AskDefine | Define kibitz

Dictionary Definition

kibitz v : make unwanted and intrusive comments [syn: kibbitz]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


From , from etyl de kiebitzen.


  • /ˈkɪbɪts/


  1. To chat; to gossip; to make small talk or idle chatter.
    Louise and I used to head down to the coffee shop and just sit for hours and kibitz.
  2. To give unwanted advice or make unhelpful or idle comments, especially to someone playing a game.
    Quit kibitzing! You're giving away my hand!

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

This page explains commonly used terms in chess in alphabetical order. Some of these have their own pages, like fork and pin. For a list of unorthodox chess pieces, see fairy chess piece; for a list of terms specific to chess problems, see chess problem terminology; for a list of chess related games, see chess variants.


Absolute pin

A pin against the king, called absolute because the pinned piece cannot legally move as it would expose the king to check. See relative pin.


Describes a piece that is able to move or control many squares. See also passive.


Suspension of a chess game with the intention to continue at a later occasion. See Sealed move.


The process of a strong chess player deciding on the outcome of an unfinished game. This practice is now uncommon in over the board events, but does happen in online chess when one player refuses to continue after an adjournment.

Adjust or j'adoube

To adjust the position of a piece on its square without being required to move it. Adjustment can only be done when it is the player's move and the adjustment is preceded by saying "I adjust" or "j'adoube".

Advanced pawn

A pawn that is on the opponent's side of the board (the fifth rank or higher). An advanced pawn may be weak if it is overextended, lacking support and difficult to defend, or strong if it cramps the enemy by limiting his mobility. An advanced passed pawn that threatens to promote can be especially strong.

Alekhine's gun

A formation in which a queen backs up two rooks on the same file.

Algebraic notation

The standard way to record a chess game using alphanumeric codes for the squares.


A person who does not earn a living through chess. The distinction between professional and amateur is not very important in chess as amateurs may win prizes, accept appearance fees, and earn any title including World Champion. In the 19th century, "Amateur" was sometimes used in published game scores to conceal the name of the losing player in a Master vs. Amateur contest. It was thought to be impolite to use a player's name without permission, and the professional did not want to risk losing a customer.


Breaking a position into iterations or most likely moves.


Commentary on a game using a combination of written comments, chess symbols or notation.


A move or a plan that is not in accordance with the principles of positional play. Antipositional is used to describe moves that are part of an incorrect plan rather than a mistake made when trying to follow a correct plan. Antipositional moves are often pawn moves, since pawns cannot move backwards to return to squares they have left.


A tournament official who arbitrates disputes and performs other duties such as keeping the score when players are under time pressure. See International Arbiter.


A game which White must win to win the match, but which Black only needs to draw to win the match. White has more time than black: the discrepancy can vary, but in FIDE World Championships, White has six minutes, while Black only has five. Typically used in playoff tie-breakers where shorter blitz games have not resolved the tie.

Artificial castling

Refers to a manoeuvre of several single moves by the king and a rook where they end up as if they had castled.


An aggressive move or strategy. See defence.


A self-operating chess-playing machine. Popular attractions in the 18th and 19th centuries, most of these devices were hoaxes under the control of a human player. The most famous chess-playing automaton was The Turk.



Symbol used for the bishop when recording chess moves in English.

Back rank

A player's first rank (the one on which the pieces stand in the initial array); White's back rank is Black's eighth rank and vice versa.

Back rank mate

A checkmate delivered by a rook or queen along a back rank in which the mated king is unable to move up the board because the king is blocked by friendly pieces (usually pawns) on the second rank.

Backward pawn

A pawn that is behind the pawns of the same color on the adjacent files and that cannot be advanced with the support of another pawn.

Bad bishop

A bishop which is hemmed in by the player's own pawns.


An arrangement of two pieces in line with the enemy king on a rank, file, or diagonal so that if the middle piece moves a discovered check will be delivered. The term is also used in cases where moving the middle piece will uncover a threat along the opened line other than a check.


British Chess Federation, the former name of the English Chess Federation. See ECF.


An abbreviation sometimes used for the chess opening reference Batsford's Chess Openings. The second edition is often called BCO-2. Cf. ECO and MCO.


A strong grip or stranglehold on a position that is difficult for the opponent to break. A bind is usually an advantage in space created by advanced pawns. The Maróczy Bind is a well-known example. See also Squeeze.


Chess clock

A device made up of two adjacent clocks and buttons, keeping track of the total time each player takes for his or her moves.


An opening system geared towards forming a full pawn center. See also Hypermodern.

