Most of the time, while promoting your pawn you tend to promote it to a queen, right? But there are certain positions in which promoting a pawn to a queen proves to be a very bad decision and that brings us to our question. Why would you not promote a pawn to a queen?
The main reason to not promote a pawn to a queen is to avoid the stalemate that could occur in the very next move if the pawn is promoted to a queen. Moreover, there are certain positions in which promoting a pawn to anything but a queen helps in winning the game more quickly.
Ahead I am going to discuss with you an example in which the player was able to checkmate the opponent by making a wise decision of not promoting the pawn to a queen.
So stick till the end and I assure you that after reading this post, all your doubts will be solved.
But before we start, it is important to know some basic chess terminologies regarding this topic. So let’s discuss that in brief!
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Basic Chess Terms You Need To Know
- Stalemate is a situation in which your opponent’s king is not in check, but the opponent has no legal moves to make as a result of which the game ends in a draw. (You can read more about stalemate and its difference with checkmate in my article on stalemate vs checkmate).
- Pawn promotion means when the pawn reaches the last rank (8th) it gets the chance of being promoted to a higher chess piece: knight, bishop, rook, or queen but except the king. (To know more about this you can check out my detailed article on pawn promotion).
- Queening means when a pawn is promoted to a queen.
- Underpromotion means, when a pawn is promoted to anything other than the queen.
Now I hope you are well familiar with all the basics so let’s go ahead.
When Would You Not Promote A Pawn To A Queen?
It is not advisable to promote a pawn to a queen in situations in which it could lead to a stalemate. A stalemate leads to a draw and so it is not good to achieve it if the player is already in a winning position.
Here’s an example game that I’m going to discuss with you which will clarify all your concepts.
To make this more clear to you, let’s break this game situation into two cases:
- Case-1 In which we will analyze if the pawn is promoted to a queen.
- Case-2 In which the pawn is promoted to a chess piece other than the queen.
So let’s start with the case – 1.
Case-1: When A Pawn Is Promoted To A Queen
Here in this position, as shown in the above image, it is white’s turn to move.
- White’s bishop is on h5 square, rook on g5, queen on a6 and a pawn which is going to be promoted is currently on f7 square.
- White’s king is on g1 square which is quite safe so no problem with that.
- Now black’s king is on h7.
- In this position, it is white’s turn to move so it moves the pawn to the last rank and the time for promotion comes.
- Which piece to promote? Let’s suppose that the pawn is promoted to a queen then what will happen, analyse.
- Here in this position if we promote the white’s pawn to a queen then the game would immediately end in a stalemate.
- This is because as shown in the image, white’s queen on a6 and rook on g5 is already controlling most of the squares and on top of that if we promote and get another queen then h6, g7 squares, and g8, h8 squares will be blocked for the black’s king.
- But the square h7, where the black’s king is sitting is still safe and not in threat by any other chess piece.
- Thus no legal moves are left and the king is also not in check, so stalemate.
Also Read: Can You Have More Than One Queen In Chess?
Now let’s examine the other case and what would happen there.
Case-2: When A Pawn Is Not Promoted To A Queen
Let’s understand this position as well pointwise.
- In this, all the positions are the same except white’s pawn f7 got under-promoted (to a knight) and white’s queen moved from a6 to f6.
- As you might have already guessed already, here the black king gets checkmated.
- Continuing from case-1, white’s pawn promoted to knight gives the blacks king h7, check.
- So only having the option of moving to h8 square black’s king does so.
- Then the white queen on g6 moves to f6 and finally delivers the checkmate.
Thus you can see how easy and quick it was to checkmate the black king by promoting the white’s pawn to a knight instead of promoting it to a queen.
In fact, according to Wikipedia, the knight’s underpromotion is one of the most common.
Now you may ask can we promote a pawn to a rook instead of queen. The answer is yes.
Like the case we discussed above there are positions in which promoting a pawn to a rook is more favorable than to a queen.
You can read my article on why would you promote a pawn to a rook for further information on this topic.
Tips While Promoting A Pawn To A Queen Or Any Other Chess Piece
Whenever you promote a pawn you need to keep in mind certain things.
The very first point is to make sure that your opponent could not take your pawn as soon as you promote it. (If you have any doubt regarding this topic then also read my linked article)
Secondly, you need to make sure that you are not going into a disadvantageous position after you promote your pawn.
Pro-tip: If you are playing against a good player and he/she allows you to promote your pawn easily then be careful. This is because they might have some hidden trap that they can execute as soon as you promote your pawn.
This is the mindset you should have. Actually not for just this move but for each and every move, the more you can think ahead the better you can play the game.
To avoid stalemate you must make sure that you are not eating up all the available squares to the opponent’s king.
Also Read: Can A Pawn Move Diagonally To Promote?
If that is the case then avoid promoting the pawn to a queen. You might be able to checkmate much quicker by underpromotion as discussed earlier.
So in a nutshell,
- Take care of threats to your chess piece,
- Analyze your position
- And ask every time, will you be an advantage by making that move
- To avoid a stalemate, just give the opponent’s king enough room.
Pro Tip: Do you want to know the 5 Practical Tips To Avoid Stalemate In Chess? Then definitely read my in-depth article on it.
So as you can see, although the queen is the most powerful chess piece, it also has some weaknesses as well disadvantage. Its power becomes its enemy in case of stalemate.
Chess is such a game that you can’t rely simply on the powers of a single piece. You have to plan, use the powers of each of the chess pieces as and when required and execute your strategies.
Practicing, analyzing the game and correcting the mistakes is the key to improve. Just keep that in my mind.
Now here’s a quick summary of everything we discussed so far:
- Though promoting a pawn to a queen is the most common but in favorable positions, sometimes it is not promoted to a queen.
- Then we looked at some of the basics regarding this topic.
- After that, we analyzed the example game in which promoting a pawn to a chess piece other than the queen proved to be a wise decision.
- Finally, I shared with you some tips.
So that’s it! I hope understood everything and I hope I was able to solve your doubts. If you find this article helpful then do share it.
And if you are looking for some awesome chess books and products then don’t forget to check out my chess recommended gear page.
Thanks and Good luck!
Can you choose not to promote a pawn?
No, because as per the standard rules of chess, it is mandatory to promote a pawn once it reaches the 8th rank. However, you can choose to not promote it to a queen but to other chess pieces such as knight, rook, or bishop.
When would you not queen a pawn?
You should not queen a pawn if doing that results in a stalemate condition. Stalemate is a situation in which the game ends in a draw. So if you are in a winning position then you should avoid queening a pawn and rather promote it to either a knight, rook, or bishop.