What the Heck is En Passant?!?

 In Sectional

Chess has a lot of rules.  Every piece moves differently from another.  Some pieces, like the rooks, are super easy.  Some pieces, like the knights, are much more complex.  Even the king, who can only move one square at a time has complicated exceptions.  One rule that is most beginners do not know about or misunderstand is en passant.

Chess has evolved over the years.  Originally, there was no queen.  When the queen was introduced, she could only move 2 squares.  Originally, pawns could only move 1 square forward at a time.  Now I am not trying to convince you that modern chess is a spectator sport, but the openings in the 1500s took forever!  To speed up play, chess players collectively changed the rules for pawns allowing them to move two squares on their first move.  This significantly sped up play in the opening but it created a problem.  As displayed in the diagram below, a pawn that used to be subject to capture on its first move, could now avoid capture on by moving 2 squares…past the attacker.

The black pawn on the b file can move 2 squares to the 5th rank next to the white pawn on the c file.

Under the old rules, the black pawn would first have to move to b6 being subject to capture.  The new en passant rule was created to resolve the problem.

En passant means “in passing”  Under en passant, if the black player moves his b pawn 2 squares to the 5th rank, white can capture the pawn as if it had only moved one square.  The white pawn moves into the b6 square and removes black’s pawn from the board.

This rule can be really confusing for new players.  If you have questions, be sure to check out the Wasatch Chess Club held every Wed night at the Spanish Fork Library from 6PM to 8 PM.  See you there!


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