Pawns are the only chess piece that can’t move backward. So it is advised to move them wisely. But what happens when a pawn reaches the other side?
As per the standard rules, when a pawn reaches the other side on the 8th rank of the chessboard, the player gets the chance to replace it with either a queen, knight, rook, or a bishop of the same color, and this is known as ‘pawn promotion’.
However, a pawn can’t be promoted to a king nor to another pawn. Also, note that once a pawn reaches the other side, the player must complete the move and can’t skip the pawn promotion.
When a pawn is promoted to a queen then in standard chess terminologies this is also known as ‘Queening‘. While, promoting a pawn to either a bishop, a knight, or a rook is referred to as ‘Underpromotion‘.
Usually, most of the time a pawn is promoted to a queen. And you may be wondering why, right?
So to answer this I want to ask you one thing, what will you want to become if I get a chance to upgrade and promote yourself. Most probably to be more powerful, isn’t it?
In chess, the queen is the most powerful chess piece (click the link to read my article). But in short, I can tell you it is because of its maximum mobility among all other chess pieces. A queen has the combined power of both the rook and the bishop.
Does that mean that whenever your pawn reaches the 8th rank you should promote to a queen? Absolutely not! Chess is a very dynamic game and you can’t stick to a single strategy. At every step, you need to do the proper evaluation.
I also wrote an article on why would you not promote a pawn to a queen, in that I have discussed situations in which promoting a pawn to a queen is not favorable. You can check that out for further reference.
Taking the pawn to the last rank and then promoting it is not that easy as you might think. Because even if you somehow managed to promote the pawn, it may happen that your opponent took away the promoted piece.
Maybe you reached the 7th rank, just one step behind from promotion but your opponent suddenly took your pawn. On top of that if the opponent already has some pieces like a rook on the last rank then as soon as your pawn reaches the last rank it is taken away by that piece immediately.
So what’s the solution! You can check out my article can a promoted pawn be taken immediately in which I have discussed this matter in more detail along with proper illustrations and tips.
Also, remember that you can’t move a pawn diagonally to promote. While promoting the pawn must be moved from the second last square to the last square on the other side in a straight line.
However, if there is an enemy present on the diagonally adjacent square then the pawn can capture it and simultaneously promote itself.
Chess Rules When The Pawn Reaches The End Of The Board
According to the standard chess rules, the player has to first pick the pawn off the chessboard and replace it with any of these four chess pieces: a queen, a knight, a rook, or a bishop. A player’s choice is not restricted to any previously captured piece.
In chess, all the standard chess rules are followed as mentioned in the FIDE laws of chess. FIDE is the international chess governing body. In that, the article 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199 describe the pawn promotion which I summarised above.
In chess, if you are playing formal games like in a tournament, then after making each move it is necessary to note down your move in the scoresheet. To know why you can check out my article 7 reasons why chess players write down their moves.
The moves are recorded in algebraic notations. So, when the pawn reaches the other side and gets promoted you have to denote it in your scoresheet. To do that as per the standard FIDE laws mentioned in the 11th clause of appendix C,
The actual pawn move is indicated and then the abbreviation of the piece is denoted to which the pawn is promoted. For example, if a pawn is promoted by moving to e8 square into a queen it will be denoted as ‘e8Q’.
Now although this pawn promotion might seem easy still there are many confusions, especially among the beginners. One of the most popular question amongst them is can you have more than one queen in chess.
And I have already written a detailed article about it which you can read for information. Here, in short, I can say that there is no such limit to the number of queens you can have in chess.
Already there is 1 queen and there is a total of 8 pawns. Now just imagine that you promoted all the 8 pawns (which is almost impossible in real games). So theoretically you could have 9 queens (1 original queen + 8 promoted queens)
But in normal games, it is very rare to reach that number unless your opponent is helping you to achieve that, lol!
Another important point is what when a pawn reaches the end of the board and you want to promote but if the piece to be promoted is not available?
As per the FIDE article 6.11.2, in this case, the player can stop the clock and ask the help from the arbiter.
Read Related: What Happens When A King Reaches The Other Side?
Illegal Pawn Promotion
Whenever a pawn is promoted by not following the standard rules then it is considered an illegal pawn promotion. For example, if a player uses two hands to make the move of pawn promotion then it violates the touch move rule and so it is considered an illegal move.
The pawn promotion move is considered to be complete and legal only when the newly promoted piece is released to the square of promotion and the pawn is removed from the chessboard.
See Related: Illegal Moves In Chess: Everything You Need To Know
This is mentioned in the FIDE article 4.7.3. Note that the square of promotion means the last square on the other side of the chess board (the 8th rank) where the pawn promotion occurs.
Now you may have doubt about how exactly pawn promotion has to occur abiding by the rules. Right?
So this topic is discussed in article 4.6 of the FIDE laws of chess. According to that, a pawn promotion can occur in any of these ways:
- It is not necessary to place the pawn on the square of arrival that is the square on the 8th rank.
- You can follow any order to remove the pawn and place the new promoted piece to the square of promotion.
- If there is a piece on the square of promotion then first it has to be captured, only then you can promote your pawn.
If you have any plans of playing formal chess games in a tournament then along with these rules you also need to know the touch move rule which I discussed in this article, why do chess players touch their pieces?
Here’s a video by Chess House that will help you to understand what happens when a pawn reaches the other side and the rules of pawn promotion in an easy way.
So that’s it! Hope you liked reading this article and I hope I cleared all your doubts. Please do share this article if you found it helpful.
You may also like to read this article that I have written about the 21 most frequently asked questions on pawns. Reading that will help you to solve many misconceptions and clarify your basic concepts.
Thanks And Good Luck!
What Happens When A Piece Other Than The Pawn Reaches The Other Side?
Nothing happens. So whether it is a king or any other piece except the pawn, the status of that piece remains the same. As per the standard rules only when the pawn reaches the 8th rank on the other side then it gets promoted to either a queen, knight, rook, or bishop.
When A Pawn Is Promoted Where Does It Go?
When a pawn is promoted, as per the standard rules it gets replaced by the promoted piece. The pawn is kept off the chessboard and the promoted piece now occupies its square.
Can You Promote A Pawn To A Second Queen?
Yes, you can promote a pawn to a second queen even if you already have the original queen. There is no such limit on the number of queens you can have by promoting the pawns.
Wait! 🙂 Before you go, also check out my article: Top 15 Funny Chess Gifts That Will Make You Smile!
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.