Clock move

A timed game is played clock move if a move is completed only when the clock has been pressed. It is therefore possible to touch one piece, but then decide to move another piece. This way of playing is common in casual games, in favour of touch move.

Closed game

  • A position with few open lines (files or diagonals), generally characterized by interlocking pawn chains, cramped positions with few opportunities to exchange, and extensive maneuvering behind lines. Such a position may later become an Open game. See also Positional game.
  • A chess opening that begins with the moves 1.d4 d5. See also Open game and Semi-open game.

Closed file

A file on which black and white both have a pawn.

Closed tournament

A tournament in which only invited or qualifying players may participate, as opposed to an open tournament. Also called an invitational tournament.

Coffee house

A risky style or move that is not necessarily sound, but which poses immediate problems for the opponent and makes it easy to go wrong.


The white or black pieces.


A clever sequence of moves, often involving a sacrifice, to gain the advantage. The moves of the other player are usually forced, i.e. a combination does not give the opponent too many possible lines of continuation.


An imbalanced equivalent return, for example sacrificing material for development or trading a bishop for three pawns.

Connected pawns

Refers to two or more pawns of the same color on adjacent files. See also isolated pawns.

Connected passed pawns

Passed pawns on adjacent files. These are considered to be unusually powerful (often worth a minor piece or rook if on the sixth rank or above and not properly blockaded) because they can advance together. Also see connected pawns.

Connected rooks

Two rooks of the same color on the same rank or file with no pawns or pieces between them. Connected rooks are usually desirable. Players often connect rooks on their own first rank or along an open file. cf. Doubled rooks.

Control of the centre/center

Having one or more pieces that attack any of the four centre squares; an important strategy, and one of the main aims of openings.


An unintended solution of a chess problem.

Correspondence chess

This is chess played at a long time control by various forms of long-distance correspondence, usually through a correspondence chess server, through email or by the postal system. Typically, one move is transmitted in every correspondence.

Corresponding squares

Squares of reciprocal (or mutual) Zugzwang often found in king and pawn endgames. Also known as related squares.


An attack that responds to an attack by the other player.


A gambit used to defend against a gambit.


Active maneuvering by the player in an inferior or defensive position.


To protect a piece or control a square. For example, to checkmate a king on the side of the board, the five squares adjacent to the king must all be covered.


A position with limited mobility.

Critical position

A position that is of key importance in determining the soundness of an opening variation. If one side can demonstrate an advantage in a critical position, the other side must either find an improvement or else abandon that variation as inferior.


A cross-check is a check played in reply to a check, especially when the original check is blocked by a piece which itself either delivers check or reveals a discovered check from another piece.


An arrangement of the results of every game in a tournament in tabular form. The names of the players run down the left side of the table in numbered rows. The names may be listed in order of results, alphabetically, or in pairing order, but results order is most common. The columns are also numbered, each one corresponding to the player in the same numbered row. Each table cell records the outcome of the game between the players on the intersecting row and column, using 1 for a win, 0 for a loss, and ½ for a draw. (In a double round-robin tournament each cell contains two entries, as each pair of players plays two games alternating white and black.) Every game is recorded twice, once from the perspective of each player. The diagonal cells that correspond to the player playing himself are marked with a * or other symbol as they are not used. For examples see Hastings 1895 chess tournament, Nottingham 1936 chess tournament, and AVRO tournament.


Dark squares

The 32 dark-coloured squares on the chessboard, such as a1 and h8. A dark square is always located at a player's left hand corner.

Dark-square bishop

One of the two bishops evolving on the dark squares, situated in c1 and f8 in the initial position.

Dead draw

A drawn position in which neither player has any realistic chance to win. A dead draw may refer to a position in which it is impossible for either player to win (such as insufficient material), or it may refer to a simple, lifeless position which would require a major blunder before either side would have a chance to win.


This is a chess tactic used to lure a piece to an unfavourable square.


(1) A move or plan which tries to meet the opponent's attack; (2) an opening played by Black, for example the Scandinavian Defence, King's Indian Defense, English Defense, etc.


To cause a piece to move to a less suitable square. Typically used in the context of a combination or attack, where the deflected piece is critical to the defence.

Demonstration board

A large standing chess board used to analyse a game or show a game in progress. Johann Löwenthal invented the demonstration board in 1857.

Descriptive notation

an old system of recording chess moves, used primarily in the English and Spanish speaking countries through the 1970s or 1980s. Now replaced by the standard algebraic notation.


