Chess En Passant Pawn Move

Pawns have a very special rule called "en passant" or an "en passant capture". It is the most unusual move in chess. Although it does not occur often, it still can occur even in beginner chess and junior tournaments. You don't know the full rules of chess unless you know this move!

Basics of En Passant Pawn Captures

En Passant is a capture of a Pawn by a Pawn that has just done a 2-square pawn starter move. It is a strange move, because the Pawn looks like it captures an empty square, and then removes a Pawn that was next to it instead of being on the square where it moved to.

En passant works like this: if an enemy pawn moves its 2-square move forward, so that it is then next to your pawn, then your pawn can "en passant" capture that Pawn. The way you do it is to diagonally move your Pawn into the empty square, the one that the enemy pawn just passed through. Your Pawn stays there, like it was a normal diagonal pawn capture move. And the enemy pawn that was next to your pawn, is removed, it is the pawn that gets captured.

More Restrictions on En Passant Captures

There are some very specific limitations on when you can do an en-passant capture:

  • Two-moves only. The enemy pawn must have done its 2-square start move to get past your Pawn. You cannot capture a pawn that is next to you if it only moved 1-square to get past your pawn.
  • Only the 5th rank. Your pawn must be on the 5th rank from your side of the board (which is the number 5 row of squares, from a5..h5, if you are White, and the number 4 row from a4..h4 if Black is making the en passant capture). En passant must take by moving into the "middle" square over which the other pawn just 2-move jumped past it. You cannot en passant capture from the 6th rank (White) or 3rd rank (Black). For example, you cannot play "h5-h6 g7-g5, h6xg7" (en passant, I wish, but not really). This is because it must be capturing an enemy pawn that has just done a 2-square starter move.
  • Immediately only. There is only one chance. You must do en passant captures on the very next move. You cannot leave it for a move, and then take the pawn en passant the next move. It must be an enemy 2-square pawn move followed immediately by your en passant capture move.
  • Pawns only. En passant only applies to pawns. You cannot en passant capture any other type of piece than an enemy Pawn, and only a Pawn can do an en passant capture.
  • Captures only: En Passant must be a capture. You cannot just move your pawn diagonally into an empty square without a good reason.