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?

  • 5
    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
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 23:50
  • 2
    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. Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 23:53
  • 13
    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." Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 23:59
  • 1
    Unrelated but I think I'd love a version that would allow a pawn to promote to a second king. That'd make pawns even more valuable and would completely change strategic planning. Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 3:26
  • 1
    Pawn checks are somewhat rare (but of course legal). Perhaps this helper people to make up their own rules. Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 5:57

4 Answers 4


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.

  • 2
    This is correct regarding Shogi's 'pawn drops.'
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 0:50
  • 1
    @TonyEnnis, do you know a rationale behind the rule that one can't checkmate with a dropped pawn specifically?
    – ETD
    Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 0:53
  • No, I don't recall reading why this is. Let me check my book...
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 1:02
  • 3
    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
    Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 1:10
  • @TonyEnnis, perhaps so. I did some light googling and couldn't find an underlying reason either. Thanks.
    – ETD
    Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 1:16

I have never heard this before... A pawn can check and also mate.





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.


Not only can a pawn put a king in check, it can also checkmate him as can be seen in several famous games. There's an old saying, that "A cat may look at a king, but a pawn can checkmate him." Here's a position demonstrating just such a check.

[FEN "8/1k6/p1PK2pp/6n1/8/P4B2/1P6/8 w - - 0 1"]

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