A comprehensive guide to the Queen

Queen in chess Chess terms

The queen in chess stands as a symbol of immense power, holding the highest value and potential on the board. Beyond its relevance in the game, this piece serves as an emblem of dominance in diverse contexts. Owing to its formidable capabilities, the queen assumes a pivotal role in chess and wields considerable influence over the game’s result. While the ultimate goal is a checkmate, the loss or gain of a queen chess piece is frequently viewed as a decisive advantage, capable of rapidly leading to a checkmate scenario. Thus, a comprehensive understanding of the queen is vital for employing it optimally on the chessboard. In this article, we will explore fundamental aspects of the queen while delving into strategic insights to enhance our mastery of this powerful piece.

What is a Queen in chess?

A queen in chess is a special hybrid piece that combines the movements of bishop and rook, and she stands next to the king in the starting position. For the white queen, the starting square would be the d1 square, which is a light square, and the black queen always starts on the d8 square, which is a dark square.

Queen chess piece


Historically, in the early versions of chess, such as Shatranj (the old version of chess played in Persia), the piece that would be equivalent to the queen was called ‘ferz’ and it moved differently than the queen in modern chess. ‘Ferz’ moved only one square diagonally in all directions. This feature made earlier versions of chess much slower and longer. The development of the modern queen in the fifteenth century in Spain was a game-changing milestone in the evolution of chess. The new rule regarding the queen accelerated the game’s pace, as the addition of such a strong piece made it possible to checkmate opponents with much fewer moves in comparison to earlier versions of chess. Another big outcome of this rule change was that the value of pawn promotion has drastically changed because of the possibility for each pawn to be promoted to queen.

How does a Queen move and capture?


A queen is a compound piece, meaning she combines the movements of a bishop and a rook.
She possesses the ability to traverse in every direction, encompassing vertical, horizontal, and diagonal movements, as illustrated in the diagrams below.

Queen movement

On an open and empty board, when a queen is placed in any of the central squares, such as e4-d4-e5-d5, it covers and controls 27 squares, which is the maximum a chess piece can achieve.

queen's movement squares

In the diagram above, the queen is placed on the e4 square, and the circles indicate the squares that the queen controls and can choose to move. One may also notice that almost half of the board (27 squares, only 5 squares less than half of the 64 squares) is filled with circles in the demonstration above, which visualizes the immense power of the queen very concretely.

While a queen is a hybrid piece of rook and bishop and move functions as a long-range piece, it is important to note that one queen’s bishop-like abilities have one significant edge over a mere bishop’s nature: A bishop can never change a color complex; e.g., if it is a bishop controlling dark-squares, it will always be in that particular color complex. Conversely, owing to her capacity for both vertical and horizontal movements, the queen has the liberty to occupy squares of any color, granting her unrestricted control over any color complex.

Queen's movement squares - diagonal

In the diagram above, the queen on the d4 square controls the dark squares of the board, including the critical squares like f6 and g7.

queen's movement squares - white diagonal

If the queen moves to the e4 square from the d4 square, as in the diagram above, she can then control the light-squares of the board, including b7 and c6. This feature of the queen, her ability to switch control of the color-complex, proves her superiority over a bishop in terms of being a diagonal moving piece. If the bishop was placed on the d4 square, it could never control b7 and c6. For this reason, a queen is a highly mobile piece to target opponents’ weak squares.


A queen can capture any piece that stands on its movement path. For example, the queen on e4 could capture black’s rook on e8 and deliver a backrank checkmate.

Queen captures

However, if black’s rook stood on the a8 square, she could still capture as she can also move diagonally:

queen captures diagonally

It is important to keep in mind that a queen cannot jump over the pieces like a knight to move or capture them. She can only capture as she moves.

Queen does not capture

The queen would not be able to capture the rook in the position above because the pawn on e7 is standing in the way. It would be legal for the queen to capture the pawn; however, it would not be wise in this case, as the rook could recapture the queen in that case, and white would lose the queen.

The function of the Queen in chess

As a highly mobile long-range piece, a queen is effective both in attacking and defending from a distance. She can also sometimes do both at the same time. However, the queen is mostly used in attacking to deliver a checkmate, usually with the support of other pieces.

The value of the Queen piece in chess

The general consensus is that a queen is roughly equal to three minor pieces (e.g., two bishops and a knight) and slightly less valuable than two rooks. In chess, when evaluating the material worth of pieces, the queen is commonly assigned a relative value of 9, the pawn being the base unit with a value of 1, while a rook is valued at 5. Consequently, trading a queen for another piece is generally deemed unfavorable unless there is a specific tactical rationale justifying such a move, known as a ‘queen sacrifice.’ Due to the significant value attributed to her, sacrificing is often regarded as one of the most remarkable feats in chess.

