One Queen vs. 3 pieces, Who is Better?

One Queen vs. 3 pieces, Who is Better?

| 24 | Endgames

In the last game of the US Women’s championship I could have transposed into an endgame were I had a queen and my opponent had a rook and two pieces. The material advantage would have been on her side but my queen was very active and I also would have many extra pawns. Unless you have serious experience playing these type of endgames they are hard to evaluate.

One of the major points is piece coordination; after the game one GM explained to me that if the pieces are lacking in harmony then having queen is almost winning. It was not so obvious to me few a months ago but now it makes sense. The queen hits many squares at the same time, so only well-placed and well-coordinated pieces can cover as many squares as the queen does. In many cases the side with three pieces for a queen can build a fortress and hold the position. Today’s position is from recent practice by two strong grandmasters. Let us try to figure out plans and moves in the given position.

With the last move Nf6 black managed somehow to coordinate his pieces. The knight protects the bishop and attacks the e4-pawn, it also prevents the white queen from getting to e7. It is obvious that the knight is the most active piece black has. What do you think about the bishop? It looks like there is a grim future for him. The rook can operate on the open g-file if queen leaves the h4-square, or if he manages to defend the knight somehow.

What are white's prospects? White has two passed pawns – d5 and f5. At this moment the knight is blocking the f5-pawn, which makes it impossible for white to have hopes of promoting it. Therefore, it has to be the d-pawn. The e5 and c5-pawns are weak and there is no dark-squared bishop to protect them, so they might be victims of the white queen’s rage.

I think that white is better and my engine also thinks this way. It is much easier to play this position for white as the nature of the game is closed and the rook and bishop do not have enough open space for operation. The only plans that I can think of for black are either to push the a-pawn or to bring the king to the f7-square, so the knight will be protected and then to play Rg8 and maybe Rg4, threatening the e4-pawn. The plans for white include the king’s march to f3 or d3 to protect the weak e4-pawn. White queen can combine the attack of the e5- and c5-pawns to break through blacks’ position.

Here is the training game that I played. At first, I was pretty much in control because his pieces did not have good squares. Then, as I opened up the game, suddenly the black pieces got active and my king got into trouble. As it turns out, the queen is not much of a helper when one tries to promote pawns. Black’s bishop and the knight were controlling a key square d7, so I needed the help of the c-pawn to promote the d- pawn which took some time. Meanwhile, black not only developed the attack on the kingside but threatened to promote a queen on the h-file. By pure luck I managed to escape.


The following ideas are meaningful:

  • When I opened the game with the e-pawns exchange, my queen became active but his pieces got a lot of good squares and room for maneuver. Thus, one must be careful when making a decision of opening up the game when having only a queen for 3 pieces. It can easily backfire on you.
  • Black's king was very well protected with the knight and the bishop around, however the white king felt very uncomfortable. It follows that when having three pieces for the queen one has to aim for attack.
  • Pushing the h-pawn was much easier than pushing the d-pawn. White's queen was useless in either operation.

The next week we will look some more into this endgame, I will show you another game that I played in it and the real game. For now, you should check out some endgames from the Candidates Matches, you will be surprised how many games end in deep endgames.

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