Learning chess, the thing that fascinates me the most would be the ability of the weakest unit to be converted into something very powerful through a process known as promotion.
This in my opinion, separates the game from other similar board type activities in similar categories (I mean you know, board games pwwwsh).
I think this makes the game very unpredictable than those other popular games (except maybe I dunno, checkers?).
As even the tiny-bity pawn has the ability to outcompete stronger pieces through their potential, even though their surface value might be far from each other.
A pawn that has managed to reach the last rank (row) on the other side of the board can be converted into any other piece except the King. If the King reaches the last rank (row) on the other side, the game resumes unless a checkmate, stalemate, or resignation has occurred.
This inability doesn’t restrict the players from accomplishing the task (making the King march to the other side) but greatly demotivates the idea as it doesn’t translate into something significant that could be converted to an advantage for the game in general.
Why I can’t find any rule about it
Asking the following means that you probably have been searching for an actual rule from FIDE or USCF that would validate any doubts that may have been circulating around your head.
That is perfectly reasonable way to think as when we start searching for something the first thing that comes to mind is confirming third-party authoritative sources, but there’s a problem for this specific question.
There are literally no rule stating aforementioned scenario from the official handbooks and guides used to regulate official chess tournaments and games, none at all!
Why might this you ask? I briefly talked about this in my other post with similar issues, in which details from any sports not just in Chess tend to state what is allowed to do rather than what it’s not.
This is for one, it completely removes the need for a book of long tedious narrative of the things you can’t do over the things that you can do, as for anything you could do after all has an entire LIBRARY of things you can’t.
And second, people would rather tell you what you’re allowed to do in certain things in hopes of indicating the restrictions that you can’t do and this actually becomes a standard for most sports out there.
Importance of the King
The purpose of the game is to protect the king from being captured through strategic defenses and decision-making, where likewise, make plans and moves to make attempts in capturing the opponent’s own King for the player.
This precondition absolutely means that the game will never progress in the absence of the king, since it’s what keeps the player from being defeated (you lose if you lose the king) as well as removing the winning condition for the opponent.
The opposing player after all can’t win the game if the opponent king can be converted to another piece when it reaches the other side of the board (well if it does not make the player lose automatically), would make the entire side invulnerable since the other player would be deprived of his or her winning conditions.
If we refer to the handbook of FIDE article 1.4.2 “The opponent whose king has been checkmated has lost the game.”https://handbook.fide.com/chapter/E012018
Chess games are won by achieving a checkmate (putting the king in a situation where it will unstoppably be captured next turn) which is an objective that is not possible to reach if the king has been turned into another piece.
We can ensure from the official handbook how the presence of the King is an essential part of the very game itself and should stay on the board if the player intends to continue playing the game. Just try checkmating the opponent that does not have a King, if you can:)
Checkmate is something that just cannot be accomplished if there is no king, the game itself could as well be rigged! It would cost a heck lot of problems that could potentially destroy the entire game experience.
Then you might think, why not any other capability like just bringing another piece for example? Would it work? Of course it will! maybe.
It will pose several problems though that I can personally say to be very significant.
Primarily, the means to trigger the effect of such ability would be far greater than that of a pawn, and would most likely appear as something that doesn’t even make sense, which changes how the game is played entirely.
We could talk about that later in the article, namely the difference in capabilities between the king and the pawn that would make any abilities acquired by the king to almost breaking the game wrecking out fundamentals that hold the game in the first place.
If the pawn can, why can’t the King
The pawn is considered the weakest and least valuable in terms of raw function, mobility, and influence but definitely not potential, where it can single-handedly out-compete every other piece through its ability to be promoted.
Promotion is the ability of the pawn to be converted into a more valuable piece than its own once it reaches the last rank or the opponent’s first rank. If the pawn can be turned into a highly valuable piece than it should make sense that this should apply to the king as well.
I mean, it is the most valuable piece of all right? Anything that applies to the weakest should also apply to the strongest as the promotion after all may just be the characteristic that is needed to shoot the pawn way up in terms of value, maybe not of the king but at least of the queen.
So why does a special feature apply to the pawn but not to the King?
The king can move upwards while the pawn can’t
Imagine if a player could actually bring back pieces from accomplishing to bring the King along the last row of the board, wouldn’t it be cool? But there’s a very big problem and that is, the king can move back and forth once it reaches the targeted tile!
This is a big disaster since it is likely that the king will be able to attain the same ability multiple times to no end if given the opportunity, since it only takes one turn to move the king back and forth.
Adding to that, the King is a mobile piece that can move in 8 different square paths definitely outnumbering the pawn in terms of just the movement options, where is inherently flexible enough to move in a huge number of ways increasing the likelihood of evading incoming attacks.
This is a feature the pawn doesn’t inherently possess, as it can only move in one direction one at a time.
A pawn can be blocked all the way just by any other piece including a fellow friendly pawn (Double pawns), halting its advance completely unless the player has managed to remove the blocking piece from its residing tile.
This limitation allows balanced participation that prevents each player from displaying a reservation game of how many pawns each player has, making the pawn that has a lot of potential to be slightly underpowered and salvageable before it gets even stronger.
Promotion is necessary, but only to the pawn
The thing with the pawn is that it can only advance forward and cannot move in any other direction. This makes it very susceptible to attacks and more likely to be intercepted before reaching the targeted tiles.
This serves as a very good limiter that provides a certain constraint on the possibility to promote.
Otherwise, players would just hold on to their pawns just as much as the (as it has the potential to be converted into a highly valuable piece anyway) I’ve talked about this earlier:p
The fact that it really is the case that someone can manage to stop the pawn before getting into the last rank makes the game very balanced and strategic, which gives the atmosphere that allows players a certain level of decision-making from something that you know, not broken!
Watching the king march up the board of course has its issue as well, broadly during the opening and middle game at least.
I can see very clearly how the King is able to finish the advance with ease, after all, it just takes a couple of blocks to nullify attacks from a few pieces during the end game.
Not only that, a single pawn can only be promoted once (though multiple pawns can be promoted multiple times).
On the other hand, if the King could actually bring back material from scratch in a process that is repeatable, without any limitations, then it breaks the point of it being called an endgame in the first place.
It would be a completely different game
This would ruin the play experience pretty bad during the endgame phase where players could potentially make this a priority, winning game after all is only sometimes separated by a pawn and anything extra would be enough for a conversion in the hands of a really good player.
This could potentially change the game from who gets to checkmate first into how fast to race the king in the last rank of the opponent’s board.
On the other hand, a position where the king has no pieces left other than its own would not be an automatic defeat! Since the King itself would have the potential to bring back other pieces.
A winning position might as well be easily turned around by this rule neglecting the important aspects of the opening and middle game that makes one player more likely to win in the first place.
A lot of theoretical wins and draws if the King really have such an overpowered ability such as this one.
So I guess to wrap it all up by saying it’s actually good for the king to not have any B.S. ability like that of the pawn.
It makes the game very equal for both players and above all very enjoyable!
Just stick to trying to promote the pawn (I mean it’s pretty good) but don’t hope for anything else.
Sleep well and play chess.