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I have tried to read the Wikipedia article but it is too confusing on what the current accepted standard is.

My questions are:

  • If a pawn makes it to the last row can they stay as a pawn?
  • If a pawn makes it to the last row can they be promoted to a piece that hasn't been removed from the board e.g. 2 queens or 3 knights on the board?

If the last question is yes, do people normally carry around multiple sets with the same pieces?

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Many sets of chess pieces have two queens of each color for this reason. (The other possible cases, like promoting to a third rook, would basically never come up in an actual game.) In a tournament, if you are going to promote to a piece that you don't have an extra instance of, you can stop the clock and ask the tournament director to provide one (from a different set). – dfan Oct 4 '12 at 13:23
up vote 27 down vote accepted

No, a Pawn must be promoted to a Knight, Bishop, Rook, or Queen.

Yes, pawn promotion isn't limited to captured pieces.

My guess is that normal people don't carry around multiple sets of pieces, probably only tournaments. Most likely tournaments keep far more queens around than other pieces since promotion is usually to a queen (99% of the time).

The Wikipedia page says this (emphasis mine):

Promotion is a chess rule describing the transformation of a pawn that reaches its eighth rank into the player's choice of a queen, knight, rook, or bishop of the same color (Just & Burg 2003:16). The new piece replaces the pawn on the same square and is part of the move. Promotion is not limited to pieces that have already been captured (Schiller 2003:18–19). Every pawn that reaches its eighth rank must be promoted.

If you want a copy of the USCF's Rulebook: The Official Rules of Chess, 5th Edition (2003) that they are referencing though, it will cost you.

The FIDE has this in their rule book.

3.7e. When a pawn reaches the rank furthest from its starting position it must be exchanged as part of the same move on the same square for a new queen, rook, bishop or knight of the same colour. The player’s choice is not restricted to pieces that have been captured previously. This exchange of a pawn for another piece is called ‘promotion’ and the effect of the new piece is immediate.

6.12 b. A player may stop the clocks only in order to seek the arbiter’s assistance, for example when promotion has taken place and the piece required is not available.

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+1 In tournaments, when promoting a second queen when no second queen-piece is available, people will usually use an upside-down rook. If there are no rooks available, you might have to pause the clock and ask a referee for a spare piece. In casual play, if there's no rooks captured and I don't have an extra piece available from another set, I'll just take a penny from my pocket or something and say, "Remember, this is a queen." – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Feb 28 '12 at 9:53
There was an 1862 British Chess Association rule on promotion that did allow for a pawn to remain a pawn and there were unusual situations where this was beneficial. The ruling was also vague enough to allow you to promote to a piece of the other player's color. The official rulebook for an 1883 chess tournament dropped this rule to something similar to modern FIDE promotion rules. – Thunderforge Jan 29 '15 at 18:12

Pawn promotion is mandatory and not limited to the pieces that have been captured. User1873's answer covers the details well.

I wanted to answer the last part of your question in depth. It is not necessary for people to carry around extra sets, although many players and almost all teams will have multiple sets available to them at a tournament.

In the vast majority of the cases, an extra set is not needed.

  • Most of the time pawn promotion (or the immediate threat of it) will lead directly to the opponent conceding. One you reach a certain level of play, it is not fruitful to play out a game when you are down a queen. In a tournament setting when you may be expected to play 4+ games a day, you can conserve your energy by conceding. Grab a bite to eat, take a walk and come back stronger for the next game. I've competed in both wrestling and chess tournaments. While there is little threat of physical injury in a chess tournament, they are both exhausting to go through.
  • If the game continues, odds are that the queens will have been traded off earlier which means you have one available. Just the nature of getting a pawn queened will mean that the game has gone on awhile, and is fairly even. Queens tend to get exchanged.
  • If the queens are still on the board, the next best thing is a rook, flipped upside down. This was used quite frequently when I was playing and I would expect that it is still a common convention.
  • If your queen and both rooks are still on the board and you need to promote a pawn, then you truly do need an extra queen! If you don't have one available at a tournament, there should be plenty available nearby to borrow.
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Thanks for the extra details! – xiaohouzi79 Feb 28 '12 at 22:23
+1 for comparing chess to wrestling. – Johno Oct 4 '12 at 15:16
Little threat of physical injury in chess? Not always... – Mike R Jan 30 '15 at 21:50

No, yes and yes

Q1) Staying as a pawn would be inconvenient, I don't know the answer, but on computer games you can't .

Q2) Yes, or what's the point of the use

Q3) Lots of people promote pawns.

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