So many people I know (or have played chess with) have never heard of En passant and will call me out for cheating.

En passant is a move in chess. It is a special pawn capture that can only occur immediately after a pawn makes a double-step move from its starting square, and it could have been captured by an enemy pawn had it advanced only one square. The opponent captures the just-moved pawn "as it passes" through the first square. The result is the same as if the pawn had advanced only one square and the enemy pawn had captured it normally.

Read more on En passant at Wikipedia

I find that it is overall an uncommon move, I hardly ever have the opportunity to use it.

Why aren't people taught the move when they first learn chess? (I didn't know about it until I'd been playing for multiple years)

  • 1
    Interesting things to know: Where do you live? And who taught you how to play chess (the same person who taught your friends)? From my own personal experience, chess players generally know that the en passant rule exists (whether they know the exact definition is another thing, though).
    – Annatar
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 10:56
  • 5
    I've had this problem when playing with very casual players who usually learned as kids from family members or friends who maybe didn't teach them the rule, or maybe did but the player forgot over the years, during which they've played infrequently. Never had that issue with more serious players. Other "little-known" rules: draw by repetition, 50-move rule, even draw by stalemate. Draw, what's that? :-)
    – itub
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 12:18
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    @itub. It's what I call the "house rules". Each house has its own version, and grown men seem to think that because they were taught by their fathers that they must be right and that you are wrong. Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 6:56

2 Answers 2


It is taught together with the rest of the rules of the game. You playing for years without knowing about it has nothing to do with that, either you learn the rules or you don't, you won't self-discover them no matter how many years you play, specially not when your playing pool is limited solely to your friends who may not know certain rules either. So you not knowing about it doesn't make for a case that it's poorly taught.

Now chesswise, I think it's quite clear why it's a relatively rare type of move given that it can only be played when there are still pawns at starting position and when moved two squares, constraints make events rare. That said, its potential as a move is still rather frequently employed, for instance to stop your opponent's desired queenside pawn expansion, following is a typical example:

 [Title "En passant being employed"]
 [fen "r1bq1rk1/pp1nbppp/4pn2/2pp4/P2P1B2/2P1PN2/1P2BPPP/RN1Q1RK1 b - - 0 8"]

 1...a6 2.a5 b5 (2...b6 3.axb6) 3.axb6

Black plays a6 to prepare b5 and their desired setup is to have the a6-b5 pawns which provides important light-square control and creates space on Black's queenside. White on the other hand, prevents it by simply playing a5, with the underlying tactical idea being to capture with en passant in case black tries to expand with b5. If black did play it regardless, then after white takes, black's left with a weakened a6 pawn. So with a5 we stop both b6 and b5 for good.


Quite frankly it's because most people don't care enough about chess to grasp the motivation behind the rule, so, because it comes into play so rarely, they forget the rule even exists. I would bet that at least half of the players at my local library's chess club (which is a very casual club) couldn't tell me what a passed pawn is or why it's important. It takes serious study for concepts like that to stick, and most casual players are content to be woodpushers.

It's also a tricky rule to master because it's so weird. I had to teach chess to a complete newbie a couple of weeks ago and at first I decided not to mention the en passant rule because he had enough on his plate as it was. In one of our games, though, he played a pawn advance that allowed me to capture en passant. I explained the rule to him and demonstrated the capture (then took it back; it wouldn't have been fair to exploit a rule he didn't know). Yet he made a couple more such moves that very day; the rule just wouldn't stick in his mind. So it wouldn't surprise me if a lot of people learned about en passant, but completely forgot it by the time you used the rule because it went in one ear and out the other to begin with.

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