There's a discussion on meta whether historical questions are allowed or no, and it seems to me that it it's allowed as long as it deals with Chess.

Historically, real kings were powerful, (Alexander the great, Napoleon Bonaparte etc.) And women were powerless, well the game began in asia, some say and the women were definitely powerless. Maybe Cleopatra was powerful, but still doesn't explain why the ones who created Chess (or at least the modern Chess, made the king so powerless and hopeless, hiding behind his army, and his queen)

Is it because of queen Mary (bloody Mary), was she the one who influenced the people who created the modern chess? Is she the reason why kings are hopeless and queens are ruthless?

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    Queen Isabella is a more likely model, read the wikipedia article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_(chess). – Dag Oskar Madsen Oct 5 '13 at 11:14
  • @DagOskarMadsen that makes sense, i wounder if ruy lopez have anything to do with it, since he was born shortly after she died and the Catholics loved her for kicking the muslims out of spain, she had a strong relationship with the church... interesting! – Lynob Oct 5 '13 at 21:51
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    Chess was invented in India, and there was no queen at that time, instead it was senapati i.e. army general, and that is why that piece holds great power & control and can move around more freely in the war field!! and king himself doesn't fight the fight but his army general does leading the soldiers into the war, King simply sits and plans a strategy. and that army general somehow got evolved into queen! – user1787 Oct 7 '13 at 5:35
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    There's nothing wrong with a queen being the most powerful piece on the board. :) Or in real life, either. – user4576 Jan 2 '15 at 18:19
  • Well Napoleon wasnt a King... lol i see you point! Great question! never really dwelt on it before. – theeppright Jan 5 '15 at 18:27

Practically speaking, if the king were any more powerful, checkmate or capture would be impossible.

The Queen originated as the Advisor. The Advisor was powerful, but not as powerful as the modern Queen, however. Why did the Advisor become the Queen? Having more than one Queen per side would debase the game, and there are two each of the other pieces. Thus, the Advisor is the only candidate.

Why is there a piece with huge Queen-like powers at all? It looks like the Europeans wanted to speed the game up. So they made a more powerful Queen, pawns started moving 2 squares on the first, and castling was created.

Finally, I am not sure that the piece we call the Queen is called that in other languages. The game and its ancestors have piece names like camel, elephant, advisor, minister, horse, etc.

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    There is a chess variant called Tai Shogi with a powerful emperor that can jump to any empty square or capture any unprotected piece of the opponent. To avoid immediate loss of the game, it must however stay protected to avoid being captured by the opponent's equally powerful emperor. – Dag Oskar Madsen Oct 5 '13 at 13:59
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    Interesting. So while being insanely powerful, the Tai Shogi emperor has a compensating weakness - if his guard is stripped for even one instant, he dies. – Tony Ennis Oct 5 '13 at 14:20
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    The weakness, as you call it, of the tai shogi emperor is just a consequence of the opponent's emperor also being insanely powerful. There are other chess variants where the king is more powerful (without compensating weaknesses) such as Cavalry chess where the king has additional movement powers and Big Battle where in addition to much more powerful ordinary movement powers, castling is also more powerful. – hkBst May 24 '16 at 10:55
  • @DagOskarMadsen Now I want to see a themed version of that... namely, "Star Wars Tai Shogi"... – Michael Oct 14 '19 at 23:19

The king is not powerless! So much so that when the king is check mated the game ends so, and a victor is declared. Is the king powerless??

I think you are mixing mobility and reach with being powerful; looks like because of the mobility and reach of the queen it is somehow powerful where as the king is powerless but, that's somehow incorrect. You can see the power of the king increases as the game enters the ending stage and less pieces exist on the board; even though king's reach is short the king becomes one of the most powerful pieces on the board in the endgame (This is one of the most beautiful and amazing things a like about chess; the dynamics of power and value is not static, it changes and evolves as the game progresses).

For instance, notice that the queen alone cannot deliver check mate in a Queen+King vs King; the queen needs help of another piece to be able to deliver check mate against a lone king.

As a reference for players relative value of pieces is given and the queen carries the biggest value but, the king is given infinite value or no value though, an explanation being that when the king is captured or check mated the game ends.

Some times in a game of chess it can happen that a simple pawn can become even more powerful than the queen. Many studies show how the power of pieces changes depending on the specific position and circumstances on the board.

