The pawn appears, at first glance, to be the weakest and least important member of the chess army. However, looks can be deceiving, and the humble pawn can be very important, as we will discover in later tutorials. Each player starts the game with eight pawns.
Except on its first move, the pawn is only allowed to move one square forwards, and never backwards. On its very first move, a pawn has the choice of moving one or two squares, although both squares must be unoccupied to do this. On all subsequent moves, the pawn can move one square only, even if it only moved one square on its first turn - it only has one chance to move two.
If the square directly in front of a pawn is occupied, the pawn is blocked and cannot move forwards. Unlike all the other pieces, a pawn does not capture the same way it moves. Instead, a pawn captures by moving one square diagonally forward. In the diagram below, the white pawn cannot capture the black pawn directly in front of it, but it may capture the black knight by moving one square diagonally forward. Try it for yourself - drag the white pawn onto the black knight to capture it!
The most important feature of pawns is their ability to promote when they reach the opposite side of the board. If your pawn gets all the way to the opponent's back rank, it is immediately promoted to a more powerful piece - take the pawn off the board, and replace it with a new piece of your choice. The only restriction is that you cannot promote to a king or another pawn. Usually, a pawn is promoted to a queen, as the queen is the most powerful piece, but sometimes there is a good reason to promote to a different piece such as a knight. It doesn't matter if you have all your pieces still on the board, you can still promote to whatever piece you want, even if this means you have two or three queens on the board at once.
On the board below, race the white pawn to the far side of the board to become a queen, before the black pawn can reach your side of the board. Remember, pawns can move two squares on their first move!
Pawns also have a special move called 'en passant', but we will look at that in detail later on.