Pandolfini's Puzzler #52: Rooking the Queen

  • NM brucepandolfini
  • | Jul 25, 2014

Professor: Welcome back.

Class: Welcome back to you, too, Professor.

Rachel: So what are you going to talk about today?

Professor: Well, the last two sessions had to do with queens winning queens.

Ryan: Were you planning to present more of that?

Professor: Not exactly.

Lucian: OK, what were you thinking of showing?

Professor: Situations where two rooks win the queen.

Ryan: There are plenty of those.

Zephyr: Especially since two rooks are worth about a pawn more than a queen.

Lucian: In relative value.

Thomas: Gosh, ten pawns to nine.

Rachel: But the queen’s a powerhouse.

Hale: And what about if the rooks are in disarray?

Ryan: The queen might pick off one of them.

Professor: What do you say we skip the superficial stuff and see our first problem?

Zephyr: OK, Professor, whatever you say.


Question 1: How should White save the f5-rook?

Ryan: That’s easy.

Hale: It’s just another skewer setup.

Rachel: True, but it’s still nice.

Hale: “Nice” is in the eyes of she who gives the skewer.

Professor: Nice or not, him or her, let’s move to our next setup.

Question 2: How can White free up the g3-rook?

Rachel: So what if the g3-rook is pinned?

Lucian: Rachel is right. That pin isn’t going to last.

Lucian was also right. The class had no trouble in finding the correct answer. They even joked about it. As always, the group was ready for more, examples and jokes.

Question 3: How can the rooks snare the queen?

Hale: The problem is simple.

Thomas: Yeah, those rooks are animals.

Ryan: Animals? Oh, you mean “pigs.”

Zephyr: That’s what some people call them.

Lucian: If they’re on the seventh rank.

Rachel: I wonder what they call two rooks on the seventh.

Lucian: I call it a sty.

Professor: Shall we get out of the mud and try the next problem?

Rachel: Is this our last problem?

Professor: No, it’s merely the antepenultimate one.

Ryan: Oh goody, after this one, there are two more problems to go.

Question 4: How does White win the queen?

Ryan: This is a bit harder.

Lucian: Not for me.

Not surprisingly, Lucian was correct. After a few back and forth wisecracks, the class was clamoring for more.

Professor: I think it’s time for our penultimate problem.

Question 5: How does White win the queen?

It took but a few minutes and the class had the answer. The students were beaming with glow.

Ryan: Didn’t we have a problem like this one before?

Lucian: Of course. It was during the session on staircases.

Hale: Can we see another problem?

Zephyr: The final one, no doubt?

Professor: Yes. Here it is -- the ultimate one -- at least for today.

Question 6: How do the rooks get the better of the queen?

Like the time before, and the time before that, the class easily solved the problem. And they had a few parting comments.

Rachel: So the seventh rank is triumphant once again.

Hale: The doubled rook action doesn’t hurt either.

Ryan: And notice: we didn’t fall for that stalemate shot.

Professor: No you didn’t. Well, I guess that’s that.

Lucian: No more problems for today?

Professor: Not for this class.

Zephyr: You have another class?

Ryan: Somewhere else?

Rachel: On the same day?

Hale: With different students?

Lucian: Are we stronger than they are?

Thomas: Are we your favorite students?

Professor: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes, in that order.

Answers below -- Try to solve NM Pandolfini's puzzles first!

Answer 1: White saves the f5-rook by sacrificing it! Here the queen is trapped by 1. Ra5!. If 1…Qxa5 (driving the queen onto a bad square), then 2. Rh6+ Kd5 (or either of Black’s other two legal moves) 3. Rh5+ skewers king and queen.

A number of similar ideas for this way of winning the queen were first worked out by German composer Josef Kling (1811 – 1876).

Answer 2: In this familiar problem composed by the Italian Aristide Dall’ Ava, the g3-rook gets unpinned, thanks to a deflection.

After 1. Ra8 + Ke7 (or 1…Kd7), 2. Ra7!, White’s own pin drives the queen off the b8-h2 diagonal). After the essentially forced 2…Qxa7, White has a winning skewer, 3. Rg7+.

Answer 3: This group of queen-traps was first explored by French composer Henri Rinck (1870-1952).

The winning idea begins with the confining 1. Rf7. The main line continues 1…Qe8 (moving the queen to d8, c8, or b8 doesn’t help) 2. Rh7+ Kg8 3. Rag7+ Kf8 4. Rh8+, where the sac of one rook allows the other rook to win the queen, again by a skewer.

Answer 4: In this 1942 composition by the Czech Ladislav Prokeš (1884 – 1966), Black’s queen is soon lost.

