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En Passant In Chess (All You Need To Know)

En Passant, whether you heard this word for the first time or you already know something about it. This guide is going to really make this – one of the special chess rules super easy for you.

I researched right from scratch about what is this rule, what is the point of having such rules in chess, and obviously how to do it, is it legal in official games and many more. So today I thought to share with you everything that I have learned.

I can assure you that after reading this post, you will be quite familiar about the background of this rule and how to use it in real chess games properly.

So let’s jump in!

What Is En Passant In Chess?

En passant, in simple words, is a rule in chess according to which a pawn can be captured immediately after it moves two squares from its starting square by the enemy pawn. The enemy pawn captures the pawn assuming it moved only one square.

The word En Passant is derived from the french expression which means ‘in passing’. It is denoted by “e.p.” in standard chess notation.

This is the only capture in chess in which your piece does not occupy the square it captured the opponent’s piece. In general, when you capture a piece you occupy the position of the captured piece but here it is a little different.

Here’s an image to show you how it happens.It is white’s turn to move. Black’s pawn moves two squares (hoping to escape being captured). White’s pawn executes the en passant rule and occupies the square g6 assuming the black pawn moved only one square as per the rule.


What Is the Point Of En Passant In The Game Of Chess?

The main point of en passant in the game of chess is to prevent the opponent’s pawn from advancing two squares from its starting square and escaping the capture by your pawn (on its 5th rank of the adjacent file) which could be possible if the opponent’s pawn moved only one square.

Previously, pawns were allowed to move only square. But then to speed up the game pawns were allowed to advance two steps on their starting move.

Although this change was successful, there arose a major flaw as discussed above. The pawn on its starting square could easily escape from being captured by the opponent’s pawn on its 5th rank of the adjacent file.

So to avoid this issue and make the game balanced this new rule was made in the 15th century in Europe.

Do you know that not only this rule but many new rules like castling were added and movement of some of the pieces were also changed! Are you interested to know all these, check out my article: Why Chess Pieces Are Named What They Are? (With Facts)

How Many Times Can You En Passant?

En Passant can be done only once with a single pawn. After you miss the chance you can’t use it again. But you are free to do en passant with any other pawn if you still have any chance.

During the chess game, en passant can occur any time. But generally occurs in the openings and in the endgames. Ahead I have discussed more about this so continue reading.

Tip 🙂 – You might already know that by checkmating a king you win the game, right? But can you checkmate a lone king with a king and one knight? Just think and if you are confused then definitely check the article.

How Do You Do An En Passant?

To do en passant first you should make sure that the opponent’s pawn is on its starting square and your pawn is on its 5th rank of the adjacent file. In this situation, as soon as the opponent moves its pawn you could capture it assuming it moved only one square and occupy that square.

Here’s an awesome video by Chess Talk which explains en passant.

Is En Passant Legal In Tournaments?

The answer is: Yes, definitely it is legal in tournaments because it is mentioned in the FIDE laws of chess.

FIDE is the international body which governs all the chess competitions around the globe. The rating you get when you play any chess tournament is also managed by FIDE. That’s why it is also called as FIDE rating. A better analogy of it would be FIFA in football or ICC in cricket.

Now in the FIDE laws of chess article 3.7.d there is a short description about this rule. According to this rule one needs to keep the following things in mind

  • The pawn that is going to capture the opponent’s pawn must be on its adjacent file(column) and on its 5th rank (row).
  • The captured pawn must have moved two steps from its original square.
  • The capture must be made on the very next move.

Quoting from the exact article 3.7.d in FIDE laws of chess:

“A pawn attacking a square crossed by an opponent’s pawn which has advanced two squares in one move from its original square may capture this opponent’s pawn as though the latter had been moved only one square. This capture is only legal on the move following this advance and is called an ‘en passant’ capture.”

One of the most important things that you may forget is, the rule must be executed in the immediate next move.

Let’s suppose that you got a chance of en passant capture but your more valuable piece is already in threat of capture so what will you do? Obviously save the more valuable piece! But after that if you think that i could now perform the en passant then sorry because you lose the right to do so. 

But yes with any other pawn you can do en passant. However here also you have to execute it immediately otherwise you will lose the right you capture using en passant. 

