Can Chess Pieces Move Backward?

Guides / By Andrew Hercules

When playing a game of chess, it’s important that we understand how each of the pieces move. Most beginners have a lot of questions when it comes to piece movement and the most popular one asked is “Can chess pieces move backward?”

Unlike checkers, all the chess pieces have the ability to move backwards with the exception of the pawns. The pawns can only move one square forward at a time but 2 squares forward on it’s first move. In some cases, moving the pieces backwards can be seen as a passive defense.  

There are 6 different type of pieces in chess. These are the King, Queen, Bishops, Rooks, Knights and Pawns. Let’s discover how each one can move backwards.

Moving the King Backwards

If you knew by now, the King can move in any direction one square at a time and is not limited to only forward movement. It can move forward, backward, sideways and diagonally. In a king-pawn endgame, players usually rush their king forward to the center of the board to claim opposition. However, it’s quite common for the the King to move backwards in the event to blockade a passed pawn. Click here to read more when a pawn reaches the other side.

Moving The Knight Backwards

The Knight is a very tricky piece. It moves two squares in one direction and then one more square at a right angle. The knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces including its own men. Often the Knight will move backwards to manoeuvre onto an active outpost. (An outpost in chess is simply a square where a piece can’t be easily troubled by an enemy piece). It can also move backwards all the way to 1st rank to safeguard threats against the monarch.

Moving The Queen Backwards

The queen is the most powerful piece on the chess board because she can move in any direction in a straight line as far she’d like. Like the king and knight, the queen can move backwards.

Moving The Rooks Backward

Rooks move horizontally and vertically across the board any number of squares. It can move backwards swiftly to prevent threats along the back-rank. In the below diagram, the white rook moved all the way down to prevent black from delivering checkmate along the 1st rank.

Moving The Bishop Backwards

Bishops are long-ranged pieces like the Queen and Rook. They can move ONLY diagonally in a straight line forwards or backwards.

Pawns – The only pieces that can’t move backwards

There are many special moves to a pawn, but one restriction is that it can’t move backwards. Unlike other pieces that capture on the square it lands, the pawn move one square forward but capture diagonally.

It can also be promoted into a majestic queen or any member of the royal family except into a king. This happens when the pawn gets to the other side of the board (the 8th rank for white, 1st rank for Black).

The last special move of the pawn is called ‘en passant’. During a game if the pawn moves two squares on it’s first move, and by doing so ends up next to an opponent’s pawn, that pawn then has the option of capturing this first one it passes by.

Related Post: How the chess pieces move

Andrew Hercules

Hercules Chess, launched in 2020, is a website that teaches you about chess. We started as a chess blog and became a chess training platform in early 2022.

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