CHESS in sign language

How do you sign "chess" in ASL? Learn a few tidbits of Deaf history and culture.

Meaning: a two-player strategy board game played on a chessboard, a checkered gameboard with 64 squares arranged in an 8×8 grid. The players aim to checkmate the opponent's king to win.

Usage in classifier, storytelling, prose.

Regional variation.

How to sign for the parts of chess?

Pawn => fingerspelling PAWN or informally sign SOLDIER. Rook => tower or fingerspelling. Knight => HORSE (frequently preferred) or KNIGHT. Bishop => BISHOP. Queen => QUEEN. King => KING.

Deaf Culture/History

The Polish postage stamp (1956) celebrated the 1st World Chess Championships for the Deaf in Zakopane, Poland.

Postage stamp of Poland
Image credit:

Deaf Experience

Equal but Wow Art by Kim Anderson
Image courtesy of Kim Anderson.

American Deaf artist states on her work "Equal But Wow" (2019) watercolor, "Each chess piece has a strategic power. Some are gifted with superior powers (or privileges) than others. The queen has the greatest power of mobility on the chessboard. When the queen stalks, no piece is safe, and kings tremble behind their stockade of pawns. A Deaf and hearing queen will always have equal power on the board, but one can't help but notice that the Deaf queen is unique and has a WOW factor."

In her statement, both hearing and deaf queens have the same footing in terms of being a human. However, when it comes to language, there is a difference of experience. Signed language is "vibrant and 3-dimensional" that the colorful queen represents. In contrast, the monochromtic queen signifies a spoken language as "linear".

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Search/Filter: Enter a keyword in the filter/search box to see a list of available words with the "All" selection. Click on the page number if needed. Click on the blue link to look up the word. For best result, enter a partial word to see variations of the word.

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Screenshot of the search dictionary

Alphabetical letters: It's useful for 1) a single-letter word (such as A, B, etc.) and 2) very short words (e.g. "to", "he", etc.) to narrow down the words and pages in the list.

For best result, enter a short word in the search box, then select the alphetical letter (and page number if needed), and click on the blue link.

Screenshot of dictionary search with notes
Screenshot of the search dictionary

Don't forget to click "All" back when you search another word with a different initial letter.

If you cannot find (perhaps overlook) a word but you can still see a list of links, then keep looking until the links disappear! Sharpening your eye or maybe refine your alphabetical index skill. :)

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ASL has its own grammar and structure in sentences that works differently from English. For plurals, verb inflections, word order, etc., learn grammar in the "ASL Learn" section. For search in the dictionary, use the present-time verbs and base words. If you look for "said", look up the word "say". Likewise, if you look for an adjective word, try the noun or vice versa. E.g. The ASL signs for French and France are the same. If you look for a plural word, use a singular word.