Lesson 5 - Advanced And Special Chess Rules: Pawn Promotion

"Any material change in a position must come about by mate, a capture, or a Pawn promotion”
- Purdy

We already know that the pawn is the weakest piece of the board. He might be weak... but it is the piece having the most potential!  Indeed, through the promotion process, a pawn has the chance to transform its destiny....

The promotion occurs when a pawn reaches the end of the board: the 8th rank for a white pawn or the 1st rank for a black pawn. At this moment, the player must change the pawn into another piece (of the same color) except for another pawn or a king. It can then be promoted to a bishop, a knight, a rook or a queen.

Underpromotion

Since the queen is the most powerful piece on the board, it is logical that it is the favored piece used for promotion (often referred to as "queening"). However, it happens sometimes that other pieces are selected. In this case, we use the term "underpromotion". For example, as you can see in the following diagram, it is White to play and the f7 pawn can be promoted. If White chooses to promote it to a queen, the game ends up in a draw because of a stalemate... and poor White would spoiled an easy victory.  On the other side, if the pawn is transformed into a rook, White would then have enough material to checkmate the black king in a couple of moves.

Underpromoting to a rook

Diagram 5.14 - Underpromoting to a rook

 

In other cases, a knight can also be the the ideal piece to use for a promotion.  If we study carefully the diagram below, we can see that White is winning the game immediately by promoting the f pawn to a knight for a checkmate!

Underpromoting to a knight

Diagram 5.15 - Underpromoting to a knight

 

Some rumours about promotion

Sometimes, we can hear different statements during friendly games about the promotion. Some people say that a pawn can only be promoted to a captured piece of the same color, or that a player can promote to a Queen only one time during a game... well, these are all bad statements. There is no limit applied to promotion: a player can have the number of Queens he wants through promotions during the same game. The same rules apply to underpromotions.

Let's continue the lesson with the next page giving details about other important chess topicsonline chess tutorial.