There are special chess moves that can be employed to gain an advantage in the game.
In more detail, we will look at some of these special chess moves, their significance, and how they can be used effectively.
Castling is a special move that allows the king and one of the rooks to move simultaneously.
Below is an example:
It is the only move in chess where two pieces are moved at once.
Castling is an important move as it helps in safeguarding the king and developing the rook. It is typically done in the early to mid-game when the king’s safety is a priority.
To castle, the king moves two squares towards the rook, and the rook moves to the square next to the king on the opposite side.
There are a few conditions that must be met for castling to be legal:
- The king and the rook involved in castling must not have moved previously in the game.
- There should be no pieces between the king and the rook.
- The king should not be in check or pass through a square that is under attack.
Castling can be done on either side of the board, known as kingside castling and queenside castling.
It is a powerful move that allows the king to find safety while simultaneously activating the rook.
2. En Passant
En passant is a unique pawn capture that can only occur under specific circumstances.
It comes into play when a pawn moves two squares forward from its starting position and lands beside an opponent’s pawn.
In this situation, the opponent has the option to capture the pawn “en passant,” as if it had only moved one square forward.
Below is an example:
The white pawn can then capture en passant:
This special move prevents the pawn from bypassing the opponent’s pawn without consequence.
En passant can only be played immediately after the opponent’s pawn moves two squares forward, and it can only be done on the next move.
If the opportunity is missed, en passant cannot be played later in the game.
Promotion is a special move that occurs when a pawn reaches the opposite end of the board.
Instead of remaining a pawn, it can be promoted to any other piece of the player’s choice, except for another king.
This move allows pawns to transform into more powerful pieces, such as a queen, rook, bishop, or knight.
Promotion is a critical tactic in chess as it can significantly alter the dynamics of the game.
It often leads to the creation of new threats and opportunities for the player.
Choosing the right piece for promotion requires careful consideration of the current board position and the player’s overall strategy.
In chess, under-promotion refers to the act of promoting a pawn to a piece other than a queen when it reaches the eighth rank.
While promoting to a queen is the most common and often the strongest choice, there are specific situations where under-promotion is advantageous.
Here are some scenarios when you might consider under-promoting a pawn:
- Avoiding Stalemate: If promoting to a queen would result in a stalemate, then under-promotion to a different piece might be the best choice. For example, promoting to a knight might give a check instead of causing a stalemate.
- Avoiding Immediate Capture: In some positions, promoting to a queen might lead to its immediate capture without compensation. In such cases, promoting to a knight or another piece might be more beneficial.
- Knight’s Unique Movement: The knight moves in a way that no other piece can, so there might be situations where promoting to a knight can deliver a check or threat that a queen can’t.
- Tactical Reasons: In certain complex positions, promoting to a rook or bishop might be part of a winning tactical combination.
- Psychological Reasons: Under-promotion can sometimes surprise an opponent and cause them to miscalculate or make mistakes in time pressure.
- Endgame Considerations: In specific endgame scenarios, having a piece other than a queen might be more advantageous. For example, in some positions, a knight and king can checkmate an opponent’s king, whereas a queen and king would result in a theoretical draw.
- Simplification: In positions where the player is already winning, promoting to a rook or bishop instead of a queen might simplify the position and reduce the opponent’s counterplay.
It’s worth noting that these situations are relatively rare, and in most cases, promoting to a queen is the best option. However, it’s essential to be aware of under-promotion possibilities and to consider them in positions where they might be beneficial.
An example of under-promoting the pawn (to a rook in this case) to avoid stalemate is below:
4. Discovered Attack
A discovered attack is a tactical move that involves uncovering an attack from one piece by moving another piece out of the way.
This move can be highly effective in creating threats and putting pressure on the opponent’s pieces.
For example, imagine a scenario where a bishop is blocking the path of a rook.
By moving the bishop, the rook’s attack is unleashed, potentially targeting the opponent’s king or other valuable pieces.
Discovered attacks often lead to material gain or positional advantage.
Checks are also another way to unleash a discovered attack.
Take a look at this position, white to move:
The move here is exf5 (pawn takes f5).
This both checks the king with the rook via a discovered attack while also attacking the queen at the same time.
The king has to move or be protected and the queen is lost.
Zwischenzug, also known as an “in-between move,” is a surprising move played in response to an expected move by the opponent.
Instead of playing the anticipated move immediately, a player inserts a different move that disrupts the opponent’s plans.
This special move can be a powerful weapon in chess as it forces the opponent to reassess their strategy and adapt to the new situation.
Zwischenzug moves often involve capturing a piece or creating a new threat that the opponent must address before proceeding with their original plan.
For example, the game below features many examples of Zwischenzug, where white (and black) play moves different from the ones expected given the wide variety of tactical combinations and captures that were available.
