Closing The Gap – Queen versus 7th Rank Pawn Endgame

In the endgame, there is often a race for promotion. When this happens, it doesn’t matter so much how many pawns you have, as much as their ability to promote. This is because a queen is good at doing a mop up job. In this chapter, we will be looking at the situation where one side has promoted, and the other has a pawn on the seventh rank – a whisker away from promotion. This type of endgame is common, because it works with all the different pawns (a-h). The method that I am going to recommend is a simple one, which never fails. I call it closing the gap.

Closing the Gap With Your Queen

This study is taken from a recent blitz game of mine on chess.com. Both sides have made 48 moves already. In this position below, white must ensure that black is not given a move to promote, as this will result in a draw.

White to move:

49. Qa7+ Kf1 (49…Ke1 50. Qe3+ zooming into the position) 50. Qa6+ Kf2 51. Qb6+ Kf1

Pattern #1: Bring your queen closer to the enemy pawn, through checks – to keep the black king busy – until it is right next to it.



52. Qb5+ Kf2 53. Qc5+ Ke2 54. Qc4+ Kf2 55. Qd4+ Kf1

This pattern is repeated many times until the queen is in a proximity to the black king. Let`s see what happens if the black king decides to go away from the pawn instead of in front of it, or to the side of it (shown in brackets).

56. Qd3+ Kf2 (56…Ke1 57. Qg3+ Kf1 see the board below – carry on with 58. Qf3+ to force the black king in front of the pawn). 57. Qd2+ Kf1 58. Qf4+ Ke1 59. Qg3+ Kf1



60. Qf3+ Kg1 The black king is now in the way of his own pawn. This gives us time to maneuver our own king into position.

Closing the Gap With Your King

By this stage, the queen on f3 has got into the best position, but she can’t deliver checkmate on her own. It is time to bring your king into the position. This takes time, but there is a simple systematic way to do this, shown below:

Pattern #2 : Whenever the enemy king blocks his pawn, use this tempo to move your king closer to the action.

61. Kc2 Kh2 62. Qf2 Kh1 63. Qh4+ Kg1 The black king blocks the path, so what should you do?



64. Kd2! Move your king into position! Kf1 65. Qf4+ Kg1 The black king is blocking his pawn, how do we continue?



66. Ke2 Moving our king closer to the enemy king, to support the queen. Remember that a queen supported by another piece can checkmate the lone king on the 2nd rank (or 2nd file). This is why we have to bring our king in. I play some unnecessary moves here, but they don’t hurt. If you are short on time, repeating the position once or twice (not 3 times! = drawn) can buy you precious time to find the win. Kh1 67. Qh4+ Kg1 68. Qg3 (68. Kf3! is a quicker way to win … Kf1 69. Qf2#) Kh1 69. Qh3+ (69. Kf2 g1=Q 70. Qxg1#) Kg1 70. Qg3 Kh1 71. Qh4+ This position is the same as after 67. Qh4+ Kg1 72. Qg4 Kh1



73. Kf2! g1=Q+ (73…Kh2 74. Qxg2#) 74. Qxg1# 1-0

In summary, to beat the 7th rank pawn with a queen, you have to first of all get your queen close to the enemy king. Then you bring your king in, to support the queen. Once the two are nearby, then you can start to watch out for checkmates.

Simplifying the Endgame to Your Advantage

Now, if you understand that certain endgames are won or drawn, then it makes sense to see where you are heading in the late middlegame. If you can reach the position shown in diagram 1 then you know you have got the win in the bag, so all you have to do is simplify the position to get there.

Here is the same game, after I play 40. Kb4




In this position above, there is only 1 move that allows black to draw, and that is 40…g5 The idea of this is push the g-pawn down the board, and when it reaches g3, it will clear the way for black`s e-pawn. Meanwhile, white will try the simple plan of promoting the a-pawn. If you are interested in the actual sequence of moves, then here it is: 40…g5 41. Kc4 (41. Kxa4 loses to 41…g4 42. Kb4 g3 43. fxg3 Kxg3 44. a4 e3 and it is clear to see that black promotes first) 41…e3 42. fxe3 Kxe3 43. Kb4 g4 44. Kxa4 Kf2 45. Kb4 Kxg2 46. a4 Kf2 47. a5 g3 the race has begun 48. a6 g2 49. a7 g1=Q 50. a8=Q The race ended in a draw. Both sides promote on within one move of each other, and get a queen.

1 Tempo can Win You the Game

By tempo, I mean a single move. If you have an extra move (or tempo) then you can promote first and go on to win. If you miscalculate the number of moves it takes your opponent to promote, and the number of moves for you to promote, then you can end up entering a losing variation. What you should do is calculate as deeply as you can in concrete endgame positions. There are few pieces on the board, so this task should be relatively easy.

In the game, my opponent did not find the drawing move, and played a losing move.

40…e3?? 41. fxe3+ Kxe3 42. Kxa4 Kf2 43. Kb3 Kxg2 44. a4 Kf2 45. a5 g5 46. a6 g4 47. a7 g3 48. a8=Q g2

Here we are, back at diagram 1, I trust you know how to win the game from here!

 

18 thoughts on “Closing The Gap – Queen versus 7th Rank Pawn Endgame”

  1. Hey there! How are you? I really enjoy articles on chess as I’m a chess player and I compete regionally in my country. I’m aware of most of the moves but I never came across this particular strategy/tactic. I just can’t wait to try it. I’m aware of moves like “Check mate in 3-5 moves” and stuff like that but never heard of this before. 

    1. This endgame is always a win for the player with the queen, with correct play, because you can repeat a recurring pattern, which allows your king to get closer and closer. Eventually you win the pawn. Just be careful that it isn’t stalemate when you do this! 

