This is part three of our series on how chess pieces move as well as the history of chess pieces. Check back in two weeks for our next installment on the Bishop.
The Knight, with its unusual, jumping movement, has remained virtually unchanged since the invention of the game in India in the 6th century CE. The tricky movement of the piece makes it adept at unleashing strong tactical attacks like the fork, attacking multiple pieces at the same time. The Ashva of early chess represented a horse, a well-known presence on the ancient battlefield. As chess evolved and spread across the world, the connection to a mounted soldier remained. When chess arrived in Europe in the late medieval period, the name of the piece was connected to the knight, the mounted soldier that dominated the battlefield at that time.
Many languages retain the original reference to the “horse,” like the Spanish caballo, or Russian конь (kon’). Others, like English, connect the piece to the medieval knight or a “rider” (e.g. French, cavalier). Languages like German describe the piece by its movement, calling the pieces a Springer, or “jumper.”
Moving the Knight
The knight is unique in modern chess, as it is the only piece that can jump other pieces. The knight may move to any square that is two squares away horizontally and one square vertically, or two squares vertically and one square horizontally. Thus, the move has an “L” shape.
The knight captures an enemy piece by moving onto its square and removing it from the board. Each player starts with two knights; white’s knights start on b1 and g1, while black’s knights start on b8 and g8. When taking chess notation, we generally indicate a knight move with the letter N and the square to which it is moving. For example, “Nf3” indicates the knight moving to the f3 square. Occasionally, both knights can move to the same square, requiring a player taking notation to show which knight is moving – a player may do this by using the file letter or rank number of the knight that is moved. For example, “Nbd7” might mean that black’s knight on b8 moves to d7, where black’s other knight is on f6.