Pawn End Games

With chess books, those on the end game are greatly outnumbered by opening books. For publications that do cover end games, positions involving pawns are most common. Let’s now consider the simplest pawn end games.

White to move and win

Diagram-1: White to move

The above position shows how important it is for the side with the pawn to put the king ahead of the pawn before it advances toward the queening square. Two moves win for White in Diagram-1: Ke6 and Kf6. Moving the pawn, however, would allow the defender to get a draw by the following moves:

  1. e6?       Ke7
  2. Ke5      Ke8!
  3. Kd6     Kd8
  4. e7+      Ke8
  5. Ke6     draw by stalemate

From Diagram-1, let’s look at the correct way to win, using the move Ke6, which takes control with king-opposition. The black king must move to the right or left. We’ll look at the position after Black then moves Kd8.

chess end game with one pawn

Diagram-2: White to move

Black has just moved Kd8 in Diagram-2. When White now moves to Kf7, that king will be protecting the queening square e8. The black king will then be unable prevent the pawn from advancing forward until it reaches the eight rank, becoming a queen.

The above method is not the only way for a pawn to be successfully advanced to the queening square, but it’s probably the first method that should be learned by a beginner. Chess books and online resources are abundant for this most simple type of end game.



Chess End Games

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)

A Queen Versus Rook Corner Defense

We are indebted to Derek Grimmell for his studies and his videos that explain how this works.

The Best Chess Book for Beginners

Some publications are for the advanced tournament player, but more of them are for average or intermediate competitors. Others books are for post-beginners or for novices.


End Game of Queen Versus Rook

Let’s examine a particular corner defense in the queen-vs-rook chess end game. We are indebted to Derek Grimmell for his studies and his videos that explain how this kind of endgame works.

a corner defense in this end game

Diagram-1: Black to move (White threatens to win the rook soon after Qa4+)

With black to move, in the above position, there is no reasonable way for the rook to attack either the white king or the queen. Moving the rook to be a knight’s move away from the defending king is often good, so black plays Rb5.

Notice that any king move, in Diagram-1, loses quickly. Ka8 allows the pin Qe4, with mate on the next move. Kb6 loses the rook to a skewer: Qb4+. Ka6 loses the rook almost as quickly after Qa4+. Black is better off playing Rb5 instead a king move.

white to move in this queen-vs-rook end game

Diagram-2: White to move

After black moves the rook, we have the position in Diagram-2. What can white do? If Qa4+, then the black king escapes to b6, towards the center. If Qc7+, then Ka6 leaves the white king almost trapped on the edge.

White has two moves worth looking at in Diagram-2: Put the queen on the long diagonal with Qe4 or make a rosette, for a rosette is often challenging for the player with the move. But in this position Qe4 allows Rc5+, followed by Kb7, getting the defending pieces further away from the corner.

Let’s look at Qd6, creating a rosette pattern, as Mr. Grimmell calls it.

A rosette pattern in this end gameDiagram-3: Black to move

In this particular rosette, black cannot move Rb6 because the rook would be pinned by Qd4, and black would quickly lose (Ka8 would then fail to Qa4+ and Ka6 would allow White to play Kc7, threatening both mate and the rook). Black cannot move Rb7, in Diagram-3, without quickly losing the rook to Qa3+ and then Qb4+.

white wins this end game

Diagram-4: Black just moved Rh5

White now has a way to prepare to shield the white king and to threaten mate at the same time. Do you see it? It’s Kc7!

White moved Kc7 in this queen vs rook endgame

Diagram-5: White moved Kc7!

White now threaten a mate-in-two beginning with Qa3+ and another one beginning with Qb6+. Black has not reasonable choice except to check the white king with Rh7+.

white must moved Kc6 in this queen-vs-rook end game

Diagram-6: Black moved Rh7+ and white then moved Kc6

We now see what Grimmell calls the Javelin position, in Diagram-6. Black has the move but what could work better than Rb7, which allows the Philidor position after Qa3+, Kb8, and Qa5? The Philidor is well known in the winning technique. Look instead at Rh1.

White to move, versus a very badly placed rook

Diagram-7: The black rook now appears safe (white’s move), but is the king safe?

In Diagram-7, black has just moved the rook to h1, apparently putting it on a safe square. But what about the black king? What is that rook doing, other than keeping far away in a safe place? Notice that the defending king is hemmed in at the upper left corner. How many ways does the queen have to make a check while preparing to checkmate? More than one, including Qc7+ and mate next move.

The Philidor position is covered elsewhere, so that’s it for now, for this particular corner defense of the queen versus rook end game.



Euwe Position of Queen Versus Rook

Moving Rc8 soon results in a fatal back-rank prison for the black king

Two Easy Queen versus Rook Endgame Puzzles

How do you draw when you have only a rook and king and your opponent has only a queen and king?

Queen Versus Rook Corner Defenses

Video by Derek Grimmell