Winning Queen Endings with Tactical Tricks

Winning Queen Endings with Tactical Tricks

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Queen endings are notoriously difficult to calculate. For one, there are often so many variations of long series of checks to work through. Even very careful players can find themselves getting skewered, mated, or forced into an unfavourable trade at the end of an overlooked line.

In order to sharpen your tactical vision, there is, of course, no substitute to lots of practice. However, focusing on the right resources and methods can make your training significantly more efficient. My aim is to direct you to methods that have worked very well for myself. Without further ado, here are my three tips to outwit your opponent in queen endings.

1. Study basic principles and theoretical positions

This is not just a convenient excuse to promote my older article, Improve your Queen Endgame Accuracy, which covers basic principles and theoretical positions  These principles will help you accumulate small advantages. After you obtain a strategically dominant position, the tactics will start to favour you. This is why understanding basic principles increases your chances of winning with tactical tricks.

But what about learning theoretical endings? How does that improve your calculation? Well, one of the secrets that separates the tactical geniuses from the rest is a good knowledge of the winning/drawing methods and evaluations of many basic positions. When the player calculates variations in a difficult position, he will not need to go too deeply before arriving at a known position in his repertoire of endgames.

I will now show you a blindfold game between Magnus Carlsen and Vugar Gashimov at the 20th Amber tournament. The ending is almost impossible to be calculated exhaustively, but thanks to our newly acquired knowledge about queen endings, the following quiz should be quite easy for you. Identify two significant improvements black could have made. 

I chose not to leave this in a "puzzle" format since there is more than one right answer. The solution will be revealed at the end of this article.

2. Memorise patterns

This tip probably applies to any form of chess study. As mentioned in the previous point, the more positions or patterns you are able to recognise, the more efficient you can calculate. Therefore, every time you fall prey into a new tactical shot, look at it a few times deliberately to register the new chess pattern into your subconscious mind.

It has come to my attention that many newer players have been following the chess.com/blogs page and I also want to create content that caters to them. If you are just starting out in chess, here are two very basic patterns of perpetual check that you need to know.

Pattern 1: Qc1-f4-c1 with a pawn at h3

Pattern 2: Circling the royalties

3. Be creative in your defence

Apart from perpetual checks, another key defensive idea in queen endings is stalemate. This often happens when the defender's king is in a corner with the attacker's queen a knight's move away from him. Keeping this in mind, you will be able to find a swindle by Carl Schlechter in a hopeless position against Mikhail Chigorin in the puzzle below.

If you didn't get it, don't worry. You can gather more inspiration in setting up stalemate tricks from my article on stalemates or watching Eric Rosen's speed games 
A very happy Eric Rosen after swindling half a point from Elisabeth Paehtz: Image taken from chess.com's IM not a GM SCC

That wraps up my three tips on dealing with queen endings. Now for the solution to the quiz: The two improvements that Gashimov could have made follow the same theme - Bring the king to the drawing zone! He should have played 3... Kb3 instead of 3... Kd3 and on the next move, 4... Kc2 instead of 4... Ke2. There are a few other moves that also draw, but I found this solution to be the most direct. Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions