Using chess vocabulary in everyday English

Odysseus’ Gambit on Vimeo – Using chess terms in everyday English

Intro Questions:
Do you play chess?
Do you know the rules?

The names of the chess pieces?
What is a gambit?

In this video the character tells us about his life. A large part of his life is spent playing chess. He uses a lot of chess terms that can be used in a different context.

We are going to learn those expressions.

1. Discuss the following words
1. a pawn
2. End Game
3. Set Up
4. to forfeit
5. to pin, to be pinned

6. to check
7. to checkmate
8. a combination
9. an opening
10. the stalemate
11. the draw


2. Please watch the documentary and listen for the answers to the following questions:

1. What the first thing he mentions about what he has learned?

2. What does he do after he sets up?

3. Which word does he use for doing the same thing every day?

4. What does the phrasal verb “freak out” mean?

5. How do you translate “Nunca me rindo” into English?

3. Exercise: Please use the following terms and vocab in the sentences below.

pawn, end game, set up, to forfeit, to pin, to be pinned, to check, to checkmate, a combination, an opening, a stalemate, the draw

1. The current situation in Iran is very close to __________, we’ll see international action very soon.

2. The rules of the game Monopoly are clear! If you land on “GO” then you have to __________ a turn.

3. The relationship between North and South Korea could be described as a ____________, neither side is able to do anything.

4. Where is the best place to __________ the net so that we can play tennis?

5. I need to ________ on the baby, I hear him crying!

6. So that you don’t forget, remember to ______ a note on the door !

7. Watching Barcelona play football is sometimes like watching people play chess, they pass and pass until they have the __________ .


8. In the last “classico” Madrid made a fantastic __________, they scored in the first 30 seconds.

9. The main character in the film eventually escaped but for a long time he was used as a ______.

10. Boxing is a sport of quick and strategic ___________.

4. Exercise: Using chess terms in sentences.


Bob Dylan famously used a chess term in his song “Only A Pawn In Their Game”


A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood

A finger fired the trigger to his name

A handle hid out in the dark

A hand set the spark

Two eyes took the aim

Behind a man’s brain

But he can’t be blamed

He’s only a pawn in their game.


Discuss the meaning of the words  bush, trigger, handle, spark, to aim, to blame, to hide out.

What does this verse mean?

If you are in the following situation which chess terms would you use?

1. You really need to speak with someone and are having trouble getting an appointment or the correct time to speak with them. You need to…………

2. When two teams are equally good and the score is the same.

3. At the start of a presentation, to make a good impression.

4. The final part of the negotiations can be tense and difficult.

5. When the government decides that public sector cuts need to be made.

About Author

Justin Donlon

English Teacher & Content Developer Over 15 years of experience in engaging educational content

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