En passant is a special pawn move in chess that always surprises beginners. In fact, many believe it’s an illegal move.
The truth is en passant is a legal move that allows pawns to capture a passing pawn.
Although it comes up rarely, you must be aware of the en passant rule to become better at chess. This guide helps you know what en passant is and how to play it.
What is en passant in chess?
En passant is a special chess move where a pawn can capture a horizontally adjacent pawn depending on the following rules:
- The opponent pawn’s first move is two squares ahead.
- The opponent’s pawn must be adjacent (not diagonal) to it.
- The capturing move should be immediately after the opponent makes the two-step move.
Here’s an en passant example:
Black plays d5 and white responds with exd6. You should also know that the capturing pawn (e5) does not replace the opponent’s pawn (d5) by landing on the captured pawn’s square.
Instead, the capturing pawn takes the opponent’s pawn and moves one square above it on d6.
En Passant is the only special move in chess where a capturing piece or pawn does not kill the captured piece on its square.
En passant rules
Here are four en Passant rules you need to know:
- Both the pawns must be horizontally adjacent. It also means that both pawns are on the same rank.
- Both the pawns must be on adjacent files.
- The opponent’s first move should be a two-square jump and land beside your pawn. So, if you’re white, your enemy’s pawn must be on the fourth rank. If you’re black, your enemy’s pawn must be on the fifth rank.
- You must capture the en Passant pawn immediately after your opponent makes a move. You can’t wait for a turn to capture the en Passant pawn.
- You can only kill a pawn with the en Passant chess move. You can’t capture any minor or major piece in en Passant.
En passant examples in chess games
Let’s look at the following en Passant examples in chess games to help you understand the above rules:
En passant example 1
After black plays g5, white makes an en passant capture by playing hxg6 and gives double check that results in a checkmate.
En passant example 2
White makes a blunder by playing a4. Black captures a4 by playing bxa3.
White tries to stop the black pawn from promotion at a1 but fails.