En Passant Guide

en passant

In chess, en passant is a special pawn capture that takes place when a pawn moves to a square directly beside an enemy pawn that has just advanced two squares, capturing it as if it had moved only one square (see visual explanation below). We understand if this is confusing to you. Let us explain!

In the image above, White is the side that captures the pawn en passant. This special move is only possible in this position if a pawn is on the 5th rank and the enemy pawn is on the 7th rank, meaning it hasn’t made its first move yet. Or if a black pawn is on the 4th rank and the white pawn is on the 2nd rank.

Also, it should be noted that you can capture en passant only immediately after your opponent has moved their pawn two squares up. This means you cannot wait two turns to capture this way. But capturing en passant is optional; you are not forced to do it if you don’t want to.

This is the only move in chess where a piece captures another by landing on a different square than the one the captured piece occupies.

Let’s see another example of en passant, this time done by the black pieces:

The main goal of this rule is to ensure that no pawn can bypass an enemy pawn, guaranteeing that all pawns have the opportunity to capture an advancing enemy pawn.

The en passant rule means “in passing”, and is probably the less conventional rule of the game, even less conventional than castling, pawn promotion and the 50-move rule (if no pieces are captured for 50 moves, the game ends automatically in a draw).

This special move was not necessary when chess was in its early stages because back then pawns weren’t allowed to move two squares on their first move.

When the two-squares rule was introduced to the game, that’s when the rule was born.

It is even possible to deliver a checkmate with an en passant capture. See below:

In the image above, White takes the a black pawn en passant and with that delivers checkmate with the two rooks and the two bishops. Nice!

Also, it is possible to find theoretical en passant captures in chess openings.

For instance, in the Scotch Game, there’s a sequence in which an en passant capture is possible:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.e5 d5 6.exd6

So, are you ready to start capturing pawns en passant in your next game?

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