Yes, a pawn can check a king at any stage in chess, although this move is not as common as other check scenarios. 

However, although commonly known as the weakest piece on the chessboard (pawns are only worth one point), this little soldier is not to be underestimated. When the going gets tough the pawn gets going, and can prove valuable in a tight check situation.

Not to mention the (very terrific fact) that a pawn can become a queen, but more on that later. 

In this article, we will discuss all that you need to know about not only the dainty pawn, but also how to help your pawn reach its full potential. Think of the pawn as a student in the school of life and you’re the coach — teach a pawn to fish…erm check a king, and all that!

Without further ado, let’s check the king and pawn situation out.

From Inadequate to Irreplaceable

Look, let me level with you, I was never a pawn’s biggest fan. They’re small and slow, and no, my dislike of them has nothing to do with the fact that I’m below 6 feet and drive in the slow lane.

Disliking a pawn is like avoiding that one weird uncle at Thanksgiving: it’s not really polite but it’s something that everyone does. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Did I mention that I disliked pawns? 

Apart from being slow, they always got in the way. There I was, trying to develop my nifty rook, but no: its pawn was in the way. 

To me, a pawn was always a minor piece, which is ridiculous if you take into account that there are eight pawns on the checkered board. Combined, all the paws are nearly as worth as a mighty queen (nine points), which suggests that strength really does lie in numbers. 

Until you no longer have any other pieces on your board but a pawn. Then you really start seeing things in perspective and boy, is that pawn more handy than you thought! 

This actually happened to me during a chess tournament once. Gone were all my pieces but two pawns. And the king, obviously. My opponent was in a similar position, which was helpful because that enabled me to queen my pawn. 

Look, I’m just going to cut to the chase. I didn’t win the game, it ended in a draw. But the utter satisfaction of not finishing with an entirely empty board was much more rewarding than the alternative. Plus, it made me realize how valuable pawns can truly be. 

From creating a pawn chain to protect your more valuable pieces to promoting your pawn to a queen; there are a variety of reasons why we shouldn’t forget to make the most of our dear friends the puny…erm…mighty pawns! 

Meet the Prince and the Pauper 

OK, meet the king and the pauper.

Did you know that the entire concept of a pawn is rooted in the idea of a ‘lower class’ of people? It’s actually quite fascinating! 

During the middle ages, monks (monks played chess? I guess so!) named each pawn, although these names didn’t really catch on and last until modern days.

You know the knight? The pawn in front of this piece is the blacksmith. Other names for pawns included doctor, innkeeper, and police. 

I get why the names never caught on. It’s much easier to sacrifice a minor piece than it is to sacrifice the queen’s innkeeper. Forget about The Queen’s Gambit, The Queen’s Innkeeper is totally a show I would watch! 

Anyway, here is how the pawn and the king moves, just in case you forgot that this is a chess blog. 

Pawn and King: Not So Different After All

Prince and the pauper or pieces in arms? 

Sure, the game of chess is based on the importance of the king, but according to chess master François-André Danican Philidor, pawns are the soul of chess.

Think about it. Pawns make up half of your battalion! When used well, they can prove great team members. Surely, they’re more useful than the king who always needs a set of bodyguards? 

In any case, both pieces only move one step at a time, and that’s enough proof to me that the two pieces are more similar than we think. 

Can a Pawn Check a King?

Yes, a pawn can check a king at any stage in chess, although the pawn in question will have to undertake a long journey to get to its opponent’s king. 

This move is not as common as other check scenarios. Usually, a pawn that checks a king is accompanied by other more powerful pieces, such as the queen or bishop. 

This often entails that an opposition’s king is cornered, which results in a checkmate. Now that’s what we’re talking about! 

How does the pawn move? 

On its starting rank, a pawn can move one step or two steps forward. The pawn only has this choice on its starting move. Already three moves in with your pawn, sorry it can only be one (*said in a Sean Connery voice*)!

Basically, the pawns are the foot soldiers of chess. These hard workers really deserve more credit! 

Alma Cebrian, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Can a pawn move backwards? 

One step forward and two steps back? No, unfortunately, this is not a Desert Rose Band song. A pawn can only move forward

Much like we should be doing with life. Onwards, noble steed! 

How does the pawn capture? 

Interestingly, pawns do not capture in the same way that the move. They always capture diagonally. 

Pawns cannot capture pieces right in front of them. That would just be too easy! 

If two pawns were opposite each other on F2 and F4, for example, they would be unable to move unless a third piece intervened.

How does the king move?

Similar to a pawn, a king can only move one square at a time. Unlike a pawn, a king can also move in any direction, whether vertically, horizontally or diagonally. 

Alma Cebrian, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If a king is so powerful, why is this piece so insufferably slow? Don’t worry, I asked my chess teacher, Ms. Wood, the same question in Grade 6. She said the following:

“Pretend the king as a very old commander of a country, walking about his kingdom one step at a time.” 

To this I answered that the queen should rule instead, but that’s a topic for another day. 

How does the king capture? 

A king captures a piece one step at a time in any direction. Of course, a king may not place itself in danger by doing so.

Here’s an example from our article, Can A King Capture In Chess?

For example, if an enemy rook is on D8 and F7, and your king is on E6, the king can capture the rook on F7. The king must not move one step forward in an attempt to capture D8’s rook, as this would mean placing itself in check by the rook on F7. 

Can a king capture a pawn?

Yes, a king can capture a pawn. 

Except for the opposing king, your king can capture any piece it likes, as long as that piece is not protected by another.

Due to its importance on the chessboard, the king is not likely to start an attack on another piece. Most likely, it will capture another piece as a result of that piece’s attack on the king. Keep in mind that the king’s attack and defense choices also depend on your choice of game play. 

Related: Can a King Capture a Queen?

How to Use Pawns to Your Advantage 

Pawns can be princes in disguise, you just need to know how to use these little foot soldiers to your advantage. 

Here are a few ways to make the most out of your pawns. 

Create a pawn chain

To make a pawn chain, move your first pawn forward two spaces, and ensure that your next pawn protects this first spot.

This is a game strategy that can improve your defense forces.

Pawn promotion 

Has your pawn made it to the end of the opposition’s rank? Congratulations, your pawn may now be promoted to a higher ranking piece. 

You can promote your deserving piece to anything from a queen and a bishop to a knight or a rook.

Queening is the term used to refer to when a pawn is promoted to a queen. Now who wouldn’t want two queens on their side?

Don’t forget about pawn permanency 

Pawn moves, much like tattoos, cannot be erased. Given the permanency of these pieces, think wisely before moving them!

Unlike other pieces, a pawn cannot move backwards. 

Use pawns for protection 

As mentioned previously, your pawns can form a chain. This chain is an easy way to protect your home ranks, which means that pawns are great when it comes to defense tactics. 

Use pawns for development 

Have a strong piece that you’d love to use in your attack strategy? Use your pawns to quickly develop these pieces and get going!

When developing your attack, remember to always leave a layer of protection for your king. An exposed king is a king under threat of embarrassment, just ask author Hans Anderson’s Emperor! 

Wrapping Up

Like any other piece on the board (except the king itself), the pawn can put its opponent’s king in check. Although this form of check is not as common as long-distance checks (we see you, rook and bishop!), it is possible.

In some cases, the threatened king will simply capture the pawn. However, a king may only capture a threatening pawn if there is no piece protecting the pawn/ 


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