Lesson 2 - How The Chess Pieces Move: The Pawns
"The Pawns: They are the very Life of this Game."
- Francois-Andre Danican Philidor
If you did not go through the page explaining the general rules for moving pieces, I recommend that you do so before continuing.
The pawns are the soldiers we send to the frontline in order to get some space behind for the heavy artillery... they are usually the first to see some action! They are authorized to advance forward on their column only. They cannot go backward. This explains the reason why grand-masters take a lot of time and consideration prior to execute a pawn move. Pawns are moving one square at a time but they are authorized (but not required to) to advance 2 squares on the first time they are being moved. The following diagram shows the possible pawn moves:
Diagram 2.1 - Moving Pawns
Capturing with Pawns
Pawns are the only piece to have a different way of capturing enemy pieces than their basic move. Pawns can capture enemy pieces occupying one of the two immediate diagonal squares (left or right) in front of them:
Diagram 2.2 - Pawn Captures
In the example below, it is White to move. The pawn occupying the d4 square (in the chess world, we say "the d4 pawn") is currently blocked by the black pawn on d5. However, the d4 pawn can take the e5 pawn because it is occupying one of the 2 diagonal squares controled by the d4 pawn: c5 and e5. Note also that if it was Black's turn to play, he would have the possibility to capture White's d4 pawn with his e5 pawn. In that case, White could then recapture Black's pawn by using his e3 pawn (the e3 pawn controls the d4 square thus protecting the d4 pawn).
Diagram 2.3 - Example Of a Pawn Capture
"En passant" is a French term meaning "by passing" that is internationaly accepted and used in the chess world. This term is used for a rule concerning a special pawn capture that could be apply when a "courageous" pawn just crossed the middle of the board and is occupying the first rank in the enemy territory. The "en passant" capture will be possible if an enemy pawn is still occupying its starting square (lets call it the "coward"...) on one of the adjacent columns occupied by the courageous pawn (as we can see in the diagram below).
Diagram 2.4 - En Passant Capture
If we look carefuly at the diagram, we can see that the white pawn is far enough to stop the coward black pawn from advancing one square forward without being captured. We know cowards have more than one solution to a problem, so they might decide to advance 2 squares forward, since they are still occupying their starting square, and escape from the courageous white pawn. This is where the "en passant" capture kicked in... in this specific scenario, the courageous pawn can capture the coward pawn as if it has advanced one square. So, if the black pawn tries to escape in e5 in the the example above, White could decide to capture the pawn as if it was on e6. In this case, the e5 pawn will be removed from the board and the white pawn will occupy the e6 square. See it by yourself using the links below:
The "en passant" capture is optional: it might happen that the position is not favourable for a courageous pawn to capture the coward pawn. So it is better sometimes to let it escape. But if a player wants to do the capture, he must do it on the very next move after the opponent advanced the pawn on the adjacent column 2 squares forward. Otherwise, the coward pawn will be free to go for the rest of the game...
Let's continue the lesson with the next page so we can learn how the bishop moves.