When you start playing chess the very first thing you might notice are those tiny little pawns. In a beginner’s mind there arises a lot of questions about them and their movement. And since the very first move in chess generally starts with a pawn so it is important to be aware of it.
I myself experienced this when I first started to learn chess. Often I used to forget that a pawn can move double steps only on its first move or a pawn can’t kill backwards… and many more.
Even today while teaching chess to my little sister I notice these similar doubts about pawns. So, finally I thought why not compile all those frequently asked questions into a single article that would help everyone.
So if you are a beginner then reading this article till the end will help you to solve many doubts and strengthen your concepts. Without further ado let’s start!
1. How Does The Pawn Move In Chess?
First let’s have a brief intro about pawns. There are a total of 8 pawns in chess on each side. In total there are 16 pawns.
Pawns represent the foot soldier in chess. If you are a beginner then you can check out my in-depth article on chess pieces names
Now in chess all the standard rules are followed as given by the international chess governing body FIDE. These rules are mentioned as articles in the FIDE Laws Of Chess.
In that as per the article 3.7, there are rules mentioned about pawn movement. Breaking them down in simple words it can be summarized as follows.
- A pawn can move on the immediately forward unoccupied square on the same file (vertical columns on the chessboard).
- On its first move a pawn can either move on the immediate forward unoccupied square or can also move two squares along the same file provided that they are unoccupied.
- A pawn can move diagonally forward on the adjacent square to capture a piece and occupy that position.
So these are the three ways a pawn can move in chess.
2. What Are The Special Moves Of Pawns?
Apart from the common moves a pawn also has some special moves and they are known as en passant and pawn promotion.
Let’s discuss them in brief.
En passant – Whenever a pawn is on its 5th rank and the opponent’s pawn on the adjacent file is on its starting original square then in this situation if the opponent’s pawn moves two steps forward then the pawn on the 5th rank can immediately capture the opponent’s pawn assuming that it moved only one square. This is known as en passant.
It is the only move in chess in which the capturing piece occupies a square different from the square occupied by the captured piece. This makes this rule very unique.
In FIDE article 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11, there is a description about en passant as I explained above. To know more on this topic read my in-depth article on en passant.
Pawn Promotion – When a pawn reaches on the 8th rank (rows in a chess board) on the opposite side then it gets a chance of promotion.
Yeah, you can compare it slightly with the job promotion. As in that when you get promoted you are assigned to a higher rank post. Similarly in chess when a pawn reaches the last rank on the opposite side you get a chance to promote it to any of these pieces: a queen, a knight, a rook or bishop.
But remember that you can’t promote a pawn to a king. Generally in chess pawns are assigned to be a value of 1 point and other pieces are assigned like, a knight is worth 3 points, a bishop is worth 3 points, a rook worth 5 points, a queen worth 9 points. A king is priceless so assigned no value.
Since while promoting a pawn worth 1 point is replaced by a chess piece of higher value, this is called as a promotion.
3. How Many Spaces Can A Pawn Move On Its First Move?
As per the standard rules of chess, on its first move a pawn can either move two spaces or one space to the forward squares provided that they are not occupied.
I still remember how often I used to forget that you can move a pawn two squares only on its starting move. If you have just started to learn chess then you may have also experienced this.
So after knowing the answer just be sure that next time when you play the same question won’t come to your mind.
4. Can A Pawn Kill On Its First Move
As per the standard rules of chess, a pawn can kill a chess piece on its first move only if that piece is on the diagonally forward adjacent square. Other than that the pawn cannot kill the piece.
Sometimes it may happen that your opponent brought the bishop just near your king. At that time you would try to kill that piece with your pawn. Isn’t it?
Or during the endgame, if the opponent’s pawn is just near to get promoted, in that case also you would definitely try to kill it with your pawn if available. But can a pawn kill on its first move?
On its first move, a pawn can move double step forward or single step as you wish but it can’t kill in the forward direction. A pawn can kill any other piece only diagonally.
Now further I am going to discuss with you the pawn movement and some more doubts that you might already have, so keep reading till the end!
5. Can A Pawn Move Diagonally Without Taking Piece?
If the adjacent diagonal square is empty then the pawn can move diagonally and occupy it. But if there is already a piece occupying the adjacent diagonal square of the pawn then it can’t occupy that square without taking that piece.
As already discussed, a pawn can move diagonally only if it wants to capture a piece. In en passant the case is little different but concept is the same.
The capturing piece assumes that the captured piece moves only one square and moves diagonally to occupy the square.
6. Can A Pawn Move Forward Without Capturing?
Yes, a pawn can move forward without capturing a piece. Capturing a piece is totally your choice unless there arises a situation in which you are forced to do it because you might be in check.
In chess as per the standard rules if you are in check means your king is under attack. And you are required to first move your king out of check and then only make any other moves otherwise it would be considered as an illegal move in chess. There are actually three ways you can do it
- Capturing the attacking piece
- Moving the king itself
- Keeping a piece between the king and the attacking piece.
So as you can see sometimes it may happen that you have only the 1st option left with you and that too only by your pawn.
Then in that case you are bound to capture the attacking piece with your pawn. If you move your pawn forward without capturing then it would be considered as illegal.
7. Can Pawns Attack Backwards?
No, a pawn can’t attack backwards. In fact, a pawn is the only move in chess that can’t move backwards.
It is due to this reason only that a player should move the pawns carefully. You can’t undo a position with pawns as you can do with all other chess pieces.
