How Does The Knight Move In Chess?

Different from other chess pieces, the knight moves and jumps across the board in a unique way. That makes it a very exciting piece to learn about, because its movements are one of a kind.

Knights move two squares in any direction vertically and one square horizontally, or two squares horizontally and one square vertically. The movement of a knight resembles an ‘L-shape’. While moving, the knight is allowed to jump over other pieces.

While the knight can move past other pieces, it can only move to unoccupied squares. Knights have the ability to jump over pieces of the same color, as well as the opponent’s color.


The Knight Moves In An L-Shape

Memorizing the moves of a knight might be the most difficult of all the chess pieces. So don’t worry if you don’t remember the L-shaped move of this special piece right away. Instead, it can help to use a visual reference.

The diagram below visualizes all the moves a knight is allowed to make:


How Knight Moves In Chess
The knight moves in an L-shape, in any direction


It’s important to remember that the knight always takes two steps in any direction, followed by one step in the other direction. The table below will help you memorize the moves a bit better:


Knight MoveIs Followed By (Choose One)
Two steps upOne step left
One step right
Two steps downOne step left
One step right
Two steps leftOne step up
One step down
Two steps rightOne step up
One step down


You can pick any of the two-step moves in the left column, and then look at what follows in the right column. Notice how any direction always gives the knight two options. For example: If you go up two steps, you can choose to go one step left OR one step right!


Knights Can Jump Over Other Chess Pieces

Chess rules allow players to move their knight on the first turn of a chess match. The knight is allowed to immediately jump over pawns of their own color by moving two squares up, followed by one square to the left or right.

The first turn for white doesn’t need to be a pawn move, it could also be one of the following moves:


Knight Move On First Turn
The knight is allowed to move as your first turn in a chess game


The ability to consistently jump over other pieces makes the knight a unique chess piece. Knights are the only pieces in chess that have the ability to jump over another piece. The only exception to this is the castling rule, where a rook is allowed to jump over a king.

A knight can move past chess pieces of their own color, but they also have the ability to move past pieces of the opponent. This could give them a strategic advantage compared to other chess pieces.


Attacking With The Knight

Just like the other chess pieces, knights have the ability to attack and capture pieces from the opponent. The knight can attack pieces wherever it is able to move.

For example, the knight in the diagram below is able to move to e7, where an opponent’s rook is located. The knight can move to that square and choose to take it:


Knight Attack And Movement
The knight attacks other pieces where it can move


Remember that knights have the unique ability to jump over other chess pieces while moving? That ability can also be used to your advantage while attacking. This means that the knight can attack past other chess pieces!

If the same rook from the previous example would have a bunch of other pieces in front of it, escaping the inevitable knight attack is not an option:


Knight Attack Past Other Pieces
The knight can jump over other pieces to attack!


It does not matter if the pieces you attack past are from your opponent, or if they are your own. The knight jumps around on the board, allowing it to attack over pieces of any color. This makes it a special chess piece in its default movements.


Knights Don’t Have Any Special Movement Rules

While the ability to jump over other chess pieces is definitely special, there aren’t any unique rules to memorize for the knight. Knights aren’t used for castling, they can’t do an en passant move, nor can they promote into a stronger piece.

However, the pawn is able to promote into a knight when it reaches the other side of the board. Pawn promotion into a knight is not very common, but it is allowed. This means that a player could theoretically have up to 10 knights on the board.

Remember that it’s usually better to promote a pawn into a queen. Promoting it into a knight is called ‘underpromotion’, which is a deliberate choice to transform a pawn into a weaker piece.

Depending on the situation on the board, this could strategically make sense. For example, when a knight can quickly assist to checkmate the opponent’s king. However, that’s a very rare situation circumstance that a beginner doesn’t have to know yet.


Knight Movement FAQ

A lot of people that are just starting to play chess have questions about knights. Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions. If yours is missing, feel free to ask something in the discussion below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!


Can A Knight Move Backwards?

The knight can move backwards in an L-shaped direction. A knight can move backwards two squares, followed by one square to the left or right. The rules of chess do not allow knights to move backwards in a straight line.


Can A Knight Move First?

It is possible to open a game of chess with a knight. Making the first move with a knight is not a very common opener, but it is used in some modern chess opening sequences, such as the Zukertort or Réti Opening.


Can A Knight Move Over Opposition Pieces?

The knight is the only chess piece that is allowed to move over opposition pieces, but it is also allowed to move over its own pieces. Knights can move over a pawn, rook, knight, bishop, queen, or king.


Can A Knight Move To Every Square?

The knight can move to every square of a chessboard in a maximum of 6 moves, assuming that the squares are unoccupied. Knights can move to both black and white squares.

The knight can theoretically visit every square on a chessboard once in many different ways, this is referred to as the knight’s tour problem. This is a mathematical problem that has been studied by mathematicians for many centuries.


Can A Knight Move Diagonally?

Different from the bishop, a knight is not allowed to move diagonally on a chessboard. Instead, knights move in an L-shaped direction. Two moves vertically followed by one move horizontally, or two moves horizontally followed by one move vertically.

This makes knights a bit of an anomaly, since four chess pieces can move in a diagonal direction in some capacity.

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