index 2012
Letter #22 -  2012

Sub:    Promotion
06/06/12  2:24:40
From:  kelp_23

Just wondering why it is not possible to promote a Pawn for another King.

Was this once allowed before the modern rules of Chess?

Carlos G.

Dear viewer,

There are no records showing that a player was ever allowed to promote or have a second, third, or more Kings.

Any player can promote a Pawn who has reached the eight rank to any piece other than the King such as a Knight, Bishop, Rook, or a Queen. Most players choose the Queen as a first choice since it is the most powerful piece.

Since the nature of the game of Chess makes the King the most valuable piece and to a certain point the most vulnerable, promoting a Pawn to another King would make no sense.

And yet... there is a funny tale about the great Jose Capablanca playing against an opponent who had three black Kings!!

Read on:

Once upon a time, under the shadow of a large tree, a then young Jose Capablanca was analyzing some games in preparation for a coming Chess match in Cuba against GM Juan Corzo. Suddenly, a strange spaceship resembling a flying saucer zoomed in and landed a few yards away. Soon after, a strange and small alien figure descended and approached him.

Using mental communication, the alien let Capablanca know of their grim intentions: humankind may be annihilated and the earth destroyed unless Capablanca could persuade them that humans were a superior race. Nevertheless, a little intrigued by the chessboard and pieces Capablanca had, the alien asked what they were for.

Capablanca explained that the board and pieces were used to play Chess which was a very complex and advanced game played by most human beings. Capablanca offered to teach him the rules, how to move the pieces, and to play a Chess game against him to demonstrate that humans were a superior race and deserved to be spared.

The ET quickly accepted the challenge but warned Capablanca that they were a race thousands of times more developed than humans and that he should easily defeat Capablanca with all the dire consequences for all the people on planet earth, and added that a loss or even a drawn game for Capa will result in total armageddon. Capablanca did not blink, he knew he was the best player in the whole universe.

Capablanca taught the alien all the Chess rules, the King, Queen, Rooks, Bishops, Knights, and Pawns movements, check, checkmate, en-passant, castling, stalemate, opposition, draws, forks, openings, middlegame, endings, in other words... everything! The last indication Capablanca told the alien was: "when a Pawn reaches the eight rank, you can exchange or promote it for any other piece you like it."

The game started, the fate of the human race was on Capablanca's hands. Playing white, Capablanca made the first move: 1. e4, the Ruy Lopez opening. In a tense, very dramatic game and after two hours of play, they reached the following position:

White to move

Obviously Capablanca had a clear advantage and by moving his King to c2 he threatens to mate in the next move with Bd4. So, Capablanca moved 1. Kc2 savoring a victory against a superior entity and just one move away from proclaiming himself as the savior of the world. And then... a fearless alien moved 1... h1=K??

After alien promotes to King!

The great Capablanca jumped in a huff and shouted:

"NO!!!... you can't do that!"
"But you just told me that I could choose any piece I like it!", the alien replied.

After a short discussion, Capablanca had no choice but to accept playing under this new misunderstood rule. Capablanca realized that the mating move he had 2. Bd4# was now worthless since he could checkmate the King on a1 but the second King on h1 had no legal square to move to and the game would end... in a stalemate!

Taking a long time thinking, Capablanca was about to concede defeat, and then, his eyes blinked repeatedly and a big smile filled his entire face and quickly moved 2. a8= black King!!

After Capablanca promotes to a black King!!

This time the alien protested but the rules were clear, after all Capablanca had said: ("...a player can choose any piece he likes it"), and now the alien had no choice but to make the only legal move he had: 2. ... Kb8. A jubilant Capablanca moves next 3. h7 and again the little man makes the only move he has 3. ... Ka8 and finally, Capablanca moved 4. h8=Q#, checkmating all three black Kings... with a single shot!

Final position

The extraterrestrials left our world in disgrace and our planet and people lived many years happily ever after.

Thank you for visiting us,

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