The main winning variation is 1. Rgc2 Qe1 (1…Qe3 actually loses the queen sooner) 2. Rc8+ Kg7 3. Rb7+ Kf6 4. Rc6+ Kf5 (note that 4…Ke5 runs into the skewer 5. Re7+) 5. Rb5+ Kf4 6. Rc4+ Kf3 7. Rb3+ Kf2 8. Rc2+ Kf1 9. Rb1, pinning and winning the queen.

Also note that 1…Qd1 fares no better, as in the exemplary line 2. Rb8+ Kg7 3. Rc7+ Kf6 4. Rb6+ Ke5 5. Rc5+ Ke4 6. Rb4+ Ke3 7. Rc3+ Ke2 8. Rb2+ Ke1 9. Rb1, again pinning and winning the queen.

Answer 5: Here we have another version of a Rinck problem we’ve seen before (as in the lesson on staircase checking sequences).

The key winning line here is 1. Rg7+ Ka6 (1…Kb8 loses to 2. Rh8+) 2. Kd7+ Kb7 3. Ke6+ Kc6 4. Kf7+ Kd7 5. Kg6+ Ke6 6. Kh7+ Kf5 7. Rh5+, another winning skewer check.

Answer 6: In this final problem, White begins his entrapment of the queen by 1. Rg7!. The rook shuts down the queen’s use of the a1-h8 diagonal, while being immune from capture (1…Qxg7? allows 2. Rc8 mate). 

Moreover, after 1. Rg7, White threatens 2. Ra7 + Kb8 3. Rb6+, followed by Ra8+.

Black can do no better than 1…Qb8 2. Rgc7 (threatening Rc7-c8) Qb7+ (the queen is safe because 3. Rxb7 is stalemate) 3. Ka5, when 3…Qb6+ fails to the simple 4. Kxb6.

Take note:

Positions where a lone queen has to face off against two rooks, with no other friendly or enemy units on the board, are rare, but they do occur.

When other forces are involved, especially passed pawns, different factors (such as king safety, open lines, and promotion threats) come into play.

Generally, the queen tends to seek a centralized post, so that it can attack and defend in all directions. Meanwhile, the rooks need to coordinate as a team, so that they can confine, control, and threaten mate.



  • 21 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    lightmagic Thank you!

  • 21 months ago


    great article, as usual!

  • 21 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    JRC_96 You should see my notes. My handwriting is so bad I can't read them anymore. Thanks for your comment.

  • 21 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    warrior689 Yes, the classmates are all based on real students. Having taught chess for more than 42 years, you meet up with some pretty extraordinary kids.

  • 21 months ago


    I took my notes...Thx.

  • 22 months ago


    hi i would just like to ask if this is fictional or do you actually teach these kids in real life. either way great article. im just curious

  • 22 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    Smoothfang That's nice to read. Thank you!

  • 22 months ago


    Awesome as always a great article!

  • 22 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    FastwithFury Thank you for your compliments. I feel so much better now, I may even begin to scope out the next column.

  • 22 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    swansong83 What a nice thing to read this morning. You've made my coffee so much more satisfying and cheered up my day immensely. I truly appreciate your comment. Thank you.

  • 22 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    Tartarus_BW Your comment is right on the money. Your suggested line is the main line and actually, as you say, the more interesting variation. Thank you for alerting us. 

  • 22 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    computo200 Thank you. Here's to chess, on Earth and everywhere else.

  • 22 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    mynameisgeorge Much obliged. I will inform the kids about the nice thing you've said.

  • 22 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    stevilism It's not a bad idea. I don't think 1. Rgc1 is as good as 1. Rg7. On 1. Rgc1, Black plays Ka8-b8. One nice thing about 1. Rg7 is that it obstructs the a1-h8 diagonal, so the queen can't activate so easily. Still, your thought is a reasonable one. Thanks for sharing.

  • 22 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    Riedemann Thank you much. We're grateful for your kind thoughts. 

  • 22 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    Axorcist We try. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we don't. But we value your supportive thoughts very much. Thank you.

  • 22 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    Kinn72 The kids and I very much appreciate your positive thoughts. Thank you.

  • 22 months ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    Zigwurst Thank you for the good words. They brighten my day.

  • 22 months ago


    This is a great series. Thank you Bruce, you were the first chess writer that really inspired me to read more books and articles about the game.

  • 22 months ago


    In problem #1 is a more interesting line:

    1. Ra5 Qc1! (threatening mate and covering h6) 2. Rh6+!! Qxh6 3. Ra6+ Kf5 4. Rxh6 

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