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Improve Your Arsenal With These Special Moves in Chess

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Sure, you know the basics – Rooks go straight, Bishops go diagonally, and Knights go L-shaped directions – but did you know that there are special moves in chess? These are moves that players can take once certain conditions are met, usually different from the piece’s common movement patterns.

Additionally, while we mostly engage in friendly and casual Chess matches, it wouldn’t hurt to know some rules usually applied in tournaments and formal gaming events. To make sure you don’t get caught unaware, here are the special moves and some special rules in Chess.

And also, Chess Roll makes use of them too!

1. Castling

You’ve probably heard of this one before, where a Rook comes to the aid of the King, either for defense or for gaining a strategic advantage later in the game. Simply put, Castling refers to moving both the King and the Rook in a single turn. As one of the special moves available, this is the only instance in Chess where a player can move two pieces at once, and the only one that “leaps over” other pieces aside from our resident Knights.

We have removed all other pieces to show you the default positions of the Kings and Rooks on both sides. For Black, the King can move to C8 or G8 while the White King can move to C1 or G1. Then, the Rook “leaps over” the King and positions itself to the other side (moves marked by circles). There are two types of Castling: Kingside Castling (or short Castling, as shown in Black) and Queenside Castling (or Long Castling, as shown in White). Both moves have their particular applications, such as moving the King away from the action or moving the Rook closer to the middle files.

Of course, Castling is not an always available strategy. There are rules that must be observed before attempting to do these special moves:

  1. Both the King and the Rook to be castled must not be moved before.
  2. The King and the Rook must be in the same file and that move may only be Kingside or Queenside, as explained earlier.
  3. There are no standing pieces between the King and the Rook

The next three rules may simply be summarized by the Chess phase: “One may not castle out of, through, or into check.”

  1. The King to be castled must not be in check (out of)
  2. The King must not pass through a square currently attacked by an enemy piece (through)
  3. The King, after Castling, must not end up being in Check by any enemy piece. This is actually a general move for any legal moves in Chess.

Other rules and considerations when doing Castling:

  1. The Rook to be castled may be under attack before the move; the King may not.
  2. The Rook can also move through squares under attack; the King may not
  3. A previously-checked King can still castle, provided that the previous Check has been resolved without moving the King (blocking with other pieces, eliminating the threat, etc)
  4. In tournaments or other games where the Touch Move rule is in effect, Castling is considered a King move. Therefore, any attempts at Castling must start with the player touching the King first. In the event the player touches a Rook piece first, Castling is prohibited and a Rook move must be made.

2. Pawn Promotion

Who doesn’t like getting promoted? More power, more influence, more everything – less sleep probably. Either way, we’ve associated promotions with being an improved position that could even turn things around. This makes pawn promotion one of the best special moves available.

And Chess, like the imitation of life that it is, also has its version of upgrading people – with Pawn Promotion. Simply put, if your pawn, the small straight-moving pieces, reaches the other side of the board, it gets promoted. Contrary to common misconception, promotion is not just limited to the Queen, as the player can choose between any of the senior pieces: Rook, Knight, Bishop. It just so happens that the Queen is often chosen because of well, duh, the power. However, more experienced players go with the Knight pawn promotion because of the piece’s unparalleled flexibility. Generally, pawn promotion to a Queen piece is called “Queening,” while promotion to any other piece is considered an “underpromotion.”

In tournaments, an actual Queen piece is used when a player does a pawn promotion. In the event it’s unavailable, the player usually stops the game clock (whenever applicable) and asks the arbiter for a piece. Otherwise, other tournaments and casual games simply use an upside-down rook as a stand-in.

In the illustration below, the White Pawn on F7 will be promoted once it reaches F8 but is at risk of attack from the Black Bishop at E7. Similarly, the Black Pawn is due for pawn promotion once it reaches A1, but risks capture by the White Queen at D1.

3. En Passant

In its centuries-old history, this one is probably among the “latest” of the special moves and is often the most overlooked one in casual games. Additionally, while this is relatively unknown (especially for most newcomers), this is also a bit tricky to explain.

Basically, “En passant” means “in passing” in French, and describes how pawns can make a peculiar capture – provided conditions are met. This, as one of the special moves, occurs only after a pawn makes a starting move of two squares forward and makes the presumption that it would’ve been captured had it moved one square forward instead. An En passant is a special move that makes it seem like the captured pawn made only one square in advance and is captured. To help you better understand, see the illustration below:

Despite the White Pawn on F2 supposedly moving into a safe square, the fact that its F4 advance is its first move makes it susceptible to the Black Pawn sitting at the G4 tile. It makes no difference if the F2 White Pawn just made an advance to F3 instead. (Take note of the G2 White Pawn lying in wait).

To put it simply, an En passant special move is only possible when:

  1. The target pawn makes a first move of two squares from its starting position; which makes En passant only possible if the capturing pawn is already on its fifth rank across the board.
  2. The target pawn must make its double-step move on any adjacent file to the capturing pawn; no jumping!
  3. Lastly, and more importantly, the En passant special move must be made immediately after the double-step of the target pawn. Otherwise, the right to perform the move is lost.

Interestingly, En passant was introduced shortly after the double-step; as a countermeasure for sitting pawns at risk of capture by an advancing enemy pawn. Without it, any pawn could simply bypass attacking pawns by double-stepping. It is a special privilege reserved for pawns and the only move where the captured piece is not replaced on the same square by its captor.

Final Word

Now that you’ve learned (hopefully) these special moves in Chess, make sure to keep your eyes open whenever these moves are possible, or when an enemy might attempt to use them on you! More importantly, these moves are also available in Chess Roll, improving your arsenal and your options – provided the dice allow you to do so!

READ NEXT: A Technical Advantage: Special Chess Rules You Definitely Must Know

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