Can a Pawn Take a Queen? (4 Things To Know with Examples!)

Pawns are the weakest piece on the chessboard. Unsurprisingly, they usually get treated like mere cannon fodder. However, even the humble pawn can make a big difference when positioned correctly. 

Could a pawn take a queen? Here’s what you need to know. 

A pawn can capture a queen if she falls within the pawn’s attack range. Pawns can capture pieces diagonally in front of them. Certain conditions, such as your king being in check, can prevent you from making a capture with your pawn. 

Despite being the ‘weakest’ piece, pawns have a rather unorthodox attack pattern. Let’s talk more about how a pawn can take down even the mighty queen and the circumstances that can prevent it from doing so. 

Can a Pawn Kill a Queen?

Even if you’re new to chess, you probably have a vague idea of how strong the two pieces are. Pawns are pretty weak. You get eight of them, each worth only a single point. They move slowly (one square at a time except for their first move). 

The queen, on the other hand, is the most powerful piece on the board. It’s worth a remarkable 9 points. It’s still not the most valuable piece, though – that would be the king. 

There’s an obvious power disparity between the pawn and queen. The latter is worth nine times as much as the former. How, then, can a pawn bring a queen down?

In chess, when it comes to capturing pieces, the point value of a piece doesn’t come into play. 

This point value is merely a reflection of how mobile a piece is. In chess, power stems from mobility. 

So yes, a pawn can capture a queen, given that the queen is within the pawn’s attack range. 

Any piece can capture a piece of the opposite color as long as it wouldn’t be an illegal move. The only pieces that can’t be captured are the two kings. 

If your king were under attack by an opposing piece, and you had no way to save it before the next enemy move, you would simply lose. 

This is called a checkmate, and we’ll talk more about it shortly. 

The Pawn’s Attack Pattern

Here’s a visual representation of what the pawn’s attack range looks like.

As you can see, the pawn on c4 can only capture one square diagonally ahead of it in either direction. It can legally capture the queen on d5 or the rook on b5. 

However, the pawn cannot capture a piece directly in front of it. Which means the bishop on c5 is completely safe. 

Pawns also have a unique move called en-passant available to them. It doesn’t work on queens, though. You can learn more about it here

Why Can’t My Pawn Take The Enemy Queen?

Okay, we’ve established that pawns can take the queen. If you get the opportunity to take the enemy queen with your pawn, you probably should. 

But some circumstances can prevent you from capturing. 

If you find that you aren’t able to take the enemy queen with your pawn – that it would be an illegal move – it’s likely due to one of the following scenarios. 

Your King is in Check

If an opposing piece is attacking your king, you are in check. 

You can think of a check as a warning or an alert. It indicates danger. 

When you’re in check, you must use your current move to get out of check. Any move that doesn’t bring your king out of check is illegal.

If you have a pawn positioned and primed to capture the enemy queen, but your king is in check by another enemy piece, you would not be able to capture the queen.

Here’s a visual example. 

Suppose you’re white in this position. 

The white king on e1 is being checked by the bishop on a5. 

If the king were not in check, you could capture the queen on c5 with your pawn on d4.

In this position, you can either:

  • Move the king out of the attacking bishop’s line of sight. 
  • Block the bishops’ attack with our b1 knight by playing knight to d2. 
  • Capture the attacking bishop with our a1 rook by playing rook a1 to a5.

Capturing the queen is, unfortunately, not an option. 

There’s one nuance to this you should be aware of. 

The Pawn is Pinned To Your King

Have a look at this position. Again, you’re white. 

Your pawn on e3 is being pinned to your king on h3 by the rook on a3. 

Essentially, you can’t move your pawn. It’s frozen in place. Because by doing so, you would be placing your king under check, which is forbidden by the rules of the game. 

If the rook on a3 were to disappear magically, you could use your pawn to capture the stray queen on d4. 

It would also unblock your e4 rook’s line of sight, allowing it to eye down the black king. If only. 

The Queen is Outside Your Pawn’s Attack Range

Let’s apply your knowledge of pawns to the test. 

In this case, the black queen and white pawn on the ‘d’ file stand face to face. 

However, the pawn cannot capture the queen. 

As you may be able to recall from an earlier example, pawns only attack one square diagonally in front of them. 

They do not attack the square directly ahead. 

The pawn has no legal moves in this example. It cannot capture since the squares within its offensive reach are vacant, and it cannot move ahead because the black queen physically blocks its path. 

You’d have to move your king. It doesn’t really matter where the king does because the vicious black queen will gobble up the lone d4 pawn all the same. 

What You Should Know About Pawns

Are pawns just cannon fodder, after all? 

Perhaps. But they can be much more if used correctly. 

Pawns are indeed weak on their own. But a unit of pawns placed strategically can make for an impenetrable defense. 

You can use your pawns to influence how the game goes to a great degree. 

If you’re all about the action, you can march your pawns forward to tear open the enemy formation. 

If you’re a more strategic player, use your pawns to block off the enemy’s approach. 

Pawns Have Game-Winning Potential

Pawns are not to be underestimated, especially in the endgame. 

By getting your pawns to the enemy’s back rank, you can promote them. You should almost always promote pawns to queens. However, in niche cases, you may have to under promote to a knight. 

You will seldom have to promote to a rook or a bishop in regular play. 

Final Thoughts

Pawns can capture a queen in their attack range, but it’s rare for this to happen. A queen is much more valuable than a pawn, so any decent opponent would simply get their queen out of harm’s way before you get the opportunity to do so. 

In most games, you’ll usually only get to capture the enemy queen with one of your pawns as part of a trade. Occasionally, your opponent will blunder, so don’t be afraid to capitalize on the opportunity!