Can pawns capture backward? (For beginners!)

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We know the pawn is probably the most boring piece that can be introduced to a beginner but is necessary to build the foundation in understanding Chess.

I bet most of you would rather prefer to learn cool Knight and Queen maneuvers with forks and checkmates rather than building a good solid pawn structure which is okay, as it really boosts pattern recognition.

However, it is also important to understand the nature of the pawn, and the best way to do it of course is by answering Chess queries such as this one. Can the pawns capture backward?

As a chess player here is what I know:

Pawns in chess cannot capture or move backward unlike with other pieces. In checkers pawns are allowed to capture backwards, this is not the same with chess since pawns can only move forward.

The pawns cannot move and capture in any of the mentioned spaces (except forward which they can move but not capture) as any attempts would be considered illegal or null.

This limits their movement abilities to only an advance along with the file they belong, and can only switch sides once they made a capture either on their left or right upper tiles.

How it can largely influence the game

I know that some of you have met a couple of tricksters that try to fool you into believing such made-up rules, probably to favor their positions on lost games.

It is interesting however to find out how the game can actually change if this is to be made legal, so let’s take a look, shall we?

a.) Promotion

A pawn’s main quirk would be its potential to be converted to a much valuable piece through a process known as a promotion.

Such an opportunity overrides any known weaknesses for this piece and makes it more likely for players to save them up until the endgame.

The pawn achieves promotion by advancing the board until it reaches the opponent’s last rank where it can be more useful.

Capturing backward of course does not help in accomplishing this goal and would actually deprive the player of chances that may lead to the conversion.

A player may move the pawn backward only to regret missing a shot at promotion by just forwarding the piece.

b.) Double pawns

As you may know, double pawns are a disaster to deal with especially in endgames where they are a crispy lunch for the opponent’s rooks and queen. Defending them ends up looking like preventing a bulldog from getting its food, yeah pretty hard.

I’ve had cases where I have given a full pawn just to force a double pawn for my opponent (I won those btw), which just reflects how weak such structures are.

Double pawns are cases where two pawns reside in the same file (column) and in turn, makes the player only able to move one at a time rather than both.

There are so many reasons why you don’t want this structure in your own games but essentially, the pawn works best if they can be chained side by side rather than up and down.

A backward capture rule for pawns would be insane! I can definitely see a lot of games getting out of control when it comes to Double pawns. With this rule in place, pawns have more options to switch tiles than it has ever been.

This can not be a bad thing though if used correctly but will just make the game different and harder for beginners especially when just starting out.

c.) Pawn Push

At last, this is one of the tactics I picture would have its own strategy with the backward capture rule in mind.

This strategy revolves around the fact that double pawns can easily be created with more options to take (just like the previous reason), the game could undertake a pawn war form if this were to be made official.

Players often use pawn pushes to expand control within their Kingside, Queenside, or Center, and today where too much push though has been deemed unwise, it actually does more good than harm if pawns can capture backward.

Usually when a pawn is pushed, there is always a fine line the player has to consider if the advance is premature, as that pawn can actually be cornered into a capture.

The idea goes like this, the pawn gets blocked and isolated while different pieces increase the pressure over time until there’s more attackers than those that can defend the pawn

That’s before this rule! Now players would be more confident to advance pawns and create closed positions, as they have more options to get the pawn out via a backward capture.

Some players may benefit from this if they’re comfortable in tight spaces, but I’m definitely not one of those players, and I think you are not too (most beginners aren’t) so let’s just forget about this.

18 pawn structures you’ve seen (but never knew)

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Why it wasn’t usually discussed

This question in particular has rarely been discussed upfront and is just something that doesn’t come to mind when first introducing someone to Chess.

I’ve never seen someone say “Hey the pawn can/cannot capture backward; which I understand as we prefer to tell what they can do over what they can’t.

This however does not prevent beginners from forming conclusions on their own that would very well result in complications. I myself was really confused when putting the whole picture together!

I mean so many pieces that can move in a variety of ways, a lot of information would of course be missed along the way, which creates more questions than answers.

Such questions would of course lead to another question, then another until the learner would eventually misinterpret the first information and create a false rule on his own.

The inability to answer this query is similar to how you would learn any type of sport, every activity after all has a certain degree of complication to it. Imagine someone watching an NBA game only to ask “Can they use their foot to travel with that ball?”.

Now, that is a perfectly reasonable query for someone who has never played Basketball, but instructors sometimes bypass this basic idea and just assumes that the student knows the answer from watching professional games.

What seems obvious though becomes the thing that holds most of us back from learning something this simple faster.

The backward-like en passant

The special pawn move called en passant bears suspicious similarity to a backward capture and most likely what people actually refer to in this query.

En passant is available if the opponent chooses to play an initial two space pawn advance while having one of the friend pawns rest on the side, the pawn on the side can then capture the pawn at its back, perhaps what they meant as “backward”.

You as the one having to play that turn will have the option to treat the two pawn advance as just a regular one-pawn move, and able to capture at the backspace of that opponent pawn which can make it look like a backward capture.

I don’t think this qualifies as “can a pawn backward capture” as the piece didn’t really capture a piece behind, rather forward to the back of another pawn, which I think appears as a misrepresented question that people get confused to ask about.

A real scenario where the pawn will actually step back from the rank (horizontal tile) that it already passed is impossible to occur.

This is because the pawn is only capable of moving forward and never back unless it is converted into other pieces that can do so, however, that doesn’t make it a work of pawn, rather just another piece.

Conclusion

The pawn might be the weakest in power yet the greatest in potential among all Chess pieces. It is important to understand how the rules that apply to this piece actually works, as it would allow the player to maximize his options in any situation.

What’s the best way to know something? First learn what it does then understand why it can’t!

This will save you a lot of time pondering on stuff that doesn’t matter which distracts you from things that are actually important, so learn the rules.

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