9- Pawn promotion

 

In the early days of chess, a pawn that had pushed its way through the opponent’s lines and reached the opposite end of the board was promoted to a “mantri” (the Sanskrit word for “counsellor”) a weak piece that moved a single square on the diagonal. In the European version of the game, the mantri would become the queen and see its movement greatly enhanced. And that is how a promotion to the weakest piece had become a promotion to the strongest one.

Once again this is a rule that has varied greatly over the ages. Many players objected earlier on to the king having two queens – some still do – and for a while the pawn could only promote to a piece that had already been captured. At other times, a pawn could only promote to the piece of the file on which it promoted, or on which it started, with the exception of the king’s pawn which was permitted to promote to a queen since one could not (of course...) have two kings.

Under the modern rules of chess, a pawn that reaches the last rank may promote to any piece (other than a king) at the player’s discretion. Known as the “unrestricted promotion rule”, it became popular in the 19th century and was almost universally accepted by the end of it. And since the queen is by far the most powerful piece of the game, it naturally follows that the vast majority of promotions are to a queen, a process that is usually referred to as “queening”.

A consequence of the new promotion rule was to make the material gain of a single pawn a much greater advantage than it initially was. Under the original rule, when a pawn could only promote to a mantri, a single pawn ending was always a draw since a mantri and a king could not force a mate. But with the introduction of the unrestricted promotion rule, a single pawn ending – if the said pawn could safely reach the last rank and promote – would usually translate into an easy win.

The rules of pawn promotion in Chess 99:

The rules of pawn promotion under Chess 99 return to the original philosophy of the game and promotions are now limited to the two minor pieces, bishops and knights, and nothing else! And there are further differences. Promotions are not permitted on the move that takes the pawn to the last rank but are delayed until a later play. And when a pawn in the last rank is eventually promoted, it is permitted a move but it is not permitted to capture an opponent’s piece as part of the same play.

  • A pawn that has moved all the way across the board – said to be “in the last rank” – may be promoted to a knight or a bishop at the player’s discretion.

  • However, this promotion may not take place on the play that takes the pawn to the last rank.

  • A pawn standing in the last rank may be promoted whenever the player has the move.

  • The promoted piece may then be moved but that is not actually required.(The promoted piece may remain on the square of the pawn.)

  • If the player elects not to move the promoted piece, no other piece may be moved in its place.

  • A pawn in the last rank that is being promoted is never permitted to capture an opponent’s piece as part of the same play.

Do note the following:

  1. A pawn reaching the last rank on a two-square move may be captured “en passant” like any other.

  2. A player will never have two queens, two paladins, or three rooks.

  3. A player may however have three [or more] knights and bishops.

  4. Since a king and a single knight or bishop cannot force a mate, a single pawn ending should be a draw.

  5. Pawn promotion is the only play where it is permitted not to make a move.

  6. A pawn being promoted may not capture a piece otherwise the unpromoted pawn would have the attributes of a paladin!

Example of promotion #1:

White has just played the a-pawn to the last rank on a two-square move and no promotion took place at this time. Black plays Bd6 attacking both the pawn and the knight. White could promote the pawn to a bishop but since it is not permitted to capture a piece on the same play, it would be readily captured by black. White seems bound to lose a piece and this game will be a draw from lack of material.

Promotion5.png

White promotes the pawn to a knight and plays Nc8. Black finds themselves in check and they must now move the king. White captures the bishop. This has become a two knights endgame. If white plays correctly, they will win this game.

Example of promotion #2:

White has just played Ke4 attacking blacks knight. Black plays Nb4 and attacks whites bishop. Unfortunately for black, that was a poor move.

Promotion6.png

White promotes the g-pawn to a bishop and forfeits the move. Black is now in check and must play the king. White captures the knight and this has become a two bishops endgame.

Example of promotion #3:

White has just played Nd6 attacking blacks rook on f5. Black plays Rd5 and attacks whites knight. If the knight moves away, the pawn is lost.

Promotion7.png

White promotes the pawn to a bishop and plays Bf7. Black is in check and will lose the rook. (Black could play Rc5 for a double-check but white answers with Kd4 and the rook must fall.) We now have a bishop and knight endgame. (Note: With the bishop on light squares, and the four corners being dark, it will not be possible to force a checkmate; but it is still possible to force a capture. )