I have been playing chess for years but I was just introduced en passant only recently. I keep on forgetting when to play this weird move. I keep on asking myself "is it on the 5th row or the 4th row" If there is an easy way to remember, please help.

  • 3
    The capture en passant is about capturing the opponent's pawn that just moved two steps forward. Don't worry about memorizing which n-th row it is. If your opponent's pawn moved two steps forward, and ended up in the side of your pawn, you can then capture that pawn as if it had moved only one square.
    – Pedro A
    Jan 7, 2017 at 15:32

2 Answers 2


Perhaps it helps if you remember the (presumed) reason for having this special move.

Originally pawns were only allowed to make single steps. This meant that pawns on adjacent files could not pass each other without running into the danger of being captured.

When the double step was introduced, pawns on adjacent files could suddenly pass each other (which would have changed the evaluation of many positions most notably in endgames). They could pass each other exactly in one case: white pawn on 5th row black pawn making double step (or equivalently black pawn on 4th row white pawn making double step).

So bottom line if you see a pawn passing your pawn without your pawn ever having a chance to capture it, it is time for en passant.

  • Don't you have to do the en-passant on the move after your opponent puts their pawn on the 4th or 5th row? Jan 7, 2017 at 21:42
  • 1
    Yes, if you want to capture en passant you have to do it immediately. I did not claim anything else, did I? Jan 7, 2017 at 21:49

You can capture en passant when your opponent pushes his pawn twice (to the 4th rank (white) or the 5th rank (black)) and you have a pawn sitting next to it. Then you can capture the pawn as if it only moved one square - but only immediately after the pawn push of your opponent, you can't delay this.

If you have trouble remembering this rule, then perhaps having a position in your mind works better?

[FEN "rnbqkbnr/1ppppppp/8/p3P3/8/8/PPPP1PPP/RNBQKBNR b KQkq - 0 2"]
[White "White"]
[Black "Black"]

2... f5 3. exf6

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