En Passant

Did you know that there is a rule in chess that is so weird that it makes it look like you are cheating? We are talking about the special en passant rule, which you must know if you want to impress your friends with your chess knowledge.

What Is En Passant In Chess?

En passant is not only a fancy French expression that you can use to impress your friends. It is also a special capturing rule for pawns in chess.

Here is how it works. Here is how it works. Usually, a pawn can only capture pieces occupying a square diagonally in front of it.

Regular capture, without using the en passant rule.

However, when your opponent advances a pawn two squares with one move and lands right next to your pawn, you can make an en passant capture. That kind of capture looks a little different from a regular one. Your pawn still moves one square diagonally, but it lands behind the pawn you are taking.

The en passant capture in chess.

This sort of capture is the only one in chess where your piece does not land on the same square as the piece you are taking. Pretty weird, isn't it? For the unaware player, this may look like cheating!

But this capture is real and can happen. It does have limitations, though. For an en passant capture to be possible, these three things must all be true:

  1. You are capturing a pawn that is directly next to your pawn.
  2. The pawn you are capturing has jumped two squares in a single move and landed next to your pawn.
  3. You capture that pawn right away. If you don't do it right after the pawn lands next to yours, you cannot do it in the future.

Does that sound confusing? Don't worry! The board below will give you a few examples to help you.

As you can see, this rule only works for capturing pawns that are passing other pawns. That is where the expression "en passant" comes from: it is French for "in passing."

Why Does The En Passant Rule Matter?

Way back in the past, pawns could only move one square at a time, even on their first move. Chess was pretty slow back then, so people decided to allow pawns to move two squares on their first move.

The en passant rule was created after pawns got that extra initial jump. But why would that apparently small change cause people to think about allowing pawns to capture in passing?

Well, a big aspect of chess is the fact that a pawn that reaches the end of the board can promote to any piece. With that in mind, take a look at the position below:

The en passant rule helps to keep chess more fun.

If pawns could simply jump two squares and pass the pawns from the other army, it would be much easier to create passed pawns. Although it would be exciting to see many queens on the board, it would also change the game too much. If it wasn't for the en passant rule, White could easily win the game by jumping past the black pawn and getting an extra queen.

A game with no en passant would be unfair.

Because of this, the en passant capture was created—to prevent pawns from passing others too effortlessly. Now, if White tries to jump two squares to pass the black pawn, Black can simply make an en passant capture and win the game!

En passant comes to the rescue.

We might be getting less wild games with multiple queens, but that only makes a pawn promotion to feel even more special when it happens!

It is harder for pawns to promote with the en passant rule.

Show Off Your En Passant Skills

Now that you learned about the en passant rule, it is time to show off your skills and prove that you understand when you can make en passant captures.

For each of the pictures below, you will have to figure out if an en passant capture is allowed or not.

Position 01: White has just moved their pawn from b2 to b4. Can the black pawn on c4 capture the white pawn en passant?

En passant puzzle 01.

Yes, it can! Well done!

En passant puzzle 01 answer.

Position 02: Black has moved their bishop to the f5-square, but you noticed that the black d5-pawn is sitting next to your e5-pawn. Can you make an en passant capture with your e5-pawn?

En passant puzzle 02.

No, you can't! Since Black's pawn did not just jump to d5, you cannot capture it en passant.

Position 03: White has just advanced their pawn from d3 to d4. Can you capture it en passant with your c4-pawn?

En passant puzzle 03.

No, you can't! The white pawn did not advance two squares in a single move to land next to yours, so the en passant capture is not allowed.

Wrapping Up

You now know what the en passant rule is and when you can use it in your games. Head over to our Play page to use the en passant rule in one of your games against another kid!

En Passant Chess Infographic

Discover this fantastic printable below that will guide you through the fascinating world of the "En-passant" move. Get ready to level up your chess knowledge.

en passant chess rule infographicFor more infographics, as well as educational and fun materials, visit our Resources page.

En Passant Video