What is the point of en passant in the game of chess?

Are you familiar with this special move like en passant?

As a chess beginner or parents teaching their kids chess, it's entirely necessary that you should learn or teach about some special chess moves from the start…  

If you want to develop better chess game understanding for you or your kids, or if you just want to be one step ahead of your friends in chess – you should come to know about special moves like en passant.  

Also, read this guide about chess pawn rules.

You don't want to be that chess player that gets surprised by your friends who made an en passant move and you don't know anything about that rule.  

Well, it's time to be aware of this en passant move by pawns. Familiarize yourself with this pawn's special move… 🙂

What is the point of en passant in the game of chess?

It was a rule change several centuries ago that lead to the en passant existent…   En passant rule was made to neutralize the double step or double square step of a pawn from its initial position.

The double square step of a pawn evades capture by an opponents pawn if it was to move one step square exactly where it can be captured – the point of en passant is not to eliminate the risk of a pawn getting captured by being able to move two squares forward.  

Did you get the idea?   Let's define en passant…

Also read: What is the disadvantage of backward pawn in chess?

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What is the en passant move in chess?

Translating the French term “en passant” to English means “in passing”… just did a quick search in Google. 🙂 There was no en passant centuries ago and to be honest; I didn't even know that term “en passant” before.  

I never knew what it was called (en passant)or the chess term when I was a kid…my dad told me that the move can act like a passed pawn but totally different moves and meaning!  

The meaning is the same though – en passant in the chess game is a pawn capture by a pawn and landing to a square that has been bypassed (double square step of a pawn from its starting position) by a pawn.  

The pawn capture was not made on the last square of the double square step of a pawn.   This type of pawn capture can only happen immediately after the double square step – if the opponent's pawn did not perform the en passant immediately then that opportunity may no longer be used by any of the pawns afterward.

Why are pawns allowed to move double squares?

The people were bored…:)   It's true, the idea was to speed up the game (because they feel the game was really slow…) and with this new rule came the en passant rule.

Pawns can only move one square at a time and gaining control over the center square was of importance – that's why the rule makers changed the way pawns move from their starting position. But like what I said, that's how en passant came to exist.  

Would you rather have the pawns move one square at a time from the starting position? Or not?

Also, you might be interested in learning more about “chess pawn rules

Three conditions to properly execute en passant in a chess game

Here are three conditions:  

  1. Almost always a pawn that is about to capture a pawn by en passant is on its fifth rank
  2. A pawn moved a double square step before getting captured by en passant
  3. En passant should be made immediately after a pawn moved a double square step

If these conditions above have been met, the pawn can be captured just like it had moved only one square.   Just like the double square step by pawn has been overridden… 🙂

Chess notation for en passant

One important skill a chess player should have is knowing how to interpret or read chess notation.   I've seen different chess notations before, and I've never seen a chess notation for en passant.

I checked one forum about chess notation and saw that for en passant if read or written in a chess play is denoted by “e.p.” or even in the algebraic expression, you'll see the “e.p.” letters.  

This is new for me, and I'm sure this will be helpful to increase our knowledge with chess notation.

A bit of history

Did you know that in Asian chess variants, the en passant rule was not even applied? The rule was not accepted entirely by other nations involved in chess.  

En passant rule was one of the last significant rule changes made with chess games – together with the Double square step move of Pawns, King Castling rule, the Queens powerful moves, and Bishops previous two square moves into a lengthy movement.  

Most experts argue about why en passant was introduced, but I see the need for this rule to exist merely to make up for the double square step of a pawn that just avoids or sneaks past an opposing pawn.  

More fun related questions are coming up…

Does en passant only apply to pawns?

Yes, en passant is only exclusive to pawns.   It would be crazy confusing if all chess pieces can do en passant…haha!   Next…

Why is en passant only exclusive for pawns?

Again, I imagine if en passant rule is allowed for all chess pieces, then it would be a long controversy and will just revert to just for pawns.  

En passant is a rule made to counter the double square step of pawns at their starting position.

Can you perform en passant other chess pieces?

En passant other chess pieces besides a pawn are not allowed.   Not even a chess piece who can move diagonally like Bishop, King, and Queen can perform an en passant. It's just simply not part of the rule and hopes they won't change that anytime soon.

Can you perform en passant more than once?

Yes, as long as it is legal to do so and it's an immediate action – right after a pawn move double square step, and you have an adjacent pawn ready to capture by en passant.   As long as there are pawns left that can execute this… 🙂

Can an en passant capture happen later?

Nope, it's a follow-through move by an opponent – if the en passant move was not performed then it's already lost.   The move usually depends on your strategy, you can take the en passant move, or you can just skip it.

You may also be interested in learning more about the “50 move rule” in chess.

A quick summary about en passant

If you skipped the whole posts above you can get a quick summary below:  

En passant or “in passing” is only for Pawns

The pawn that is about to be captured does the double square step

The capturing pawn is on the fifth rank.

The move should be right after the double square step

En passant can happen more than once

En passant chess notation is “e.p.”  

Here's a brief statement about the above lists  

1. En passant or “in passing” is only for Pawns – Other chess pieces are not allowed to perform en passant and hope this can never happen.

2. The pawn that is about to be captured does the double square step – The double square step rule was implemented to speed up the game, and en passant followed to neutralized the pawns double square step.  

3. The capturing pawn is on the fifth rank – A pawn just moved passed an opponent on the fifth rank avoiding capture, but because of en passant, the pawn on the fifth rank can capture the pawn just like it just moved one square.  

4. The move should be right after the double square step – A pawn can only perform en passant right after a double square step of a pawn. If en passant was missed, then it is no longer allowed at that time.  

5. En passant can happen more than once -Depends on the pawn moves and situation, en passant can occur more than once, and the conditions above were met.  

6. En passant chess notation is “e.p.” – When following your play with a chess notation at the same time make sure you are familiar with some not so used moves or special moves like “e.p.” for en passant.  

This summary will give you the idea you need about en passant, but I touched more about why en passant existed in the article post above.

Wrapping Up

En passant is a special move that a beginner chess player should have an idea about.  

Especially if you are planning one day to compete in tournaments, or if you just want to get a more clear idea on how to explain en passant to your kids.

I bet you will no longer be surprised if one of your friends performed an en passant, maybe you'll surprise them and just send them over this article to show them you're not cheating…lol!  

It's not that difficult to learn all the special moves, and it would be worth your time to go through all of them. You are learning about each of the special moves is a fun way to gain more knowledge about chess games and how it evolved.  

I enjoyed writing this article and hope this gave you the knowledge you need to execute en passant on your next game.

Hey, don't leave without checking ChessDelights chess recommendations.

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