I would like to return to queen endgames as they are the ones that puzzle many chess players. Queen endgames are complicated because there are not many theoretical positions to know, and they require tons of calculations because of possible perpetual checks. There are several general guidelines that one can follow in queen vs. queen and two pawns endgames. For example, for the defending side having the king in front of the passed pawn(s) is the best placement. With only one extra pawn having the king in front of the pawn almost guarantees a draw. If the king is not there then the drawing chances are slim unless the pawns are not too far advanced. The queen is best placed in the centre. For the stronger side having connected central pawns is better than having the h and g pawns. Today we will look at several examples where one side has two extra connected passed pawns and try to formulate some general ideas and plans.
Let us look at the example when white has h- and g-pawns and where the black king is in front of the pawns. The position is a classical study composed by R. Fain in 1941.
White has a centralized queen and the king in front of the pawns too – both placed well. The threat of Qc5 forces black to resort to checks. Let us talk about general strategies in playing endgames like this. It might look easily winning for white but in fact it is hard to win because of the possibility of perpetual check. The white king wants to go to the 7th or 6th and 8th ranks because from there white can defend with the queen against check while checking the black king, thus forcing the queen trade. Therefore, to prevent the white king getting to the 7th rank black keeps the queen on the 8th and 7th ranks. Premature advance of the pawns can lead to a quick draw, thus improving the king’s position is a key plan for white. White is winning but it will take a series of precise moves to do so.
Thus far, we have already seen tons of new ideas. First of all, black gave check from the 8th- rank instead of the 2nd- rank to prevent the white king from moving onto the 6th or 7th rank. White had to find the very precise Kc4 and the reason for this move over Kc5 is that it prevents Qc6 check and virtually forces black to give checks from behind which is not as effective as the 8th or 7th rank checks. If white played Kc5 and then put the king behind the pawns then black achieves the draw without too much trouble. Lastly, Kc6-Qd6 is a powerful setup for white as the queen on d6 is very active. Now black has a choice of whether to retreat the queen or continue with checking.
The subtle triangulation to force the black queen into a passive position is pretty neat. If the black queen goes all the way to h7, then white can use the Qe6-Kd6 setup, which is very effective. Notice how white moved the a-pawn only when the king was in front of the b-pawn. This will ensure that white would be winning after a queen trade, even with only one extra b-pawn.
Given our knowledge from the previous example, let us look into a few recent games and see whether top GMs had an easy time defending or winning such positions. In the next position black had g- and f-passed pawns, which makes it easier to win than with the g- and h-pawns because the black king has a detour through the h- file. White could have defended better but it is very hard to defend when facing the g- and f-pawns.
In the next game white used the open h- file to bring the king in. Black showed another defensive idea of checking the king from the rear but because the white king and queen were so active the position was easily winning.
Nepomniachtchi in the next position correctly assessed that the endgame with the g- and h-pawns is drawn. This is so because the black king is too far behind the pawns and because the white queen is very active. Having the pawns on the h- and g-files helps the defending side. Not many comments are needed for the game as all white needs to do is to keep an eye on the f3- square and check the black king.
Today, we looked at endgame positions where one side had queen and two extra connected pawns and the other side had just a queen. The endgames are typically winning for the stronger side. However, there are exceptions, such as the cases when the stronger side has h- and g-pawns and the king is far behind the pawns as the last example demonstrates. In the next article we will look at endgames when the stronger side has two extra pawns but they are not connected.