Pawnless Endings

Pawnless endings are chess endgames where neither player has any pawns. If the endgames involve a Queen or Rooks, then the big pieces will usually win.

Pawnless Endings with 1 Piece

  • K+Q vs K: This is a simple win for the Queen, itís a basic checkmate.
  • K+R vs K: This too is a basic checkmate, although itís quite tricky for beginners to master.

Some other endgames without queens or rooks may be drawn:

With 2 Pieces

Pawnless endgames with 2 pieces are trickier:

  • K+2B vs K: Win. The two bishops can actually checkmate with the help of their King, but itís somewhat tricky to squash the enemy King into the corner for checkmate. Occasionally occurs in real games.
  • K+B+N vs K: Win. The bishop and Knight can also achieve checkmate, but itís a laborious task taking about 40 moves or so. Rarely occurs in games.
  • K+2N vs K: Drawn. Two Knights cannot give checkmate, even with the help of their King. It is a stalemate result. (There are various bizarre won endgames of ďK+2N vs K+PĒ where the defenderís extra pawn is a liability if it has spare moves and thereby avoids the stalemate defence.)
  • K+2R vs K: Two rooks checkmate easily. Even for beginners.

With 1 Piece Each (2 Pieces Total)

Pawnless endgames with 1 piece each (and no pawns) can also occur:

  • K+B vs K+N: Drawn.
  • K+B vs K+B: Drawn.
  • K+N vs K+N: Drawn.
  • K+R vs K+R: Drawn, unless someone makes a massive mistake.
  • K+Q vs K+Q: Drawn by perpetual check or infinite pursuit.
  • K+Q vs K+R (Queen vs Rook ending): Win. This should be a win for the Queen in theory. Usually the Rook will be gradually squashed back and then ultimately lost to a Queen fork. Some of the best defensive squares for the Rook are non-obvious, so this win is easier against a human than against a computer.
  • K+Q vs K+B: Win. The Queen should win without much difficulty. Much easier than Queen against a Rook.
  • K+Q vs K+N: Win. The Queen also should win quite easily against a Knight.
  • K+R vs K+B (Rook vs Bishop ending): Draw. The bishop should be able to draw, but the Rook can sometimes win if it can get the King and Bishop onto the edge of the board.
  • K+R vs K+N (Rook vs Knight ending): Draw. In theory, the Knight can draw against the Rook, provided the Knight stays close to the King. In practice, itís tough to find the right moves and the Knight will often be lost.

More than 2 Pieces

There are also pawnless endgames with more than two pieces, or where each player has various different pieces. They occur rarely. The only one that occurs with any particular frequency is K+R+B vs K+R which has winning chances but is very complex.

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess strategies: