Pawns are often thought of as the weakest pieces on the chessboard, but they can be powerful if used correctly.
One common question for new players to ask is, can a pawn capture on its first move? The answer is yes, a pawn can capture on its first move, but some conditions must be met for this to happen.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at all the rules around pawns capturing on their first move. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Basics of Pawn Moves in Chess
Pawns are quite a unique chess piece in terms of their moves.
During a game, they move forward one square at a time. They can’t move backward or sideways.
But, on their first move, they can move either one or two spaces forward. They can only move forward two squares on their first move if they haven’t moved yet.
The player can choose whether or not the pawn should move forward one or two spaces.
When a pawn reaches the other side on the last square of the chessboard then it gets the chance to be promoted and it is known as pawn promotion.
So whenever a pawn promotion occurs you can replace the pawn either with your queen, knight, rook, or bishop.
You can read more about this in my article what happens when a pawn reaches the other side.
Note that pawns in chess always move in a straight line except when they have to capture a piece.
How Do Pawns Capture?
Although pawns only move forward during a game, they can only capture a piece diagonally in front of them.
For example, this pawn could capture the two pieces diagonally in front of it, as shown in the image below.
But, pawns can’t capture diagonally behind them. Only forward.
Pawns also can capture in a special way which is known as “en passant“.
When a pawn reaches its fifth row on the chessboard, and the opponent’s pawn (on the two adjacent columns of the chessboard, moves two steps forward on its first move, then that pawn can capture the opponent pawn, diagonally as if it was in front of it.
This is a special rule and a little complex to understand, especially if you are a beginner.
For more information on the rules of this move, check out our guide to what is en passant in chess here.
Can a Pawn Move Forward Without Capturing?
Yes, a pawn can move forward without capturing as it is totally the player’s choice. However, a player is forced to capture with pawn if the player’s king is in check, and capturing the piece is the only way to save the king from the check.
In simple words, check means when your king is being attacked.
Now, there’s a rule in chess that you can never ever make a move that puts or exposes your own king to check (attack).
Read More: What happens if you put yourself in check?
Also, once your king is in check, you can’t make any move unless that move saves your king from the check.
And there are actually three ways of saving the king from check:
- Moving the king to a safer square
- Capturing the piece giving that is giving check
- Blocking the check by keeping a piece between the king and the attacking chess piece.
So these are the three ways in which you can save your king.
Now as you can see, capturing the attacking chess piece is one of the ways to do it.
So if there’s a situation in which your king is attacked and the only option you would have is to capture the attacking chess piece with your pawn.
Then, in that case, you would be forced to capture with your pawn, and you wouldn’t have been allowed to move forward without capturing.
Are you getting my point? Let’s understand this with an example.
Let’s say, you are white and it is your turn to move, the position of the board is as shown in the figure:
As you can see, the white pawn on g2 square is in its starting position. So here you have two options:
- Either capture the black queen using the white pawn on its first move.
- Or move the white pawn forward without capturing.
It is totally your choice, which moves you want to make. And, since the king is not in check so you are not forced to make a move for safeguarding the king first.
As per the standard rules, when a player’s king is in check then the player should first take the king out of check and then only make any other move.
Otherwise, that would be considered an illegal move.
Remember, once your king can’t be saved from the attack and gets checkmated, the game ends immediately.
In fact, the main goal of chess is to save your king and along with that make moves to checkmate your opponent’s king to win the game.
In the above example, if the black queen had put your white king in check. And, the only option you had to save your king was by capturing the black queen with your white pawn.
Then, in that case, you were forced to capture with your pawn. You couldn’t have moved forward without capturing.
But here, there’s no such issue. So you are free to move the pawn forward even without capturing.
- Can a pawn take a queen?
- Can pawns move backwards in chess?
- Can a promoted pawn be taken immediately?
- Can a pawn be promoted to a second queen?
- Can a pawn move diagonally to promote?
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Pawns Attack on Their First Move?
Yes, pawns can attack on their first move but only if the opponent piece is present on the adjacent diagonal square of the pawn in the forward direction.
Can a Pawn Choose not to Attack?
Yes, a pawn can choose not to attack as it is not mandatory to attack always in chess. However, a player is forced to attack with a pawn if the player’s king is in check, and attacking is the only way to save the king from the check.
Can a Pawn Move Forward and Capture in One Turn?
A pawn captures any piece only in the diagonally forward direction. When a pawn captures a piece, it moves forward and occupies the square of the captured piece as a part of the same turn.
Can Pawns Take From Starting Position?
Yes, pawns can take from starting position but only if the piece to be taken is present on the adjacent diagonal square of the pawn. There is no rule in chess that restricts pawns to take the opponent piece from starting position.
So that’s it! Hope I cleared all your doubts regarding whether pawns can capture on their first move or not. If you found this article helpful then please do share it with others. Thanks!