19 surprising pawn moves questions beginners asked finally answered

By Gary Flores •  Last Updated: 2 months ago •  8 min read

We always move our pawn first, right? Yes, for some chess players and no by other players – because some think they are special chess pieces and others, they just don’t want to move their pawn first! 🙂

As far as I remember, I have always moved my pawn first almost every time I play chess, and sometimes I do challenge myself to play a different strategy and play uncommon openings that do not require me to move my pawn at the beginning of a game.

Pawn moves are easy to understand, but what makes them unique is their special capturing ability, and their chance to be promoted to another higher rank chess piece.

If you want to learn more about pawns, you have to check out my article about chess pawn rules.

Yes, pawns can do both those things, but pawns are also limited to some moves that this article is going to discuss.

In this article, we are going to learn some of the important questions about pawn moves that a chess beginner needs to know!

19 surprising pawn moves questions beginners asked finally answered

These are questions that you might encounter when you are just starting to learn chess, and you are curious about pawn moves.

Most of the answers apply for every chess piece, and I just considered some of the chess pieces like King and Knight as the most asked question related to pawn moves. 

Let’s start with the Pawn and King:

1. Can a pawn move like a King?

Pawn and King have certain moves that they are the same, but with different conditions or rules.

So, when you ask if a pawn can move like a King…

The answer is that a pawn can move like a King by making one step forward just like the King, and at the same time, a pawn cannot move diagonally like a King but can capture diagonally.

2. Can a pawn capture like a King?

Yes, a pawn can capture like a King, by using its ability to capture diagonally. 

In order to do so, the opponent chess piece should be diagonally placed with your pawn and the same thing with the King.

3. Can a pawn capture a King?

No, a pawn cannot capture a King even if it is placed diagonally with your pawn.

What normally happens is that if you have a pawn that is diagonally placed with a King, that means it's a check or a checkmate!

Note: In general, no rule says a King can be captured during a game. The ideal chess game scenario is that it should end by checkmate or a draw.

4. Can a pawn become a King?

Pawns cannot become a King, and I have not seen any chess tournament or any rules that state a pawn can become a King.

If you happen to experience that, it may not be an official game, or it is a chess program that has been coded specifically for a chess game where a pawn can become a King.

But the main answer is that there is no rule about pawns becoming a King.

5. Can a pawn move like a Queen?

Not the same move as the Queen, pawns cannot move diagonally like a Queen and cannot move backward or sideways like a Queen.

The only move that pawn can do the same as the Queen is moving one and two square forward and capturing pieces diagonally.

6. Can a pawn capture like a Queen?

Technically speaking, yes, the Queen can capture diagonally one square forward, just like a pawn.

But for long-range captures and other ways a Queen can capture is, well, the answer is no.

7. Can a pawn capture a Queen?

Yes, a pawn can capture a Queen, of course, especially if the right conditions are met like the Queen is in the same diagonal space as the pawn.

8. Can a pawn become a Queen?

Yes, pawns can become a Queen by getting promoted when they reach the opposite end of the board.

Pawns can be promoted to other chess pieces except for the King!

9. Can a pawn move like a Knight?

The answer is no, pawns cannot move like a Knight and should not be given the ability to move like a Knight.

If you look at the appearance, a Knight is basically a horse that can jump over any piece in front of it. While a pawn is a soldier on foot when you try to visualize a pawn jumping over a chess piece, it just doesn’t work that way.

10. Can a pawn capture like a Knight?

No, pawns cannot capture like a Knight, and the same thing with the Knights method in capturing chess pieces is different from pawns.

You only need to know that Knight’s move is the same way it captures its opponent pieces.

11. Can a pawn capture a Knight?

Definitely yes, pawns can capture any pieces except for the King, which we have already answered above.

The pawn should only be in a diagonal space with the Knight for the pawn to be captured.

12. Can a pawn become a Knight?

We are talking about pawn promotion here, so the answer is yes – a pawn can become a Knight and other chess pieces available except for the King, of course!

Imagine being able to resurrect your King during a game. The game might become a lot harder to play! 🙂

13. Can a pawn capture in the first move?

This question is a bit tricky, but the answer is yes, especially when we are talking about the very first move of a specific pawn, not the very first move of a chess game!

When we say the first move of a pawn, the position may be just like the image below:

The very first move of the pawn in g2 is capturing the bishop!

So, when we change the question to – can a pawn capture a bishop on its first move?

Then the answer is yes, and pawns can do that precisely as explained in the image above.

But if you are referring to the first move of the game, well, a pawn can't capture anything at their very first move!

14. Can a pawn move sideways?

The answer is no; pawns cannot move sideways!

Not even capturing a chess piece sideways. The only chess pieces that can move sideways are the following:

  1. King
  2. Queen
  3. Rook

Again, if you have seen a pawn moving sideways in a game, it can either be another type of game or a game played online where the program is different.

Those are rules that cannot be applied to a real chess game! 

15. Can a pawn move diagonally without capturing?

A pawn cannot move diagonally, and they don’t actually move diagonally, but they capture diagonally!

Besides the pawn, the King, Queen, and Bishop capture diagonally as well.

16. Can a pawn move diagonally to promote?

Well, yes, of course, a pawn can move diagonally and get promoted simultaneously!

As long as the pawn is at the opposite side of the board, then getting promoted diagonally is an option for the pawn, then it is a legal move.

17. Can a pawn move diagonally two squares?

The answer is no; pawns cannot move diagonally two squares.

Pawns can capture diagonally and not two squares but only one square. The only two square moves that a pawn can do is during the starting square of pawns, and it is a two square going forward, not diagonal move.

The only chess pieces that can move diagonally two squares are the following:

  1. Queen
  2. Bishop

18. Can a pawn move diagonally backward?

Sorry, but the answer is no; pawns can't move diagonally backward.

Well, pawns cannot move backward at all! Pawns can only move two squares and one square going forward!

The only chess pieces that can move diagonally backward are the following:

  1. Queen
  2. Bishop

19. How does a pawn capture in chess?

Here is where most of the questions are coming – how does pawn capture chess pieces?

You have learned that pawn capture pieces just like King does, but there are another way a pawn capture chess pieces.

It is a special move called en passant!

So, there are only two ways a pawn captures chess piece:

  1. A pawn captures chess pieces diagonally one square going forward, and
  2. Pawn en passant capture! 

Note: You can learn more about en passant in this article I created here!

Wrapping Up

Pawns are almost always a big part of a successful strategy in chess, and knowing some of the answers above can significantly help you understand the game of chess!

Just like knowing how many steps can a pawn move in chess…

Pawn moves differently when they are in their starting square – from the initial square, they can make two moves or steps going forward. You slide the pawn two steps and one step after that initial move!

Or pawns can move one step from their starting square! Pawns lose the privilege to move two steps forward if they make the one step from the starting square!

Note: Remember, pawns can only move going forward!

Besides that, make sure that you check out the special move of pawns called en passant! I have made another article that answers top questions of en passant in this article!

I hope this article was able to answer or clear some of your doubts about pawn moves, and I also compared them with some of the chess pieces like the King and Knight. Enjoy learning chess!

Gary Flores

Gary is a chess enthusiast and has three children who also enjoy learning the game. He is a co-author of the "Chess Fundamentals" digital interactive book a ChessDelights Edition. He founded ChessDelights.com in order to brush up on his understanding of this tactic and strategy game. He also enjoys encouraging those who are learning, re-learning, or instructing their children in the game of chess.
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