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I am only an amateur player, but have been playing for many years. Every now and then I come across people who are adamant that a pawn cannot put a king into check.

The last person who I discussed this with was a high school student who played school competitions and pretty much convinced me. So much so that I have now convinced my father, who taught me how to play over 20 years ago that a pawn cannot check or take another piece to put the king into check.

I've just done a Google search to clarify, although most pages say a pawn can put a king into check it has so many results that it has made me curious:

Where did the idea that a king cannot be put in check by a pawn come from?

Are there are competitions / set of rules / types of games where this rule is enforced in the modern game?

Further question, can a pawn also be moved to put a king into checkmate?

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A pawn can most certainly check the opposing king. As to where the mythical opposite belief came from, I wonder whether there might have been some chess variant in which this wasn't the case. – ETD Jul 19 '12 at 23:50
I once had a friend from Ukraine who said that the way she was taught if a king touched a square on his opponent's back rank he earned a replacement pawn on his second rank, same file. So if the white king made it to e8 he would get a pawn on e2. – Robert Kaucher Jul 19 '12 at 23:53
I wouldn't be surprised if the origin of this idea is just "Hmm... that move puts me in trouble... better make up a rule." – David Spencer Jul 19 '12 at 23:59
As everyone else has said, yes, pawns can definitely check or checkmate the king. Perhaps the confusion comes from the fact that they are the only pieces to threaten different squares than they can move to. Also, to answer your penultimate question, I've never heard of a modern chess tournament which worked differently, the rules are fairly standard and unambiguous these days. – Daniel B Jul 25 '12 at 12:50

Here's a preliminary answer to where such a belief about chess pawns could possibly have come from. In the Japanese variant Shogi, in which an opponent's captured pieces may be placed onto the board as one's own, it is not legal to place down a pawn that gives immediate checkmate. It's still perfectly legal to drop a pawn that gives check though (and to check/mate normally with a pawn), so this a much less severe restriction than what your question asks about. But this is a case in which the pawns are singled out, because any other piece can be dropped to give an immediate checkmate.

Since Shogi and chess are both believed to derive from Chaturanga, perhaps there is indeed some historical variant in which pawns weren't allowed to check at all; but I'm just speculating at the moment.

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This is correct regarding Shogi's 'pawn drops.' – Tony Ennis Jul 20 '12 at 0:50
@TonyEnnis, do you know a rationale behind the rule that one can't checkmate with a dropped pawn specifically? – ETD Jul 20 '12 at 0:53
No, I don't recall reading why this is. Let me check my book... – Tony Ennis Jul 20 '12 at 1:02
No, they contain no explanation of the rule. Perhaps this is no more unusual that wondering why a knight moves like an "L" - it just does. – Tony Ennis Jul 20 '12 at 1:10
@TonyEnnis, perhaps so. I did some light googling and couldn't find an underlying reason either. Thanks. – ETD Jul 20 '12 at 1:16

A particularly unpleasant pawn check happened to me in a tournament during the endgame. My opponent's pawn took my recently advanced g pawn en-passant delivering check to my king and attacking my rook. The pawn was defended.

I'd completely forgotten about en-passant so hadn't spotted this winning move.

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