Material Imbalances - Queen vs. Two Rooks Part Two

Sun, 2015-03-01 21:46 -- IM Max Illingworth

Let’s see another game which gives a better indication of how to defend (along with an introduction to how the inclusion of minor pieces affects the queen vs. two rooks imbalance):

[Event "EU-Cup 18th"]
[Site "Kallithea"]
[Date "2002.09.22"]
[Round "1.5"]
[White "Zlotnik, Boris A"]
[Black "Tregubov, Pavel V"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D30"]
[WhiteElo "2423"]
[BlackElo "2599"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "121"]
[EventDate "2002.09.22"]
[EventRounds "7"]
[EventCountry "GRE"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2003.02.06"]
[WhiteTeam "Reverte Albox"]
[BlackTeam "Norilsk Nikel"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "ESP"]
[BlackTeamCountry "RUS"]

1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 e6 3. d4 c6 4. Qc2 dxc4 5. Qxc4 Nf6 6. g3 b5 7. Qc2 Bb7 8. Bg2
Nbd7 9. O-O c5 10. Bg5 Rc8 11. dxc5 Bxc5 12. Qb3 a6 13. Nfd2 Bxg2 14. Kxg2 Be7
15. Bxf6 Nxf6 16. a4 b4 17. Rd1 Qc7 18. Nf3 O-O 19. Nbd2 g6 20. Rac1 Qxc1 21.
Rxc1 Rxc1 {Here the two rooks aren't significantly better than the queen
because of the presence of two sets of minor pieces; in particular, the queen
and knights coordinate very well.} 22. Qd3 Ra8 23. Nd4 (23. Ne5 {with the idea
of Ndc4 was better, with approximate equality.}) 23... Rc7 24. N2f3 Bf8 {Black
has a go at coordinating his pieces.} 25. Qb3 $6 {White's barking up the wrong
tree - the queen was much better on d3, tying up the a8-rook.} (25. Ne5 {would
be close to equal.}) 25... Re8 (25... Nd7 {avoids White's Nxe6 idea and leaves
the queen looking silly on b3.}) 26. Qd3 Ra8 27. Qb3 Re8 28. Qd3 e5 $5 {Going
for the win.} 29. Qxa6 exd4 30. Qxf6 Rxe2 31. a5 $6 (31. Ne5 $1 Rxb2 32. Ng4 {
with the idea of Qxd4 and Nf6 was a much simpler way to maintain the
equilibrium.}) 31... Rxb2 (31... d3 $5) 32. Nxd4 $2 (32. Qxd4 $1 {was again
the way to hold, intending Ne5-g4-f6 as before.}) 32... Ra2 33. Qb6 Rd7 $6 {It
was better to join the rooks with} (33... Rc3 34. Qb5 b3 $1 35. Qe8 (35. Nxb3
$2 {loses the knight after} Rb2) 35... Rc5 36. Nxb3 Rcc2 37. Qe3 Ra3 38. Qe4
Rb2 39. Nc1 Rxa5 $17 {and this position would be a win without the minor
pieces on the board (see the next example for proof); but even with minor
pieces included, Black's winning chances are greater than White's drawing
chances in an over-the-board game.}) 34. Nb3 Ra3 35. Qb5 (35. Nc5 $1) 35... Rc7
36. Qb6 Rd7 37. Qb5 Rc7 38. Qb6 Rc8 39. Nd4 Ra2 40. Ne6 b3 $2 (40... Rcc2 41.
Nxf8 Rxf2+ 42. Kh3 h5 $1 43. Kh4 Kxf8 {is winning for Black, which shouldn't
come as a surprise to us by now.}) 41. Nxf8 Rxf8 42. Qxb3 Rxa5 43. g4 $1 {
Going for counterplay with h4-h5 as Leko did in his game.} h5 {I wouldn't have
rushed to exchange the pawns like this, preferring to manoeuvre with the rooks
first to wear White down.} 44. h3 hxg4 45. hxg4 Re8 (45... g5 {doesn't really
stop f4 after} 46. Qb4 Rd5 47. f4 {and White will draw without difficulty as
Black's king is far too exposed.}) 46. Kg3 Rae5 47. Qb6 Rd5 48. Qb7 Rd3+ 49.
Kg2 Red8 50. Qe7 Rc8 51. Qe4 Rd2 52. Kg3 Rc3+ 53. f3 Rdd3 54. g5 $1 {Now the
pawn endings will be drawn.} Rd8 (54... Rxf3+ 55. Qxf3 Rxf3+ 56. Kxf3 Kg7 57.
Ke4 f5+ 58. gxf6+ Kxf6 59. Kf4 {is a dead draw.}) 55. Qe5 Rcd3 56. Qe7 R8d5 57.
Kg4 R3d4+ {I suspect the game score is incomplete or White lost on time as} 58.
f4 {is drawing:} Rf5 59. Qe3 {and Black can't make progress without taking on
f4, but} Rdxf4+ 60. Qxf4 Rxf4+ 61. Kxf4 {is the same very basic draw, as long
as White doesn't lose the opposition and allow Black's king in front of the
pawn.} 0-1 

