8- Capture “en passant”
In the original game of chess, pawns could only move forward one square at a time. Europeans felt that it made for a rather slow game development and that is why, in the 15th century, they introduced a new rule permitting pawns to move forward two (unoccupied) squares on their first move. And only their first move.
In Chess 99, pawns are permitted to make two-square moves all the way across the board. This change is made partly to compensate for the larger board, partly to speed up the endgame, but also to make capture “en passant”, a rarely invoked chess play, far more relevant to the game.
In chess, a “passed pawn” is a pawn that no longer has any opposing pawns preventing it from reaching the last rank and promoting, and only an opposing piece can now stop it. After the initial two-square move was introduced, it was soon realized that this enabled a pawn to go passed an opposing pawn while avoiding being captured. And this is why a special play known as the capture “en passant” (a French expression meaning “in passing”) was introduced: if a pawn moves out two squares and in doing so lands to the side of an opposing pawn, that opposing pawn may capture this pawn as though it had moved a single square. It is then said to be captured as it passes through the first square, hence the name. One condition would be imposed on this new play however: the capture “en passant” had to be made on the very next move or the option to do so was lost.
The “en passant” rule is so rarely invoked that it is usually the last rule chess players will learn. (And it has been said that many players will never even learn it!) In Chess 99, capture “en passant” exists just the same but since pawns are permitted to move forward two squares all the way across the board, it is naturally much more relevant to the game. Even more so since all pieces – not just the pawns – are now permitted to execute this special capture. In Chess 99, a pawn may never avoid capture by using the two-square move to pass through a square that is under attack.
The rules of capture “en passant” in Chess 99:
Whenever a pawn makes a two-square move, the opponent is always permitted to capture the said pawn as if it had moved a single square.
This capture may be executed by a pawn or any other piece.
The option to capture “en passant” has to be exercised on the very next move or it is lost.
Whenever a move is made to a square where a capture “en passant” is an possible play, and the move is legal without the capture, the said capture is always optional.
One might think that by allowing pawns to move forward two squares at a time, they would be able to cross the board much faster but that is not actually the case. In standard chess, pawns require a minimum of five moves to get to the other end of the board – from rank 2 to 4, then 5, 6, 7 and 8. In Chess 99, they still require four moves to do the same – from rank 2 to 4, then 6, 8 and 9. It is faster no doubt, but not a lot faster.
The pawn is in many ways a very unusual piece. It is the only piece that cannot move backwards, the only piece that does not capture the way it moves, and the only piece that can be captured by a move to a square it just passed through.
To be perfectly clear as to the intent of the “en passant” rule, it should be stated that whenever a pawn makes a two-square move, the opponent (who now has the move) is always permitted to push the said pawn back one square as long as they then proceed to capture it in the square where it now stands. There is never an exception to this rule.
Capture “en passant” exists just the same in Chess 99:
A pawn that moves forward two squares and in so doing lands right next to an opponent’s pawn may be captured “en passant” on the very next turn.
The white pawn has moved two squares from b3 to b5. Black, who now has the move, captures the white pawn as it passed through b4.
Note that whenever the capture “en passant” is executed by a piece rather than a pawn, the intent of the player must be made perfectly clear as the move will usually be legal without the capture of the pawn. To prevent any possible misunderstanding, or misplay, the player should either announce “en passant” or push the opponent’s pawn back one square – or both – before their move is actually made. (There is no need to do so when the capture is by a pawn since the move would be illegal without the capture.)
All pieces may execute the capture “en passant”:
White moves the e-pawn forward from e4 to e6 attacking both black’s knight and bishop. Black announces “en passant”, plays the knight to e5 and captures the pawn. Both the knight and the bishop have been saved!
Capture “en passant” and the rook:
The white f-pawn has gone from f4 to f 6 where it is still protected by the knight. In this unusual situation, the black rook can capture the f-pawn in two ways.
The rook could capture the f-pawn on f 6 but since the square is defended by the knight, that is definitely not recommended. But black has a second option: they announce“en passant”, push the pawn back one square to f 5, play Rf 5 and capture the pawn.
The king may capture “en passant”:
In the following example, black is clearly in the superior position. But to win this game their b-pawn must first reach the last rank and promote*. To avoid defeat, white must absolutely capture that b-pawn.
Although white has the move, black has a significant advantage in that the pawn can move twice as fast as the king. Will white be able to stop the pawn from safely reaching the last rank? (Click on the right arrow to see the play unfold.)
* Do note that in Chess 99, pawns do not promote the moment they reach the last rank. See next section.