What Is 'En Passant' And Why Do People Say Google It? How The Obscure Chess Move Made Its Way Into Memes
Anyone with a basic knowledge of chess can tell you how pawns move. Pawns can only move forward one space at a time, or two if it's the first time they've moved in the game. The only way a pawn can capture another piece is if that piece is diagonally in front of it.
However, there's another, third way a pawn can move in a scenario so situational, it's practically a secret, and when it does occur, it looks like cheating. This is called "En Passant," and it's been flabbergasting even some veteran chess players for years.
What Is "En Passant"?
"En Passant" can only happen under a specific set of circumstances. Let's say Black has moved its pawn forward three spaces. White takes one of its pawns, in a column next to the Black pawn's, and moves it forward two spaces, seemingly straight past the space where the Black pawn could normally capture it. If all of these conditions are met, Black can capture the offending pawn by moving diagonally to the space the White pawn skipped.
This move can only be done on the turn following White's move forward two spaces. If Black chooses to not utilize En Passant on their turn, it's then off the table.
How Has "En Passant" Been Memed?
"En Passant" became a meme in the chess community in two ways. The move began making its way into memes when staff members of Chess.com posted a humorous editorial explaining En Passant and lamenting the numerous reports they've received of players supposedly cheating or hacking by using the move.
The general chess community's relative unfamiliarity with En Passant has turned "Google En Passant" into a catchphrase, particularly when a player is salty about losing to what they perceive is cheating.
"En Passant" has also been memed by people who know the rule. In these memes, players express that when they see an opportunity to pull off En Passant, they are deeply tempted to do so, even if doing so would not help them win the game or in fact put them in a disadvantageous situation.
The temptation is so prevalent that one player made an entire browser extension that makes it so whenever an opportunity to pull off En Passant arises in online chess, the player will be forced to pull it off.
While the En Passant situation is extremely rare, it can certainly catch an opponent off guard if they aren't familiar with the rule. That being said, when it does arise, it may not be the smartest move. Even if it's not the right move in a given situation, it does offer players the chance to flex their incredible chess knowledge, which in many ways, is the real victory.
For more information, check out the Know Your Meme entry for En Passant.
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