Today we will look at endgames where one side had a queen for either a minor piece, a rook or both. Having an extra queen does not automatically guarantee an easy win. As you will see today there are many possible ways of losing or drawing while having such a big material advantage. When trying to convert an extra queen one has to strive to do the following things:
- protect your own king, because a few minor pieces can be stronger than the queen when it comes to attack;
- trade off pieces;
- limit the range of the opponent's pieces by blocking open diagonals and files with your own pieces;
- keep your pieces defended because even if you miss tactics and the opponent captures one of your pieces you can recapture back;
We will look at all these ideas in today's article by playing through four positions.
In the first position white is up a queen for a minor piece. Let us first go through the example and only then analyze what happened. Outline for yourself points where white strode away from the ideas outlined above and try to find better solutions.
Why did the game end in such an unexpected and dramatic way? For a second white forgot about black's only serious threat of Rg1 checkmate. Maybe white wanted to finish the game and go on with the day, who knows? Mistakes like these hurt and to avoid them we have to take every precaution possible during the game. Ask yourself which square do the rook and the bishop aim at. Once you notice that g1-square is in danger you want to 1) cut one of the pieces from this square, or 2) exchange one of the attacking pieces or finally 3) protect the square. White had a chance to exchange the rooks, also he had a chance to play c3-d4 cutting off the bishop but he didn't do it, instead he defended g1 with the rook on f1, which is a good choice too as long as you keep the rook on the 1st rank.
Next up-- black has a queen and a pawn for a bishop and a rook - advantage significant enough for a win. White's advantages consist of better development, two bishops and a possibly weak black king. Black has the advantage of a massive pawn structure in the center but moving them forward will involve king weakening. How should black proceed in winning this game? Black should finish development as soon as possible, this involves moves like Bd7-Rf8. Exchanging pieces benefits black and starting off with Nb3, eliminating white's advantage of two bishops is the right first step. Then black can push the pawns forward and place the bishop in a more active position such as f5. What black should not do is: 1) start an attack on the white king (black is underdeveloped), 2) move central pawns (opening the game benefits two bishops), 3) leave the king on the same diagonal as the bishop on b3 (all kinds of tactics will start to work). Let us see how black managed this position.
Black ended up losing advantages and barely escaped losing the game. The lesson to learn is keep your king safe. If the pawns do not cover the king keep the opponent's pieces cut off from the king and use your pieces in defense. One of the big mistakes was putting the knight on c2 where it was too far from the king.
In the next example for a long time white did everything correctly. First, he activated his pieces and by activating I don't mean put them somewhere near the center hoping they would coordinate. White put the knight on d5- the best available square on the board. He put the rook on f1, where the rook attacked the black king. He collected a few black pawns and protected the king with the Rf2 move. Everything was set to move the pawns forward. Pay attention how white managed to combine strategic motifs with tactics.
The only mistake that white did in the game was pushing forward the c-pawn instead of the b- or a-pawns. The c-pawn could be easily blocked with the knight, while the b- or the a-pawn couldn't. Paying attention to such small differences is important because they speed the process of material advantage conversion.
I would like to end this article with an example from my practice. This was an evening round and I was annoyed that my lower-rated opponent would not resign. I mentally went through a list of possible coaches who could have taught him these "bad" chess manners at the board. The kid was just playing until the end and it is a perfectly fine thing to do generally. I started playing rather quickly, distracted and not really treating this part of the game as important. One should never let this feeling creep in, even in the most winning positions. One can put problems or at least small traps in any position; this is why one has to be paying attention in any position especially in winning positions. Speaking of the position white has very little hope as black is up a queen for a rook and two central pawns will queen fast.
Today we looked at positions where one side had an extra queen in the endgame. As you can see winning up a queen can be an arduous process and require a lot of energy and foresight. I hope that by going through these four articles you sharpened your skill in converting an extra queen into a full point.