If you have the queen, it is of the utmost importance to not allow the position to become fixed or

‘settled’ with no dynamic possibilities, otherwise the rooks will dominate the queen. The next old

classic is a case in point:

[Event "URS-ch29"]
[Site "Baku"]
[Date "1961.12.15"]
[Round "19"]
[White "Gurgenidze, Bukhuti"]
[Black "Averbakh, Yuri L"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D40"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "141"]
[EventDate "1961.11.17"]
[EventRounds "21"]
[EventCountry "URS"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 c5 5. e3 Nc6 6. Be2 dxc4 7. Bxc4 cxd4 8.
exd4 Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. Bg5 b6 11. Qd2 Bb7 12. Rad1 Rc8 13. Qe2 Nb4 14. Ne5
Nfd5 15. Bd2 Nxc3 16. bxc3 Nd5 17. Rc1 Ba3 18. Rc2 b5 19. Bd3 a6 20. Qe4 g6 21.
Ng4 Re8 22. Qf3 Bf8 23. a4 Bg7 24. axb5 axb5 25. Bxb5 Nxc3 26. Qxb7 Rb8 27.
Qxb8 Qxb8 28. Bxe8 Ne2+ 29. Kh1 h5 30. Bd7 Qd6 31. Nh6+ Bxh6 32. Bxh6 Nxd4 33.
Rd2 Qxd7 34. Rfd1 e5 35. Be3 Qf5 36. Bxd4 exd4 37. Kg1 Kg7 38. Rxd4 {Avebakh
is renowned for writing a series of quality books advancing endgame theory in
his time, but here Black is simply lost. Let's enjoy White's endgame technique
in converting it.} Qb5 39. h4 $1 {Fixing Black's pawns so he can't go for the
kingside pawn advance plan we've seen before.} Qe2 40. R1d2 Qe1+ 41. Kh2 {We
already know that the White king is very safe from checks in such a position.}
Qe5+ 42. g3 Qe1 43. Kg2 Kh6 44. Rd1 {The next step is to shuffle White's rooks
to more active positions. If he could get his rooks to d7 and f4, the f-pawn
would be forced to advance, weakening his structure and king's shelter.} Qe2
45. Rd7 Qc2 46. Kg1 f5 (46... Qc4 47. Re7 Qb3 48. Rdd7 Kg7 49. Rxf7+ Qxf7 50.
Rxf7+ Kxf7 51. Kg2 {is an easy win for White.}) (46... Kg7 47. Re1 Qa4 48. Ree7
{is similar.}) 47. Re1 {Now White will double rooks on the 7th to threaten Rh7
mate and tie up Black's queen and king.} Qc8 48. Ree7 Qh8 49. f4 {Now Black
will end up in zugzwang.} Qa1+ 50. Kh2 Qb2+ 51. Kh3 Qh8 52. Rb7 Qg8 {The queen
is reduced to moving back and forth, awaiting its fate.} 53. Rf7 Qh8 54. Kg2 {
Now we understand why the rook went to b7 - so that ...Qb2+ is not available.}
Qg8 55. Kf2 Qh8 56. Ke2 {White will be able to bring his king up as Black's
queen is dominated by the rooks.} Qe8+ 57. Kd2 Qd8+ 58. Kc2 Qc8+ 59. Rbc7 {
There end the checks.} Qh8 60. Kd3 Qd8+ 61. Kc4 Qg8 62. Kc5 Qh8 63. Rh7+ {The
pawn endgame will be an easy win with White's king right in the action.} (63.
Kd6 $2 Qd4+ {allowing perpetual check would take the king walks too far.})
63... Qxh7 64. Rxh7+ Kxh7 65. Kd5 Kg7 66. Ke6 {Black resigned as he loses all
the pawns by force, e.g.} Kh6 67. Kf6 Kh7 68. Kf7 Kh6 69. Kg8 g5 70. hxg5+ Kg6
71. Kf8 {.} 1-0 

