The pawn (♙♟) is the weakest piece in the game of chess. They represent foot soldiers. Each player starts the game with eight pawns, one on each square of the second row (or rank) from the view of the player. In the white pawns start on a2, b2, c2, ..., h2, while the black pawns start on a7, b7, c7, ..., h7.
Moving[change | change source]
Pawns move differently than other pieces. Unlike all the other pieces, pawns can not move backwards. Most of the time, a pawn moves by going up a single square, but the first time each pawn is moved from its starting place, it can go forward two squares. Pawns may not use the first two-square move to jump over a square with another piece on it or to capture. Any piece in front of a pawn, white or black, stops its moving.
Capturing[change | change source]
|Pawn movement: A pawn can move to the square directly in front of itself, if that square is clear. A pawn on its starting rank has the option of moving two squares.}} The white pawn at d5 can capture either the black rook at c6 or the black knight at e6, but not the bishop at d6, which blocks its straight way forward. Unlike other pieces, the pawn does not capture in the same way as it moves. A pawn captures diagonally, one square forward and to the left or right. In the diagram to the left, the white pawn can capture either the black rook or the black knight.
An even more unusual move is the en passant capture. Suppose the first player is using white pieces. En passant happens when the white pawn uses its first-move option to move forward two squares instead of one, and passes over a square that is guarded by an enemy (black) pawn. The black pawn, which would have been able to capture the white pawn if the white one had moved forward only one square, can capture the white pawn in its next move- "in passing" as if the white pawn had moved forward only one square. The black pawn moves into the empty square over which the white pawn moved, and the white pawn is removed from the board. The option to capture en passant can only be used on the move right after the double-square pawn advance, or the chance is lost.
History[change | change source]
The simplest piece in chess, the pawn was in the oldest version of chess, Chaturanga. It is present in all other types of chess around the world.
The en passant move was added in late fifteenth century Europe, to make up for the then newly added two-square first move rule. We have no record of why the rule was added, but it is easy to see that it works to prevent the position becoming blocked and uninteresting. The changes which took place in the fifteenth century were aimed at allowing the pieces to develop faster, and make the game more exciting.
References[change | change source]
- Murray H.J.R. 1913. A history of chess, p457. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-827403-3
- The old game and its limitations are described by Hooper D. & Whyld K. 1992. The Oxford companion to chess. 2nd ed, Oxford University Press. Shatranj entry, p366.