Passed Pawns

Passed pawns in chess positions are pawns where no enemy pawn can stop them from Queening. This means that there is no enemy pawn on their file, and neither is there any enemy pawn on the file immediately to either side of the pawn (or to the single side in the case of a passed rook pawn).

Passed pawns are winning advantages in many positions. The rule is that “passed pawns must be pushed” down to make a Queen. Many beginner games are won by passed pawns converting into a Queen. Often the pawn will simply run down to the end of the board without the enemy King being able to catch it. Extra Queen, easy win.

Passed pawns are also a huge advantage in advanced chess player games. They usually arise in endgames, and usually not in a way that they can just run down and Queen. However, a passed pawn in chess endgames can usually be gradually pushed down to the end. Then the other player will typically have to give up a piece or a Rook to stop it from becoming a Queen.

There are various specific types of passed pawns:

  • Connected passed pawns: two or more passed pawns, all of them passed, on adjacent files (so they can protect each other). Sometimes they are called “hanging pawns” in the middlegame. If the pair of connected passed pawns can advance, they are a game-winning advantage, often called a “pawn roller”.
  • Doubled passed pawns: two passed pawns, one behind the other (not particularly good at helping each other).
  • Isolated passed pawn: a single passed pawn, unsupported by other pawns.
  • Protected passed pawn: a single passed pawn which is protected by another pawn, but that other pawn is itself blocked by an enemy pawn in front of it (i.e. the supporting pawn is not itself a passed pawn).
  • Advanced passed pawn: a passed pawn that has already moved a long way up the board towards the Queening end, e.g. to its 5th, 6th or 7th rank.

Also important in chess is the location on the board of the passed pawn:

  • Outside passed pawn: a passed pawn on the outside of the board, on either side, such as passed rook pawn or a passed Knight pawn.
  • Central passed pawn: a passed pawn in the center of the board, such as a King pawn or a Queen pawn.

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess strategies: