Queen v Rook – Getting to Philidor

Winning the Queen v Rook Ending - Part 2 getting to Philidor

This is the second part of Queen v Rook ending. In this article, we look how to get into the Philidor position. Once there, we know how to win from the first article.

This is our target position:

We are going to look at how to get there from any configuration of QvR (within reason!). It is possible to get to Philidor (or a Q & K v K ending) from most starting positions.


There is quite a journey in this ending!

Three things you will learn today

  1. It is possible to get to Philidor (or a Q & K v K ending) from most starts.
  2. On an open board, you can make progress but you need some inspiration!
  3. We can get from a second rank defence to Philidor.

Part 1 of 3 - Possible to get to Philidor from most positions

The Exceptions

More detail on the study position

Many players try to win by getting the king and queen to bully the king into submission in such a way but there's always an annoying pin/skewer to ruin the party.

Note in particular the stalemate after 1...Rc8+! 2. Kxc8 - this is a common defensive theme and most experienced players will know it. After a rook skewer, there really is no other outcome but a draw.

A similarly annoying position is below:

Annoyingly, black can just pelt white with checks until white gets fed up!

1...Ra2+ 2. Kb6 Rb2+ and white just alternates between the a file and b file knowing that any king move to the c file, results in a fatal skewer (e.g. 3. Kc6 Rc2+ 4. Kd7 Rxc8)

Summary of part 1

Aside from these annoying exceptions, it is pretty easy to believe that the queen and king should be stronger than the king and rook and we can execute the required technique.

Of course now we know these drawing techniques, we should try and avoid them at all costs (as well as rook skewers in general)!

The forceful bullying of the king by the king and queen can lead to an embarrassing stalemate.

Part 2 of 3 - Winning from an open board

For reference, we give two examples. One where the defender tries to make life hard for the attacker and another where there's an easy tactic - which saves you a lot of time.

Tactical Win

[Event "Study of Queen v Rook"] [Site "Chess Toolkit (Author = KingAdmin)"] [Date "2017.02.16"] [Round ""] [White "A Queen"] [Black "S Castle"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "QTM"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2K5/6Q1/3k4/8/8/8/8/7r"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2017.02.16"] [EventType "Endgame Study"] [EventCountry "GB"] 1. Qc7 {now black stumbles onto a forking square!} 1...Kd5 (1...Ke6 2. Qc6) 2. Qb7!

Getting to Philidor from an open board

Key Ideas

There are some themes known by the author through home analysis which were used in the creation of this analysis and worth remembering:
  1. The long line of pieces
  2. The king and queen's open dance

The long line of pieces

This is a line which frequently comes up when you try to play out this opening and it's a forced win.
Black to move (easier line)
[Event "Study of Queen v Rook"] [Site "Chess Toolkit (Author = KingAdmin)"] [Date "2017.02.16"] [Round ""] [White "A Queen"] [Black "S Castle"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "QTM"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1k6/2r5/3K4/4Q3/8/8/8/8 b"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2017.02.16"] [EventType "Endgame Study"] [EventCountry "GB"] 1...Rb7 {everything else is just a fast forward to an ending after the Philidor position} ({For instance:} 1...Rh7 2. Kc6 Ka7 3. Qa1 Kb8 4. Qb1 Ka8 5. Qh7) 2. Kc6 Ka7 (2...Ka8 3. Qa1 (3.Qd5 {also works} Rb1 4. Kc7 Ka7 5. Qa5) Kb8 (3...Ra7 4. Qh8) 4. Qa5 {is Philidor}) 3. Qa1 Kb8 4. Qa5 {The Philidor Position once again}
White to move (tougher line)
[Event "Study of Queen v Rook"] [Site "Chess Toolkit (Author = KingAdmin)"] [Date "2017.02.16"] [Round ""] [White "A Queen"] [Black "S Castle"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "QTM"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1k6/2r5/3K4/4Q3/8/8/8/8 w"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2017.02.16"] [EventType "Endgame Study"] [EventCountry "GB"] {We have to transfer the move to black:} 1. Qf4! Kc8 {best} ({for example} 1...Rc2 (1...Rb7 2. Kc6 Ka7 3. Qf2 Kb8 4. Qf8 Ka7 5. Qd8 {is Philidor} ) (1...Ra7 2. Kc6 Ka8 (2...Kc8 3. Qf8) 3. Qf8)2. Kd7 Kb7 3. Qb4 Ka7 4. Qa4 Kb7 5. Qc2 ) 2. Qf5 Kb8 3. Qe5 {and we follow the analysis above}

The king and queen's open dance

This works and is easy to remember.
Of course, this doesn't work at the edge of the board but works a charm in the middle of it. The rook soon runs out of checks, as the K+Q both cover d5, so ...Rc6+ 12. Kd5 leaves white ready to throw in Qg7+ and get to a second rank position.

