The queen is the mighties piece on the chessboard. She is strong, far-reaching, and dominating; she truly is a majestic piece. This is all thanks to how she moves.
So, how does the queen move in chess? The queen can move in any direction diagonally, vertically, or horizontally on the board and can travel as many unoccupied squares as she wants; basically, the queen can act like a rook and a bishop together, but not in one turn.
Unlike pieces like the pawn and the king, the queen also does not have any special moves. However, if you are serious about winning in chess, you must pay the greatest attention to your queen and know how to use her right.
In this article, we are going to discuss how the queen moves in chess and explain the concepts you should learn to make the best use of it.
The queen is the second most valuable piece on the chessboard, with the most important piece being the king, of course. The king has no numerical value assigned to it since it can not be captured, but the queen does.
The numerical value of the queen is 9 points or nine pawns, which is actually more than all of the pawns you have at the start of the game (8 pawns).
This means that the queen is about as valuable as a rook, bishop, and pawn or slightly less valuable than two rooks.
This is why many masters consider a queen exchange for two rooks a disadvantageous move. While this is numerically correct, it depends on the position itself in practical terms.
If the rooks are connected and supported, then yes, otherwise, the queen can be a serious hazard thanks to its ability to act like both a rook and a bishop combined, and it often ends up snagging one of the rooks and winning the game.
The queen in chess moves diagonally, vertically, and horizontally, and it moves like a rook and bishop combined. However, the queen may only move in one direction each turn, so if you want to reach a square that needs diagonal and horizontal travel, you will have to execute each move in its own turn.
The diagram below shows the possible moves of the queen:
You can see how far-reaching the queen truly is. All those orange arrows are the possible moves by the queen.
On a board with 64 squares, a queen can control 27 squares if unobstructed in all directions. This is impressive, to say the least.
The Queen can not move like a knight. The queen can act like a pawn, a bishop, a king, or a rook, but it can never travel the same way a knight does in one move. The knight is still special in the way it moves.
It’s really easy to see why the queen should not move like a knight; it would be too powerful to handle. The queen is already very powerful as it is, so imagine if we give it the special L-shaped move of the knight. It would simply be unstoppable, and it would make chess unplayable and not enjoyable at all.
The Queen can not jump over other pieces. The only piece that can regularly jump over other pieces is the knight. The king and rook can jump over each other during castling, too, but this is a very special move that can only be done once during the game.
A queen can checkmate alone, indeed, and it often does. A king and queen checkmate is the simplest checkmate you can execute and the fastest as well.
In fact, in the vast majority of chess games, the queen is the piece that delivers the final checkmate because it’s the only piece that can smother the king alone very easily.
To understand what I mean, look at this simple example of a queen checkmate:
In the checkmate shown above, if you replace the queen on h7 with any other piece, this checkmate will simply not work. A rook on h7 will not be checking the king on g8, and a bishop on h7 will be checking the king, but the king can then move to h8 out of the check.
Only a queen can be this lethal.
When you start learning how to play chess, you learn that there is a logical order you should follow when developing your pieces. This way, even if you forget your opening line, you can still follow this logic and develop safely and quickly.
The order of developing your pieces goes as follows:
- Your center pawns
- Your Kingside light pieces, preferably starting with the knight, then the bishop (or your queenside pieces if you intend to castle queenside instead of kingside).
- Bring your king to safety by castling
- Your Queenside light pieces
- Your Queen
You will notice that your queen is the very last piece, and that’s because, in chess, you don’t start with the heavy pieces; you start with the lighter ones.
Most experts consider the opening phase of the game done once you develop the queen; it’s the signal that the middlegame has begun and that it’s the time for the fight.
Bringing your queen out too early puts it at risk. The most common problem with bringing queens too early, which is a common beginner’s mistake, is that your opponent will use it to win time. We call this ‘gaining tempos.’
Look at the position below, for example:
As you can see in this position, white’s last move, Bg5, threatens the black queen, which is going to be forced to move again. This means that white has basically won a free move as black has had to move the queen twice when he could’ve used these moves to develop lighter pieces and get closer to castling.
Another risk of bringing out your queen too early is that it can get trapped.
The board at the start of the game is a crowded place in which your queen may find itself suddenly trapped.
Here is an example of this from one of my favourite variations in the french defense:
As you can see in this position, the queen is trapped and has nowhere to go. The queen will be lost in exchange for a mere knight, and black will be at a great material advantage and should be able to win the game very easily.
The last problem with bringing your queen too early is that the other side can set up ambushes to capture the queen by baiting it with a free pawn or even a piece.
Again, let’s look at the most famous example of this from the advanced variation of the French Defense:
As you can see, black here has more pieces attacking the d4 pawn than white has to defend it. Does this mean it’s a free pawn? No, it’s a trap. Black can not take this pawn.
Suppose he does with 1. …. Nxd4 2.Nxd4 Qxd4?
We get this position:
Now, white can simply play 3.Bb5+, and regardless of what black does, the white queen will take the black queen in the next move.
Taking this pawn is a well-known trap in this variation.
The queen being so powerful seems to be perfect for our modern times, doesn’t it? But this is not the reason it is so powerful.
In fact, until the 15th century, there was no piece called the “queen” in chess. The queen back then was called “the advisor,” which is the person second to the king. Think of it like the prime minister today or the hand of the king in GOT.
The hand of the king was also one of the weakest pieces on the board back then, with its movement being limited to one square diagonally per turn only.
This was until the 15th century when there was a rise in European female monarchs. The game was changed then to include the queen, and, as you may expect, it was unfitting for the queen to be so weak, so it was given the ability to move like the rook and bishop, and its range was extended to include all squares it could reach. These new powers were more fitting for a queen, indeed.
Surprisingly, most amateurs do not know how to use their queen effectively. The powers of the queen make it seem like it’s very easy to use, but the queen is often misused or overused. Here is how you should instead use your queen effectively.
Your intuition may be to start your attack early, but as discussed before, bringing your queen to the center before you have developed your lighter pieces, established some control over the center, and brought your king to safety, can be dangerous to the queen.
Remember that the queen is a heavy hitter, but it’s also extremely valuable, and bringing her out too early is like putting a target on your back. It’s better to be patient than sorry.
Once your lighter pieces are developed, and your king is safe, you can start planning to bring your queen to the attack.
In this position, black has developed his lighter pieces, established control over the black squares in the center (d4, e3), and has a clear plan of attack.
Black can now bring his queen to g5 and start his pawn storm on the kingside while white will start pushing in the queenside with b4, N3, and eventually c5 to break through the queenside.
This is a very common position that arises from the King’s Indian defense.
Like the women in your life, your queen on the chessboard needs support. Yes, she can do marvelous things alone, but having the support of lighter pieces will allow her to smash through your opponent’s defenses and bring you the win more easily.
You can support your queen’s attack with your rook in this position. A good plan of attack here would be to move the black king to f7, allowing the rook(s) to take the h file and attack the white king.
In some positions, you will need to find a way out for your queen before she gets trapped. These positions are not common, but when it happens, overlooking this can cost you the game very quickly.
Lighter pieces can protect the queen in chess, with the knight and bishop being the pieces that most commonly protect the queen in attacks on the king. The rook can also protect the queen in some attacks, but it’s less common.
The queen can do an excellent job of defending the king as it can protect many squares alone, but the queen will then be chained down to the king and severely underutilized. It’s much better for the queen to perform attacking duties than to be tied down to a defensive position.
A pawn can take the queen, and there are no rules in chess that prevent certain pieces from taking other pieces unless, in the case of the king, which can not take pieces that are protected by other pieces as this would put it in check.
Unlike the bishop, the queen can move on any colored square diagonally and horizontally. The color of its starting position does not restrict the queen.
The queen can not castle in chess, and the only piece that can castle in chess is the king, and it can only be done once and if all the conditions are met.