Queen Vs Rook
Second Rank Defence

So, by now you know how to win the queen vs rook endgame from the Philidor Position.

But how do you reach a Philidor Position during practical play? That's what this page is about.

Here is a starting position, as described by the former world champion Max Euwe in 1958.

The defender is defending the position with his rook on the second (or seventh) rank. That's why it's called the second rank defence. And this second rank defence you'll have to break down in order to win the queen vs rook endgame.

The second rank defence is common in practical play, as the rook is close to the king. This gives the king some shelter. In addition it prevents the rook from being lost to a double attack.

A Wrong Move

If you are trying to win, watch out for a typical mistake.

If you aren't careful the game will end in a draw.

Let's see how this may happen....

Starting from the initial position, you might try to force the rook into zugzwang by playing Qd6.

Black's king can't move now, so the rook has to make a move (and you think you may win it).

Surprisingly enough, the rook has a perpetual check now, due to a possible stalemate.

Black plays 1....Rb7+

And now after:

2.Kc6 Black will play 2...Rb6+ winning the queen or after 3. Kxb6 it's a stalemate.

Another try would be:

2. Ka6, but after 2....Ra7+; the white king has to return to the b-file because 3.Kxa7 is stalemate again.

And the last try:

2.Kc5, is no good either because of 2....Rc7+; Now the king has to return to the b-file. If he tries to cross the d-file the queen will be lost after 3. Kd5, Rd7;

The Winning Idea

When you're the one with the queen, you strive for a position where the rook has no safe squares left.

In the meantime the queen will use mating threats and threats of double attacks to force the king and rook to unfavourable squares.

From the initial position you'll have to play 1.Qf5+,

The black king has to play 1....Kd8 now. Other moves lose quickly. If the king moves to b8 the rook is lost due to the double attack Qf8+. And if the rook interposes with Rd7, it will be lost after Kc6.

And here comes the first surprise. White has to move 2.Kc5!

The goal is to win the rook or to reach the Philidor Position.

This isn't easy, but it will be achieved through this move.

This position gives the defender three possibilities for tough resistance: Kc7, Ke8 or Re1.

In order to win, you'll have to know what to do in all these situations.

First variation: 2...Kc7

2....Kc7; 3.Qd5,

White tries to disconnect the rook from the king.

3....Rd7; 4.Qe5+,

The black rook didn't want to leave the king, for fear of being captured.

So now White chases the king.

4....Kb7; 5.Kb5,

The black king has moved towards the corner and White tries to disconnect the rook once more.

5....Rc7; 6.Qe8,

The rook didn't abandon the king. Now white had to make a creative move.

If you're not familiar with this move, you may not find it over the board.

So, look at the previous diagram once more. The last move chases the king to the edge of the board (after a rook's move the rook will be lost).

6....Ka7; (alternative is 6....Rc1; 7Qe4+, Kc8; 8. Kb6, Kd7; 9.Qd3+, Kc8; 10. Qf5+, Kd8; 11.Qg5 and winning). 7.Qe4,

And here Black has no good moves left. He is forced to play a cramped position.

7....Rb7+; 8. Kc6,

Black has run out of options.

8...Ka8 (Rb6 is no good either, because of 9. Kc7 and mating) ; 9.Qd5,

And in this position the rook has no safe square left, so the king has to play.

9....Ka7; 10. Qd8,

reaching a winning Philidor Position.

Second variation: 2...Ke8

2...Ke8; 3.Qc8+,

White starts directing the black king to the corner.

3....Kf7; 4.Kd6,

And by making contact this way, the rook is forced to move.

4....Ra7; 5. Qc4+,

The king has to retreat to the edge of the board, due to the loose position of the rook.

5...Kf8; 6.Ke6,

The black king closes in. There is a threat of winning the rook next move. The other threat is a mating sequence starting with Kf6.

6...Rf7; 7.Qc5+,

Rf7 has prevented the mating sequence, but it allowed this check. Now White has a winning position too.

7....Kg8; 8. Qd5,

This may look familiar. Something similar happened in the other variation too.

8....Rg7; 9. Kf6+,

You'll want to chase the king into the corner if possible.

9....Kh8; 10. Qe5,

And here Black might as well surrender.

10....Kg8; 11. Qh5,

It's a Philidor position again. You should win this easily.

Third variation: 2...Re1

In the previous variations, White managed to reach a Philidor Position.

This variation is a little different. Here White will win the rook.

2....Re1; 3. Qd3+,

White is going to chase the black king to an unfavourable square. At the same time White is making threats against the rook.

Ke7; 4.Kd5,

The black rook has no safe squares. Therefore the king has to move.

Kf7; 5.Qf3+,

White is chasing back the king. The g-file is forbidden because of the threat Qg3+ winning the rook.

Ke7; 6. Qg4,

White covers the d1 square and threatens to win the rook after Qh4+. Thus, the black king has to move again.

Kf7; 7.Qf4+,

The black king can't go to the g-file, due to Qg3+, winning the rook. So it has to go to the e-file, meanwhile avoiding Qh4+. The last move Qf4 is also played to give the king shelter later on.

Ke8; 8. Kd6,

Now the black king has only one move and this loses the rook immediately. Therefore the rook has to move, but it has not many options.

Rd1+; 9. Ke6,

And here White threatens mate in several ways. The only possible move is, again, a rook's move.

Re1+; 10. Kf6,

This was the position white was striving for all along. Now the Black rook has no more checks and no more safe squares. White will win the rook and the game.

Conclusion

The queen vs rook endgame is not easily won.

If your opponent defends well, he'll try the second-rank defence sooner or later.

However, this defence doesn't stop you from achieving the win.

You now know three practical ways to break down the defence. These include some moves that are hard to find over the board .

You also know what to do in general (give the rook no safe squares, threaten mating sequences and double attacks, chase the king into the corner).

My sincere congratulations, you can now play this ending with confidence.

Moving On

There's only one more defensive method you'll want to know about, if you want to win all queen vs rook endings.

So learn how to break the queen vs rook third-rank defence now.



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