This may be a frivolous question, as I believe that most chess players are good sportsmen, but I was wondering: what is the technically correct procedure for promoting a pawn to a queen? Do you ask your opponent to put the queen on the promotion square, or do you take it from his pile of captured pieces yourself (provided of course that queens have been exchanged)? If you have to ask your opponent, what happens if he takes his time (as in the case where you may be in time trouble, for example?). If you have to take it yourself, are there rules around where you are allowed to keep captured pieces (the absurd situation being that your opponent hides the captured queen when the promotion becomes evident).

Similarly, I vaguely remember that there was some professional game that got delayed because they couldn't find a second queen after one of the players promoted while still having his original queen on the board. This puzzled me a bit: in my school days, we would either use an upside-down rook or even a pawn rested on its side to mark it as a queen - is this for some reason unacceptable in tournament play?

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    At many international tournaments a second Queen is placed by the board (one white and one black) just in case of someone promoting to a Queen while still having their original Queen.
    – Halvard
    Jan 16, 2014 at 12:20
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    In physical games, instead of asking for one of the pieces they can just use a bishop on a rook. A queen can go diagonal just like the bishop and the queen can also go vertical and horizontal just like the rook.
    – user7590
    Jun 13, 2015 at 17:25
  • In my amateur practice, if your Queen is on the board, we used an inverted Rook as the 2nd Queen. If both your Queen and two Rooks are not captured (extremely unlikely but in low-level play among children, that might happen), one can use any other object of suitable dimensions. Mar 9, 2023 at 19:18

2 Answers 2


The procedure is (FIDE rules): move the pawn to its promotion square, then replace it with the piece you want. You can take it from the captured pieces yourself, your opponent does nothing. If the piece isn't readily available, you can stop the clock and ask the arbiter to bring one. Your choice of piece is only finalized when it touches the promotion square. See the Laws of Chess

An upside down rook is a rook. A pawn on its side is a pawn, and thus an illegal move.

The FIDE rules will be changed a bit in the upcoming July 2014 Laws of Chess, see e.g. this ChessCafe "Arbiter's Notebook" column by Geurt Gijssen, who is involved in the rules changes. From July, it will also be legal to remove the pawn from the board without moving it to the promotion square (followed by putting the piece on the promotion square), and it will also be legal to place the piece first and then remove the pawn. Those used to be illegal moves.

And also from July, if you move the pawn to the promotion square and then press the clock, you've made an illegal move (that's already the case now), and as usual the pawn counts as touched and you will have to promote it in the legal way, but you will be forced to promote to queen. Apparently people were using this illegal move and the delay it will bring as extra thinking time to decide which piece to promote to.

As you can see there are some fiddly details that may be different with USCF rules, but I don't know those.

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    Note that it was already common for players to place the promoted piece on the eighth rank and then remove the pawn (Anand and Carlsen both did it in their world championship match, for example), even if it technically broke the written rules, so the new FIDE rule is just making existing common practice legal.
    – dfan
    Jan 16, 2014 at 13:18
  • Thanks dfan. Yes, that was why I added the comment that I don't think this is really a problem, as most chess players are good sportsmen and won't make an issue out of you not following the rules 100%. Still, its good to know what the rules actually are.
    – firtydank
    Jan 16, 2014 at 13:21
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    An upside down rook is as far as I know an illegal move and you will lose in blitz. Yet in a game with a longer time control, e.g. classical, then it is possible that you either are allowed to promote another piece or that it will become a rook. So do not promote any upside down rooks or resting pawns or any other strange piece configurations. Just stop the clock and ask for the right piece!
    – user2001
    Jan 16, 2014 at 17:34
  • an upside down rook is a rook and as soon as it touches the promotion square it can no longer be replaced by anything else. you can tell your opponent that or wait until this rook moves diagonally, which then constitutes an illegal move.
    – peter
    Mar 18, 2016 at 7:59
  • Note regarding the "from July" bit: you could just make some other illegal move with the pawn (e.g. c7 - c6), so this doesn't really change anything. Uless the forced queen promotion applies to all such illegal moves? Then I guess you still have the option of playing an illegal move and then thinking about whether you wanted to play c8=Q, or cxb8=Q.
    – M.M
    Jun 8, 2016 at 4:30

FIDE rules 6.12.b:

A player may stop the clocks only in order to seek the arbiter’s assistance, for example when promotion has taken place and the piece required is not available.

This should solve all issues regarding to having promotion pieces available.

Sometimes players take the queen from the opponent's pile of captured pieces many moves before a possible promotion just as a psychological trick to signal his opponent that he has won the game already and should be able to promote soon.

An upside down rook looks like a rook and quacks like a rook, thus it is a rook in official games. There is no reason not to use a queen, and for example the opponent wouldn't know whether you accidentally put the rook upside down or meant to promote a queen. Of course, if a queen cannot be found anywhere, the arbiter may decide to allow exceptions.

And as to deliberately hiding your captured pieces from the opponent, there's always Rule 12.1:

The players shall take no action that will bring the game of chess into disrepute.

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    "An upside down rook looks like a rook and quacks like a rook, thus it is a rook in official games". I can understand that official rules are tight to prevent manipulations and confusions, but still, is there no room for sportsmanship here? If both you and your opponent are interested in the game as a test of capability, the syntactic issue of whether that upside-down rook looks like a rook (or quacks like one) should not be an issue. I think I'm most certainly willing to agree with my opponent to use an upside-down rook in the absence of a second queen.
    – firtydank
    Jan 24, 2014 at 7:47
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    For example, consider a case where one of the players claims the upside-down rook is a rook while the opponent claims they agreed it is a queen. The organizers are required to be able to handle this kind of things, and it is made a lot easier if the players are expected to obey the rules in an official game even though they both would agree otherwise. As I said, the arbiter can allow exceptions but I'd say it should not be up to the players to decide. Of course in unofficial games or in games without an arbiter present, the players are responsible and thus can agree to special rules.
    – JiK
    Jan 25, 2014 at 17:54
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    It's worth noting that USCF rules differ - there, an upside-down rook is a queen unless declared otherwise.
    – D M
    Jul 1, 2017 at 17:02
  • So if a player were to flip his rooks upside down when moving them, just because he felt like it, would they simply "look and quack like rooks", or would they look at quack like "deliberate attempts to annoy the opponent"? I would think it fair to say that if a player plays an upside down rook because no queen was available, the opponent should be entitled to stop the clock and summon the arbiter to find a proper queen, but if both players would rather play with an inverted rook than wait for an arbiter, that would seem a better course of action than disrupting play.
    – supercat
    Dec 6, 2022 at 22:48

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