What’s En Passant in chess?

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Chess has an obscure move related to pawns called en passant, where a pawn can capture an opponent’s pawn that has moved two spaces from its starting position. This can only be done on the move immediately following the opponent’s pawn movement.

Chess is perhaps the most popular board game of all time. While many people are familiar with the basic rules of chess, there is one obscure move related to pawns that most players are unaware of.

Let’s first look at the basic rules governing the movement of pawns in chess. From their initial position, pawns can advance one or two spaces (provided there are no pieces blocking their path). After being moved from their initial position, pawns can only advance one space provided there are no pieces in the way.

Pawns capture the opponent’s pieces by moving diagonally one space. Taking en passant is another way pawns can capture opponent’s pawns. Suppose the chess game has progressed and I have advanced my pawn three squares from its starting position (figure 1). Now let’s consider one of the columns to the right or left of my pawn. If I moved your pawn two squares forward from its original position, it would occupy the square next to mine (figure 2). I’m allowed to move diagonally to the space behind your pawn (to the spot you would have occupied if you moved only one space forward) and capture the pawn you just moved (figure 3)! With the en passant rule, they are able to capture your pawn as if it moved forward one space even if it moved forward two spaces. However, I can only take your pawn en passant on the move immediately following your movement of the pawn in question.

figure 1
figure 2
figure 3

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