  • A piece that seems determined to give itself up, typically either to bring about stalemate
  • A piece to sell itself as dearly as possible in a situation where both sides have hanging pieces.


In the opening, moving a piece from its original square to make it more active. To redevelop a piece means to move it to a better square after it has already been developed.


A line of squares of the same colour, along which a queen or bishop can move.

Discovered attack

An attack made by a queen, rook or bishop when another piece or pawn moves out of its way.

Discovered check

A check delivered by a piece when another piece or pawn has moved out of its way.


A situation whereby capture of a piece is unavoidable despite it having wide freedom of movement. Usually occurs in chess problems.

Double attack

Two attacks made with one move: these attacks may be made by the same piece (in which case it is a fork); or by different pieces (a situation which may arise via a discovered attack in which the moved piece also makes a threat). The attacks may directly threaten opposing pieces, or may be threats of another kind: for instance, to capture the queen and deliver checkmate.

Double check

A check delivered by two pieces at the same time. A double check necessarily involves a discovered check.

Doubled pawns

A pair of pawns of the same color on the same file.

Doubled rooks

Two of a player's rooks placed on the same file or rank.


A game that ends without victory for either player. Most drawn games are draws by agreement. The other ways that a game can end in a draw are stalemate, threefold repetition, the fifty move rule, and insufficient material. A position is said to be a draw (or a drawn position) if either player can, through correct play, eventually force the game into a position where the game must end in a draw, regardless of the moves made by the other player. A draw is usually scored as ½ point, although in some matches only wins are counted and draws are ignored.

Drawing line

An opening variation that commonly ends in a draw, for example 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc6 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Nxd4 exd4 6.e5 dxc3 7.exf6 Qxf6 8.dxc3 Qe5+ 9.Qe2 Qxe2+, a line in the Rubinstein Variation of the Four Knights Game. See Collection of drawing lines at Often such a variation is played because one or both players is/are eager to draw the game.

Drawing weapon

An opening line that a player plays with the intent of drawing the game. This may or may not be a line commonly thought of as a drawing line. In high-level chess and correspondence chess, a player well-versed in opening theory may even use as a drawing weapon a sharp opening that has been analyzed to a drawn position in a number of lines, such as the Marshall Attack in the Ruy Lopez, and the Sveshnikov and Poisoned Pawn variations of the Sicilian Defense. One example of the successful employment of a drawing weapon was the 2000 World Chess Championship match between Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik. In that match, Kramnik used the Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez as a drawing weapon with great effect. Kramnik drew all four games with that opening, drew all the rest of his games as Black, and won two games as White, with no losses.


A weak chess player, also referred to as a "fish", "patzer" or "woodpusher."


A style of play in which the activity of the pieces is favoured over more positional considerations, even to the point of accepting permanent structural or spatial weaknesses. Dynamism stemmed from the teachings of the 'Hypermodern movement' and challenged the dogma found in more classical teachings, such as those put forward by Wilhelm Steinitz and Siegbert Tarrasch.



The English Chess Federation (ECF) is the governing chess organisation in England and is one of the federations of the FIDE. It was known as British Chess Federation(BCF) until 2005 when it was renamed.


The Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings, a standard and comprehensive chess opening reference. Also a classification system (ECO code) for chess openings that assigns an alphanumeric code from A00 to E99 to each opening.

Elo rating system

The Elo rating system is a method for calculating the relative skill levels of chess players, named after the Hungarian Arpad Elo. Since 1970 FIDE publishes quarterly an international chess rating list using the Elo system.

En passant

("in the act of passing"; derived from French) The rule that allows a pawn that has just advanced two squares to be captured by a pawn on the same rank and adjacent file. The pawn is therefore taken as if it had only moved one space. It is only possible to take en passant on the next move.

En prise

(from French) A piece that can be captured. Usually used of a piece that is undefended and can be captured.


The stage of the game when there are few pieces left on the board. The endgame follows the middlegame.

Endgame tablebase

A computerized database of endgames with up to seven pieces, providing perfect play for both players, and thus completely solving those endgames. (The six-piece endgames have been finished; some seven-piece endgames have been finished as of 2008.)

Epaulette mate

A checkmate position where the king is blocked on both sides by his own rooks.

Extended Position Description (EPD)

A Forsyth-Edwards Notation derivative format that contains the position on the chessboard, but not the game. It is primarily used to test chess engines.


To create a position where the players have equal chances of winning (referred to as "equality"). In opening theory, since White has the advantage of the first move, lines that equalize are relatively good for Black and bad for White.

Escape square

A square to which a piece can move, which allows it to escape attack. See also flight square and luft.


