Can Pawns Move Backwards In Chess? – Rules Explained

In chess, most pieces can move backwards but the question arises here can pawns move backwards? Actually, the pawn is considered as weakest chess piece among all pieces. But it has some special abilities that no one has such as En Passant and Pawn promotion. So let’s find out can you move a pawn backwards in chess.

Can pawns move backwards

Can Pawns Move Backwards?

The short answer is No, according to the rules a pawn can’t move backwards in chess. In fact, pawns cannot move either in the left or right direction. The pawn is only allowed to move one or two squares in a straight direction on the first move and afterwards, it can only advance one square per move. 

A pawn can only advance one square in a diagonal direction when capturing a chess piece. Otherwise, it can only move in the forward direction. One more thing to add is that a pawn can’t jump over another piece means that if any piece is blocking its way then it will not be able to move in that scenario.

The pawn is the only exclusive piece that cannot move in the backward direction. Other than the pawn all chess pieces such as a king, queen, rook, bishop, and knight can move backwards in the game whenever they want.

Pawn movement in chess

Can pawns kill backwards in Chess?

This is not possible because a pawn cannot move backwards in chess. If it is not able to move backward then how it can kill or take any piece in that direction. A pawn can only capture a piece that comes in its way one space forward in the diagonal direction. So there is no possibility available in which a pawn can kill a piece in the backward direction. 

Due to its limited moving ability, it is the weakest piece in chess. But despite its limited mobility, it provides a strong defense to the king against opponent chess pieces. It also acquires a super ability in which it can be promoted to other pieces. We will talk about it later. 

Why a pawn can’t move backwards?

According to the rule book of chess, a pawn can’t move or attack backwards in any situation.

In chess, all rules are made to maintain a balance in the game to make it short and entertaining. Ther are a total of 16 pawns on a chessboard and if there will be allowed to move backwards then other pieces will not move freely. And ultimately this thing will disturb the balance of the game.

The second possible reason could be that if the paws are allowed to move backwards then there will be less pawn promotion which is a winning move. According to a survey, it is concluded that those players who promoted their pawn win 70% – 80% of the games.

The final and most important reason could be that pawns will be able to defend the king from the first rank. Then it will be very difficult to put the king in checkmate and the game will take much longer. These things unbalance the whole game of chess that’s why these rules are made to make the game fair for all. 

Two special Pawn moves:

We know that pawns have less mobility power but do you know that they are also awarded two special moves. No piece other than pawns has been allowed to perform these moves.

These are as follows:

  1. En Passant
  2. Pawn promotion

En Passant Move:

En Passant is derived from French language that means “in Passing”. It’s a particular type of pawn capturing in which a pawn captures another enemy pawn which moves two squares from its starting position in the first move. This sounds a bit tricky and confusing at the same time. So let’s observe the below image. 

En Passant pawn capturing

You can notice that as soon as the pawn advances 2 spaces from its starting point the opponent pawn that is on the right side takes it assuming that it only advances 1 square. Most beginners are not familiar with this move so you can amaze them with performing it. 

Actually, there is a solid reason behind this move. In the beginning, a pawn was only allowed to move only one square per move. Later on, a new rule was introduced in which there was a relaxation that pawns can move two squares on their move if they want. But this new rule gave birth to a new problem that pawns were able to escape the attack of adjacent enemy pawns in the first move. So keeping in mind this thing En Passant was introduced.  

Pawn Promotion:

Pawn promotion is the ability that makes a pawn more special. When a pawn travels all the way to the eighth rank on the chessboard then it can be promoted to any piece except the king. A pawn can be promoted to the following pieces. 

  • Queen
  • Rook
  • Bishop
  • Knight

This strategy is very helpful in winning the game as you will get a powerful piece in exchange for your pawn. The majority of players exchange their pawn with a queen as it holds more power. It’s not an optional thing as the player has to remove its pawn as it reaches the end rank

Pawn promotion


A pawn can move forward in a straight direction but it can capture other pieces in the only diagonal direction.

As we know pawn has the less moving ability as it can advance only 1 or 2 spaces on its first move. So it is not possible that a pawn can attack on the first move.

Pawns don’t have the ability to move backwards. So pawns can’t move or attack backwards in any circumstances.

All other pieces excluding pawns can move backwards at any point in chess. These include a Queen, King, Knight, Bishop, and a Rook. PAwn is the only piece that has this limitation.

There is no way that pawns can move in the backward direction. However, when pawn promotion happens then you can exchange your pawn with other powerful chess pieces. After that, you can move backwards with your promoted piece.

A pawn can capture pieces that come in its way one space forward in a diagonal direction. There is another special pawn capturing move associated with pawn called En Passant.

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