two knights vs rook


Just wondered if there was theory on this in endgame.  I went into an endgame recently with two knights verse a rook.  We both had pawns on the board, his rook had activity, but so did my knights.  I lost in the end, but my endgame skills are lacking.  Is this a draw, a loss, or a win, or does it depend on many things?


Can you post the game here?


i will later.  Actually have fritz looking at it now, and it looks like i resigned a won position.  Lame.  Seeing ghosts i guess.  Actually, maybe i can link it here.


I know that a bishop and knight are much stronger than a rook in almost all endgames, but I don't know about two knights. I mean, I guess it should be stronger, but I have no idea how to play it.


I'm still going to post the game if i ever get out of here.  Fritz ended up with black having one knight, and white having 2 pawns, which i think should draw.  White actually took off a knight with the rook, and black recaptured.  I'll put the Fritz notes in along with my own.


Finally, i'm posting this game.  The whole thing is annotated -something i try to do with all my games-, but really, my interest is on the endgame position.  Feel free to comment.  I don't have the Fritz lines, but i do remember two key points Fritz made, and i'll note them in the annotations.  Thanks again for comments.


(1) Black's 25th could have been Nfd5, securing a central post (you want to leave the White pawn on d3 for this; it means the N can stay there by itself more easily after you push d5, without support from the other N). After that, I would move the K toward f8, then Nc7 to get a pair of R's off the board -and- have the K block back-rank penetration by the R (your Q-side pawns are weak). With lots of pawns remaining the 2N's are superior to the single R, but there's a lot of work to do because the pawn structure is still very fluid on both sides. Note that White's advance to d4 stopped Nfd5, perhaps because he saw it would take away the post.

(2) White missed 34.Rd7, improving his chances. He found it later though.

(3) 37: "i didn't know what i should have been trying to do" ... you might harry the R to an outer file, while keeping your K and N's central. That will make it difficult for White to defend on both sides of the board. Having the enemy R behind your K is awkward.


Oops, missed a detail: c5 is necessary before Nfd5.


Gimly! You're so psyching yourself out all the time, jeez!  I promise you, the 1600 guy was flying by the seat of his pants just like you in that endgame -- and when you resigned he went: "Oh thank you god, I so didn't want to wrestle with those Ns for 60+ more moves!"  Some mental toughness on your part would have gone a long way!

He blundered badly with the Bxh7 pawn snatch, all you had to do was exchange Ns... I think you realize that from a chess point of view... but your mistake wasn't made from lack of chess skill.  It was a lack of recognizing the moment... you needed to stop and read the board and find YOUR best move, not merely react defensively to your opponent's passing threat against d6.

Reactive defense is the opposite of having the initiative. It's a condition to be avoided. (Prophylaxis on the other hand is reading the position for your opponent's best chances for offensive action and taking those chances away before they can develop. It's preventing his initiative!)

It's easy to fall into a defensive frame of mind if you don't know what positive active thing to do for your own position -- you start to rely on your opponents moves to give you ideas...  this quickly becomes passive reactive chess. If this sounds like you I recommend studying Silman's How to Reassess Your Chess for middlegame ideas and developing the beginning of positional understanding.).

Other times though, it's just a failure of nerve.  -- You almost surely could have found the right move to win the full bishop if you'd looked but I think you let his mighty 1600 rating put you in a defensive mindset that encouraged you to settle for reactive moves when you had better. Don't be intimidated! Ultimately, You still had all kinds of chances... but you talked yourself out of the game. 

Knowledge and confidence will work synergistically for your chess game. Acquire a little more of each and I think you'll quickly see positive results.


Wow, Pyth.  Well said.  Thanks.  I think i've reached the point where looking at Silman's book won't be over my head.  It certainly was a positional problem, and my positional understanding is lacking.  Thanks again.


Gimly: In the final position, I think  you were out of winning chances.  You have two pawns and two knights against a rook and three pawns, one of which was going to fall.  As Gambitking said earlier, two knights cannot mate by themselves, and that looked like where the position was going.  Best case scenario, you are able to trade one of your pawns for the opposing rook, and then are able to take out all three of your opponent's pawns, with a draw.  Worst case scenario: one of those three pawns falls.

Perhaps resignation was a bit premature, but by this point, your opponent was the only one who had any winning chances.


I agree Knight.  I plugged the game into Fritz and it said it was a draw.  I think i resigned because i was lost and didnt think i could hold the position, and i thought i was losing, which i wasnt.  Anyway.  Learning experiences and what not


If there are pawns, I believe the two knights would have the advantage, generally speaking.

gimly wrote:

Wow, Pyth.  Well said.  Thanks.  I think i've reached the point where looking at Silman's book won't be over my head.  It certainly was a positional problem, and my positional understanding is lacking.  Thanks again.

I'm sure it won't be over your head. Positional chess ideas and middlegame strategies are all perfectly comprehensible. Excitingly easy to comprehend actually... then, in practical terms... If your experience is anything like mine, you'll find that applying positional strategy with postive results is a good bit less clear and more subtle than in the textbook examples (tactics can spoil the nicest strategies) and involves quite a bit of trial and error... middlegame understanding is a work-in-progress! But I've found developing my positional understanding a satisfying and difficult project. I've learned to be content with progress -- even if the increments are small. My learning technique has been to study a single volume diligently (working page by page thru all examples carefully etc.) while at the same time grazing indiscriminately and sloppily in all other chess books I encounter. Encountering similar ideas in slightly different presentations and ways aids comprehension IMO. Good luck have fun!


My own struggle with Rook versus Two Knights.  I had no idea what I was doing.  :)


I recently reached a position against my computer in which I had 2 knights vs a very active rook. Even 2 pawns up I could not hold on and it ended in a draw. What is the current theory in a double knight vs rook ending?


don't resign. resign only if he promotes, or you lose a knight and a pawn, or so. my .02$


thanks for posting the game gregdek.  On an unrelated note i think you're winning on 21.Be5 because if you swap rooks he has a piece hanging.  Rxd1 rxd1 nxe5, but as usual, we don't learn these things untill after the fact.  I ran my game through fritz (long ago now) and basically the knights (if i remember this right) took off the pawns and rook and the game drew.  Not sure if that helps, as i ( like you) had no idea what to do. 


Not sure how to post an FEN string, but I had a game and here is the link. He blundered with his rook, but I played the game out myself I still ended up winning.

It really depends on if you can position your knights in the places before files start opening up.

Once those files start opening up and the rook is rampaging, You may or may not be at a disadvantage.

Now that I think about it I actually put this in a search engine "are two knights better then a rook" I was trying to figure out if I should save the rook or trade it off. I really did not want those rooks to pair up on the same file.



I had two knights vs. one rook. I was able to promote a pawn.