  • The capture of a pair of pieces, one white and the other black, usually of the same type (i.e rook for rook, knight for knight etc).
  • The exchange is used to refer to the advantage of a rook over a minor piece (knight or bishop). The player who captures a rook while losing a minor piece is said to have won the exchange, and the opponent is said to have lost the exchange. An exchange sacrifice is giving up a rook for a minor piece.

Exchange variation

This is a type of opening in which there is an early, voluntary exchange of pawns or pieces.


A contest of one or more games played for the purpose of public entertainment, as opposed to a match or tournament. An exhibition may pit two masters against each other, in which case chess clocks are normally used and the contest is quite serious. A simultaneous exhibition (or display) has one or more masters play many celebrity or amateur opponents at once, and is often not timed.

Expanded centre

The central sixteen squares on the board.


Family fork, family check

A knight fork that attacks more than two opposing pieces concomitantly.

Fast chess

A form of chess in which both sides are given less time to make their moves than under the normal tournament time controls. See also blitz chess.


Refers to a bishop developed to the second square on the file of the adjacent knight (that is, b2 or g2 for white, b7 or g7 for black), or the process of developing a bishop to such a square. It usually occurs after moving the pawn on that file ahead one square (or perhaps two). The Italian word is actually a noun ("in fianchetto") and not a verb.


The World Chess Federation (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), the primary international chess organizing and governing body. The abbreviated name FIDE is nearly always used in place of the full name in French.

First-move advantage

The slight (by most accounts) advantage that White has by virtue of moving first.


Abbreviation for Forsyth-Edwards Notation, which is a standard notation for describing a particular board position of a chess game. The purpose of FEN notation is to provide all the necessary information to restart a game from a particular position.

FIDE Master (FM)

A chess title ranking below International Master.


A column of the chessboard. A specific file can be named either using its position in algebraic notation, a–h, or by using its position in descriptive notation. For example, the f-file or the king bishop file comprises the squares f1–f8 or KB1–KB8.

Fifty move rule

A draw may be claimed if no capture or pawn move has occurred in the last fifty moves by either side.

First board

See top board.


A weak chess player, also referred to as a "duffer", "patzer" or "woodpusher."

Fischer delay

A time control method with time delay, invented by Robert Fischer. When it becomes a player's turn to move, the delay is added to the player's remaining time.

Flight square

A square to which a piece can move, which allows it to escape attack. See also escape square and luft.


Part of an analogue chess clock (usually red) which indicates when the minute hand passes the hour. To flag someone means winning the game on the basis of the opponent exceeding the time control.


The queenside a, b, and c-files, or the kingside f, g, and h-files, also called wing; distinguished from the center d and e-files.

Flank opening

This a chess opening played by White and typified by play on one or both flanks.


Abbreviation for the FIDE Master title.

Fool's mate

The shortest possible chess game ending in mate: 1. f3 e5 2. g4 Qh4# (or minor variations on this).

Forced move

A move which is the only one which does not result in a serious disadvantage for the moving player.


Refers to losing the game by absence or by exceeding the time control (forfeit on time).


When one piece, generally a knight or pawn, simultaneously attacks two (or more) of the opponent's pieces, often specifically called a knight fork when the attacker is a knight. Some sources state that only a knight can give a fork and that the term double attack is correct when another piece is involved, but this is by no means a universal usage.


A fortress is a position that, if obtained by the weaker side, will prevent the opposing side from penetration, this generally resulting in a draw (which the weaker side is seeking).

Friendly game

A game that is not played as part of a match, tournament, or exhibition. Often the game is not timed, but if a chess clock is used rapid time-controls are common. The term refers only to the circumstances in which the game is played, not the relationship between the players or the intensity of the competition. Also called a casual game.



A sacrifice (usually of a pawn) used to gain an early advantage of space and /or time in the opening.


abbreviation for Grandmaster.

Good bishop

A bishop which has high mobility, typically because the player's pawns are on squares of color opposite to that of the bishop. (See #Bad bishop.)


The highest title a chess player can attain (besides World Champion). When used precisely, it is the title awarded by FIDE starting in 1950, but it can be used to describe someone of comparable ability. The term International Grandmaster or IGM would refer only to the FIDE title.

Grandmaster draw

A short uninteresting draw. Originally applied only to games between grandmasters, it is now used for any quick game that is agreed drawn without either player making much of an effort to win.

Greek gift sacrifice

Also known as the classical bishop sacrifice, it is a typical sacrifice of a bishop by White playing Bxh7+ or Black playing Bxh2+ against a castled king.


