Simple Queen-Versus-Rook Endgames in Chess

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smaller rook against an armed queen

Many chess end game positions can be challenging, especially with queen versus rook. But Beginning Chess really is for beginners, so let’s look at easy puzzles with simple tactics.

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With the move, black does not draw but WINS!

#1: The defender usually tries for a draw, but here it’s black to move and WIN

With black to move, in the above position, what’s the best move? Notice that white has the king and queen on the same rank (on the squares d3 and g3). Black takes advantage of that with Rb3+ (move the rook to the light-colored square that is to the left of the white king), which wins the queen in a way that allows black to keep the rook. White has to move out of check, and the black rook will then capture the white queen. The resulting endgame should be an easy win for players who are beyond the early-beginner stage.

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queen vs rook chess end game

#2: White to move and win (quickly), in the above queen-vs-rook end game

In the second diagram, it’s white’s turn. Several checks are available, none of them useful.

The winning move is Qa3. Do you see why? The rook will then be under an absolute pin, unable to move because it would expose the black king to check. The black king is too far away to protect the rook in one move, so that rook is lost.

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black to move and draw in this end game

#3: Black to move and draw

Moving the rook to the right, to the d8 square (Rd8+) would be check but it would be worthless, for the white king could then move to c2 (Kc2), and black would not be able avoid both of the checkmates that white would then be threatening.

The correct move for black, in the third diagram, is Ra3+ (move the rook down to the dark square next to the black king). That rook would then be pinning the white queen, and it’s an absolute pin. In the resulting exchange, both queen and rook would be removed from the board, making an immediate draw, according to one of the rules of chess.

Notice that these simple puzzles have one thing in common: There’s a line from a king to the piece of the same color, and the opponent could take advantage of that line. Not all important moves (in queen-versus-rook end games) involve a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line; but beginners need to be aware of them.

In general, with best moves made on both sides, a queen-versus-rook endgame (with only those two pieces plus the two kings) should always be a win for the side with the queen. In reality, many positions can be extremely challenging, even with top-level grandmasters. For beginners, learn the above simple principles and you can expect to do well against another beginner, if the two of you should ever play a game that comes down to this kind of end game.

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smaller rook against an armed queen

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Queen Versus Rook – Chess End Game Positions (two)

Let’s begin this kind of endgame study with defense: How do you draw when you have only a rook and king and your opponent has only a queen and king?

Philidor Position in Queen Versus Rook

In the queen-versus-rook Philidor, the defending king has only one legal move, and it results in the queen pinning the rook and capturing it on the next move.

The Absolute Pin in Chess

The black queen is pinning the white queen. In this case, it prevents the white queen from any move except along the other diagonal, the one leading from the white king to the black queen.

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