Pawn Moves

It's time to go deeper on each topic starting with pawn moves. The chess pawn is the weakest and most common piece, symbolizing infantry, or armed peasants (pike men). And yet they are the backbone of the army, central to all of your plans and schemes. Both players start with eight pawns, lined up on the second rank from the player.

The origin of most chess pieces are unquestionable, but the pawn's story is vague enough it seems. The term pawn has taken on a number of different meanings in today's world.

Depending on the context the term "pawn" can mean "a person easily controlled" or "a person sacrificed for a more important end".

The chess pawn gets its name from the Old French word "paon" which originates from the Medieval Latin term for foot soldier.

Initial Setup

Pawn Moves: Initial Setup For Chess Pawns

Pawn Moves: Initial Setup

Time to cover the chess pawn moves. You can see the starting position and moves of the little foot soldier.

Their stature and movement reflects their modest station in the game. But there is a ray of hope for the pawn. Later in the game one or maybe two pawns could achieve promotion.

Even regardless of that the pawn line is an integral part of the chess army. The pawn is sometimes called the soul of chess.

The pawns start off lined up on the front row. Just take a look at the diagram for a moment.

Opening Move

Pawn Moves: 1.e4 is the most common opening move

Pawn Moves: 1.e4 is the most common opening move

The pawn moves only forward. It is the only piece that cannot retreat. On its opening move the pawn can be moved two squares straight ahead, although one square is optional.

Any move from there on as you can see is one square only at a time. Straight ahead naturally. This is it's normal passive move. It moves differently when capturing as you will see in a few minutes.

Originally the pawn was not allowed to move two squares on the first move but this was introduced in the Middle Ages to speed up the game and it did so dramatically.

Blocked Pawn

Pawn Moves: Blocked pawns cannot progress

Blocked pawns cannot progress

When two pawns meet head on along the same file, the result is basically a traffic jam. Neither can move before one of them leaves the file. There's only two ways this can happen.

One of them might capture an enemy piece on an adjacent file. This will take the capturing pawn onto a different file allowing both to move on.

Or else one of the pawns gets captured by a different enemy piece. This clears the path for the second one to move.

How The Pawn Captures

Pawn Moves: The White Pawn can capture the Black Pawn

The White Pawn can capture the Black Pawn

A pawn does not move in the same way when capturing as it does normally. It is unique in this sense because all of the backrow pieces capture using their standard moves.

When a pawn captures an enemy piece, it does so by moving forward diagonal one square. It can capture opposing pieces in either direction, left or right.

All captures in chess are made by the attacking piece moving from its own square to the one occupied by its victim (en passant the exception).

En Passant

Pawn Moves: En passant

White has just moved c2-c4. The Black Pawn can take the White Pawn on c3 en passant

If a pawn passes an enemy pawn on an adjacent file on it's first move it is vulnerable to the en passant capturing manoeuvre. This move is unique in the game of chess because it is the only instance where a piece is captured on a square it does not occupy!

This rule was introduced to clear up the discrepancy caused by the two square rule for opening moves. That rule made it possible to create a cheap passed pawn by simply waiting for the enemy pawn to enter it's half of the board and then powering past. En passant restored balance to the universe.

In the diagram you can see that White has just brought his pawn to c4. The Black pawn on d4 can now capture it by dxc3!. The option to capture en passant is only available on the very next move. After that the pawn on c4 is safe.

Pawn Promotion

Pawn Moves: These pawns can promote on their next moves

These pawns can promote on their next moves

If a pawn should by chance manage to make it to the eighth rank (opponents back row rank) the reward is an exchange for any back row piece captured or otherwise. We call this promoting the pawn.

Usually (almost always) a queen is requested, it makes little sense to ask for a lesser piece. If a rook, knight or bishop is requested rather than a queen, it is referred to as under-promotion.

Many endgames involve promotion races or a struggle with one side trying to promote and the other trying to prevent the promotion. The outcome of these races or struggles for promotion will decide the result of the game. So pawn promotion is a pivotal part of chess. Play through the pawn tutorial game replayer.

Moving On

And that's all there is to the pawn moves. Go over the page a couple of times if you're not quite sure of everything.

Don't be afraid to spend as much time as you need, this is not a race. There's a little bit in it but really nothing major.

If you're happy that you've got a grip on that, then it's time to get familiar with knight moves.

That's the piece in the diagram to the left, the knight depicted by the horses head.

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