One Queen vs. 3 pieces: Misevaluations

One Queen vs. 3 pieces: Misevaluations

| 22 | Endgames

The queen against three pieces is the theme for last week’s and this week’s articles. These endgames are extremely complex as the evaluation of the position can change rapidly. You have heard the expression of "playing for two results." This is typical of many endgames where one side has an advantage and it is rather hard to lose this advantage. In the queen versus the other pieces endgame misevaluations are quite typical. I must admit that I also can evaluate endgame positions erroneously. Last week I claimed that it is only white who can play for an advantage in the given endgame.

I was wrong… After playing two training games and analyzing the real game I realized that black is not worse and if white tries hard to “win” then only black will have winning chances. Last week I said that the black pieces are not active and lack harmony. They might not be active enough for an attack but to defend all the weaknesses in the black camp they are perfectly placed. The king goes to f7 to protect the knight. The knight protects the bishop on d7, which protects the rook when it steps to the c8 or e8 squares. This is a so-called chain of defense: every piece is defended by some other piece, forming a chain.

There are only two weaknesses that black has to be concerned with: c5 and e5. As we saw last week e5 is not a real weakness because we don’t have to defend it when the queen attacks it. And one weakness on c5 is easy to defend with the rook. Black’s h-pawn plays a critical role in some lines where the queen gets too involved on the queenside. Then the h-pawn can march forward and there is no one to stop it.

Here, I present my 2nd training game where I had the black pieces. White implemented an interesting plan of opening the a-file to have more room for the queen. I missed a chance to punish him right away with the h-pawn march and was left on the defensive (moving the rook from c8 to e8) which is a boring thing to do but sometimes is necessary. Next, instead of agreeing to repetition white decided “to win at all cost”. His queen got stuck on the queenside which gave me extra time to advance the h-pawn. Next, white tried to use his passed pawns in the centre to create some counterplay but the black pieces on the kingside were too active.

The important ideas from the game:

  • It is ok to take a draw in an equal position when all the other continuations lead to worsening of the position;
  • It is important to sense a moment when you have to take the initiative in your hands and play not for a draw but for a win. I missed this moment when I did not take the pawn on a3, trying to promote the h-pawn.
  • The side which has three pieces for the queen is almost guaranteed to have a safe king, unless the pieces are badly coordinated. The side with the queen has no piece defenders of the king as the queen is too expensive to trade for the rook or the knight.

Now, it is a time for the real game. We pretty much uncovered all the ideas that happened in the real game, but going over the game will help us to remember them better. In the game white, who is a strong GM, misevaluated the position and tried too win hard, which almost cost him a point. During a chess game when the emotions and stakes are high, it is easy to misevaluate and to go for a position that is losing. Why did a strong GM go for the Q:e5 continuation in the following game? This is because even strong GMs do not have enough experience in playing out endgames with queen versus pieces. How often do such position happen in one’s practice? 1 out of 30 games? Probably… By mastering these endgames your overall feel for piece dynamics will go up.

The next week we will look at the following endgame that caught my attention.

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