(L to R: Pawn, Rook, Knight, Bishop, Queen, King)

Chess portrays a history lesson in medieval life and time; each piece portraying a facet of the middle age culture.

CHESS: A board of 64 squares of 2 alternating colors. 2 players each with 16 pieces or “Chessman.” 32 total. Half ebony. Half ivory. Each player gets 1 King, 1 Queen, 2 Rooks, 2 Knights, 2 Bishops, and 8 Pawns.

PAWN: The pawns represent the serfs of the times. Serfs were practically slaves. They were manual laborers for the kingdom and treated as property. They could be sold, used as a deflection, traded, exploited, or put to the death for the greater good. Just like serfs, pawns are the greatest in number. They are used to create diversions and sacrifice themselves for the sake of the nobility.

ROOK: Although being called a “castle” is out-dated, this piece, also formerly called the tower, rector, or marquess, does, in fact, resemble a castle. Interestingly enough, the rook’s true name is derived from the word “chariot” in many languages such as Persian. In usage, it portrays the speed of a chariot. It is stronger than a Queen, thus this “tower” is a place of refuge for other pieces.

KNIGHT: The Knight represents the knights of the middle ages! A protector of the nobility, this warrior is the only piece that can jump. As chosen soldiers, they also sacrifice their lives for nobility.

BISHOP: A bishop in medieval times was a priest who had climbed the ladder of success in the Catholic Church. The Church was a normal part of everyday life for most people and had a grandiose effect on them.  This powerful piece is not limited in distance. In other cultures, it may have depicted a different facet of life- runner/messenger (Romanian) or jester (French).

QUEEN: The Queen “Chessman” represents … you got it! Drumroll, please … The Medieval Queen! As the only woman in the game, she moves with grace and force. In the Middle Ages, queens were mighty and very influential to her king. She moved mountains in the inner courts, even though, at times playing games of intrigue. In the game of chess, the queen has the right to move wherever she wants.

KING: The King chess piece resembles the Medieval King. The loss of the king means the surrender of the kingdom, or in this case, the game. (Let’s remember – it’s a game here and not real warfare 🙂 Yeah, right. To lose is to die! 🙂 A thousand deaths I’ve died… It is every piece’s responsibility to protect the king. Their lives’ depend on it. Although he is the most important piece, he is not the most powerful.

1 Board. 64 squares. 32 pieces. 2 people.

Hey, got an hour? I’ll put the coffee on…


Bubczyk, Robert. “‘Ludus Inhonestus Et Illicitus?” Chess, Games, and the Church in Medieval Europe.” SpringerLink, Springer, 1 Jan. 1970,

“Chess History.” Chess Variants – Ancient Chess – How to Play – Xiangqi – Shogi – Shatranj,

V, Kam. “Chess Is More than a Game of Skill-It Is a Medieval History Lesson in Miniature.”,, 13 Nov. 2008,





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