Queen Versus Rook – Draw

Not many end-game chess books give much attention to the queen versus rook. Consider three books (none of which had beginners in mind, apparently):

  1. How to Play Chess Endings by Eugene Znosko-Borovsky
  2. Chess Endgame Training by Bernd Rosen
  3. Practical Chess Endings by Irving Chernev

The first book gives barely one page worth of text on queen-versus-rook, and the second one says nothing about it. The third book gives it the most attention, but that amounts to only one page demonstrating a win from the Philidor position. Let’s now consider a simple example of how to draw by stalemate (if you are the defender) and how to avoid the stalemate if you are the fortunate chess player to have a queen in such an end game.

Black can get a stalemate draw

Diagram-1 with Black to move

The chess puzzle of Diagram-1 is a bit advanced for some chess beginners, but it is simple once you have seen how it works. Black moves the rook down two squares: Rc6+. White must get out of check and capturing the rook is obvious. But if the white king captures that rook then it is a stalemate draw. That would be a disappointing end of a game in which the side with the queen was trying to win. But the only other move available to White (after Black moves Rc6+) would be a king move, which would allow the rook to capture the queen. The best that White can do to get out of that check would be to move the king to d5 or e5. After the rook captures the queen, the White king would capture that rook, ending the game with a draw, for a game in which there is only one king on each side is automatically a draw.

Avoiding a Draw for the Attacker

What can we learn from Diagram-1, that would benefit the stronger side? Be careful about putting your king and queen on the same rank or on the same file, especially when your opponent’s king is on the edge of the board. Don’t think of that as a rule, however, just a precautionary note.

queen versus rook chess end game

Diagram-2 with White to move

In Diagram-2, the white king needs to approach the black king, if white is to win by an eventual checkmate. But is it safe to move Kd6 or Ke6? That would put the king and queen on the same rank.

White can move the king to either d6 or e6, with no danger of stalemate in Diagram-2. If the rook then moves to g6, the queen would capture it with check. Remember that stalemate can occur only when there is no check.

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Winning in Q-vs-R end games

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.

Chess Book for the True Beginner

So how does “Beat That Kid in Chess” compare with those books that are best for beginners? It may be the only chess book that systematically uses the nearly-identical-positions method of training . . .

Beat That Kid in Chess and Other Books

I’ve been promoting my own chess book (for novices) for several weeks now: Beat That Kid in Chess. So why would I mention two competing books on the royal game, both of them for beginners? Mine could be the only one ever written that uses a new teaching method called nearly-identical positions.

Exploring Chess

In Diagram-1, White may have more than one way to win this queen-versus-rook end game.

Chess Book for a Beginner

How few instructional chess books are suitable for the early beginner . . . who knows the rules but little else about the game! [like how to win]

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More on the Queen-Versus-Rook End Game

Let’s look at more tactics in simple end games, in particular when a only four pieces are left on the board, including a queen on one side and a rook on the other.

white can win quickly - queen versus rook

Diagram-1 (white to move)

Can white win quickly in the position shown in Diagram-1? The white king has only one move, and that looks like it would accomplish nothing. So look at queen moves. The solution is at the bottom of this post.

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white to move and win - chess

Diagram-2 (white to move)

In Diagram-2, white can win quickly, with the right move. There’s actually more than one way to win quickly, but one way is quickest. This kind of queen versus rook end game position is called a corner defense.

endgame of queen versus rook

Diagram-3 (white to move)

Diagram-3 shows a more difficult position, although there is more than one way for white to win quickly. This is more advanced than what most chess beginners are given in lessons: White to move and mate in three. You get one hint: The way to get checkmate most quickly is to first win the rook. After that rook is captured, checkmate can come quickly.

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Solutions to the queen-versus-rook puzzles

Diagram-1: The queen moves to the a5 square, checkmate

Diagram-2: The queen moves to the a8 square, checkmate

Diagram-3: The queen moves to either f4 or g5, pinning the rook and winning it on the next more

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Queen Against Rook

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.

Chess End Game of Queen Versus Rook

Whitcomb advocates using simple tactical themes in teaching this kind of end game: “The Philidor position is great to know for advanced chess competitors, but it’s too difficult for the raw beginner to remember all the details.”

Queen Versus Rook Chess End Game

The most important key position in most queen-versus-rook end games is the Philidor.

Three Kinds of Chess Beginners

I divide chess beginners into three levels of ability: raw, mid-level, and advanced.

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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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