Pawn (chess)

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The pawn (♙♟) is the most numerous and (in most circumstances) the weakest piece in the game of chess, representing infantry, or more particularly armed peasants or pikemen. Each player begins the game with eight pawns, one on each square of the second rank from the view of the player. In algebraic notation the white pawns start on a2, b2, c2, ..., h2, while the black pawns start on a7, b7, c7, ..., h7.

Pawns are differentiated by the files on which they currently stand. For example, one speaks of "White's f-pawn" or "Black's b-pawn" or, less commonly, "White's king's bishop's pawn" or "Black's queen's knight's pawn" (using descriptive notation). It is also common to refer to a rook pawn, meaning any pawn on the a-file or h-file, a knight pawn (on the b- or g-file), a bishop pawn (on the c- or f-file), a queen pawn (on the d-file), a king pawn (on the e-file), and a central pawn (on either the d- or e-file).

As pawns differ so much from other pieces, the usage of the word pieces in chess literature usually excludes the pawns, although this distinction between "pieces" and "pawns" is not found in the official rules.



Pawns are unusual in movement and use. Unlike all the other pieces, pawns may not move backwards. Normally a pawn moves by advancing a single square, but the first time each pawn is moved from its initial position, it has the option to advance two squares. Pawns may not use the initial two-square advance to jump over an occupied square, or to capture. Any piece directly in front of a pawn, friend or foe, blocks its advance. In the diagram at right, the pawn on c4 may move to c5, while the pawn on e2 may move to either e3 or e4.

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