Read Related: Which chess piece can move backwards?
You should avoid moving too many pawns unnecessarily at the very beginning . Also during the opening phase in a chess game you need to know the fundamental principles. Otherwise you would keep committing silly mistakes.
You can also read my article 11 Best Chess Opening Principles For Starters (Step-By-Step) To get more information.
8. Can Pawns Attack Sideways?
Nope! A pawn can’t move sideaways. As per the standard chess rules, a pawn can only move forward or diagonally but not sideways.
When I play chess with my little sister I sometimes see her smiling and taking my piece with her pawn moving sideways. I immediately say, ‘Sorry you can’t do that!’
I know it might be tempting for a beginner to kill the opponent’s piece by moving the pawn like that but while playing chess we have to respect the rules. Isn’t It?
9. Can A Pawn Move Diagonally To Promote?
If the adjacent diagonal square is occupied by a piece which the pawn can capture then yes, the pawn can move diagonally, capture it, and get promoted. Other than that a pawn can’t move diagonally.
I have written a complete article on can a pawn move diagonally to promote. In that, I have also shown the cases in which you can do this and can’t do this. So if you want, you can check that out for more information.
10. Why Would You Not Promote A Pawn To A Queen?
A pawn is generally not promoted to a queen if there is a fear of getting stalemated. Other than that sometimes promoting a pawn to a piece other than a queen helps to checkmate the opponent more quickly and easily.
Most of the time in chess, a pawn is promoted to a queen. This process is also known as queening.
But as I told you earlier a pawn can also be promoted to a bishop, knight, or a rook other than the king. In chess, this is also known as underpromotion.
Now the point is although most of the time a queen is favoured in case of promotion (since queen is the most powerful piece). But there are positions in which promoting a pawn to a queen would immediately result in a stalemate.
And if you don’t know stalemate, then it is one of the ways you can draw a chess game. It occurs when your king is not in check but you also don’t have any legal moves to make to continue the game. Read the difference between stalemate and draw to know more.
Moreover apart from stalemate, sometimes promoting a pawn to a knight instead of a queen helps to checkmate the opponent’s king quickly. In the article why would you not promote a pawn to a queen I have explained all these concepts in more detail.
11. Why Would You Promote A Pawn To A Rook?
A pawn is sometimes promoted to a rook in order to prevent stalemate or to achieve checkmate quickly.
Check out my article on why one would promote a pawn to a rook in which I have explained this concept with examples.
12. Can A Promoted Pawn Be Killed Immediately?
Yes you can kill a promoted pawn immediately because after the opponent promotes the pawn it is now your turn. But make sure that you are not in check before or after doing that move.
You can check out this article can a promoted pawn be taken immediately for more details.
13. What Happens A Pawn Reaches The Other Side?
When a pawn reaches the other side then it gets a chance of being promoted to any of these four chess pieces: a queen, a knight, bishop or a rook.
You can read more about what happens if a pawn reaches the other side here.
14. Can You Promote A Pawn To A Second Queen?
Yes, you can promote a pawn to a second queen. In fact, you can promote all your pawns to the queen. So actually you can have up to 9 queens (assuming that none of your pawns are killed and you already have the original queen)
In practical games it is quite rare to see so many queens in a game. You would at most see 2- queens. You can read the article can you have more than one queen in chess to know more about this topic.
15. Can A Pawn Kill A King?
Yes, a pawn can kill a king that too in two ways directly and indirectly.
Directly means as you would kill the king normally as you would do with other chess pieces. Indirectly means either supporting the other chess pieces to kill the king or to first promote your pawn and then kill the king with the other pieces.
You can also read this article can a pawn check a king for more information.
16. Can A Pawn Kill A Queen?
Yes, a pawn can kill a queen. A pawn like any other chess piece can kill the opponent’s piece as long as by doing so you don’t get into check.
17. Is En Passant Only For Pawns?
Yes, en passant is only for pawns. In fact, this is one of the special rules of a pawn which allows a 5th rank pawn to capture the opponent’s pawn on an adjacent file if it moved two squares from its starting position.
En passant is a French word that means in passing. Moreover, I have seen many beginners thinking that en passant is not a legal move but this is totally legal. I have already written an article on this as well.
18. What Is A Passed Pawn In Chess?
In chess, a passed pawn as the name suggests is a pawn that has passed all the other opposing pawns (either on the same file or adjacent files) that would prevent it from reaching the 8th rank for getting promoted.
In fact, one of the targets of the endgame phase in chess is to convert your pawns into passed pawns so that they can be queened, thus increasing your power.
19. What Does Backward Pawn Mean?
A backward pawn is a pawn that cannot move forward because it will be captured by the opponent’s pawn on the adjacent file.
It is a pawn that is behind all other pawns of the same colour and cannot move forward safely since it is not protected.
20. What Is Pawn Structure In Chess?
In simple words, pawn structure means the arrangement (configuration) of pawns on the chessboard.
In chess pawns structures are one of the important concepts that will help you to win more games.
21. Can You Win Chess With A Pawn?
Yes, you can win chess with a pawn and that is by promoting it. Only with a king and a pawn you can’t win but if you are able to promote that pawn then it is definitely possible.
Also Read: Can you win chess in 2 moves?
So that’s it! Hope you liked reading this article and I was able to make this a helpful resource for you. Thanks And Good Luck!
Hi! I’m Pritam and I’m a huge chess enthusiast! I know the actual problems that chess players face. 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.