What does a pawn mean to those who don’t know much about the game? It’s not a very impressive unit in an army. Such an answer is expected but not entirely correct. Yes, they’re at the lowest level when speaking about their power. If you compare them with others, they’re just weak. These soldiers only step forward, with no opportunity to draw back.
However, they have a few talents up their sleeve:
- They’re numerous (it’s easy to sacrifice them)
- They have hidden tricks to use (for example, an en passant capture or promotion)
This article covers a chess strategy for pawn promotion, revealing various aspects that are important to remember.
These pieces do indeed look like foot soldiers. The closer they’re to the opposite part of the board, the stronger they get. And when they reach their goal, something magical happens.
What exactly? Can a pawn become a queen? How many queens can you have in chess? What is queening meaning anyway? Find everything explained below.
Сhess Pawn Promotion: What Is It?
When this low-rank piece touches the 8th or 1st rank, it leaves the battle. But only with one goal: the pawn exchange and introduction of someone more influential. This will be a bishop, rook, queen, or knight. White promotion fields are located on rank with the number 8 on it. A player controlling Black strives for the 1st one.
Let’s look at a simple example to understand how it happens:
The pawn is about to leap to the necessary cell. It’s occupying the position on the 7th rank. White will soon introduce a new soldier. If you go back to the picture, you’ll see that a queen has been chosen. All because it’s the most maneuvering soldier. Attention: the pawn must get away as it’s an exchange. Staying in the battle is not an option.
To define promoting, we can call it a transformation. One piece turns into another. There is only one exception. A pawn can’t become a second general (king).
This ability only applies to the weakest participants – pawns. Some people think they’ll get a reward if they do the same with the king. Unfortunately, they won’t. If it goes there, it doesn’t launch a special event. So, don’t waste moves to bring it here (unless it’s required by your strategy). But don’t forget that the king is like a diamond: precious and indispensable. It’s vital to protect it. So, provide a reliable defense for it and don’t endanger it without a reason.
But imagine that your queen is still active on the board. Can you have 2 queens in chess simultaneously? In theory, one side can get up to 9 queens, 10 knights, bishops, etc. But only if all 8 pawns complete their journey to the enemy’s last rank. However, it’s very close to impossible in practice. You’ll just have to sacrifice them during the game. They’re used to lure the opponent into traps, do beneficial exchanges, etc. But some of them will survive, reach their goals and become whatever you want.
So, it’s a good idea to own a second chess set to easily replace pieces. Some of them are already packed with several queens (it’s used more frequently). If your set doesn’t have them, use a turned upside-down rook. But only if it’s a game with your friends. It’s not allowed during official tournaments. If you need one during such an event, pause the clock. The arbiter is responsible for providing you with what you want.
Variations of the Maneuver
Once a pawn a time… Promotions have been known for centuries in many regions. The rules differed from place to place. In India, pawns could only transform into a particular piece. Namely, if it landed on a, it turned into a rook. The queen of pawn should reach d. And so on.
In medieval Western chess, they could only become queens (weak back then). At some point, the promotion was allowed if the piece was taken. If it was still on the board, you couldn’t use it. Right now, we all enjoy more freedom with this trick.
Pawn Promotion Rules
This is not all you should know. It’s important to discuss other aspects to better understand the maneuver. Namely, in what order should you act, what can a new soldier do, etc.
A pawn jumps to the necessary field in 2 ways:
- A regular movement one cell forward
- An attack to one cell left or right diagonally
But in what sequence? It doesn’t make any difference. You can first place your pawn on the necessary cell. Or don’t touch it at all. Just add a new participant to the necessary area and then take the pawn away. Professionals do everything without hurrying using only one hand. Doing it with two is considered to be bad manners.
A couple of other things to remember about the maneuver:
Your turn is over when the piece arrives at the battlefield. It doesn’t have permission to move right away. But it still influences the game. For example, if you decide to turn a pawn to a queen, it can threaten the enemy’s king. Or even checkmate it!
Add only your own color. You can’t take a black piece if your side is white. And vice versa. It’s an obvious and logical rule, but it’s worth mentioning from a start.
As already said, the pawn summons anyone into action (not the king). So, your army can be joined by a rook, bishop, queen, or knight. Such transformations are divided into 2 categories:
Queening (meaning the strongest)
It’s true that chess can be unpredictable thanks to so many possible combinations. At least it’s true for newcomers. However, there is one thing that can be said both about beginners and seasoned players. They all summon a queen most of the time (97% of cases). The explanation is simple. It’s the mightiest soldier. Its abilities allow it to cover more squares than anyone else.
This is how this looks:
White proceeds to h8: the pawn queens and destroys the king. The latter can’t retreat without being endangered.
But sometimes such a transformation is a mistake. The following maneuver won’t benefit your army in any way:
On seeing the white pawn, one might want to move it and call up a queen. But this won’t lead to anything advantageous. It’ll only produce a stalemate. And it’s an unpleasant situation when a king just can’t go anywhere. All because all squares around it are under fire.