I hope you got all my points clear. You can also read my article: Is En Passant Legal in Chess? In that, I have explained these points in a more detailed way.

Actually the legality issue of en passant rule in chess is one of the most frequently asked questions. This is probably because when you are not familiar with a chess rule then according to you that would be illegal, right?

But anyways, it is important to know all the basic and special chess rules before playing in a tournament or a serious match. 

How Common Is En Passant?

En Passant is relatively less common than other chess captures and occurs generally once in a game. But although rare, it still occurs in some of the openings like the Italian opening and in some endgames.

In certain endgame positions en passant can be very decisive. 

Generally most of the chess players aren’t familiar with this typical name of the rule. Even I came to know about this when I was playing with one of my friends.

I play chess with my friends but wasn’t familiar with this until once, one of my friends used this rule in the game. I asked him, What was that? He told me, En Passant! I, what? And that’s how I became quite interested to know about this rule.

Tip 🙂 – Do you think chess is very difficult to learn? Then read this article in which I have explained why chess is rather easy to learn with reasons and also discussed that to master, it may take time. Check that out to get a complete overview of chess especially, if you are a newbie chess player.

Is En Passant Useful?

Though rare, en passant is still useful because you can gain a major tactical advantage by using it in certain positions. For example, you can block the pawn movement of your opponent from its starting square and you can also avoid your opponent’s pawn from getting promoted.

Your opponent will never be able to move its pawn two squares if you have a pawn in its adjacent file with the scope of en passant, right? 

If the opponent does then you will immediately use en passant and capture its pawn. So the opponent will hesitate to move it and therefore you are kind of blocking its pawn.

Another scenario is during the endgame stage of the game. It is very hard to avoid your opponent from promoting its pawn especially during the later stage of the game where you have lost most of the pieces on the board. 

In that condition if you have a pawn on the adjacent file then you can capture the opponent’s pawn by using en passant rule in the very beginning and thus not giving any chance to promote that piece later on.

Thus by using this rule you can get a major advantage in some situations.

Also Read: Can A King Kill A King In Chess? (Solved!)

When Should You Do En passant?

There is no specified time. You can do en passant anytime as long as you get any advantage over your opponent. Like any other moves in chess, you should play en passant only after proper evaluation of your present situation on the chessboard.

The key idea is to think ahead of your opponent and gain advantage by either capturing the pieces of your opponent or developing a better position of your pieces on the board to ultimately checkmate your opponent’s king and win the game.

Tip 🙂 – Do you struggle whenever you start playing a chess game? Do you wonder which pieces should I move? Then you should definitely check this article: 11 Best Chess Opening Principles For Starters (Step-By-Step). Following these principles, you will no more struggle on this issue.

Can You En Passant With Chess Pieces Other Than Pawns?

The short answer is: No, you cannot en passant with a bishop, knight, rook or a queen because as per the standard chess rule is only applicable for pawns.

In the FIDE Laws of chess article 3.7.d there is a  brief description about en passant. In that nothing is mentioned about en passant with any chess piece other than the pawn. 

As I already talked about that all the rules of chess are mostly followed as per FIDE. So it is very clear that you can’t do that with other chess pieces.

Apart from promotion, en passant is one of the unique properties of pawn that makes it so special.

Quick Summary

  • En Passant is a rule that allows you to capture your opponent’s pawn on its advancement of two squares by your pawn on its 5th rank of the adjacent file.
  • This rule prevents the two step movement of a pawn from its starting square and escaping the capture by a pawn on the adjacent file.
  • With a single pawn you can en passant only once and that too you have to do immediately. If you skip the chance then you lose the right to use this rule again. 
  • En Passant is a legal move and it is mentioned in the FIDE laws of chess article 3.7.d.
  • Generally rare but en passant occurs in some of the openings and endgames.
  • It is a useful rule because you can get a major advantage in some type of situations discussed earlier.
  • You should use en passant after positional analysis of the piece on the board.
  • You can en passant only with pawns and not other chess pieces otherwise it would be illegal.

Final Thoughts

So that’s it! I hope you are now well familiar with this one of the most confused, one of the most overlooked, special rules of chess known as ‘En Passant’.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I liked sharing the information with you. Now if you have some time then I also suggest you read these interesting articles by me which would increase your chess knowledge and clear many of your doubts.

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