The Main Event - from an open board

[Event "Study of Queen v Rook"] [Site "Chess Toolkit (Author = KingAdmin)"] [Date "2017.02.16"] [Round ""] [White "A Queen"] [Black "S Castle"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "QTM"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "Q7/7r/5k2/8/8/8/1K6/8 w"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2017.02.16"] [EventType "Endgame Study"] [EventCountry "GB"] 1. Qe4 Re7 2. Qd4 Ke6 3. Kc3 Rc7 {We have to be very careful not to walk into a rook skewer!} 4. Kb3 Rc6 5. Qe4 Kd6 6. Kb4 Rb6 {We edge our pieces closer} 7. Kc4 Rc6 8. Kd4 Kd7 9. Qe5 Rd6 {We use our king and queen to bully the king back!} 10. Kc5 Re6 11. Qf5 Ke7 12. Kd5 Rd6 13. Ke5 Rc6 14. Qh7 Kd8 {We have reached an important step} 15. Kd5 Ra6 16. Qb7 Rf6 17. Ke5 Rg6 18. Qf7 Rc6 19. Kd5 Rb6 {This is the key position to aim for - from here, it's all pretty forced} 20. Qf4!! {This is the key move to know!} Kd7 21. Qa4 Kc7 22. Qa7 Rb7 23. Qc5 Kb8 24. Kd6! Rg7 {We aim for the "Long line of pieces"} 25. Qe5 Rc7 26. Qf4 {losing a move} Kc8 27. Qf5 Kb8 28. Qe5 Rb7 29. Kc6 Ka7 30. Qa1 Kb8 31. Qa5 {and we're at Philidor!! HOORAY}

Part 3 of 3 - Going from a second rank defence into the Philidor Position

In a technically won position, we are going to make sure the defender can only run into a Philidor position from any second rank defence.

[Event "Study of Queen v Rook"] [Site "Chess Toolkit (Author = KingAdmin)"] [Date "2017.02.16"] [Round ""] [White "A Queen"] [Black "S Castle"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "QTM"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2k5/4r3/1K6/3Q4/8/8/8/8"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2017.02.16"] [EventType "Endgame Study"] [EventCountry "GB"] 1. Qf5! {this is the key idea - all the rook moves in the following lines lead to a quick mate or a win of the rook, so the defender has to escort the king along the side of the board...} 1...Kd8 (1...Rd7 2. Kc6 Kd8 3. Qd7)(1...Kb8 2. Qf8 Re8 3. Qe8) 2. Kc6! {edging the king along, there's no useful rook checks} 2...Ke8 (2...Rc7 3. Kd6 {and there's no defence to a mate in 4! 3...Rc6 holds out the longest!} 3...Re7 (3...Rc1 4. Qf8)(3...Rc6 4.Kc6 Ke7 5. Kc7 Ke8 6. Kd6 Kd8 7. Qf8 {phew!}) 4. Qf6 Ke8 5. Qe7) 3. Kd6 {exactly the same ideas!} 3...Rg7 {best chance - other moves lose faster!} (3...Rd7 4. Qd7 )(3...Ra7 {3...Rb7 is the same}4. Qh5 Kf8 (4...Kd8 5. Qh8) 5. Qh8 Kf7 6. Qh7 Kf6 7. Qa7) 4. Qh5 {forcing the king along once more} 4...Kf8 (4...Kd8 5. Qh8 Rg8 6. Qg8)(4...Rf7 5. Ke6 Kd8 6. Qf7) 5. Ke6 {now the rook is in paralysis - if it moves off the 7th, Qf7# is a nasty threat; otherwise, if it moves off the g file, Qh8# is also a nuisance.} 5...Kg8 6. Kf6 {recognise this position? It's Philidor - also with the defender to move!}

From that starting 2nd rank position, we reached Philidor in 6 moves!

Summary of part 3

  • We are aiming for the Philidor Position which we know how to win from the other lesson.
  • We can push the king along until he has to go into the Philidor from a point!
  • It's important to know why other moves don't work!
  • Summary and Recommended Next Reading

    • The technique to win this ending is to go from an open position to a third rank defence, then a second rank defence to a Philidor position.
    • We should always be on the look-out for a queen fork, winning the rook for free and be on our guard for a rook skewer!
    • This is not an easy ending and time is needed to learn the steps. One wrong move can cost us a lot of time!
    • It is possible to win.