The pawn might not be nearly as intimidating as the queen, but pawns can absolutely take other chess pieces. The only exception is a pawn taking a king, since the king can only be checkmated but not taken. For the queen, this is a little bit different.
While rare, the rules of chess allow a pawn to attack and take a queen. Pawns may capture other pieces in a forward diagonal move. There are no rules that forbid a pawn to take another pawn, bishop, knight, rook, or queen. Pawns can also check(mate) a king.
It’s technically possible for pawns to capture the opponent’s queen. However, it’s not very common. The attack range of a pawn is limited to just two squares on the board. On the other hand, the queen moves in all directions as far as she would like, which makes it very hard for pawns to attack her.
A Pawn Can Capture A Queen (But Its Rare)
It would generally take a big mistake from your opponent to take out the queen with one of your pawns. The queen has to deliberately move into the attack range of a pawn to be taken by it. For example, queen sacrifice could be a tactical choice that would create a situation like this.
Since pawns can only move diagonally while moving forward, the opponent’s queen needs to be in a specific board location to be captured by a pawn. Consider the example diagram below, where the white pawn is able to capture the queen diagonally:
Situations like the one above are born out of mistakes, stupidity, or a deliberate queen sacrifice. There are a lot of things that need to fall into place for a pawn to take a queen:
- This would require many supporting pieces
- The queen is likely to escape due to her large range of movement
- A successfully cornered queen would rather trade unfavorably than succumb to a pawn
- Pawns need to be defended themselves, otherwise, the queen could take the attacking pawn for free
Giving Away A Queen: A Rookie Mistake
Your average chess game is unlikely to see a ‘pawn-captures-queen‘ situation happen, unless the opponent doesn’t know what they are doing. For people that are still learning chess, it’s common to confuse how a pawn can move or attack.
Similarly, beginners might make an error because they think a pawn is faced backward (since backwards pawn moves and attacks are not allowed in chess). Such beginner mistakes are very common, so don’t feel embarrassed if it happens to you.
Actually, let me show you when you can’t take a queen with a pawn. I encourage new players to learn from the examples below to improve their chess skills.
When A Pawn Can’t Take A Queen
Pawns have a very limited range of movement. They can really only move up in a straight line. Attacking with a pawn is just as difficult. Pawns can only attack two squares at any given time. These squares are located diagonally above the pawn, wherever it may be located on the board.
Queen Directly Above Pawn
One of the most common errors beginners make, is attempting to take a chess piece within their line of movement. That’s not possible, since the rules of chess only allow a pawn to attack diagonally:
The situation above doesn’t allow the pawn to attack and take the queen. Actually, the pawn’s movement is completely blocked off by the queen! A new player might think it’s a nice opportunity to take a queen, but that’s where a pawn moves, not where it attacks.
Remember that two pieces cannot share one square on a chessboard. Also, remember that chess rules don’t allow a pawn to attack upwards vertically, but only upwards diagonally.
Queen Outside Pawn Attack Range
Another common error is misjudging how far the attack range of the pawn is. The pawn can only attack pieces that are diagonally adjacent to them (see the two squares indicated in the diagram below).
If a queen is diagonally oriented to a pawn, but outside of the pawn’s attack range, the pawn is not allowed to capture her:
Pawns don’t have an impressive attack range. Two squares are all they get at any given time. They can’t attack like a ♗ bishop, which does have the ability to attack diagonally as far as it wants (and in every diagonal direction).
Queen En Passant Doesn’t Exist
Perhaps you’ve heard of the special chess move called ‘en passant‘. It’s when the pawn is allowed to capture an opponent’s pawn that took two steps in a single turn. Basically, that pawn moved beyond the attack range of your pawn. En passant is the sweet revenge, in which the pawn moves as if it attacks, but the pawn that’s taken has already moved to the next square.
That can all sound very confusing if you’re unfamiliar with the en passant move.
Don’t worry though, just know that the situation below doesn’t allow a pawn to take a queen:
Want to attack with the pawn on d4 and move it to e6 to ‘en passant’ attack the queen? That’s not going to happen, my friend. Because chess rules only allow a pawn to ‘en passant’ an opponent’s pawn. These rules don’t apply to a queen, or any other ‘bigger’ chess piece for that matter.
When You Can Attack A Queen With A Pawn
New players should keep in mind that there’s only one way to attack the queen with a pawn:
- The opponent’s queen must be placed diagonally in front of the pawn
- The opponent’s queen can only be ‘forced’ to trade with a pawn if it is cornered like a king
In summary, the queen is usually only taken by pawns if it’s placed there by accident. This might be the result of a trade with another queen, for example. That’s the only strategically neutral way for a player to give up their queen to a pawn. Let me know in the discussion below if this ever happened to you!