Pawn in chess

The Pawn in Chess

Pawn in chess

The smallest piece on the board, a pawn appears to be the weakest piece of the game. With the exception of being able to move two squares forward in the first move, the pawn is only able to move one square forward or capture opponent pieces one square diagonally further in the game. They aren’t able to move backward. There are 8 pawns on each side of the board and each piece is worth one point. Quite often players sacrifice their pawns, the collateral damage for which is just one point while eyeing an opportunity to attack the opponents’ vulnerable pieces. Having 8 pieces of the same kind only adds further to the reasons that the pawn may be considered as the most dispensable piece on the board.

The pawns on the other hand can prove to be quite useful in certain situations. Here are a few of them

Controlling the Center

It is important to establish control early on in the game. Quite often, the player controlling the 4 central squares of the chess board emerges victorious. The pawns ahead of the King and the Queen are the only ones that are capable of making their way into the central 4 squares in just one move! Half of all games in chess have been won by the player having white pieces due to the first-move-advantage. So, playing the white pawn ahead of the king into the central 4 squares is a great way of gaining control early on.

As we can see above, the white pawns have already begun controlling the center of the board. They are making the black knight run while advancing closer to the other end.

Quick Checkmates

Moving the pawn ahead of the king is an integral part of the quickest checkmates involving just 2 or 3 moves. Some of the most popular ones are the 2-move Fool’s mate or the 3-move Scholar’s mate.

Check out our article on the shortest chess games involving these mates!


Castling is a defensive move that allows the King to ‘jump’ it’s way from the center to the sides of the board. It can be either done on the King’s side or the Queen’s side between the King and the Rook provided that there aren’t any other pieces between them. It is an essential part of a winning strategy with over 80% of Grandmaster victories involve Castling. Therefore, the pawn structure here has an important role to play in deciding the outcome of the game.

To learn more about castling, check out our article on special rules in chess below!

Pawn against the Rook and Knight

Pawns have a great ability to attack the Rooks and Knights without having any support from other pieces. This is because neither the Rook or the Knight can move diagonally. A pawn moved to the other end of the board for this reason can be very threatening. In defense, one may move the pawn to attack a threatening Knight or Rook. This is a very good defensive move.

As we see here, the pawn on c5 is threatening the capture of the Knight and Rook. Eventhough the pawn on c5 does not have any support, it is very capable of attacking the Rook and Knight.

Pawn Promotion

Hard-work and determination are virtues that are largely attributed to the successful. Pawns, while only able to move one square forward at a time, if able to reach the other end of the board can be substituted for any other piece. This is probably the biggest advantage of having pawns leftover during the end game since they can be substituted for larger pieces and yield a checkmate. Games among two equally skilled players quite often have similar end games. Most major pieces on the board are captured and it all comes down to pawn strategy and promotion.

To know more about pawn promotion, check out our article on basic pawn structures below!

The pawn is an underdog of the chess board. It represents an opportunity to evolve and develop into a more powerful chess piece at the other end of the board which may prove to be quite threatening in the hands of the right player. It is an extremely satisfying feeling to have checkmated your opponents using your pawns.