Chess vocabulary in Spanish is trending nowadays. Actually, chess vocabulary is trending in all languages and the reason is a TV series called Gambito de Dama (Queen’s Gambit) in Netflix. By the way, last week we recommended our readers some series to learn Spanish.

Queen’s Gambit is the story of a young orphan girl who learnt to play chess with the help of the janitor of her orphanage. She becames one of the best chess players in the world, in spite of her life of excess.

Today, we’ll learn chess vocabulary in Spanish.

Chess Vocabulary in Spanish: the pieces’ name

Chess is, maybe, the most feminist game. The queen is the most powerful piece and needs to defend the king, that is almost the weakest one. In Spanish, the pieces on el tablero (the board) have different names. Let’s see them:

  • El Rey: the king, in English. If it falls, you lose.
  • La Dama (the Lady) or la Reina (the Queen): as we said before, the most powerful piece.
  • El Alfil (the bishop): although the word ‘bishop’ is translated as ‘obispo’ in Spanish, the specific word in chess is ‘alfil’. This word meant ‘elephant’ in Arabic. That was the piece that was used to be played in ancient chess.
  • El Caballo (the horse) or el Caballero (the Knight): the only piece able to jump over other ones.
  • La Torre (the Rook): in English the origin of the name comes from the Persian word for ‘chariot’. However, in Spanish we prefer the defensive building of a castle.
  • El Peón (the Pawn): both words, the English and the Spanish terms, come form Latin ‘pes-pedis’ (foot). The piece symbolizes a foot-soldier, the most numerous and dispendable. In Spain we also call ‘peón’ to a low-qualified worker.


Chess Common sentences in Spanish

Among the chess vocabulary in Spanish, there are some common actions you should know how to say them in our language:

  • Jaque: it’s the condition when a king is under threat of capture, ‘check’ in English. The word comes from the Persian term ‘shāh’ (king).
  • Jaque mate: it occurs when the king is under jaque and there is no way to avoid it. The Spanish word comes from the Arabic ‘shâh mâta’ (the king is captured).
  • Enrocar: it’s the only move in chess in which a player can move two pieces: the king and a rook. In this case, the Spanish language takes the term from the Persian ‘rukh’, as English does to name the rook.
  • Tablas: it’s a draw, when no player wins. The origin of this name comes from the medieval ages. They used to call ‘tablas’ to the pieces of boardgames, that were very popular at the time. So, when a game ended with a draw, the players had to put all the piece (las tablas) in their starting position again to play a new game.

Some Idioms Using Vocabulary of Chess

Regarding the previous chess vocabulary in Spanish, we have some idioms that our students at Spanishviaskype would love to learn:

  • Dar jaque / Poner en jaque a alguien: to intimidate or threaten someone. For example: La policía ha puesto en jaque a los ladrones del banco.
  • Enrocarse en algo: to be obstinate in something. For example: Mi amigo se ha enrocado y no quiere preparar el examen DELE con un profesor. Es una locura.
  • Acabar en tablas: to stop a discussion or a debate without a clear winner. For example: Siempre que discuto con mi pareja sobre política, acabamos en tablas.

In conclusion, you can learn chess vocabulary in Spanish watching The Queen’s Gambit in our language, or, even better, you can reserve a conversational lesson with us and we could discuss whether you liked the show or not. If you want to try a trial lesson first, we will be very pleased to help you.


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