It’s crucial to recognize that the material values assigned to chess pieces are general estimates and are relative. The absolute value of a piece is highly specific and contingent on its precise placement, function, and role in a given position. In certain situations, a humble pawn might even hold more value than a queen or a rook based on the specific characteristics of the position. An excellent method to cultivate a sense of the value of pieces is by engaging in training games featuring material imbalances. These positions could involve one side possessing a queen while the other side has three minor pieces, two rooks, or a combination of a minor piece and a rook. The position below would be an example starting position to use in training games, for example, against an engine:

Queen's value

Queen chess piece: Strategies and Techniques

The allure of the queen’s power can be irresistible, leading beginners to employ her early in the game for a swift checkmate attempt. Some novices aim to deceive their opponents with the so-called Scholar’s Mate, executing opening moves like 1.e4 e5 2.Qf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Qxf7#.

However, attempts to achieve checkmate early by bringing the queen out rarely succeed against seasoned players. On the contrary, this strategy tends to backfire, as deploying the queen early may allow opponents to develop their pieces with tempo by attacking the queen. Additionally, it may face the risk of being trapped, leading to a significant disadvantage. Therefore, it is generally wiser to incorporate the queen into the game during the middlegame phase, once the development phase is complete.

The queen’s presence is often used to determine the definition of the game phase. An endgame typically starts when the queen’s and a few more pieces are exchanged – although there are also endgames featuring queens at times -, while the middlegame is where the queen shines. A queen can lead the army during an attack on the enemy king, orchestrating checkmate threats in collaboration with allied pieces.. Since she is a long-range piece, Queen is also a highly effective piece to utilize in tactical situations to gain material through motifs such as fork, discovery attack, pin, and skewer. To fully exploit the queen’s mobility, it is crucial to provide her with ample space, as she cannot unleash her true potential in cramped positions.

What are the Queen’s vulnerabilities?

On occasion, the formidable strength of a queen can become a liability, although such instances are rare. The most prevalent scenario where the power of a queen can be a double-edged sword is the potential for stalemate danger in endgames. Due to the queen’s ability to control numerous squares, it may inadvertently restrict the enemy king’s movement, leading to a potential stalemate situation if not approached with caution. Below are two very common endgame positions, where white has just made their move but black has no legal moves to make on their turn, which leads the game to result in a draw due to the stalemate rule:

Stalemate with queens

The situation depicted in the second diagram is frequently encountered in online games with extremely fast time controls. In such scenarios, both players move swiftly after white promotes a pawn to a queen. However, the immense power of two queens in controlling numerous squares necessitates special attention to avoid the risk of stalemate.

An ancient Queen Puzzle

The task of an ancient puzzle is to place eight queens in such a way that none of the queens can capture each other or stand in the range of capturing. Below is one possible configuration as a solution for this puzzle:

Queen puzzle

It was mathematically proven by Carl Jaenisch in 1862 that there are 92 possible such solutions. As an exercise, you may try to figure out one of the other 91 possibilities to place eight queens without being in each other’s capturing range.

Author’s thoughts on Queen

Effectively managing a powerful piece like the queen demands special care, given her capacity to generate significant threats against the enemy king. Losing the queen can be a decisive disadvantage. The queen typically plays a pivotal role in checkmating throughout the game. Examining the historical evolution of chess rules suggests that the introduction of the queen piece played a crucial role in shaping the modern chess we enjoy today.


What does the queen do in chess?

In chess, the queen is primarily employed for attacking the enemy king and delivering checkmate. However, its long-range mobility also allows it to be utilized for defensive purposes, even from a distance.

Is the queen the most powerful piece in chess?

Yes, the queen in chess is the most mobile and powerful piece, as unlike any other piece, she can move to all squares in horizontal, vertical, and diagonal directions, as many squares as she likes.

What is queening in chess?

Promoting a pawn to a queen when it reaches the final rank is also called ‘queening’.

Can you have two queens in chess?

Yes, there is an opportunity to turn one of your pawns into the second queen if one of them reaches 8th rank (for White) or 1st rank (for Black).

Written by
Deniz Tasdelen, National Master
National Master with over 20 years of experience. He has participated in many prestigious tournaments, including the European and World Youth Chess Championships.
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