# Why can't a piece (that isn't a pawn) capture en passant?

Why can't a piece (that isn't a pawn) capture en passant? When a pawn makes a two-square move, the en passant rule says that on the next move, any pawn that could have captured it on the single-advance square may do so.

So why doesn't the rule allow a non-pawn piece that could have captured it on the single-advance square to do the same? For instance, in the position

[fen "7k/8/8/8/2n5/8/P7/7K w - - 0 1"]

1.a4

why isn't the knight allowed to respond 1...Nxa3?

• Your question is unclear, at least provide a simple example to help us out. Best regards. Jan 5, 2014 at 16:44
• The definition en.wikipedia.org/wiki/En_passant clearly states that only pawns can capture other pawns with en passant.
– user2001
Jan 8, 2014 at 17:54
• This question is bad, the user didn't search Chess.SE for duplicate questions about "En passant" nor did he try to google it Mar 2, 2014 at 1:24
• No.en passant is only for pawns !! Mar 2, 2014 at 2:18
• I took the liberty of changing the question to something a little bit more involved, in the hopes that the community might find something more of interest in it. Instead of the factual question about whether the rule allows non-pawns to capture en passant, the question is now why the rule doesn't allow it. I mention this in part so that readers will understand that some answers below which appear not to address the question asked, in fact DO directly address the question originally asked.
– ETD
Mar 4, 2014 at 0:36

I believe the en passant rule is designed to cope with the fact that pawns do not move backwards, hence if the en passant rule did not exists you could have a lot of blocked positions, making play slower and probably more drawish.

Differently from pawns, pieces can move backwards, so the black Knight in your example still has the possibility to move backward and stop/capture the white a pawn. Therefore no need of allowing the en passant rule for pieces.

Said that, there is in a special case a sort of en passant like rule for pieces: castling is not allowed if an opponent's piece controls one of the squares that the King would go through while castling. You can see that as a sort of threat of hitting the King "en passant" during the castling move.

At a large extent chess rules are what they are because they resisted the test of time and made an interesting game. Same goes for pawn moves. The 2-step move from the pawn initial position did not exist either from the beginning, it was introduced later to make play faster and more dynamic; the en passant rule was likely introduced shortly afterwards to avoid large pawns blockades.

• I don't see how the en-passant relates to having fewer blocked positions: the same that happens with en-passant could happen without en-passant, in general. Nov 28, 2016 at 14:58

Long ago, pawns were only allowed to move 1 square at a time (side note: fianchettoing was therefore very common then, as playing e3 or d3 opens the diagonal for one bishop, only to block the other!) ; the rules were modified to allow pawns to move two squares ahead on its first move in order to speed up the game.

Now, this had some major impact strategically because then players could move their pawns 'past' their opponents' and avoid capture, which would have resulted in the need for a major re-think of chess strategy, therefore the en passant rule was implemented to maintain a good level of similarity to the 'old' game.

One possible reason why this rule wasn't expanded and implemented for pieces is due to the static nature of pawns (which can't move backwards), which is not the case for pieces; having a pawn move past a square defended by an enemy pawn to evade capture was deemed unacceptable, whereas it is alright to evade capture by a piece. The strategic implications of the former is extremely severe and would lead to a completely different game, but in the case of the latter it's lighter and the nature of the game remains somewhat unchanged (perhaps because the piece can still relocate to 'chase' the pawn?).

But in any case, "rules are rules", however arbitrary they may seem (don't hope to change them, especially on the basis of "it doesn't make sense!"); to digress: why is the queen the most powerful piece? (Further digression: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_AhNHrfu4Q). Having said so, questioning the motivation of these strange rules is certainly not unreasonable, and hopefully the above gives an idea over the rationale of not allowing pieces to capture en passant.

On a trivial note: it was actually suggested at a FIDE conference relatively recently (clearly by someone who didn't know chess very well!) that pieces be allowed the capture en passant. Needless to say, the suggestion was not taken seriously!

En passant is, for a lack of a better word, an ugly rule. It does not flow logically from the "fundamental" rules of chess - it is an exception that serves a specific purpose: to prevent players from forcing walled positions with their pawns, effectively killing any activity in the game (at least, that is my understanding). By allowing a player to capture en passant, he has at least the option of opening a file in a case where the opponent may be interested in keeping it closed.

I do not see how this justification would translate to non-pawns. Allowing en passant capture by non-pawns would not add anything to the dynamics of the game. It would be an unnecessary proliferation of an already ugly rule.

• ugly: artificial? ad hoc? unnatural? unintuitive?
– BCLC
Feb 9, 2023 at 4:10

No. There is no analogue to en passant captures for pieces that are not pawns.

The rule, as it exists, offers an advantage to the player moving a pawn that is equivalent to two moves in a single turn whenever a piece is denied a capture available under the old rules. Until one of your games is affected, the significance of this rule is seldom noticed.

I don't have an logical answer because I believe one does not exist. None of the responses above — almost all of which are non-responsive — answer the WHY of the question. The fact that pawns cannot move backward does not begin to address why a piece cannnot capture a pawn en passant.

My best guess as to the Why of it is that, the last time the rules were changed, nobody thought to bring it up. Or, if they did, it was decided better to stick with an established rule than to change the nature of the game too much, and this would have been considered too much of a change.

I think the same with regard to the question of why a piece pinned to its king can still give check. Neither one of these two rules is logical, though. They are just "there," and we live with them.

There is, of course, nothing preventing someone from starting up a club around a new chess variant that incorporates these two rule changes. Might be interesting to see just how much it does change the game. Most games wouldn't be changed at all, I think. But for those it does change, ... different outcomes, perhaps.

Thanks for the question. If an officer could indeed be captured en passant, then one would need to undo any capture it had just made, which is potentially awkward. This doesn't apply to pawns, because the famous double hop is defined to be a non-capturing move.

"The 3rd and 6th ranks have pathways that only pawns may enter."

My answer was deleted, I assume because Mr. Towers failed to understand the reasoning and took it as gibberish. I guess I need to elaborate and defend it.

Another answer I have seen is to say the pawns are lightweight militia units marching double time and the other heavy units cannot catch them but other pawns can. Pawns, interestingly, only have this burst of speed on their first go.

This tries to make sense of the game and is one interpretation of the more general answer I provided.

Why can a rook, bishop, king, knight, and pawn not duplicate one another's movements?

Because this is what the rules say?

Not technically wrong, just entirely unsatisfying and missing the relevancy of the question.

Moving from point A to point B is not done by the same path for each piece. Which can be interpretted many ways such as having different vehicles, as the rook(chariot)/knight(horse)/bishop(elephant), or political influence, such as the queen(vizier)/bishop(clergy) etc., or it can be seen as a more abstract mathematical concept underlying the game itself, which takes the game back to its earliest roots.

Look at Chinese or Congo chess or Alice or 3D chess to help wrap your mind around the concept. For example, in Alice or 3D chess, pieces literally leave the board and travel a way before returning. In Congo or Jungle chess, pathways are physically laid out that characterize how a piece can move. Such concepts have been around a while.

While there is no historical manifesto for why the pawn can only capture en passant, what made sense back then possibly makes sense today; still being the same game.

The paths followed by the orthodox chess pieces, exist on hidden layers of the chess board while the pieces stay tethered to the base layer following moves, where they can be displace one another, except the pawn, during its double-move, actually removes itself from play, skips the opposing player's move, moves again, and returns itself into play, all in a single move.

A queen has access to the layers or paths of the rook, king, and bishop. The amazon/dragon piece from Maharanja and the Sepoys has the additional path of the knight added as well. Even still, the pawn remains uniquely separate from all these other pieces.

You can't expect a monkey to follow a mole underground or a fish to climb trees, after all they use different modes of travel, taking longer to reach different locations by different paths and perhaps having no way to reach certain locations at all.

Only another pawn, which moves along the same hidden path, is able to intercept another pawn making this special double move. While such a route of movement is inaccessible to other pieces, this is a dimension other pawns are familiar with and they can still reach through it in order to displace a pawn during its double move.

Pawns are basically time travelers, and only another time traveler can catch a time traveler.

I appreciate all other efforts to justify the reason, even those that are clearly wrong, and I don't see why any of them should be deleted; after all, the answers are voted on.

There are paths on rows 3 and 6 that allow the double move and only other pawns have access to those paths.