But if you look at the second picture, right now it’s not endangered. So, it’s not a win for White and not a defeat for Black. But this could have ended differently. Just try the scenario with a bishop. Trap the king and checkmate it later.
Underpromotion (meaning the weakest)
It’s not the opposite of a promote-based pattern. You still get a stronger peace: a bishop, rook, or knight. But these are very rare cases.
Let’s have a look at 2 examples of when such a move is very handy:
The white pawn is about to get its promotion! But a queen will not help you. On the contrary, it’ll cause a stalemate. But if you choose a rook instead, you’ll avoid such a situation. Black will have to jump to a6. Then the white king will checkmate it on b6. The end and the victory!
It seems that White is losing. There are only 4 fighting units in its army, while Black has more! But White can win in just one move. It should place its pawn to c8 and introduce a knight. This piece checkmates the enemy king. The only possible retreat is to b6, but the new soldier covers this square as well. Despite having a not favorable situation from the start, White wins anyway!
When Is Chess Promotion Not Possible?
Imagine, you’ve traveled a long journey. You made lots of maneuvers and sacrifices to lead your pawn to the 7th rank. It was about to step forward and make that beautiful transformation. But then a hostile piece blocks its passage.
So, the way forward is not available anymore. Your soldier is stuck and seems useless. In this case, it’s called an impassable pawn. Unlike passed ones (or just passers), they can’t advance. It’s a common situation that can occur at any moment of the match. Promoting chess becomes very difficult then.
As seen above, there is just one cell separating the pawn from transformation. But Black uses its king and prevents it from happening. It stands in its way and doesn’t let it advance. The match ends with a stalemate. White had an advantage, but it failed to use it and win.
The Power of Threats
Do you dream of sending a chess pawn to the other side? Your enemy will watch out for such maneuvers. Anyone will start paying attention even if you’re just approaching your goal. And they will do anything to prevent the promotion.
Such a situation may be very advantageous for you. Your enemy will make mistakes or agree to unfavorable exchanges.
This is exactly the case in the following example:
White surely wins in this match. Its pawn needs to jump just one cell to transform into a queen and destroy the enemy. Black doesn’t want this to happen. So, it’s about to strike the newcomer with a rook. But White can opt for a more cunning strategy.
If it places its rook to e8, Black has to deal with 2 threats:
- If the rook eats the knight, it’s bad
- If the pawn queens, it’s very bad
It’s impossible to repel 2 attacks simultaneously. The lesser evil is what anyone will choose. This is why Black kills the pawn, thus sacrificing the knight (your rook eats it). Yes, the pawn failed to fulfill its purpose. But you traded it for a knight. It’s more than beneficial!
Rule of the Square
Such a multilayered game as chess hides lots of tricks to help you out. Some of them can predict the outcome of the match. Or at least evaluate your chances of completing a successful maneuver.
This square rule shows if your (or opposing) king can catch a passable pawn. And stop it from queening. If it can, you’ll get rid of it, depriving the enemy of an advantage. So, how can you predict it beforehand?
The left picture features a king. It stands beyond the square. If you’re white and about to move, then you’ll reach the necessary field in time. But if your enemy crosses the line, it’ll definitely catch up with you and eat it.
The picture to your right shows the piece that is in the square. So, White can forget about winning there.
How can you create such a square? What size should it be? It’s not difficult: count the squares between the pawn and its goal. Draw the necessary lines to complete the figure. It’s 5 in our case. But a different situation may feature a bigger or smaller one.
However, if there is an obstacle, the maneuver will fail. The king will most likely be too late to stop the pawn. Think for yourself: you’ll have to spend precious moves walking around them. It’s a waste of time and a probable defeat.
Notation of Promotion in Chess: How?
Advanced players write down everything during the match. But it’s not always clear what to do with this transformation. If it’s an unofficial match, write something like this: a8=Q or a8(Q).
It means that the pawn jumps to a8 and becomes a queen. But the International Chess Federation doesn’t allow such notation. If you prefer to do everything by the special rules, write it down like this: a8Q.
What Is Pawn Promotion? – video
Can you promote a pawn to a second queen? Now you have all the necessary information to try this maneuver in action. We’d only like to add that transformation into a bishop usually doesn’t make any sense. It goes only diagonally. So, if you play chess, promote pawns to queens, unless the situation requires otherwise. This piece covers more cells, and thus it’s more efficient in the battle. As for the knight, it’s valuable for an unusual movement pattern.
All in all, it’s a crucial moment in any match. The transformation usually happens in the endgame. Sometimes participants manage to create such a situation in the middlegame. Whatever it is, don’t focus entirely on bringing your soldiers to the opposing ranks. Watch out for the enemy’s moves as well. They’ll also be focused on introducing strong pieces and destroying you.