Full Game – Van Geet Opening (transposed to Alekhine’s Defense: Scandinavian Variation)
1. Nc3 Nf6 2. e4 d5 3. e5 Nfd7 4. d4 c5 5. f4 cxd4 6. Qxd4 e6 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Qd2 f6 9. exf6 Nxf6 10. Nf3 Bb4 11. Bd3 Ng4 12. a3 Qa5 13. Rb1 Nxe3 14. axb4 Qb6 15. b5 Nb4 16. Na4 Qa5 17. Ke2 d4 18. Nxd4 Ned5 19. c4 e5 20. cxd5 exd4 21. Rhe1 O-O 22. Nc5 a6 23. Ra1 Qc7 24. Qxb4 Qxf4 25. Kd1 Bf5 26. bxa6 bxa6 27. Bxf5 Rxf5 28. Qc4 Qg4+ 29. Qe2 Qxe2+ 30. Rxe2 d3 31. Nxd3 Rxd5 32. Ra3 Rc8 33. Kd2 a5 34. Rc3 Rb8 35. Kc2 Rd7 36. Nc5 Rf7 37. Kb1 h6 38. Ka2 Rf1 39. Rd2 Kh7 40. Nb3 a4 41. Nc5 Rb4 42. Rg3 Rf7 43. Ka3 Rb5 44. Nxa4 Ra7 45. Rc3 Rab7 46. b3 Rb8 47. Nc5 Ra8+ 48. Kb2 Rab8 49. Rc4 R8b6 50. Kc3 Rf6 51. b4 Rf1 52. Kb2 Rb8 53. Ne4 Rh1 54. h3 Re1 55. Nc3 Re5 56. Kb3 Rb7 57. Rd5 Re3 58. b5 Re6 59. Kb4 Rg6 60. g4 Re6 61. h4 Rf6 62. h5 g6 63. Rdc5 gxh5 64. gxh5 Kg8 65. Rc8+ Kg7 66. R4c7+ Rxc7 67. Rxc7+ Kf8 68. Nd5 Rf5 69. b6 Rf1 70. b7 Rb1+ 71. Kc5 Rxb7 72. Rxb7 Kg8 73. Kd6 Kh8 74. Ke6 Kg8 75. Nf6+ Kh8 76. Rh7# 1-0
Stalemate is a unique outcome in chess where the player whose turn it is to move has no legal moves available, but their king is not in check.
In this situation, the game ends in a draw, and neither player wins.
Stalemate can be a strategic goal for a player who is in a losing position.
By maneuvering their pieces carefully, they can force their opponent into a stalemate, denying them a victory. Stalemate is a valuable defensive resource that can turn the tide of the game.
Below is an example of a move designed to induce stalemate. (White bringing the king up to help with promotion will create a stalemate.)
Instead, white needs to play waiting moves to work around the stalemate to avoid blundering into the scenario below:
The first is to move the knight.
It also need to under-promote the pawn to a rook (same example as in the under-promotion section to this article) to avoid another stalemate situation to ensure the black king as a legal move.
Then white needs to make another waiting move with the knight.
Before delivering checkmate with the rook.
FAQs – Special Chess Moves
1. Can I castle if my king has been in check?
No, you cannot castle if your king has been in check at any point in the game.
The king must not be in check, pass through a square that is under attack, or end up in check after castling.
2. Can a pawn promote to a king?
No, a pawn cannot be promoted to a king.
Promotion allows pawns to transform into any other piece except for another king.
3. How often does en passant occur in games?
En passant is a relatively rare move in chess.
It occurs when the specific conditions for its execution are met, which is not very common in most games.
4. Can a discovered attack be blocked or defended against?
Yes, a discovered attack can be blocked or defended against by moving or protecting the targeted piece.
However, it often requires careful calculation and strategic thinking to effectively counter a discovered attack.
5. Are there any special moves that can result in an immediate checkmate?
While there are no special moves that guarantee an immediate checkmate, certain combinations of moves can lead to a quick checkmate if the opponent makes poor decisions or fails to defend effectively.
6. Can stalemate be used as a winning strategy?
No, stalemate results in a draw, and neither player wins.
Stalemate is typically used as a defensive resource to avoid losing when in a losing position.
7. Can en passant be played at any time during the game?
No, en passant can only be played immediately after the opponent’s pawn moves two squares forward.
If the opportunity is missed, en passant cannot be played later in the game.
8. Can a pawn promote to multiple pieces simultaneously?
No, a pawn can only be promoted to a single piece of the player’s choice. It cannot promote to multiple pieces simultaneously.
9. Can castling be done with any rook?
No, castling can only be done with the rook that has not moved previously in the game.
If both rooks are eligible, the player can choose which rook to castle with.
10. Can a discovered attack be used to checkmate the opponent’s king?
Yes, a discovered attack can potentially lead to checkmate if it exposes the opponent’s king to an attack that cannot be defended against.
However, achieving checkmate through a discovered attack requires careful planning and execution.
Summary – Special Chess Moves
Special chess moves add depth and complexity to the game, allowing players to employ unique strategies and tactics.
Castling provides safety for the king while activating the rook.
En passant prevents pawns from bypassing opponents without consequence.
Promotion allows pawns to transform into more powerful pieces.
Discovered attacks create threats by uncovering attacks from other pieces.
Zwischenzug disrupts the opponent’s plans with unexpected moves. Stalemate can be a strategic goal to achieve a draw in a losing position.