Pawn Promotion Rules

Pawn promotion is the official chess term for “queening a pawn” when it reaches the end of the board. The pawn gets “promoted” to a bigger piece, usually a Queen. This is a reward for a pawn getting to the other side of the board, from its start on the 2nd rank to the 8th rank. It takes 5 moves for a pawn to become a Queen.

Pawn Promoting Rules

The rules around pawn promotion on reaching the “queening square” for that pawn (on the other side of the board) include:

  • Get a Queen: the pawn becomes a Queen. This is the usual turn of events.
  • Multiple Queens allowed: You are not limited to only one Queen, and it doesn’t matter at all whether you already have your Queen on the board. A second Queen is allowed. In fact, you can make as many Queens as you like, one for each pawn that gets promoted. In theory, you could get 9 Queens in a game, although more than 2 Queens is uncommon.
  • Capturing to Promote: If there is an enemy piece on your 8th rank, one of your pawns can capture that piece (with a normal pawn diagonal capture) and it also gets promoted to a Queen as well. You take an enemy piece and get a bonus Queen too!
  • General Chess Rules: The general rules of chess moves apply to pawn promotion moves (and all moves). The pawn promotion move must be a legal pawn move (or pawn capture) to the 8th rank, for promotion to apply. You also cannot take your own pieces (self-captures). The move must not be illegal due to check. And various other normal rules that apply to all chess moves.
  • Underpromotion: Normally you choose a Queen, but legally you can also choose to promote your pawn into a Knight, Bishop or Rook. This is called “under-promotion”. It rarely applies in games, but it’s a common theme in chess puzzles.
  • Backwards Moves: the newly created Queen (or other piece) is allowed to move backwards. It’s a normal Queen.
  • Cannot Stay a Pawn: You cannot choose to not promote the pawn, or otherwise leave it as a pawn.
  • Cannot Have Two Kings: You cannot promote a pawn into a King. Well, not in normal chess, but it might be a fun variant!
  • Your Pieces Only: You cannot promote your pawn into an enemy piece. No idea why you might want to do that!
  • Only Pawns Promote: This only applies to pawns. There’s no extra rewards in chess for getting any other pieces to the end of the board. Not even the King.

So there are a lot of fiddly things about pawn promotion. But it’s really pretty simple: move your pawn up to the farthest edge of the board and it becomes a new Queen.

Related Chess Rules Topics

Read more about these related chess rules, chess puzzles, and other chess tactics and strategies: