Is En Passant Legal In Chess?

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En passant is a topic that may confuse you a lot if you are not very much familiar with it. So, generally while playing chess in a tournament or even casually, when you come across en passant for the first time the very first question that comes to your mind: Is en passant legal in chess?

As per the standard chess rules, en passant is completely legal in chess. There is a clear description of en passant in the FIDE Laws of Chess (FIDE is the international governing body of chess) articles and

So, as per the standard rules en passant occurs only when the pawn that is going to capture the opponent’s pawn is on its fifth rank if the opponent’s pawn moves two steps in an adjacent file and the capture is done on the immediate next move.

If any of the above three things don’t happen then en passant is not considered legal.

Now, ahead I am going to explain these three conditions in more detail plus I will also explain some additional confusions that you may have related to this topic. I am going to simplify everything for you and clear all your doubts. Just relax and continue reading!

Now before we dive in, for those who don’t know what is a ‘file’ and ‘rank’ in chess, here’s a brief description. Ahead of my explanation these two terms will be used heavily so make sure that you know them properly.

Rank means the rows that go side to side across the chessboard. Each rank is denoted by a number. There are in total 8 ranks on a chessboard.

File means the vertical columns in the chessboard. Each of the files is denoted using the English alphabet from a to h. There is a total of 8 files on the chessboard. Thus there is a total of 64 squares on the chessboard.

So now that you know what is rank and file in chess you are perfectly ready to grasp the concept of en passant. Let’s see!

En Passant- Quick Digest

  • It is a special move of pawn capture in chess.
  • Occurs when the pawn to be captured moves two squares at once in its first move.
  • While pawn going to capture it on its adjacent file.
  • The pawn going to capture the enemy pawn assumes that the enemy pawn moved only one square instead of two and thus occupies that square.

This is a brief description of en passant.

Once playing a chess game with my friend, I myself encountered this en passant rule for the first time. I was also thinking that what on earth is this! Is it even a legal chess rule!

I was very curious to know about this so I researched and then came to know about this mysterious rule that many chess players don’t know.

Below I have shared images denoting the situations of that game for explaining each condition in a simple way. Hope you will enjoy learning!

#1. Pawn going to capture the opponent’s pawn must be on its fifth rank- Explanation

( White’s pawn is on e5 and it is black’s turn which is moving on f5 )

So here it is said, the pawn must be on ” its ” fifth rank to capture the opponent’s pawn. Note that I have highlighted the word “its” because in a game if it is the white’s pawn going to capture by en passant then it has to be on its 5th rank.

Similarly, if it is the black’s pawn that is going to capture by en passant then it has to be on its 5th rank. So don’t get confused.

Explaining the above position of the image, white’s pawn (my opponent) is on e5 while it is black’s turn (my 🙂 ) who is moving its pawn on f5, unaware of the en passant rule. So moved the pawn on f5 for saving it from being attacked. But to my astonishment, I lost my black pawn. So this was the disadvantage of not knowing en passant rule that I realized during the chess match. So, I highly suggest you master this special rule properly.

By the way, later on, I offered a draw because we both got hooked in a dead drawn situation which was accepted by my opponent willingly. If you want to know about how to offer a draw, you can check this article by me in which I have mentioned the complete procedure.

#2. Only applicable when the opponent’s pawn moves two steps in an adjacent file- Explanation

( white pawn moves to f6 assuming black pawn moved only one step-en passant rule applied )

According to the second condition, the opponent’s pawn must move two steps forward in the adjacent file (as you can see in the image above). Only then our required conditions will match for en passant.

Now, as soon as the black pawn moves to f5 the en passant rule comes into effect. The white pawn moves to the f6 position ( see below image ) assuming that the black pawn moved only one step and thus captures it. This is how here en passant is applied.

Suggested Read: Can A Pawn Move Diagonally To Promote? (Easy Guide)

#3. Capture must be done on the immediate next move- Explanation

( white pawn moved to f6 captured the black pawn )

The third condition is very important which many chess players forget. According to it, the en passant rule can be only applied to the immediate next move. It means that if the white player instead of moving the e5 pawn moved any other chess pieces then on the next move this rule will become invalid. Right to exercise en passant will be lost for that player. So the white chess player could not apply the en passant rule.

Thus, this was everything about en passant legal in chess or not and what are the conditions for that. Hope you got and understood everything. Still, if you have any doubts then you can ask in the comments section below. Share this article if you find it helpful.

So far we discussed so much about en passant. If you are really interested in this topic you also might be curious to know how this rule came into existence. So let’s discuss this in brief.

How did en passant come into existence in chess – Every chess player should know this fact

So previously pawns in chess were allowed to move only one step. But this slowed down the game very much. To overcome this issue new chess rules about pawns were made. So now pawns were allowed to move two steps which fastened the game as well and thus the problem was solved.

But there was a flaw in this rule. Whenever a pawn moved to fifth rank its adjacent pawn could not capture it. This was a bit unfair, right? So somewhere around the 15th century, to make up this flaw en passant rule was made. This is how en passant rule came into existence. Wasn’t it a very interesting history about en passant?

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Hope you liked reading this article as much as I liked sharing this information with you. So here’s a quick summary of everything we discussed in this article:

  • En passant is legal in chess but for that three conditions are needed to be fulfilled which we discussed above along with my own example
  • The three conditions are pawn must be on the fifth rank, opponent’s pawn moving two steps in adjacent file and applicable on immediate next move.
  • We discussed the little history of how en passant came into existence.

That’s it! Thanks and have a nice day. I hope I can have a positive influence on your chess career through my writings. Best of luck:)


Can you checkmate by en passant?

Yes, you can checkmate by en passant. But usually en passant is a very rare move in chess and checkmate by en passant is even rarer.

Can you En Passant with a bishop?

No, you cannot because then it will be against FIDE Laws. In fact, en passant is only allowed for pawns. No other chess piece other than pawn could do that.

Why does En Passant exist?

According to Wikipedia, en passant came into existence in the 15th century because that prevents the two-step advance of a pawn to protect itself from an enemy pawn on the adjacent file.