      Do you have a FIDE grade?

  2. This is a great article because it provides strategies to make sure you improve your game performance. I remember playing chess when I was younger and I had this friend that would destroy me in a few moves. He never taught me the tricks but I always told him that I was going to win one day 🙂 No luck since then by the way.

    There is no doubt that using the Queen the right way can win matches day and night. Thank you for sharing!

    1. If you really want to improve at chess, the best thing that you can do is start to solve tactics puzzles on a regular basis. These tactics decide the games played between beginners, and by cutting out blunders, you won’t lose vast amounts of material. If you want further advice about improving, let me know.

  3. Wow , you mke it sounds so easy, it is too advanced but I have been going back to your previous posts and read about the strategy about how to play chess. To be honest, I have never played it before, might have know how to one point in my life but forgot all about it. Any suggestion on where to start? 

    1. Yes. The first place to start is to ensure that you know all of the rules of the game perfectly, and the objective of the game. My post: https://getgoodatchess.com/bas… covers the basics. I would recommend going through the beginner course, so you understand all of the basics. Let me know if you need any help.

  4. I am so happy to have found your site.

    I have always wanted to play chess, but have never really got round to it, but having read through your post I can see that your instructions are clear and easy to follow, and they are beautifully and clearly laid out. I’m afraid that my knowledge of chess is restricted to the names of the pieces and the moves which they may make!

    So even though this particular lesson is way too advanced for me at present, you have inspired me to definitely go through your Beginner’s course and eveally learn to play chess at long last. And I can see that with your help I will be able to get really good at it.

    Thank you so much for inspiring me to take up this fascinating game.

    Chrissie 🙂

    1. I am glad that your interest of the game has been rekindled. 

      Don’t forget that every grandmaster was once a beginner. If you persist, and play regularly you may well become a strong player. Please let me know if you have any questions about the content covered.

  5. Wow, excellent guide! I’ve been following your posts and they have all been super helpful. I’ve never been all that great at chess but have wanted to improve and you’ve helped me out a lot, so thank you! I’ve always been very wary of using my Queen at all, but that is probably why I lose so darn often. This post has inspired me to have a little more courage moving my Queen and utilizing her. Are there any early Queen moves you would advise against or traps to look out for?

    1. Thanks for your praise.

      Are there any queen traps? Yes is the simple answer. To go into more detail, it depends a lot on what opening you play. It is not uncommon though, for example: 1. d4 f5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 Bb4 5. Qb3 a5 6. a3 a4 Here white might fall for the trap, and take on b4 with 7. Qxb4?? Nc6 8. Qc5 Ra5 9. Nb5 d6 and the queen is trapped.

  6. I was playing pro chess like 10 years ago and I still enjoy playing it in my free time. The situation you showed here can really help with finishing the game with great lead. Even though black is only one move from promoting a pawn into a Queen – he is not allowed that.

    Sharing this strategy can really help all the new players to chess end game. Everything you showed here with white is forced. Bringing Queen closer to the king and using her to block the king and create opportunity to get your king closer to the enemy is great. This is how you finish games with lead.

    An inexperienced player could finish the game with the draw. This article will help other chess enthusiasts with their end game.

    Thank you once again.

    Strahinja.

  7. Hi Mark,

    these are some nice moves and combinations here! I really love it.I played chess for 5 years, but than stopped. I won 9 medals and participated once in Women World Tournament.  I think I had 2200 /2300/ 2400 rank… I can’t remember cause I played it like 10-12 years ago.

    It seems easy when you have king and queen against king and pawn, but I’ve seen situations where it becomes stalemate.
    Especially if you play games with chess clock – on 5 or 15 minutes.Than your concentration is different and anything can happen.

    I play sometimes with my friends and my brother, but just for fun. I would love to try this though… this is cool. When I see these strategies, I somehow get the motivation to try playing professionally again. 😀

    I see that you are passionate about this and you started early which is great. It is important to start playing young, just like any other sport.

    I wish you luck in your future games and in growing this blog,
    I bookmarked it.

    Susan

    1. Thanks for your interest and comments. While it is true that there are stalemate ideas available to the defending side, I am pretty sure that with correct play the 7th pawn versus queen is always won. I suppose the key is zugzwang.

      If you really were of a 2200 rating then that is quite impressive.

  8. Fascinating.

    I used to play a lot of chess when I was (much) younger and recently bought one of my granddaughters a chess set for her 9th birthday.

    She’s well on her way to becoming hooked.

    End games can be very frustrating with a ton of seemingly endless manoeuvring.

    So it was very interesting to read your analysis of a not uncommon end game situation and the different ways in which it could play out.

    I’ll be sure to check out your courses for my granddaughter (and maybe as a refresher for me too).

    Thanks for all this.

    1. I am glad you are enjoying it. The key to avoid ‘endless manoeuvering’ is to think schematically. So in the endgame the most important factor is pawn promotion, so you should ask ‘how can I promote my pawns?’ and also ‘how can I prevent my opponent from promoting their own?’. In this example, there is a recurring pattern in which the side with the queen first of all advances in a zig zag line towards the king with checks. The checks are important, for occupying the enemy king, so as to not allow promotion. Then, when the queen is close enough, there is a new pattern, which repeats and allows the king to come closer to the pawn. Once both the queen and king are in range of the pawn, then you can start to look for ways to win it – While avoiding stalemate too!

  9. Thanks for this informative article Mark. I always struggle with these end game moves and your step by step description of the strategy has been really helpful. I would be really keen to understand if there is any way to defend against this strategy if you are left with only a king and pawn to give you the best chance of success to convert the pawn?

    1. In actual fact, there is no way to promote the pawn, provided that the player with the queen always finds the right move there is nothing you can do to stop them winning your pawn and the game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *