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Chess/Pawn Promotion


QUESTION: In a game last night, both myself and opponent were one step away from promoting our pawns.
I moved first and was able to capture his queen in the process. My opponent quickly played and promoted his pawn to his captured queen.
On my next turn I asked to promote my pawn to Queen and was told I could not, that I had the turn to declare which piece to promote to had passed.
Side note, it was only due to the excitement of capturing his queen and his nearness of his own promotion that I failed to declare. The piece was not in jeopardy.

ANSWER: Offhand, it sounds like your opponent's claim was quite, quite incorrect !  But how about if we review what happened to make sure we're both on the same page here ?

You and your opponent each had a passed pawn that was only one step away from reaching the queening square--that much is pretty clear.  It was your turn to move, and you basically played "PxQ"
(descriptive notation, obviously).  In other words, your opponent's queen was on his first rank, so your pawn moved forward, captured the enemy queen and......what happened to the pawn at that point ?  It sounds like it just sat there on your eighth rank, unpromoted.

Your opponent then pushed his passed pawn a square forward to the last rank, and he promoted it to a queen.  Before going any further, let me point out that the new queen wasn't really his "captured queen", as you stated.  Simply put, when a pawn turns into a queen it's just simply a queen---whether that player's original queen has already been captured doesn't make any difference.  In other words, promoting to a queen is.....promoting to a queen !  Calling the new queen a "previously captured queen" is technically not correct.  A new queen is a new queen--period.

Granted, that's a bit picky on my part.  But let's get back to the question at hand.

So now your opponent has just proudly gotten himself a new queen.  In the meantime, you still have a strange-looking pawn sitting on your last rank.  I say strange-looking because...that's
not allowable at all.

In other words, when you pushed your pawn to the last rank (and took your opponent's queen in the process) you had to declare immediately what new piece you wanted to promote to.  Your opponent could not make his next move (regardless of what that move was going to be---promoting to a queen, putting your king in check, moving a rook....none of this would matter)
until you had first chose what to promote the pawn to.

If, in his "excitement", he eagerly nudged his pawn to the last rank and (with a squeal of
delight) declared, "Queen !" you should have stopped him and pointed out that you had not yet
replaced your promoted pawn with a new piece yet.  Only after you had replaced the pawn with
(in all liklihood !) a queen (rarely would you choose anything else, right ?!?), could your
opponent make a move of his own.

Frankly, if your opponent had insisted that it was "too late" to promote your pawn, then what was that pawn to do now ?  Just sit there on your last rank doing nothing?  If this had been a USCF tournament game and a TD (tournament director) had happened to stroll by the board and noticed that bizarre (that'd be a good word !) situation, he would have stopped both players' clocks and asked, "What the hell is that pawn doing there on the last rank ?"

Hopefully, that adequately answers your question.  Incidentally, I'm not sure what you mean by
"the piece was not in jeopardy".  What piece are you referring to ?  How do you mean by
"jeopardy" ?

Any follow-up queston, feel free to ask.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: By 'not in jeopardy' I was only indicating that the reason for not promoting the pawn to queen was not to avoid capture of a power piece by one of his pieces.

One of my friends states that in chess, illegal move (purposely or inadvertently played) stand if not noticed before another player moves (ie. A knight moves in a manner outside of his 'L' or some other move).

In my case, he says that not promoting my pawn immediately would be seen as an illegal move and left. He believes that pawn must sit in last rank as is.

There is simply no way--period--that a pawn can simply just "sit as is" on the

eighth rank.  It's as simple as that !

As stated before, once a pawn reaches the eighth rank it must immediately be promoted

to another piece---naturally, that will be a queen probably about 99.95% of the time.

The game cannot continue--at all--until the promotion has been made.

As far as illegal moves in a non-blitz USCF tournament game, I'm not familiar with

what the rules are as far as whether the illegal move can "stand as is".  If the illegality

isn't discovered until, say, 4-5 moves later then what does the TD (tournament director)

do ?  Personally, I can't answer that.

Not sure what you mean by a "power piece", by the way.  Maybe that's not important.

Sounds like you and your friends need to brush up on the official rules.  There are plenty

of good websites for that.



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Howard S Sample


First, I can't answer analytical questions on chess because my United States Chess Federation (USCF) rating is definitely below average. However, I am very knowledgeable about chess history and general chess trivia. I've been a chess trivia buff for 35 years! Furthermore, my research and writing skills are far above average! I've been researching chess questions on the Internet for over 10 years and pretty much know where to look for answers to them. My strong devotion to chess will show in many of the questions I can answer for your website. In other words, I can give specific, detailed answers if the need may be.


I have been a USCF member for 35 years (as of next month) and also have a very substantial collection of back issues of chess magazines, not to mention a lot of chess books. I am also familiar with many chess websites, such as ChessCafe and Chessbase. To be quite frank, chess (playing, studying, researching, and so on) has been somewhat of an obsession to me ever since I was about 12. I just can't seem to get enough of it.

United States Chess Federation (since 1975)

Interesting question! If you Google my full name (Howard S Sample) you will see that I have made many contributions to chess websites. I send in questions and comments very regularly although they don't always get printed. Admittedly, I can be a bit picky when writing to correct errors but I've submitted corrections many times (and not just to chess websites). Incidentally, I am also entering the field of freelance writing though, admittedly, I plan to write mainly about issues such as investments, federal taxation, and accounting/finance topics. But freelance writing on chess topics is also a field I'm exploring.

I have two degrees in business, of which one is an MBA (from the University of Toledo).

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