The En Passant Rule

En Passant means “in passing” in French, and you’ll soon see why the rule is named this way. It should be the last of the three special moves taught to a new player, after castling and pawn promotion. Players are often confused by en passant, but I promise to make it clearer!

USCF Official Rules of Chess, 7th edition

USCF Official Rules of Chess, 7th edition

Things to Remember about En Passant

  • En passant involves pawns capturing pawns. No other pieces can capture or be captured.
  • The capturing pawn must be three squares from his starting line. So a white pawn must stand on the 5th rank to make the capture and a black pawn must stand on the 4th rank.
  • The pawn-to-be-captured must jump two squares from its starting position, ending up next to the capturing pawn.
  • The capturing pawn, standing next to the enemy pawn, moves diagonally behind it and removes it from the board.
  • If the chance for en passant appears, you must do it immediately or you lose your chance with that combination of pawns.

En Passant examples

Now, let me show you what I mean. Take the following position:

I’ll show en passant for both sides. First for white:

Example 1

For black:

Example 2

Let’s say you pass up your chance for en passant. Well, you might get a different opportunity later, even with the same pawn! How? The following position will show what I mean.

Example 3

The en passant rule is not so bad, is it?

Summary

  • Pawns capture pawns
  • Capturing pawn three squares from starting line
  • Enemy pawn moves two squares from the starting line at once, standing adjacent to the capturing pawn
  • Must capture immediately if desired

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