Basic Mates – Queen and King

How to Mate with a King and a Queen

DifficultyThis is not a difficult ending to learn
FrequencyThis ending comes up very often so you must know it!
DetailThere is not a lot of material to learn

The ending with a queen and king against a king is one of the easiest endings to learn.

It's one you will see often in practice, as many endings are determined by who promotes a pawn first (usually into a queen!)

Lucky Queen

A Russian Queen

This ending is straightforward, as the queen is the most resourceful piece on the board, being able to move in straight-lines and diagonals. With only a king and queen on the board, she also has a lot of space to exert her influence on the game.

Three things you will learn today

  1. This is a technically won position from any start (except stalemate positions - we just have to avoid these stalemate blunders!)
  2. We push the king to the side of the board.
  3. Queen helps to hold the king in place - we bring the king to support!

Part 1 of 3 - A won position

Your Turn! Black to play

More detail on the study position

Black has white on the ropes and the power of the queen means we have a number of ways to finish off the game 1...Qb5 is good, attacking the king and all the flight squares (a4,a5,a6). We can also win with either 1...Qa2 or 1...Qa3 as they attack these same squares with the king defending b4,b5,b6 - the defending king has nowhere to go and is attacked so it's mate!

Notice for all these mates, we needed the king's help!

(BE CAREFUL)! Black to play

From a first glance, this looks easy - surely we just get closer with our king and then mate on the next move....

Uh oh! 1...Kc5?? (or 1...Kc6??) and indeed we've restricted the king perfectly - he can't move. BUT he's also not in check so this is a draw!

This is an example of a stalemate blunder - it's not really a trap, as the attacker can easily not fall into it.

For completeness, the best approach here is 1...Qb3 2. Ka6 Kc6 3. Ka5 Qa3# (or 3. Ka7 Qb7#).

Summary of part 1

The queen and king are very powerful together and it's quite easy and fast to mate the defending king.

The queen uses her power on the diagonals, ranks and files to limit where the defending king can go. We must use the king to help mate the defender - the queen alone is not enough!

We must be on our guard for stalemate tricks.

Part 2 of 3 - Pushing the king to the side of the board

The Perfect Finish

Unlike the Bishop and Knight or the Two Bishops ending, you don't have to get the king into the corner.
Both the queen and the rook can mate the king at the side of the board. The king occupies the squares directly in front of the king (b4,b5,b6) and the check on the a-file covers everything else!

Our strategy therefore is to somehow push the king to the side of the board:

[Event "Study of Queen and King v King"] [Site "Chess Toolkit (Author = Ed.)"] [Date "2017.02.17"] [Round ""] [White "A King"] [Black "F Queen"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "TQM"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/8/1K1k4/8/8/6q1/8 b"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2017.02.04"] [EventType "Endgame Study"] [EventCountry "GB"] 1...Qb2! {This forces the king to the side of the board and after....} 2. Ka5 (2. Ka6 Kc6 3. Ka5 (3.Ka7 Qb7) 3...Qb5)(2. Ka4 Kc5 3. Ka5 Qa3) 2... Kc5 3. Ka4 (3. Ka6 Qb6) 3...Qa2 {the attacking king doesn't cover b3 but the attacking queen does from a2 - this is a nice motif to know for this ending}

Notice in each of the solutions, we first pushed the king to the side - then brought our king to support - then mated whenever possible.

Summary of part 2

We cannot checkmate the king in the middle of the board, he can always escape. However, we CAN checkmate at either the side of the board or the corner.

The best plan is to use the queen to get the king to the side, then use our king to support by taking away some key squares.

We should hold the king in place by keeping our queen on the 2nd/7th rank or b/g file.

We now see how to bring the king from the centre of the board to one side!

Part 3 of 3 - Winning Technique

Let's take the worst case scenario - where the king is happily in the middle of the board, minding his own business and our queen and king are a long way off.

[Event "Study of Queen and King v King"] [Site "Chess Toolkit (Author = TQM)"] [Date "2017.02.04"] [Round ""] [White "K Queen"] [Black "Owner of a Fearless King"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "TQM"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/8/8/4k3/8/1K6/Q7"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2017.02.17"] [EventType "Endgame Study"] [EventCountry "GB"] 1. Qf1 (1. Qd1 {this is another longer way} 1...Ke5 2. Qd3 Ke6 3. Qd4 Kf5 4. Qe3 Kf6 5. Qe4 Kg5 6. Qf3 Kg6 7. Qf4 Kg7 8. Qf5 Kh6 9. Qg4 Kh7 10. Kc3 Kh6 11. Kd4 Kh7 12. Ke5 Kh6 13. Kf6 Kh7 14. Qg7 ){1. Qa5 is also fine - it's the same idea, cutting off one direction - we now try to get the king to one side but let's see where he runs first...} 1...Ke5 2. Qf7 {now we cut off the king another way, luring him closer to our own king who we need to help in the attack - this ending is so flexible that we also could win by Qf3 etc. The key thing NOT to do is to just meaninglessly check the king e.g. 2. Qe2+ Kd5 3. Qd3+ Ke5 - this doesn't help - the king just jumps between the files where he is being checked and we make no progress!} 2...Kd6 (2...Kd4 3. Qf5 Ke3 4. Kc3 {our queen is on a great square so we now bring our king in to force the enemy king down the board} 4...Ke2 {forced} 5. Qf4 Ke1 (5...Kd1 6. Qf1!) 6. Kd3! Kd1 7. Qf1) 3. Kc3 {moving the king in to help with the attack} 3...Ke5 4. Kd3 Kd6 5. Kd4 {now the defending king is frog marched to the side of the board} 5...Kc6 6. Qe7 Kb6 (6...Kb5 7. Qd6 Ka5 8. Kc4 Ka4 9. Qa6) 7. Qd7 Ka6 8. Kc5 Ka5 9. Qa7

Summary and Recommended Next Reading

  • This is a won position
  • The queen is so flexible we can generally mate the king from any start within 9 moves!
  • We need both the king and queen to help mate the king at the side of the board.

Please watch the video below for a visual version of section 3 above!