Half-open file

A file on which only one player has no pawns.


A handicap in chess is a way to equal the chances for players of differing strengths. Examples include the stronger player getting less time or starting with a knight down (knight odds).


Unprotected and exposed to capture. Slang for en prise. To "hang a piece" is to lose it by failing to move or protect it.

Hanging pawns

Two friendly pawns abreast without friendly pawns on adjacent files. Hanging pawns can be either a strength (usually because they can advance) or a weakness (because they cannot be defended by pawns) depending on circumstances.

Heavy piece

A queen or rook, also known as a major piece.


A square that a player does not, and cannot in future, control with a friendly pawn. The definition is somewhat subjective: the square must have some positional significance for the opponent to be considered a hole - squares on the first and second ranks are not holes. On the other hand a square is a hole even if it can be controlled in the future with a pawn that has made a capture. An example of the hole is the square e4 in the Stonewall Attack.


An opening system geared towards controlling the center with distant pieces as opposed to occupying it with pawns. See also Classical.



Irish Chess Union publishes ICJ Irish Chess Journal


An abbreviation for the older term International Grandmaster. The modern usage is Grandmaster (GM).


Abbreviation for the International Master title.


See passive.


The advantage that a player who is making threats has over the player who must respond to them. The attacking player is said to "have the initiative". s/he can often turn the play as s/he wills. The initiative often results from an advantage in time and/or space. The notion of the initiative was introduced by Capablanca.

Indian bishop

A fianchettoed bishop, characteristic of the Indian defences, the King's Indian and the Queen's Indian.

Indian defence

A chess opening that begins 1.d4 Nf6. Originally used to describe queen's pawn defences involving the fianchetto of one or both Black bishops, it is now used to describe all Black defences after 1.d4 Nf6 that do not transpose into the Queen's Gambit.

Insufficient material

An endgame scenario in which all pawns have been captured, and one side has only its king remaining while the other is down to just a king or a king plus one knight or one bishop. A king and bishop versus a king and bishop with the bishops on the same color is also a draw. The position is a draw because it is impossible for the dominant side to deliver checkmate regardless of play. Situations where checkmate is possible only if the inferior side blunders are covered by the fifty move rule. (See Draw (chess)#Draws in all games.)


This happens when the line between an attacked piece and its defender is interrupted by sacrificially interposing a piece.

Intermediate move

See zwischenzug.

International Grandmaster (IGM)

The original name of the FIDE title now simply called Grandmaster (GM).

International Master (IM)

A chess title that ranks below Grandmaster but above FIDE Master.

Internet chess server

This is an external server that provides the facility to play, discuss, and view chess over the internet, also abbreviated ICS.


To move a piece between an attacking piece and its target, blocking the line of attack. Interposing a piece is one of the three possible responses to a check, the others being to move the king or capture the attacking piece.

Interzonal Tournament

A tournament organised by the FIDE, the second qualifying cycle of the World Chess Championship. The participants are selected from the top players of the zonal tournaments. The top ranking players qualify for the candidates tournament.


An abbreviation for Isolated Queen Pawn. See also isolani.

Irregular opening

Irregular openings are chess openings with an unusual first move from White. These openings are all categorized under the ECO code A00.


refers to a d-Pawn with no Pawns of the same color on the adjacent c- and e-files, and is a synonym for 'Isolated Queen's Pawn'. The term was coined by Nimzovitch, who considered the isolani as a weapon of attack in the middle game but an endgame weakness; he considered the problem of hanging pawns to be related.

Isolated pawn

A pawn with no pawn of the same color on an adjacent file.

Italian bishop

A White bishop developed to the c4 square or a Black bishop developed to c5. This development is characteristic of the Italian Game, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4, particularly the Giuoco Piano, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5, where both players have Italian bishops. Likewise, "Italian" may be used as an adjective denoting an opening where one or both players has an Italian bishop, such as after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bc4, the Italian Four Knights Game.



(from French) "I adjust". A player says "J'adoube" as the international signal that he intends to adjust the position of a piece on the board without being subject to the touched piece rule.



Symbol used for the king when recording chess moves in English.

Key square

  1. An important square.
  2. (Pawn endings) A square whose occupation by one side's king guarantees the achievement of a certain goal, such as the win of a pawn, see King and pawn versus king endgame#Key squares.


The King's Gambit Accepted chess opening.


The King's Gambit Declined chess opening.


the King's Indian Attack chess opening.


As a spectator, making comments on a chess game that can be heard by the players. Kibitzing on a serious game while it is in progress (rather than during a post-mortem) is a breach of etiquette.


Attacking a piece, typically by a pawn, so that it will move.


The King's Indian Defence chess opening.


An outpost is a square protected by a pawn that is in or near the enemy's stronghold. Outposts are a favourable position from which to launch an attack, particularly using a knight.


A position where a player has moved a piece or group of pieces (usually pawns) away from the rest in such a way that they are too difficult to defend.


A piece that has too many defensive duties. An overloaded piece can sometimes be deflected, or required to abandon one of its defensive duties.


The technique of massing forces in support of a strong point, often a Blockade.

Over-the-board (OTB)

A game is said to be played over-the-board if opponents play the game face-to-face as opposed to online chess or correspondence chess.


Another term for Overloaded.



The assignment of opponents in a tournament. Pairing is made more difficult in chess because of the need to try to give each player an equal number of games playing white and black and to try to not assign a player the same color in too many consecutive games. The most common pairing methods used in chess tournaments are round-robin and the Swiss system.


A piece that is able to move to or control relatively few squares, also referred to as an inactive piece. See active.

Passive sacrifice

A sacrifice that need not be accepted (it can be declined without suffering a disadvantage).

Passed pawn

A pawn that has no pawn of the opposite color on its file or on any adjacent files on its way to queening.


A passed pawn.


A weak chess player, also referred to as a "fish", "woodpusher" or "duffer." (lang-de patzen, to bungle.)


The sheet of paper used to record a game in process. During formal games, it is usual for both players to record the game using a score sheet.

Sealed Move

Lengthy over the board games can be adjourned. To prevent unfair advantage, the players can agree on the next move being secretly recorded in a sealed envelope. Upon resumption, the arbiter makes the sealed move and the game continues. See also Adjournment.


An assistant, often hired to help a player in preparation for and during a major match or tournament.


See Windmill.

Semi-Open Game

A chess opening that begins with White playing 1.e4 and Black replying with a move other than 1...e5. Also called Half-open or Asymmetrical King Pawn openings. See also open game and closed game.

Semi-Closed Game

A chess opening that begins with White playing 1.d4 and Black replying with a move other than 1...d5. See also open game and closed game.

Sham sacrifice

An offer of material which is made at no risk, as acceptance would lead to the gain of equal or greater material or checkmate. This is in contrast to a true sacrifice which the compensation is less tangible. Also called a pseudo-sacrifice.


Risky, double-edged, highly tactical. Sharp can be used to describe moves, maneuvers, positions, and styles of play.


A strategy of exchanging pieces of equal value. Simplification can be used defensively to reduce the size of an attacking force. It can also be used by a player with an advantage in order to amplify that advantage or reduce the opponent's counterplay. Simplification is also used as an attempt to obtain a draw, or as an attempt to gain an advantage by players who are strong in endgame play with simplified positions. Also liquidation and trading.

Simultaneous chess

A form of chess in which one (usually expert) player plays against several (usually novice) players simultaneously. Is often an exhibition.


An attack to a valuable piece, compelling it to move to avoid capture and thus exposing a less valuable piece which can then be taken. Also called an X-ray attack.


A casual or "pick-up" game, usually played without a chess clock. At chess tournaments, a skittles room is where one goes to play for fun while waiting for the next formal match.

Smothered mate

A checkmate delivered by a knight in which the mated king is unable to move owing to it being surrounded (or smothered) by its own pieces.


Correct. A sound sacrifice has sufficient compensation, a sound opening or variation has no known refutation, and a sound composition has no cooks.


The squares controlled by a player. A player controlling more squares than the other is said to have a spatial advantage.

Spanish bishop

A White king bishop developed to the b5 square. This is characteristic of the Ruy Lopez, also known as the Spanish Opening.

Spite check

A check given by a player who is about to be checkmated. It serves no other purpose than to delay the defeat.


  • Gradually increasing the pressure of a bind.
  • Sometimes a synonym for zugzwang that is not a mutual zugzwang.


A position in which the player whose turn it is to move has no legal move and his king is not in check. A stalemate results in an immediate draw.

Staunton chessmen

The standard design of chess pieces, required for use in competition.

Stem game

A stem game is the chess game featuring the first use of a particular opening variation. Sometimes, the player or the venue of the stem game is then used to refer to that opening.

Sudden death

The most straightforward time control for a chess game: each player has a fixed amount of time available to make all moves.


A ruse by which a player in a losing position tricks his opponent, and thereby achieves a win or draw instead of the expected loss. It may also refer more generally to achieving a win or draw from a clearly losing position. See also cheapo.

Swiss tournament

This is a tournament that uses the Swiss system to determine player pairings. The basic idea is that every round each player is paired with an opponent with the same (or close to the same) score. The 33rd Chess Olympiad is an example of a Swiss tournament. See also Round-robin tournament.


Tabia or Tabiya

(from Arabic)
  1. The initial position of the pieces in Shatranj
  2. The final position of a well-known chess opening
  3. (from 2) The opening position from which two players familiar with each others' tastes begin play.


See Endgame tablebase.


A player who specializes in tactical play, as distinguished from a "positional player."


Play characterized by short-term attacks and threats, often requiring extensive calculation by the players, as distinguished from positional play.


Used in casual games when both players agree to undo one or more moves.

Tarrasch rule

Named after Siegbert Tarrasch, this refers to the general principle that rooks should be placed behind passed pawns.


An extra move, an initiative at development. A player gains a tempo (usually in the opening) by making the opponent move the same piece twice or defend an enemy piece. In the endgame, one may wish to lose a tempo by triangulation to gain against the opposition. (Plural: tempos or tempi).

Text move

This term is used in written analysis of chess games to refer to a move that has been played in the game as opposed to other possible moves. Text moves are usually in bold whereas analysis moves are not.

Theoretical Novelty (TN)

A new move in the opening. Also called simply a "novelty."


A plan or move that, if left unattended, would result in an immediate depreciation of the opponents position.

Threefold repetition

A draw may be claimed if the same position occurs three times with the same player to move, and with each player having the same set of legal moves each time (the latter includes the right to take en passant and the right to castle).


This refers to a number of different systems that are used to break ties, and thus designate a single winner, where multiple players or teams tie for the same place in a Swiss system chess tournament.


Opportunities to make moves: similar meaning to tempo. A move that does not alter the position significantly is described as "wasting time", and forcing the other player to waste time is described as "gaining time".

Time control

The allowed time to finish a game, usually measured by a chess clock. A time control can require either a certain number of moves be made per time period (e.g., 40 moves in 2½ hours) or it can limit the length of the entire game (e.g., 5 minutes per game for blitz). Hybrid schemes are used, and time delay controls have become popular since the widespread use of digital clocks.

Time delay

A time control which makes it possible for a player to avoid having an ever-decreasing amount of time remaining (as is the case with sudden death). The most important time delays in chess are Bronstein delay and Fischer delay.

Time pressure or time trouble

Having very little time on one's clock (especially less than five minutes) to complete one's remaining moves. See Time control.

Toilet move

Coined by Nigel Short, a quickly played move described as "any move which doesn't immediately jeopardise your position" allowing the player time to visit the toilet while his opponent thinks.

Top board

In team chess, the player who is assigned to face the strongest opponents. Also called first board. Second board faces the next strongest players, followed by third board, and so on. Generally board assignments must be made before the competition begins and players may not switch boards, although reserve players are often allowed as substitutes.

Touched piece rule

The rule requiring a player who touches a piece that has at least one legal move to move that piece (and, if the player moves the piece to a particular square and takes his hand off it, to move it to that square). Castling must be initiated by moving the king first, so a player who touches his rook may be required to move it, without castling. The rule also requires a player who touches an opponent's piece to capture it if possible. A player wishing to touch a piece to adjust its position on a square without being required to move it signals this intent by saying "J'adoube" or "I adjust". This way of playing is common in official games, in favour of clock move.


A competition involving more than two players or teams, generally played at a single venue (or series of venues) in a relatively short period of time. A tournament is divided into rounds, with each round consisting either of individual games or matches in the case of knockout tournaments and team tournaments. The assignment of opponents is called pairing, with the most popular systems being round-robin and Swiss. Tournaments are usually referred to by combining the city in which they were played with the year, as in London 1851, although there are well known exceptions such as AVRO.

Tournament book

A book recording the scores of all the games in a tournament, usually with analysis of the best or most important games and some background on the event and its participants. One well-known example is Bronstein's Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953.

Tournament director (TD)

Organizer and arbiter of a tournament, responsible for enforcing the tournament rules and the Laws of Chess. Also tournament controller (chiefly British).


Arriving at a position using a different sequence of moves.


A move which may tempt the opponent to play a losing move. See also Swindle.


a position of mutual zugzwang in which either player would lose if it is his turn to move.


A technique used in king and pawn endgames (less commonly seen with other pieces) to lose a tempo and gain the opposition.



This is a chess tactic (also known as removal of the guard) in which a defensive piece is captured, leaving one of the opponent's pieces undefended or underdefended.


Promoting a pawn to a rook, bishop, or knight instead of a queen. Rarely seen unless the knight can deliver a crucial check, or promotion to a rook instead of a queen is necessary to avoid stalemate.


the act of breaking a pin. This allows the piece that was formerly pinned to move.

United States Chess Federation (USCF)

This is a non-profit organization, the governing chess organization within the United States, and one of the federations of the FIDE.

Unorthodox opening

See Irregular opening.


Vacating sacrifice

A sacrifice made for the purpose of clearing a square for a different piece of the same color.


A move which opens one line and closes another.


A chess-like game played using a different board, pieces, or rules than standard chess.


A sequence of moves or alternative line of play, often applied to the opening. A variation does not have to have been played in a game, it may also be a possibility that occurs only in analysis. The word Variation is also used to name specific sequences of moves within an opening. For an example, the Dragon Variation is part of the Sicilian Defence.


Waiting move

A passive but harmless move, which is played while waiting for initiative from the opponent.

Weak square

A square that cannot be easily defended from attack by an opponent. Often a weak square is unable to be defended by pawns (a hole) and can be theoretically occupied by a piece. Exchange or loss of a bishop may make all squares of that bishop's color weak resulting in a "weak square complex" on the light squares or the dark squares.


Abbreviation for the Woman FIDE Master title.


Abbreviation for the Woman Grandmaster title.


The designation for the player who moves first, even though the corresponding pieces, referred to as "the white pieces," are sometimes actually some other (usually light) color. See also Black, First move advantage in chess.


Abbreviation for the Woman International Master title.


A victory for one of the two players in a game, which may occur due to checkmate, resignation by the other player, the other player exceeding the time control, or the other player being forfeited by the tournament director. Chess being a zero-sum game, this results in a loss for the other player.

Win/winning position

A position is said to be a win (or a winning position) if one specified side, with correct play, can eventually force a checkmate against any defence (i.e. perfect defence).


A combination in which two pieces work together to deliver an alternating series of checks and discovered checks in such a way that the opposing king is required to move on each turn. It is a potent technique since on every other move, the discovered check may allow the non-checking piece to capture an enemy piece without losing a tempo. The most famous example is Torre–Lasker, Moscow 1925. Also called a see-saw.


The queenside a, b, and c-files, or the kingside f, g, and h-files, also called flank.

Wing Gambit

Is the name given to the branches of several openings in which one player gambits a wing pawn, usually the b pawn.

Woman FIDE Master (WFM)

A women-only chess title ranking below Woman International Master.

Woman Grandmaster (WGM)

The highest ranking gender-restricted chess title except for Women's World Champion.

Woman International Master (WIM)

A women-only chess title ranking below Woman Grandmaster and above Woman FIDE Master.


A weak chess player, also referred to as a "fish", "patzer" or "duffer."


X-ray attack

See Skewer.



(from the German) See Time pressure.

Zonal Tournaments

Tournaments organised by the FIDE, the first qualifying cycle of the World Chess Championship. Each zonal tournament features top players of a certain geographical zone. The winners are then qualified for the interzonal tournament.


(from the German) When a player is put at a disadvantage by having to make a move; where any legal move weakens the position. Zugzwang usually occurs in the endgame, and rarely in the middlegame.


(from the German) An "in-between" move played before the expected reply.


  • An Illustrated Dictionary of Chess
  • An Illustrated Dictionary of Chess
  • The Mammoth Book of Chess
  • Golombek's Encyclopedia of Chess
  • The Oxford Companion to Chess
  • Dictionary of modern chess
  • Chess Thinking: The Visual Dictionary of Chess Moves, Rules, Strategies and Concepts (Fireside Chess Library)
  • Dictionary of Chess
kibitz in Bengali: দাবা পরিভাষা
kibitz in Spanish: Términos relacionados con el ajedrez
kibitz in French: Lexique du jeu d'échecs
kibitz in Galician: Termos relacionados co xadrez
kibitz in Dutch: Schaken van A tot Z
kibitz in Japanese: チェス用語一覧
kibitz in Russian: Словарь шахматных терминов
kibitz in Slovenian: Šahovsko izrazoslovje
kibitz in Ukrainian: Шахові терміни

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Paul-Pry, advise, advocate, brief, busybody, coach, confer, consult with, counsel, direct, fool with, guide, instruct, intermeddle, meddle, meddle with, mess with, monkey with, nose, prescribe, propose, pry, recommend, snoop, submit, suggest, tamper with
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