Helpful Chess Pawn Rules You Need To Know (For Beginners)

chess pawn rules

So, my daughter asked me what happens to her Pawn when it reaches the opposite board?

If you genuinely understand chess, you would know that your Pawns are much more valuable in the game.

The power of the Pawn is eventually unleashed when you’ve successfully battled it forward and pushed it to the back rank. When this happens, your Pawn is “promoted.”

I asked a lot of questions related to pawns when I was learning chess…and I received a lot of answers from different people as well…

That is why in this article, I wanted to share essential chess rules related to pawn ( promotion, illegal moves, definitions) that you should be learning.

Helpful Chess Pawn Rules Beginners Should Know

Don’t forget to read this recommended article:
Learn more about useful chess rules here

You must remember, however, that there are strict rules to observe before being able to promote a pawn.

This usually applies in professional and Olympic chess tournaments, where there are chess arbiters who carefully follow each player’s moves, compute the scores and spot the illegal moves that any of them can commit, whether out of neglect or ignorance of the rules provided by FIDE.

But before we look into the rules of pawn promotion, let us first review the function of pawns.

It is essential to master these first so that you can have a complete understanding of the context behind the rule of pawn promotion.

Learn more about other important chess rules here…

What Happens When Pawn Reaches The Other Side Of The Chessboard?

Pawns can be promoted when they have reached the end of the board.

This usually happens and is achieved during endgames or the time when most of the pieces of both players have been captured, and only a few remain.

When you can finally have one or more of your pawns promoted (remember, you can only promote pawns one by one, as long as you have successfully pushed them to the other end of the board, which is no easy feat), then you can exchange that pawn with a more powerful chess piece so you can shift the game to your advantage.

Promoted and Underpromoted Pawns

What is a Promoted Pawns?

Choosing which piece to trade off your pawn determines whether you can consider it to be promoted or underpromoted.

It is natural for most players to exchange their pawn with the queen.

This is because the queen is the most powerful chess piece on the board in terms of function.

Therefore, exchanging your pawn with the queen is called a “Pawn Promotion.” This move is also called “Queening.”

This would mean that in a game, it is possible to have two queens of the same color in the chessboard.

In most professional and international tournaments, there is always an extra queen chess piece available in case one of the players was able to achieve a pawn promotion and decides to exchange it for a queen.

Other times, an inverted rook (which you should confirm with the arbiter first if allowed) is used and is also considered to be a promoted pawn which represents the second queen when there is no available piece around.

What is Underpromoted Pawns?

On the other hand, your pawn will be considered as underpromoted if you decide to trade it off with other chess pieces other than the queen.

Depending on your strategy, you may want to exchange it for a rook, a knight, or a bishop. This move of underpromotion is not entirely wrong.

It depends on your style and on what you think will be best for your advantage in the game.

For instance, you can use this pawn underpromotion as a capturing move.

You can have a scenario where before you promote your pawn, you use it to capture a chess piece intervening or blocking it, promote it, then replace it with another chess piece (not necessarily the Queen) and finally use it to check the opponent’s king, making all of this in just one move.

Of course, you can also promote your pawn using the queen to achieve the checking of the opponent’s king. It will always depend on the style and strategy you want to pursue in your game.

Also read article: Can you have more than one queen in chess?

Chess Pawn Positions

At the start of the game, you have eight pawns lined up together.

They are the smallest chess pieces on your set.

These are usually the first chess pieces you would often move first to start or initiate the game.

This does not happen all the time and is not always a standard move. Grandmasters or advanced players sometimes use other chess pieces to begin the game, depending on their strategy.

For most chess beginners, the pawn is easily discounted or considered to be a simple chess piece.

However, you must remember that your pawns are there at the forefront and are more significant in number than any of your other chess pieces for a reason.

Basic Moves of the Pawn

Each of your pawns moves forward one square at a time. You can also move one of your pawns two squares directly forward, but only on the first move.

When you attack and capture an enemy piece, your pawn moves one square diagonally forward.

The pawn promotion, as we have been discussing, is a special move where you have successfully battled it forward at the end of the enemy side, and then you can exchange it for a rook, knight, bishop or queen, but not another King.

You may also like to read this article: Chess Positions : A Simple (But Complete) Guide

Your battalion of Pawns functions in both simple and complex ways.

