Queen versus pawn endgame

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Chess kll45.svg Chess qll45.svg Chess kdl45.svg Chess pdl45.svg

The chess endgame of a queen versus pawn (with both sides having no other pieces except the kings) is usually an easy win for the side with the queen. However, if the pawn has advanced to its seventh rank it has possibilities of reaching a draw, and there are some drawn positions with the pawn on the sixth rank. This endgame arises most often from a race of pawns to promote.

The side with the queen is the attacker and the side with the pawn the defender. Assume that the attacker has the move. If the pawn is not beyond its sixth rank, the attacker (to move) usually wins easily, but there are a few exceptions. The winning process is to either get the queen on a square in front of the pawn and getting the king over to help win the pawn or to check the defending king until it is forced in front of the pawn and using that tempo to bring the king closer, until it can assist in winning the pawn (Fine & Benko 2003:529). After the pawn is won, the attacker has an elementary checkmate (Seirawan 2003:49–53).


Queen versus a pawn on the sixth rank[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 white king
c8 white queen
f3 black pawn
f2 black king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Black to move, White wins

The queen usually wins easily if the pawn is on the sixth rank. In the first position, Black is to move, but White wins.

1... Kg2
2. Qg4+ Kf2
3. Kb7 Ke3 (if Black plays Ke2, White plays Qe4+, forcing Black's king back in front of the pawn, and then advances his own king.)
4. Kc6 f2
5. Qd1 Kf4
6. Qf1 and White wins (Fine & Benko 2003:530).

Exceptions[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
b7 white queen
g7 white king
c3 black pawn
c1 black king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to move, draw (a rare exception because the white king blocks the queen)

Exceptions can occur when the king blocks the queen on a file or diagonal, as in this position.

1. Qh1+ Kb2!

White needs to pin the pawn by 2. Qh8, but the king blocks the pin.

2. Qb7+

This was White's only check which prevents the pawn from advancing, and Black responds

2... Kc1!

repeating the position. If the white king is anywhere else (other than h7 and h8), the queen can pin the pawn and allow for the queen and then the king to approach (Fine & Benko 2003:530).

Example[edit]

Horowitz, 1957
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
g7 white king
h7 white queen
c3 black pawn
a1 black king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to move, 1.Qh6 wins

The biggest problem for a queen versus a pawn on the sixth rank is when its own king gets in the way. In this position, the white king prevents the queen from getting on the a1 to h8 diagonal, to pin the pawn to prevent it from advancing. White actually wins by:

1. Qh6!!

Now if

1... c2

then

2. Qc1+

wins. If Black does not advance the pawn then the white queen can maneuver to pin the pawn along the diagonal, and wins easily.

If instead, White tries what may seem to be correct:

1. Qh1+?

a draw results with correct play (but there are many chances for losing moves).

1... Kb2! (1...Ka2 loses quickly to Qc1.)
2. Qb7+ (otherwise 2...c2 draws.)
2... Kc1!
3. Kf6! (White tries his best chance.)
3... c2
4. Ke5 Kd2
5. Qd5+!!

Black has five replies. Four of them lose, but

5... Ke1! draws.
6. Qa5+ Kd1 (6...Ke2 loses to 7.Qa2.)
7. Qa4 Kd2 (7...Kc1 loses to 8.Qa2.)
8. Qa2 Kc3!!

and White can make no progress (Horowitz 1957:176–9).

Example from game[edit]

Alatortsev vs. Chekhover
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 white queen
c8 white king
f3 black pawn
f2 black king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 71.a8=Q

In this 1937 game between Vladimir Alatortsev and Vitaly Chekhover,[1] White wins:

71... Ke3
72. Qd5 Kf2

If 72...Ke2 then 73.Qe4+ Kf2 forces the Black king in front of the pawn.

73. Kd7 Kg3
74. Ke6 f2
75. Qh1! 1-0 (Giddins 2012:123).

Queen versus a pawn on the seventh rank[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
g8 white queen
h5 white king
d3 black king
c2 black pawn
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White wins by 1.Qg5!, followed by 2.Qc1.

In order for the defending side to have a chance at a draw (with the other side to move), the pawn must be on its seventh rank and the king must be nearby (plus a few drawing positions with the pawn on the sixth rank, as above). Except for unusual cases, the attacking side wins if the pawn is a knight pawn (b- or g-files) or a central pawn (d- or e-files). For bishop pawns and rook pawns, the result depends on the location of the kings. If the attacking king is close enough to the pawn, it wins; otherwise a draw results (Seirawan 2003:49–53).

First note that the attacker may win easily, depending on the location of the kings. In this position, White wins by 1. Qg5! followed by 2. Qc1, and then the white king is brought nearer to win the pawn. If the black king is on any other square around the pawn, the position is a draw, see below (position modified slightly) (Flear 2004:155).

Central pawn or knight pawn[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
d8 white queen
b7 white king
d2 black king
e2 black pawn
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Black to move, White wins. White also wins against a knight pawn.

If the pawn is a central pawn or knight pawn (i.e. on the b, d, e, or g-file), the queen wins easily, except for a few unusual positions. In the position on the right, White wins. It takes several moves, but it is not difficult.

1... Ke3

Black threatens to queen the pawn. White prevents this by forcing the black king in front of the pawn.

2. Qh4 Kd2
3. Qd4+ Kc2
4. Qe3 Kd1
5. Qd3+ Ke1

Without the immediate threat of promotion, White has gained a tempo that can be used to bring his king closer. This process is repeated.

6. Kc6 Kf2
7. Qd2 Kf1
8. Qf4+ Kg1
9. Qe3+ Kf1
10. Qf3+ Ke1

And now White can again bring his king closer.

11. Kd5 Kd2
12. Qf2 Kd1
13. Qd4+ Kc2
14. Qe3 Kd1
15. Qd3+ Ke1
16. Ke4! Kf2
17. Qf3+ Ke1
18. Kd3

and White wins the pawn and then checkmates. The winning process with a knight pawn is the same (Seirawan 2003:49–53).

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
c8 white queen
d7 black circle
d6 black circle
d5 black circle
d2 black king
e2 black pawn
f1 black cross
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to move. Draw if the white king is on any of the marked squares, otherwise White wins.

In some cases, the attacking king can block its own queen, as in the second diagram. If the white king is on any of the squares marked with dots, the queen cannot approach the pawn, and the result is a draw (Müller & Lamprecht 2001:40–41). If the white king is in the square marked with "x", the pawn promotes and the position is a draw.

Rook pawn[edit]

a b c d e f g h
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d8 white queen
b7 white king
a2 black pawn
b2 black king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to move, draw

The process above does not work against a rook pawn. The reason is that when the king was forced in front of his pawn in other locations, he could move out the other side on the next move. With a rook pawn, this file is not available, and there can be a stalemate.

In the first position, if the procedure above is tried,

1. Qd4+ Kb1
2. Qb4+ Kc2
3. Qa3 Kb1
4. Qb3+ Ka1!

and now the position is a stalemate unless White lets the black king back to the b-file. White can make no progress (Seirawan 2003:49–53).

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
d8 white queen
a6 black cross
b6 black cross
c6 black cross
d6 black cross
e6 black cross
d5 white king
e5 black cross
f4 black cross
b3 black circle
f3 black cross
a2 black pawn
b2 black king
c2 black circle
f2 black cross
f1 black cross
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to move, White wins if his king is inside the region marked with "X"s.

White can win similar positions if his king is close enough to the pawn. In the second position, white's king is close enough to win – by allowing the pawn to promote but then checkmating the king (Seirawan 2003:49–53). White wins if the king is close enough to move to one of the squares marked with dots in two moves (de la Villa 2008:61).

1. Qf6+ Kb1 (if 1...Kc2 then 2.Qa1 wins)
2. Qf1+ Kb2
3. Qe2+ Kb1 (3...Kb3 allows 4.Qe5 followed by 5.Qa1)
4. Kc4! a1=Q
5. Kb3

and White checkmates.

If the white king was on e3, the win is simple:

1. Qd2+ Kb1
2. Kd3 a1=Q
3. Qc2#

Bishop pawn[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
d8 white queen
a5 black cross
b5 black cross
c5 black cross
d5 black cross
d4 black cross
e4 white king
f4 black cross
b3 black circle
f3 black cross
b2 black king
c2 black pawn
d2 black circle
f2 black cross
f1 black cross
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to move, draw; win if the king is inside the area

A bishop pawn may also draw, but for a different reason (a different stalemate position).

1. Qb6+ Ka1!
2. Qd4+ Kb1
3. Qb4+ Ka1
4. Qc3+ Kb1
5. Qb3+ Ka1!

and White can not capture the pawn because stalemate would result (Seirawan 2003:49–53). The rule is that White wins if his king is close enough to reach b3 or d2 in one move, because it can assist in checkmate (Müller & Lamprecht 2007:41).

If the defending king is not on the side of the pawn near the corner and the attacking king is close enough, the game can still be won – often by letting the pawn promote and then checkmating.

Lolli, 1763
a b c d e f g h
8
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g4 white king
g3 white queen
c2 black pawn
d1 black king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to move, White wins

The second position is a 1763 endgame study by Giambattista Lolli. The black king must be prevented from getting to the other side of his pawn, otherwise he can employ the stalemate defense.

1. Qb3! Kd2
2. Qb2 Kd1
3. Kf3! Kd2 (3...c1=Q 4.Qe2#, or 3...c1=N and White checkmates in three moves: 4.Ke3 Nb3 5.Qc3, and checkmate on the next move.)
4. Kf2 Kd1
5. Qd4+ Kc1
6. Qb4! Black is in zugzwang
6... Kd1
7. Qe1# (Fine & Benko 2003:526–29), (Angos 2005:144).
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
g8 white queen
e6 black cross
f6 black cross
g6 black cross
h6 black cross
b5 black cross
c5 black cross
d5 black cross
e5 white king
a4 black cross
a3 black cross
g3 black circle
a2 black cross
d2 black circle
e2 black king
f2 black pawn
a1 black cross
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to move wins since the king is inside the area

The third position shows another win for the attacker, since his king is close and the defending king is not (yet) near the corner.

1. Qc4+ Ke1
2. Qe4+ Kf1
3. Kf4 Kg1 (the black king gets to the corner, but White has moved his king close enough to checkmate.)
4. Qd4 Kh1
5. Kg3 (of course not 5. Qxf2 stalemate)
5... f1=Q
6. Qh8+

and White checkmates in two more moves (Snape 2003:88). Note that it is possible to win against a bishop pawn on the seventh rank and the king in the corner if the attacking king and queen are in the proper position. White wins if the king is close enough to move to one of the squares marked with dots in two moves (de la Villa 2008:64).

Example from game[edit]

van Wely vs. Leko, 1996
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
g8 white queen
h7 white king
c2 black pawn
a1 black king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 60...c2, draw

This position from a 1996 game between Loek van Wely and Peter Leko was drawn because of the bishop pawn.[2]

Petrosian versus Fischer[edit]

Petrosian vs. Fischer, 1958
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
g8 black rook
f7 white pawn
g6 white pawn
g5 white king
c3 black pawn
c2 black king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Final position after 67.f7
Petrosian vs. Fischer
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
f8 white queen
g6 white king
c2 black pawn
b1 black king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Analysis position after 69...c2

The first position is from the end of a 1958 game between future World Champions Tigran Petrosian and Bobby Fischer.[3] The players agreed to a draw because of the stalemate defense (above). The game could continue 67...Rxg6+ 68.Kxg6 Kb1 69.f8=Q c2 to the second position, which is a draw (Fischer 2008:31).

Traps[edit]

de la Villa, position 4.10
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
d5 white king
e3 white queen
c2 black pawn
b1 black king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
A trap for Black

There are some traps arising in the endgame with the bishop pawn when the attacking king is not quite close enough to force a win. In this position play could go:

1. Qb3+ Ka1!
2. Qe3 Kb1
3. Qe4 Kb2 ( 3...Ka1 also draws)
4. Qe2

setting the trap, and now

4... Ka1!

is the only move to draw. The alternative move

4... Kb1??

is a typical mistake, allowing

5. Kc4!! c1=Q+
6. Kb3, winning.

Or if instead

4... Kc3??
5. Qe5+!, forcing the black king to the wrong side of the pawn and then the white king will be close enough to assist (de la Villa 2008:65–66).
de la Villa, position 4.12
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
e5 white king
b3 white queen
c2 black pawn
d2 black king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Trap on the other side of the pawn

The same trick can be tried with the king on the other side of the pawn. The white king is not close enough to force a win in this position, but the defense is difficult.

1. Qb2 Kd1
2. Qb3 Kd2
3. Qa2!? setting the trap
3... Kc3! the only move to draw
4. Qa1+ Kd2, draw

If instead

3... Kd1??
4. Kd4! c1=Q
5. Kd3 wins.

If

3... Kd3??
4. Qb2

and Black has to allow a pin to avoid 5.Qc1. After 4...Kd2 the white king gets close enough to win with 5. Ke4 (de la Villa 2008:66).

Extra pawn for the defense[edit]

Muller & Lamprecht
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
c8 white queen
h7 black pawn
b5 white king
f2 black pawn
g1 black king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to move wins – the extra pawn deprives Black of the stalemate defense

An extra pawn for the defense may be a disadvantage because it deprives the defender of the stalemate defense. In this position, White wins:

1. Qg4+ Kh2
2. Qf3! Kg1
3. Qg3+! Kf1 (3...Kh1 loses after 4.Qxf2)
4. Kc4

and White wins (Müller & Lamprecht 2007:42).

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]