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Harrow Chess Club competes in Middlesex, Thames Valley, and Hillingdon leagues…Junior players welcome…

Checkmating with queen and rook against bare king - IM Colin Crouch

When teaching complete beginners in chess, almost the first thing I try to do is to show how you can give checkmate with king and queen against a bare king. This, after all, is the number one rule about chess. To win a game, you have to give checkmate, to attack the king, om such a way that the king cannot escape.

The point here is that you cannot give checkmate with only one piece. You need at least two pieces working together.

A quick reminder. You need to work with both your pieces. Checkmating with just a queen is not enough. Then you need to force the king to the edge of the board, so that the king cannot run any further.

The final position might be as follows. It is White to play.

XABCDEFGHY
8-+-+-+-+(
7+-+-+-+-'
6-+-+-+-+&
5+-+-+-+-%
4-+-+-+-+$
3+-+K+-+-#
2-+-+-+Q+"
1+-+k+-+-!
xabcdefghy

White can squash up the king, with Qd2 checkmate, as Black is not allowed to take the queen, as the White king defends the queen. Or he can give chackmate along the line, with Qf1, or Qg1, or even Qh1, all winning.

Easy enough? Well, sometimes strange things happen when you have to move quickly under pressure, and some very strange things happen, even between top grandmasters.

I have just been watching, over the Internet, a game in the FIDE World Cup, a big knockout in Norway. Both players are forced to move extremely quickly in this position.

XABCDEFGHY
8-+-+-+-+(
7zPR+-+pmkp'
6r+-tR-+-+&
5+-+-+-+-%
4-+-+-+-+$
3+-+-+rzp-#
2-mK-+-+-+"
1+-+-+-+-!
xabcdefghy

Fabiano Caruana – Vladimir Malakhov

FIDE World Cup, Tromso, Norway, 19th August 2013, Third round, tie break (rapid play)

Black to play.

Yes, he is allowed to play 54...Rxd6 55.a8Q g2, and quite probably he is still winning, but it is complicated. Malakhov decides, correctly so, that he wants to queen his pawn as quickly as possible, before White has queened a pawn himself. Black aims to give checkmate with queen and rook, even though he is a rook down. He plays 54...g2 55.Rxa6 g1Q 56.a8Q.

XABCDEFGHY
8Q+-+-+-+(
7+R+-+pmkp'
6R+-+-+-+&
5+-+-+-+-%
4-+-+-+-+$
3+-+-+r+-#
2-mK-+-+-+"
1+-+-+-wq-!
xabcdefghy

Quite often, when both sides queen pawns, the first person who can start checking will win the game. Here Black can play checkmate, so long as he can play reasonably accurately.

As with king and queen against king, Black will need to force White's king to the edge of the board. Trying to checkmate with queen and rook in mid-board is not quite enough. The king has to be forced to the edge.

Also, but unlike with king and queen against king, Black has to give checks all the time, before White can escape by using his queen and rooks. He cannot mess around. It is a case of check, check, check, and more checks, and then checkmate. Black needs though to think about pushing White's king to a worse square.

Black's next move is extremely natural. He does not ant to escape with White's king to the middle of the board. He plays 56...Qd4+. Then 57.Ka2.

XABCDEFGHY
8Q+-+-+-+(
7+R+-+pmkp'
6R+-+-+-+&
5+-+-+-+-%
4-+-wq-+-+$
3+-+-+r+-#
2K+-+-+-+"
1+-+-+-+-!
xabcdefghy


So far, Black is on the right track.





This is the position we reached, with Black to play - and the chance of setting up a string of checks.


XABCDEFGHY
8Q+-+-+-+(
7+R+-+pmkp'
6R+-+-+-+&
5+-+-+-+-%
4-mK-+-+-+$
3+-+-+-+-#
2-+-+-tr-+"
1wq-+-+-+-!
xabcdefghy


By far the simplest is to force the king to the corner, with 57...Qc4+!, and White has only the b2, a1 and b1 squares, The net is being tightened. Black will soon give another check with the rook, and then quite quickly checkmate. If for example 58.Kb1 Rf1+ 59.Rb1 Qc3+ 60.Ka2 Rf2+, and checkmate next move. Simple really!

57...Rf2+ is also good, but Black needs to think clearly about what he is going to do next. This is what Malakhov tried

Other moves are less convincing, and certainly not 57...Qd2+? 58.Rb2, and Black runs out of checks.

Play in the continued with 57...Rf2+ 58.Ka3 Qa3+ 59.Kb4.

XABCDEFGHY
8Q+-+-+-+(
7+R+-+pmkp'
6R+-+-+-+&
5+-+-+-+-%
4-mK-+-+-+$
3+-+-+-+-#
2-+-+-tr-+"
1wq-+-+-+-!
xabcdefghy


Black still has a simple win with 59...Rb2+ 60.Kc5 Qc1+ 61.Kd6 Rd2+ 62.Ke7 Qe1+ 63.Re6 Qxe6 checkmate, but he missed it!

Instead, 59...Rf4+ 60.Kb5 Qe5+ 61.Kb6

XABCDEFGHY
8Q+-+-+-+(
7+R+-+pmkp'
6RmK-+-+-+&
5+-+-wq-+-%
4-+-+-tr-+$
3+-+-+-+-#
2-+-+-+-+"
1+-+-+-+-!
xabcdefghy


Black to play. There is still a simple and very clear win for Black. Can you find it? Think carefully about this, and find the very best move.

On most occasions, Malakhov, a strong grandmaster, would have found it without trouble, but he had to keep making moves in a few seconds.

61...Qd4+?

61...Rf6+ 62.Ka7 Rxa6+ 63.Kxa6 Qa1+ is the last straightforward win for Black, skewering the king and queen. There is no immediate checkmate, but being a queen ahead is good enough to win.

62. Kc7 Qe5+ 63. Rd6

Probably Malakhov quite simply missed this.

63...Rc4+ 64. Kd7

Now White is winning. His king escapes.

64...Qf5+ 65.Kd8

XABCDEFGHY
8Q+-mK-+-+(
7+R+-+pmkp'
6-+-tR-+-+&
5+-+-+q+-%
4-+r+-+-+$
3+-+-+-+-#
2-+-+-+-+"
1+-+-+-+-!
xabcdefghy


Safety!


Black soon had to resign after 65...Qc5 66. Rbd7 Qg5+ 67. Re7 Qc5 68.Qg2+, as it is now White who is about to give checkmate.


A lucky win for Caruana.

To view the entire game with annotation by IM Colin Crouch click here

STOP! Practise this at home. Maybe with friends or parents (I am, after all, writing mainly for juniors).

Can you find a way to win this position comfortably?

There is a way, but Malakhov messes it up badly, and soon got knocked out.