Queen vs Two Pawns Endings

Queen versus two pawn endings are where one player has a Queen, but the other player has only 2 pawns. These are a lot like “Queen vs Pawn endings” (with one pawn), but there’s an extra pawn.

Second Pawn Way Back

The most common case is that the 2nd pawn is a long way back. This is what usually happens in a “queening race”. Both sides are rushing to make a Queen, and they both advance one of their pawns rushing to the Queening square. One succeeds in promoting first, and if they queen at the same time, then it’s a “Queen vs Queen ending”. More often, one doesn’t make it all the way, so there’s a Queen vs a pawn on the 6th or 7th. Meanwhile the other pawn is still way back, because there wasn’t time in the pawn race to advance both of the pawns.

This most common situation with the second pawn far back is usually an easy win for the Queen. The pawn on the 6th or 7th can be easily won by the Queen, using the same procedure as in “Queen vs Pawn ending”.

But it’s even better in this situation, because the two stalemate exceptions (“Bishop pawn on the 7th; “Rook pawn on the 7th”) are no longer stalemate. The second far-back pawn prevents stalemate. These exceptions are instead easy wins for the Queen, and the pawn on the 7th is lost.

There are only a few draws. One such draw is where the far-advanced pawn on the 7th is a rook pawn or a bishop pawn, and the second pawn is far enough advanced that it can be sacrificed (e.g. on the 5th or 6th). The drawing plan is for Black to advance the other pawn toward Queening, forcing it to be captured, and then it’s a drawn Queen-vs-pawn on the 7th (rook pawn or bishop pawn are the only drawing pawns).

There are also a few pathological situations where the second pawn might obstruct the enemy Queen’s checks enough that a draw is possible. Rare in practice, usually the Queen wins.

Far Advanced Second Pawn

There are some more obscure, and less common situations where the second pawn is also far advanced. The basic situations with potential to draw for the two pawns are:

  • Two pawns on the 7th (i.e. two disconnected pawns on the 7th versus a Queen)
  • Two connected passed pawns (if far enough advanced)
  • Doubled pawns on 7th and 5th (there is an obscure draw possible in this rare situation)

Two Disconnected Pawns on the 7th vs Queen

If there are two pawns, both on the 7th, does the Queen still win? According to Reuben Fine’s “Basic Chess Endings” (BCE), the pawns can draw only if one of the pawns on the 7th is a rook pawn or a bishop pawn (i.e. the two types of pawns with the QvP stalemate draw defences). The strategy for the draw is to lose the second pawn, while keeping the rook pawn or bishop pawn on the 7th for the book draw.

Two Connected Passed Pawns vs Queen

Even more complex are the exception situations where a King is nursing two connected passed pawns towards the queen. If it was a Rook, the two connected pawns might well win (“Rook vs Two Pawns Endings”), but against a Queen they can sometimes draw, but usually don’t win.

Unsupported Pawns: The first basic point is that the two connected pawns need to be supported by their King. If the King isn’t next to the pawns, the Queen can either win the pawns immediately, or block them from queening until the King can be brought up to win them.

Two Connected Pawns on the 7th

If the two connected pawns are both on the 7th, and their King is supporting them, a draw is likely.

Checkmate in Front of the Two Pawns

An important note in these Queen vs two pawn endgames is that checkmate can occur. It’s a bizarre type of “back rank mate” where the King can get mated in front of its own pawns. Is that a “front rank mate”?

The situation arises with a Queen vs a connected pair of a Rook Pawn and Knight Pawn.

Diagram: Queen Can Force Checkmate

In the diagram, White can force a checkmate in front of the pawns with this line: 1.Qe4! Kg1 (forced), 2.Qe1#. Various zig-zag methods are possible if the Queen is in a different position.

Extra Pawns for the Queen’s Side

If there are extra pawns that are the same color as the Queen, it obviously helps the Queen’s team. It’s rarely a disadvantage, and they don’t really get in the way. Sometimes there are some much easier wins in that the Queen can sacrifice itself for a far advanced pawn, and then simply Queen another of its pawns.

References

  • Reuben Fine, “Basic Chess Endings”, Tartan Books, 1941.