Queen versus pawn endgame
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).
- 1 Queen versus a pawn on the sixth rank
- 2 Queen versus a pawn on the seventh rank
- 3 See also
- 4 Notes
- 5 References
- 6 External links
|This article uses algebraic notation to describe chess moves.|
Queen versus a pawn on the sixth rank
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 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).
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!!
- 1... c2
- 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
- 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
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
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).
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.
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).
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#
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.
- 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).
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
Petrosian versus Fischer
The first position is from the end of a 1958 game between future World Champions Tigran Petrosian and Bobby Fischer. 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).
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).
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
- 3... Kd1??
- 4. Kd4! c1=Q
- 5. Kd3 wins.
- 3... Kd3??
- 4. Qb2
Extra pawn for the 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).
- Angos, Alex (2005), You Move ... I Win!: A Lesson in Zugzwang, Thinkers' Press, Inc., ISBN 978-1-888710-18-2
- de la Villa, Jesús (2008), 100 Endgames You Must Know, New in Chess, ISBN 978-90-5691-244-4
- Fine, Reuben; Benko, Pal (2003) , Basic Chess Endings, McKay, ISBN 0-8129-3493-8
- Fischer, Bobby (2008) , My 60 Memorable Games, Batsford, ISBN 978-1-906388-30-0
- Flear, Glenn (2004), Starting Out: Pawn Endings, Everyman Chess, ISBN 1-85744-362-4
- Giddins, Steve (2012), The Greatest Ever Chess Endgames, Everyman Chess, ISBN 978-1-85744-694-4
- Horowitz, I. A. (1957), How to Win in the Chess Endings, McKay
- Müller, Karsten; Lamprecht, Frank (2001), Fundamental Chess Endings, Gambit Publications, ISBN 1-901983-53-6
- Müller, Karsten; Lamprecht, Frank (2007), Secrets of Pawn Endings, Gambit Publications, ISBN 978-1-904600-88-6
- Seirawan, Yasser (2003), Winning Chess Endings, Everyman Chess, ISBN 1-85744-348-9
- Snape, Ian (2003), Chess Endings Made Simple: How to Approach the Endgame with Confidence, Gambit Publications, ISBN 1-901983-97-8