Do you always promote pawns to a Queen? Have you ever thought about promoting to another piece instead? Contrary to the majority of promotions to a Queen, there can be advantages to promoting to a piece other than a Queen.
What is Underpromotion?
Underpromotion, or Minor promotion, is a tactic in Chess that refers to when a pawn reaches the back rank and instead of promoting to a Queen, the pawn is to a knight, bishop, or rook.
Notice that underpromotion doesn’t refer to when a pawn promotes to a pawn or King as doing so would be classified as illegal moves. When a pawn reaches the promotion square, they cannot choose to remain a pawn and must promote to a different piece and also cannot promote to a 2nd King, according to the official rules of chess from FIDE. The move is considered over when the promoted piece is chosen, the move is considered done and cannot be reverted.
Why Promote a Pawn To Anything Other Than a Queen?
Underpromotion is by nature, an uncommon tactic that is used in Chess because the Queen is selected as the promoted piece in the majority of pawn promotions. This is for good reason of course. The Queen is the most powerful piece next to the King, so if you can bring another Queen on your side, it’s ideal to do so.
3 Reasons To For Underpromotion
So what’s the point of underpromoting in chess? And when should you under promote a pawn? In some positions, minor promotion is needed in order to either avoid a stalemate or win the game. Here 3 of the top reasons to promote a pawn to anything other than a Queen.
1. To Attack The King
You could underpromote to attack the king with the same move. Under promoting to a Knight for example can attack the king in a unique way since no other piece can move like a knight does. There are even cases of checkmating the opposing king via underpromoting to a knight.
2. Avoid Stalemate
Underpromotion is often used in order to avoid a Stalemate from occurring since a Queen can remove many available squares the opposing King would otherwise be able to move to if a a different promoted piece was selected.
3. To Troll
Another common reason to promote a pawn to a piece other than a Queen is to for lack of a better word, to troll the opposing player. This is when under promoting is done without resulting in any real advantage for the player or any real disadvantage for the opposing player. The player just felt like annoying the opposing side by making unnecessary moves or felt like winning the game with a Rook instead of a Queen.
Let’s go over an example of underpromotion so you can see why it makes sense to promote a pawn to anything other than a queen from real games between Grandmaster players.
This position illustrates a position where underpromotion is used to avoid a draw. It’s White to move and the best move is for White to promote the pawn with 53. c8=$146+. However, White must be careful, promotion of the pawn to a queen will result in a stalemate. So underpromotion will be used not only to avoid stalemate, but to win the game. Promoting to a Rook or playing Kd6 would result in a win for White.
In this position, White can promote the pawn, but if promoted into a Queen or a Rook, the game ends in a Stalemate. What other piece could the pawn promote to for an advantage?
Under promoting to a bishop will give White a straight forward and simple checkmate pattern. White can also avoid a stalemate by playing Ke7. the game below is what the rest of the game would look like after promoting to a bishop.
In this example, White is forced to promote via capturing the Rook on c8 or Black will win. And again, promoting to a Queen or a Rook will result in stalemate. It’s a decision of Knights vs Bishops for the rest of the endgame. Do you think it’s better to promote to a Knight or a Bishop?
Promoting to a Bishop is best, after doing so we have a similar endgame to the position we went over in example 2.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the point of underpromotion in chess?
You would not promote to a queen in order to avoid stalemate, to attack the King, or to troll the opposing player. The point of underpromoting in Chess is to use promote to a minor piece or rook when it would give you a higher advantage than promoting to a queen would.
How do you underpromote in chess.com?
Go to Chess.com.
Hover over the “Home” menu on the left hand side and click on “Settings”.
From the Settings menu, click on the “Live Chess” tab.
Toggle off the option “Always promote to Queen”.
Now you’ll be prompted to pick a promoted piece when your pawns reach the promotion square.
Can you have two bishops on the same color?
You can have two bishops on the same color if one of your pawns reaches a promotion square on the back rank and you chose the promoted piece to be a bishop. This can result in having two bishops of the same color since the bishop being the same color of the promotion square. So if the square is dark and you still have your original dark-squared bishop, you would now have 2 dark squared bishops. And vice-versa for light squared bishops.