Endgame Essentials – Queen v Pawn Ending

Queen versus Pawn Ending

Firstly, this ending is proper black and white chess - in general, either the defender can promote and draw or cannot and the attacker wins.

Strangely, there are a small handful of cases, however, where even promoting is not enough!

After 41...a1=Q+ 42. Kb3! black simply cannot prevent the mate or the loss of his queen - e.g. 43...Kc1 44. Qe1#

Queen v Pawn Ending

Even the powerful queen is sometimes no match for a humble pawn in an ending!

Only a queen will do...

Upon promoting a pawn, only a queen v queen ending is a known draw (aside from the position type above), since the Queen v Rook ending is technically won, albeit hard to convert.

Three things we will learn today

  1. Both the king and queen need to be involved
  2. The techniques used to win a queen versus pawn ending
  3. The situations to avoid (c and f pawns)

Part 1 - Involving all the pieces

Alone, the queen is unable to stop an advancing pawn by giving checks, since the king can always just stay close to the pawn and it will not be taken trivially.

Technique to win a Queen v Pawn Ending

Firstly we will become familiar with how to win the pawn when the situation favours the player with the queen.

This ending is straightforward. Specifically when you know to involve the king and queen.

We will start with the attacker to move and the position of their pieces being pretty rubbish:

[Event "Study of Pawn v Queen"] [Site "Chess Toolkit (Author = TQM.)"] [Date "2018.04.22"] [Round ""] [White "T Glen"] [Black "M Goggins"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "TQM"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/3K4/3P4/8/8/8/2k5/2q5 b"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventType "Endgame Study"] [EventCountry "Wales"] 1...Kd3 {we want to involve the king later anyway and this opens lines for the queen to come into the game} 2. Ke7 {white plans to march the pawn d6-d7-d8 queen with the king supporting on e7} 2...Qe3 {of course black doesn't allow this} (2...Kd4 {is still winning but it's riskier} 3. d7 Qe3 {anyway} 4. Kd6 Qf4 5. Ke7 Qe5 6. Kd8 Kd5 7. Kc8 Qc3 8. Kd8 Kd6 9. Ke8 Qh8 10. Kf7 Kxd7 {phew!}) 3. Kd8 Qg5 {heading for d8 herself} 4. Kc7 Qc5 5. Kd7 Kd4 {now there is no possibility to move the pawn forward, black has won a tempo and can move closer} 6. Ke6 (6. Ke7 Kd5 {and the pawn drops next move}) Qe5 7. Kd7 Kd5 {and the pawn drops}

Part 2 - The Techniques used to win a queen v pawn ending

Above we saw how using the queen and king in tandem works very well with the pawn is only on the 6th rank (5th or further back is even easier - you have much more time).

Let's review the techniques used to see how we won this, before we look at the special cases on the 7th rank:

  • We brought the king and the queen into the action to give us the best chance to capture the pawn
  • The queen got as close as possible to the defender's king and waited to win a tempo before bringing the king closer
  • The defender was never able to advance further with their pawn creating optimum space for our pieces to circle the pawn

Part 3 - The exceptional cases on the 7th

With the pawn on the 6th, it is always possible for the player with the queen to win this ending.

On the 7th, it becomes slightly trickier but only on certain files. With the white pawn on c7 or f7, the king has the vital escape of a8 or h8, since the queen capture would lead to the king having no moves: STALEMATE

The a and h files are even crazier - it all depends on whether the attacking king is close.

Lionfish ending

Not all things black and white are easy on the eye

Firstly, let's look at the c and f pawns:

[Event "Study of Pawn v Queen"] [Site "Chess Toolkit (Author = TQM.)"] [Date "2018.04.22"] [Round ""] [White "Dorian, John"] [Black "Turk, Chris"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "TQM"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/1KP5/8/8/8/8/2k5/2q5 b"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventType "Endgame Study"] [EventCountry "USA"] 1...Qb2 {we start as before bringing pieces closer} 2. Kc6 Qc3 3. Kb7 Qb4 4. Kc6 Qc4 5. Kb7 (5. Kb6 {and the pawn cannot queen, so the king comes closer...} Kb3 6. Kb7 {and we're back to the main line}) Qb5 6. Ka7 {to still allow for the possibility of c8=Q next move} Qc6 7. Kb8 Qb6 {now the key point!} 8. Ka8!! {the pawn is immune} Qc6 (8...Qxc7 {stalemate}) 9. Kb8 {and the attacker cannot bring the king closer, so it's drawn}
In conclusion, the c and f files are bad news for the attacker - if the defender can get to the 7th with the king nearby, the position can be drawn.

Alternatively, any central file is fine:

[Event "Study of Pawn v Queen"] [Site "Chess Toolkit (Author = TQM.)"] [Date "2018.04.22"] [Round ""] [White "Kelso, Bob"] [Black "Cox, Perry"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "TQM"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/2KP4/8/8/8/8/2k5/2q5 b"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventType "Endgame Study"] [EventCountry "USA"] 1...Kd3 {we always go this way and then use our technique from the first analysis to win - there's no stalemate so we have the chance to bring the king closer by winning tempo} 2. Kd6 Qf4 3. Ke7 Qg5 4. Ke8 Qe5 5. Kf7 (5. Kd8 {wins a tempo immediately} Kd4 {etc.}) Qd6 6. Ke8 Qe6 {now it's forced, no stalemate here!} 7. Kd8 Kd4 8. Kc7 Qe7 9. Kc8 Qc5 10. Kb7 Qd6 11. Kc8 Qc6 {the same theme} 12. Kd8 {and we are getting close} Kd5 13. Ke7 Qe6 14. Kd8 15. Kd6 {it's all over} Kc8 16. Qd7 Kb8 {now just avoid stalemates} 17. Kc6 Ka8 18. Qb7 {mate}

The "funny" case is the a and h pawns:

In general, where the attacking king is far away, it's a draw:

[Event "Study of Pawn v Queen"] [Site "Chess Toolkit (Author = TQM.)"] [Date "2018.04.22"] [Round ""] [White "Adams, John Q"] [Black "Washington, George"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "TQM"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1K6/P7/2q5/8/8/8/2k5/8 b"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventType "Endgame Study"] [EventCountry "USA"] 1...Qb6 2. Ka8 {now black has no time} Qd8 3. Kb7 Qd7 4. Kb8 {threatening to queen} Qb5 5. Ka8! {again no time} Qc6 6. Kb8 {and it's a draw}
If the king is closer, or can "win" time, there are ways to theoretically win it!
[Event "Study of Pawn v Queen"] [Site "Chess Toolkit (Author = TQM.)"] [Date "2018.04.22"] [Round ""] [White "Bates, Norman"] [Black "Hitchcock, Alfred"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "TQM"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1K6/P7/8/8/2k5/8/2q5/8 b"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventType "Endgame Study"] [EventCountry "USA"] 1...Qb3 2. Ka8 Kb5! {preventing the stalemate and bringing the king closer} 3. Kb8 Kc6! 4. Ka8 (4. Kc8 Qg8) Qg8

Summary of the Queen versus Pawn Ending

With the attacker to move, the ending is won where the pawn is anywhere but the 7th rank, even with the king close.

Where the pawn is on the 7th, the ending is a win for central pawns and cases where the attacking king is nearby for the a or h pawns. The c and f pawns are typically drawn, wherever the king can utilise the stalemate hole on a8 or h8.

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