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    This answer opens the question of what the O.P. intended by the term "power". Given the question's wording, this answer doesn't address the issue as much as present a viable alternative interpretation of the queen's tactical power vs. the king's strategic power. – Charles Rockafellor Jun 22 '16 at 16:30

As a Turkish, I can say it's not a queen in original, we call it as Vizier.

We may say that the grand viziers used to manage all the things about country like taxes, wars, staff etc. There were so many viziers in the eastern history, who were more powerful and effective then shah (king) like Nizam al-Mulk.

So, I can say that it's probably caused by asian and middle eastern culture.

Also, you must look here.

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    Yes, but in medieval chess the vizier could only move one step diagonally and was weaker than the king. – Dag Oskar Madsen Oct 5 '13 at 20:39
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    interesting but i wanted to know why Europeans opted to choose the queen as the most powerful piece, in other words, why choosing a female to be more powerful than a male – Lynob Oct 5 '13 at 21:40
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    this part of text, starts with (goo.gl/HxoC0f): """Historian Marilyn Yalom proposes that the prominence of medieval queens such as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Blanche of Castile and Isabella I of Castile, the cult of the Virgin Mary,[4] and the power ascribed to women in the troubadour tradition of courtly love, might have been partly responsible for influencing the piece towards its identity as a queen and later its modern great power on the board, as might the medieval popularity of chess as a game particularly suitable for women to play on equal terms with men.[8]""" migth be useful – Gökhan N. Gül Oct 5 '13 at 21:47
  • It occurs to me that medieval European kings might not have been culturally comfortable with the idea with the idea that an 'advisor' sort of piece be the most powerful on the board. His queen, however, is not generally a political rival. – Tony Ennis Oct 6 '13 at 15:33

The queen used to be a ferz, a variant of the word vizier (and curiously close to its meaning of advisor), which could only step one square diagonally. So originally the piece that became the queen was less powerful than the king.


The Question relates to more of a naming convention and interchanging Queen with Wazir . Wazir or the Minister or the General of the Army is all same here in Chess .

The rules of the game have been quite similar to the ancient civilization . The King is actually powerful and has the ability to direct all instructions to win the game or battle . The King belongs to the Throne and without him the Kingdom is lost . If the Army General gets killed their may be a new appointment or without him also the battle can be won . e.g. in chess Pawn gets promoted to a Queen so a valiant soldier can be designated as a Queen. If you watch some historical movies like Troy / Gladiator / Mahabharata you would see that the Kings always stay behind and the main battle would be somewhat far from his radius . I do not disagree to the fact that Kings never participated from the front in battle fields but their always used to a small force of gallant soldiers who would protect him as like Castling in chess.

Technically the Chess Queen or the Wazir/ General can cover more squares on board which infers that the General like Hector/Achilles/Maximus/Arjun/Karna were more adept warriors and could kill many soldiers at once .

So the Question is quite clear as it is the Chess King who is technically powerless because it grounds one square at a time but in real as they were not better warriors than the Queen but had the ability to direct all orders and could instruct every piece to be sacrificed and fight till the end to save the King from getting checkmated .


I believe that the origin of "King" and "Queen" units were the King's and Queen's Guards. In either case, they were "picked" troops.

The "king" is just the king and his personal bodyguard. These might be the best 500-1000 troops in the army, which would give them approximately the value of a "piece," a slightly larger unit commanded by a knight or bishop (but with inferior troops).

The Queen's guard, was an honorary unit consisting of the remainder of the best troops, basically the "flower" of the army. These troops were more numerous and better trained than the troops in units led by the other officials, which is why the queen's regiment was the most powerful. As I remember, the "three musketeers" belonged to the "queen's" guard. The queen was the titular commander but her "duties" were actually taken over by a high-ranking (male) noble. A pawn that "queens" gets to become this noble (or to have a new "queen's guard" formed under him if the first one is still on the board).


The king in a chess game is far from powerless. Of course it must be sheltered in the early going to prevent its being checkmated, but as the game progresses to an ending with the removal of the stronger pieces and it's safe and in fact necessary for the king to enter the fray, it's as strong as a knight or bishop. In the early years of chess, the queen could only move one square diagonally, but when later revisions were made to speed up the game, its power was increased dramatically to its current level. As best I am able to determine, the queen gained power in concert with traditions of queenly rule in Europe. Perhaps this also reflected the perception of many men surrounded by strong females that women actually held the power, even if not wielded through the sword, relegating the king to a weaker status.

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