Famous Queen vs Rook endgame

Famous Queen vs Rook endgame

I have written multiple articles on chess strategy and the middle game, but for some reason, I have avoided writing on the endgame theme. I was scanning through the “Lazy Person’s Guide to Endgame” by GM Ian Rogers published in January 2010 in Chess Life Magazine and decided to write my own thing. The first endgame analyzed by GM Rogers is the famous Queen vs. Rook ending. He claims that it is an easy win for the side with the queen.

I decided to go ahead and test this Q vs. R endgame against the Chessmaster Grandmaster Edition, setting the Queen for myself and a Rook for the engine. After about 20 tries I found this task to be impossible.

In fact, according to ChessBase most GMs are not able to win against the perfect defense of the computer. I used Nalimov’s Endgame Tables and concluded that it is possible to win in 30 moves if the white to move or 31 move if the Black to win, and if the Black doesn’t win the queen.

Most guides show the way to checkmate in well known Queen vs. Rook “Key” position (shown below), but missing the most important part – getting to this position. They assume it to be an easy task when in reality it turns out to be extremely complicated against the perfect defense.

The most difficult thing for a human mind to overcome in this sort of endgame is the so-called “third-rank defense”. In this defense weaker side places its rook on the third rank and not allowing the opponent’s king to penetrate:


According to the Nalimov’s Tables there is a win in 19 in this position.

1. Qf4 Kd7 2. Qa4+ Kc7 3.Qa7+ Rb7 4.Qc5+ Kb8 5.Kd6 Rg7 6.Qd5 Rg6+ 7.Kd7 Rb6 8.Qe4 Rb3 9.Qe5+ Ka7 10.Qc5+ Kb8 11.Kc6 Rb7 12.Qa5 Rb1 13.Qe5+ Ka7 14.Qd4+ Ka8 15.Qh8+ Ka7 16.Qh7+ winning the rook and the game

How to win Queen vs. Rook endgame?

  • Against a human opponent there is a possibility of winning this endgame if the weaker side plays incorrect defense resulting in winning a rook by the fork or mating the king. So, if you’re the stronger side with a Queen you should definitely play on and try to outplay your opponent. If you’re the one defending you have a hope: the game Gelfand – Svidler ended up with a draw and the game Morozevich – Jakovenko was drawn in this endgame.
  • The “book” idea is to create the following position (or the symmetrical one) which is a win:

1. Qe4+ Kg8 2.Qa8 Kh7 3.Qe8 wins


Why is it hard to win Queen vs. Rook endgame?

  • As we can see from Nalimov’s Tables there is a mate in 30 moves possible in the worst scenario. Think about it, sometimes it is hard to find a mate in 4-5 moves, but here it is a mate in 30 (!) moves. It means the player needs to calculate the far upfront in order to see it.
  • There is also a 50 moves rule imposed by FIDE and USCF, which states that if there are no pawn moves or captures for 50 moves the game is declared to be a draw. The stronger side cannot afford to try to win twice.

How to practice this endgame?

You can play this endgame by setting up your favorite chess engine to play for the weaker side and try to checkmate it in 50 moves. It is also a great exercise that improves overall visualization of a chess board and especially the coordination of Rook and King and Queen and King.

Ready to start winning games? Check out our store and articles:

Give it a try and comment about your accomplishments!

Find this post useful? Share it?
Updated 12.16.2023


Before I read this, I always resigned those games when I was the weak side (Rook and king) Against a queen and a kingBut this helped me a lot!I tried to beat Stockfish using the winning side and it's imposible !!Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge Yury :lol: Greetings from Mexico
El Barto:
The database is no longer stored at chessbase. If anyone out there has it, please send it to this email:youngadultsuis at gmail comThanks a lot!!
New rules came out this year. Now 75 moves are draw. Not 50.
Warren Lemmon:
John Waitzkin points out that points are subjective to situation. For example, a bishop with no moves is useless. I feel that in the queen vs rook endgame, since the rook can stave off checkmate for 30+ moves, you might consider the rook to be around an 8, very close to the queen!
Yes there is a chance for a draw, but I would say not very large since all people (even the chess players) are prone to make mistakes... And it is a lot easier to make a mistake while under pressure and defending than when being a 4 points up. Quick recap: I believe that if there are two roughly the same strength players playing this endgame the Queen will most likely win, since there are a lot of possibilities for forks winning the rook.
Blue Eagle Hawk:
, want to ask about the chance of a queen vs. rook for a draw... do the player have only rook have a chance to have a draw with his opponent having a queen? thankc
Thanks, that's a very good database. It's not exactly a step-by-step but the recommendations are very useful.
you can find a database about this ending at: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=6366more or less it is step by step what you were looking for
Hello Jack, thanks for your comment. As I have written before, it is one of the most difficult wins to achieve when playing against perfect play (aka computer). There is no simple step-by-step system I know of that can guide you to the winning position. There are only a few positions you need to aim for to either checkmate or win the rook by force, but to calculate a way to those (assuming a perfect play again) one needs to be able to calculate 10 moves deep, which is hard for most of us. However, against human opponents you can still try to trick them into some sort of fork giving series of checks. Good luck.
jack werner:
you don't really show anyone how to get to the key position either. It would be nice if someone talked about how to get to the key position using a set of principals rather than showing one specific situation.
I would write about it at some point in the future. Glad it was helpful for you! :-)
shiang chen:
Ya never thought about qeen vs 2 bishops. But of course thats totally correct guess you learn something new every day.
Good point, Shiang. I never really thought about the point difference in mating. But if we think about it, it is true, since Queen vs. Two Bishops is a draw 9-6=3 and 3 < 4.
shiang chen:
lol, nm i'll never get to learn it. For amatures bishop knigt forced win is the hardest. But it's actually queen vs rook thats the hardest "forced" win(in a neutral position where the queen can't be lost). No wonder by point difference it's only 9-5=4. Very low difference as rook alone is 5.