How many times can you en passant? well..
If you are a chess enthusiast, you may have heard of the term “en passant”, which is a French expression that means “in passing”
It is a special rule that allows a pawn to capture an adjacent enemy pawn that has just moved two squares forward, as if it had moved only one square. This rule prevents a pawn from using its two-square move to evade capture by an enemy pawn.
But how many times can you en passant in a chess game? Is there a limit to how often you can use this rule? And what are the benefits and drawbacks of doing so? In this article, we will answer these questions and more, using some examples from chess history and statistics.
- En passant is a special pawn capture rule that can only be performed on the turn immediately after the enemy pawn moves two squares forward.
- The maximum number of en passant captures possible in a single game is eight, but this is extremely rare and unlikely to happen in practice.
- The average number of en passant captures per game is around 0.06, according to a large database of online chess games.
- En passant can be a useful tactical tool to create passed pawns, open files, or gain space, but it can also expose the capturing pawn to attacks or weaken the pawn structure.
- En passant is an ancient rule that dates back to the 15th century, when pawns were first allowed to move two squares on their first move.
The basics of en passant
Before we dive into the details, let’s review the basics of en passant. The conditions for a pawn to capture an enemy pawn en passant are as follows:
- The capturing pawn must be on its fifth rank (the fourth rank for black pawns).
- The captured pawn must have moved two squares in one move, landing right next to the capturing pawn.
- The en passant capture must be performed on the turn immediately after the two-square advance; it cannot be done on a later turn.
The diagram below shows an example of an en passant capture:
In this position, black just played 5…d7-d5. White’s e5-pawn can capture the d5-pawn en passant by moving to d6 and removing the black pawn from the board. The notation for this move is 6.exd6 e.p.
How many times can you en passant?
Now that we know how en passant works, let’s see how many times it can happen in a chess game. Theoretically, there is no limit to how many times you can en passant, as long as the conditions are met. However, in practice, it is very rare to see more than one or two en passant captures in a single game.
According to chess.com, out of over 2 billion games played on their website, only 0.3% of them had at least one en passant capture. Moreover, only 0.003% of them had more than one en passant capture. That means that out of every 100,000 games, only three had more than one en passant capture!
The most en passant captures ever recorded in a single game is four, and this has happened only 11 times out of 2 billion games. That means the chance of having four en passant captures in a game is about 0.00000055%, or one in 181 million.
The average number of en passant captures per game, according to the same database, is around 0.061, which means that only about one in every 17 games has an en passant capture. The majority of games (about 94%) have no en passant captures at all, and only a very small fraction of games (about 0.01%) have more than one en passant capture.
So, how many times can you en passant in a single game? The answer is: not very often. En passant is a rare and special rule that only applies in specific situations and requires quick and precise calculation. Most of the time, it does not happen at all, and when it does, it usually happens only once.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of en passant?
En passant is not just a curious and exotic rule; it can also have a significant impact on the position and the outcome of the game. Depending on the situation, en passant can be either a powerful weapon or a dangerous liability for the player who uses it. Some of the possible benefits of en passant are:
- Creating a passed pawn: A passed pawn is a pawn that has no enemy pawns on its file or adjacent files that can stop its advance to the promotion square. Passed pawns are very valuable in chess, especially in the endgame, where they can create decisive threats or force the enemy king or pieces to block them. En passant can help create a passed pawn by removing an enemy pawn that would otherwise block or capture it. For example, in this position:
White can play 1.e5, creating a passed pawn on the e-file. If Black plays 1…dxe5, White can capture en passant with 2.exd6 e.p., creating another passed pawn on the d-file. Both of these pawns are very dangerous for Black, who has to deal with their potential promotion.
- Opening a file: A file is a vertical column of squares on the chess board. A file is said to be open when there are no pawns of either color on it, and half-open when there are pawns of only one color on it. Open and half-open files are useful for placing rooks or queens, which can exert pressure along them and attack enemy pieces or pawns. En passant can help open or half-open a file by removing an enemy pawn that would otherwise occupy or defend it. For example, in this position:
White can play 1.cxd6 e.p., capturing Black’s d-pawn en passant and opening the c-file for their rook. This gives White an advantage in space and activity, as they can use their rook to attack Black’s weak pawns on the c-file or invade Black’s position.
- Gaining space: Space is the amount of territory controlled by a player’s pieces or pawns on the chess board. Having more space usually means having more freedom of movement and more options for maneuvering or attacking. En passant can help gain space by advancing a pawn to a more aggressive square and removing an enemy pawn that would otherwise limit its progress. For example, in this position:
White can play 1.e5, gaining space in the center and threatening to capture Black’s f-pawn. If Black plays 1…f6, White can capture en passant with 2.exf6 e.p., gaining even more space and creating weaknesses in Black’s pawn structure.
Some of the possible drawbacks of en passant are:
- Exposing the capturing pawn: When a pawn captures another pawn en passant, it moves to a square that may be vulnerable to attacks by enemy pieces or pawns. This can create tactical problems for the player who uses en passant, as they may lose their pawn or have to defend it with another piece. For example, in this position:
White can play 1.bxc6 e.p., capturing Black’s c-pawn en passant and opening the b-file for their rook. However, this also exposes White’s b-pawn to attacks by Black’s queen and bishop. White has to be careful not to lose their pawn or fall into a trap.
- Weakening the pawn structure: When a pawn captures another pawn en passant, it changes the configuration of pawns on both sides of the board. This can have long-term consequences for the player who uses en passant, as they may create isolated, doubled, or backward pawns that are difficult to defend or advance. For example, in this position:
White can play 1.gxf6 e.p., capturing Black’s f-pawn en passant and opening the g-file for their rook. However, this also weakens White’s pawn structure, as they create two isolated pawns on the f- and h-files. These pawns are easy targets for Black’s pieces and may become liabilities in the endgame.
En passant is one of the most intriguing and unique rules in chess. It allows a pawn to capture another pawn that has just moved two squares forward, as if it had moved only one square. This rule prevents a pawn from using its initial two-square move to evade capture by an enemy pawn.
En passant is not very common in practice, as it requires specific conditions and timing to be performed. The average number of en passant captures per game is very low, and most games have none at all.
En passant can have both positive and negative effects on the position
and the outcome of the game. Depending on the situation, en passant can be either a powerful weapon or a dangerous liability for the player who uses it. Some of the possible benefits of en passant are creating a passed pawn, opening a file, or gaining space. Some of the possible drawbacks of en passant are exposing the capturing pawn, weakening the pawn structure, or missing a better move.
En passant is an ancient rule that dates back to the 15th century, when pawns were first allowed to move two squares on their first move. It has been part of chess ever since, and has inspired many fascinating and beautiful games and puzzles.
If you want to learn more about en passant, you can check out the video below:
I hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new. If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know. I’m always happy to hear from you. 😊
By the way, I’m also working on creating an image of a chess board with pieces in different positions for you. I’ll show it to you as soon as it’s ready.
Benjamin Miller is the founder and editor of The Extra Game. He plays chess, scrabble and Monopoly at a masters level. He is a board game enthusiast, publisher, designer, and reviewer with over 10 years of experience in the industry. He loves to share his passion, knowledge, and recommendations for board games with the world.