If you have started getting interested in chess, then several questions might come to your mind. And one of them is the following question which I’m going to discuss in detail, clearing all your doubts.
Which is the least powerful piece on a chessboard? Pawn is the least powerful piece on a chessboard. Its relative value is 1 point. It can only move one step in the forward direction and two steps but only in the first move.
In chess, the chess pieces are assigned a relative value. These values are given based on their relative strength in potential exchanges.
Here’s a table that will give you an idea about the values of the chess pieces.
|Chess Piece Name:||Value:|
So from the above table following it is very clear that:
- Pawn is the weakest and the least powerful chess piece on the chessboard as it has only 1 point.
- Queen is the most powerful chess piece on the board with 9 points.
- Rook is the second most powerful piece on the board with 5 points.
- 1 queen is equivalent to 9 pawns, 1 rook is equivalent to 5 pawns, 1 knight is equivalent to 3 pawns, and 1 bishop is equivalent to 3 pawns.
Note that the king is not assigned any points in this system because we can’t exchange it.
And if you are thinking why we can’t exchange it, then it is because a king can’t be captured in chess. A chess game ends immediately at checkmate which is the point just before the king is actually captured.
Also, remember that this chess piece relative value system is only to give you a general idea about the chess pieces’ value. Don’t rely blindly on it!
The position of the board also matters.
For example, in some positions,
1 bishop > 3 pawns
Whereas in other positions,
3 pawns > 1 bishop
Basics of pawn moves in chess
A pawn can move two steps but only on the first move in the forward direction. In the rest of the game, it moves only one step in forward direction.
A pawn can never move backwards. And while capturing any piece, a pawn can only move in the diagonally forward direction.
Also, a pawn can capture on its first move but only if the piece is on its immediate diagonal adjacent square in the forward direction.
It is the player’s choice whether he or she wants to move the pawn one step or two-step on the first move.
Now there are two special moves of pawn that you need to know. One is pawn promotion and another is en passant.
Pawn Promotion in brief
According to the standard chess rules, when a pawn reaches the last rank (8th row on the chessboard) on the other side, the player can replace it with either a queen, knight, rook, or a bishop of the same color.
However, the player can’t replace the pawn with a king.
You can check out my article on what happens if a pawn reaches the other side to know more about pawn promotion.
En passant in brief
When a pawn is on its 5th rank (row) and its opponent pawn on the adjacent file has moved two squares from its starting position, then the pawn can capture the opponent pawn as if it only moved one square and this is known as en passant.
However, note that en passant can only occur immediately after the opponent pawn moves two squares from its starting position.
I know, these all may sound complicated to you. But don’t worry!
I have already written an in-depth article on what is en passant in chess. So you can check that out for further information.
Should you underestimate the least powerful chess piece?
Now knowing that pawn is the least powerful piece, does that mean you have to underestimate it? No!
In fact, a pawn is the only chess piece that can promote itself when reaching the furthest rank and become a queen. And not just queen, a pawn can also choose to either become a knight, rook, or bishop by the process known as pawn promotion.
So my point is don’t underestimate the pawn. It can happen that during the endgame phase your opponent has a lot many pawns that can become queen and outweigh your advantage on the board.
And I also want to tell you that, you can have more than one queen in chess (because there’s no limit).
So would you be able to fight against that much powerful army!
Moreover, even the vice versa thing can happen where you have a lot of pawns that you can promote to a queen and thus, become more powerful on the board.
So I hope you understood the power of the pawn.
In short, the pawn is the least powerful and the weakest piece in chess. However, you must not underestimate it as a pawn has the potential of becoming a queen by pawn promotion.
So that’s it! I hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you are new to chess then I recommend you to check out my complete beginner’s guide to play chess. In that, I have explained how to play chess chapter-wise in an organized form.
Thanks and best of luck for your next chess game 🙂
This article is approved as per the Editorial Policy Of ChessDelta.com.
Hi! I’m Pritam Ganguly and I’m a huge chess enthusiast! I created this site to make chess easy to understand for newcomers, and also to help players of all levels of ability to improve their chess-playing skills. Read more about me here.