The mere position and the role of a piece are not the only ones that dictate or define the value of the piece itself.

As the game progresses, some of the pieces “evolve” in particular and unique ways.

This means that at the heat of the battle at the center of the chessboard, key pieces attempt to either capture the enemy pieces or pass over at the end of the chessboard to become a stronger piece.

Some of these pieces are known to have specialized moves to help the whole chess army win the battle.

In the case of the pawn, it is considered to have a more multi-functional and transformative function in the game.

Let us further look into the key terms assigned to pawns.

What are the Pawns Assigned Chess Pieces?

All your eight pawns are named after the chess piece behind them in the first column on your side of the chessboard.

This means that, for example, the pawns in front of your two Bishop pieces are called the Bishop Pawns, and those in front of your Queen and King are called the Queen Pawn and King Pawn respectively.

What are Counterpawns, Unfree, Half-Free, and Free Pawns?

Pawns are also named after their reference in opposition of the chessboard.

  • They are called “counterpawns.” This means that each of your eight pawns has a corresponding counterpawn on your enemy side.
  • At the start of each game, your pawns are initially “unfree” same as closed position because of the presence of your opposing counterpawns.
  • When one of your pawn’s counterpawns has been captured as the game progresses, your pawn is now considered as “half-free” the same as half open file.

Finally, once your pawn is free from intervening and opposing chess pieces and has the potential to advance to the back rank or the other side of the board, it is now considered “free” which can be called an open file.

What are Sentries, Helpers, and Candidates?

Your pawns also have opposing forces called sentries.

These pawns sit directly across from your pawns but are either positioned one square to the left or right.

These enemy pieces can capture your pawns.

Helpers are your neighboring pawns which can back you up and capture the enemy pawns so that your other pawns can either be half-free or finally free and be a candidate for promotion (later on about this).

These pawn pieces are instrumental and serve as your guide to help your other pawns cross the enemy side of the board.

Finally, candidates are your pawns that you attempt to cross and reach the end of the chessboard.

This is important to remember because these candidate pawns become the “promoted” or “underpromoted” pawns when you have successfully crossed them at the back rank of the enemy side.

What is Passed Pawns and Valuing your Pawn

Understanding the value of your pawn is essential before we finally proceed to discuss more pawn promotion.

Promoting your pawn usually happens later in the game, and it can almost always be the deciding factor of whether your game is at your advantage or disadvantage.

Passed pawns are your remaining pawns that don’t have any opponents adjacent to them that can capture or block them.

These pawns become very valuable because they have the potential or the fighting chance to make it across the board and be promoted.

Both you and the opponent should be very wary of each other’s passed pawns and make sure none of them reaches either side of the chessboard, lest it can make or break his or her game.

Related Article: What is the point of en passant in the game of chess?

Illegal Pawn Promotion

Illegal pawn promotion is usually observed in international tournaments where an arbiter observes both players of how they move their pieces.

The following rules for pawn promotion should be strictly followed:

1. You should first move your candidate pawn to the end square of the opposing side before replacing it with another chess piece.

If you immediately place another chess piece on the end of the board without advancing your pawn first, then you would have committed an illegal pawn promotion.

2. You should first replace your candidate pawn with another chess piece of your choice before your clock in your move. Otherwise, you would also be committing an illegal pawn promotion move.

Also read article: The importance of “chess clock rules” in tournaments

Wrapping Up

This is some of the essential Chess Pawn Rules that a beginner or even an expert chess player should be knowing by heart…

Although I just gave my daughter ( turning 7 years old ) a quick overview, especially the Queening part of the Pawn rules…

She just got more excited and was very happy that she knows that she can get her captured Queen back in the game if her pawn is able to reach the opposite board.

I do hope you find this article helpful and learned some essential chess rules. 🙂

Please do share this to your friends and family who are also learning or teaching their kids chess…

Have fun learning this chess rules! 🙂

Do check out our ChessDelights chess recommendations on this page.

Gary Flores

Hi there! I'm a dad with kids who loves to learn how to play chess by learning online - also, this is my way of refreshing my knowledge about this game of tactics & strategy. I created chessdelights.com to inspire people who are also learning, re-learning or teaching their kids the game of chess.

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