Complete Guide to Special Chess Moves (En passant, Castling, Promotion)

Everyone who plays chess is familiar with the basic moves each piece makes. However, there are some special chess moves that not everyone knows that exist. To me, that is a serious problem because it can limit a player’s performance in chess. I made this article in order to fix that problem and solve any disagreements that it has created. Also, you will find a lot of information on this website about tactics and reviews about chess products.

Castling in Chess

Castling is one of the most known and important moves in chess. Actually, it’s two moves that are happening at the same time and the moving pieces are the King and one of the Rooks. There are two kinds of castling in chess, the kingside castling, and the queenside castling depending on the side where the King moves. On both of them, the King moves two squares either to the left (queenside) or right (kingside). At the same time, the Rook that is situated on the side where the King is about to move, moves at the square over the King crossed. If you are hearing about castling for the first time, it might seem a bit complicated. Don’t worry I have prepared some animations in order to understand it.

Kingside Castling

Queenside Castling

When I was learning about castling I created a method to remember who many squares each piece moves. The key thing to remember is that the King is a more lazy piece and has less mobility than the Rooks. That’s why the King always moves only by two squares.

Chess Castling Rules

There are some conditions that must not be violated. If any of these castling requirements are not met then, castling cannot be performed. Most chess castling rules are obvious and easy to remember. Castling may happen when:

  • The King and the Rook have not previously been moved and are situated in their starting positions. So you have to remember whether you have moved those pieces or not.
  • The King is not currently in check. Therefore, you cannot avoid the check with castling. In the following example, Black cannot perform any type of castling.

  • The King cannot end up on a square where your opponent attacks it. In the following example, Black cannot perform kingside castling but Black can perform queenside castling (there is no violation of the other conditions).

  • The King does not pass through a square that is attacked by an enemy piece. Make sure you check the adjacent square for any threat. In the scenario below, Black cannot make castling.

  • There are no other pieces between the King and the Rook.

Importance of Castling

Castling in chess is a move of great importance. I usually try to make castling as soon as possible because there are some major benefits.

  • In general, castling is an excellent way to protect your King because by moving it to the sides, the pawns and the Rook offer protection. Most of the time, it’s riskier to leave your King in the center of the board.
  • Rooks are able to put some pressure on the pieces in the center of the chessboard. So, by performing castling it’s an excellent way to use one of the Rooks in the opening phase of the game.

En Passant, the Least Known Special Chess Move

This is a special chess move that many people are not familiar with it. It’s a French phrase that means ‘in passing’ or even better ‘as it passes’. This kind of move may happen under some conditions.

  • Only pawns may capture en passant. More specifically, a white pawn can capture en passant if it’s situated in the fifth rank and a black pawn can do it if it’s situated in the fourth rank. The white pawns on the green squares and the black pawns on the red squares can execute this move.

  • Those pawns can capture an enemy pawn that has moved to an adjacent square by making a two square move. The attacking pawn can capture the other pawn situated on the adjacent square and the attacking pawn is moved to the square that the captured pawn has passed through on its previous move. It seems a little complicated but the following example will answer all your questions. Make sure that you will click on the arrows or the notation as many times it is required to understand it.

  • Keep in mind that if the pawn isn’t advanced by two squares in one move and made the same move into two steps then the enemy pawn doesn’t have the right to capture it en passant (see below).

  • Also, the window of opportunity to capture the enemy piece ‘en passant’ is immediately after the pawn has moved by two squares. If you make a different move after that then, you cannot capture it ‘en passant’.


Promotion is another special move only the humble pawn can perform. This special move makes the otherwise weak pawn into a serious threat to your opponent. When a white pawn reaches the eighth rank or a black pawn reaches the first rank then, that pawn can be removed from play and be replaced with a Queen, Rook, Bishop, Knight. Obviously, players almost every time promote it to a Queen which is the most powerful piece and this act is called queening. If a player promotes the pawn to any other piece but a Queen then, an underpromotion is taking place. Players hardly ever underpromote and when that happens, they choose a Knight because it can move in a way that a Queen is not able to move. Underpromotion to a Rook or a Bishop seems not a sensible option because a Queen can perform the moves of both pieces but players have to do it in order to avoid a stalemate (you can check what a stalemate is here).

Examples of promotion

You can notice in the following example that the white King protects the white pawn that is about to promote.

You can check below that a player cannot promote his pawn to a Queen because the game will end in a draw due to a stalemate.

Importance of Promotion

Promotions are an important part of the game and you should be able to use them to your advantage. Keep the following tips in your mind the next time that you will play.

  • A player who is losing a game of chess has a fighting chance if he can promote one of his pawns. As you have seen in the first example the game would end in a draw but White created a passed pawn and won the game.
  • Stopping a pawn from promoting creates problems because a player has to defend and cannot threaten his opponent.

Books About Special Chess Moves

If you are new to chess then, you will probably have many questions about chess. In chess, there are a lot of terms, tactics, and strategies that beginners find difficult to understand. However, there is a book that solves this problem. It has received many great reviews and it’s the perfect book for beginners.

Final thoughts

You can check my other articles about strategies and reviews of chess sets. I have written many articles for people who are making their first steps in chess, like the conditions of the draw in chess. If you found value in this article, it would mean a lot to me to share it with your close ones. I would like to read your opinion in the comment section. Have fun with chess.

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