That was smooth, wasn’t it? No less instructive was the following modern classic by Kramnik, where

provoking the same weakening f-pawn advance proved integral in his eventual World Cup-winning


[Event "FIDE World Cup"]
[Site "Tromsoe"]
[Date "2013.08.30"]
[Round "7.1"]
[White "Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Black "Andreikin, Dmitry"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D58"]
[WhiteElo "2784"]
[BlackElo "2716"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "125"]
[EventDate "2013.08.11"]
[EventRounds "7"]
[EventCountry "NOR"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2013.09.17"]

{Once again, there's a quite interesting part of the game with a rook, bishop
and passed pawn outdoing a queen, but the analysis of that will have to wait
for another time; for now, let's focus on our theme.} 1. d4 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nf3
d5 4. Bg5 Be7 5. Nc3 h6 6. Bh4 O-O 7. e3 b6 8. Bd3 dxc4 9. Bxc4 Bb7 10. O-O
Nbd7 11. Qe2 a6 12. Rfd1 Nd5 13. Bg3 Nxc3 14. bxc3 Bd6 15. e4 Bxg3 16. hxg3 b5
17. Bd3 Nb6 18. Qe3 Na4 19. Bc2 Nb2 20. Rdb1 Nc4 21. Qc1 c5 22. a4 cxd4 23.
cxd4 Rc8 24. axb5 axb5 25. Qe1 Bc6 26. Rb4 Ra8 27. Rd1 Ra3 28. d5 exd5 29. exd5
Re8 30. dxc6 Rxe1+ 31. Nxe1 Qc7 32. Rxb5 g6 33. Rc5 Ne5 34. Be4 Ng4 35. Nd3 Kg7
36. Bf3 Nf6 37. Nb4 h5 38. Rdc1 Ra7 39. Nd5 Nxd5 40. Bxd5 Qd8 41. c7 Rxc7 42.
Rxc7 Qxd5 43. Re1 $1 {Kramnik explains that White needs to play Ree7 and force
Black to play ...f6/...f5; otherwise Black will exchange one of his pawns 
(with a later ...h4) and hold the draw.} Kh6 (43... Kf6 44. Ree7 Qb3 45. Rxf7+
Qxf7 46. Rxf7+ Kxf7 47. Kh2 {and Kh3-h4 is an easily winning endgame for White.
}) 44. Ree7 f6 (44... f5 45. f4 Qg8 {is a very similar situation to what we
saw earlier, and we know this to be a simple win for White.}) 45. Red7 {As
Kramnik notes, the queen is most flexibly placed on d5 for the defence, so he
kicks it to a worse square.} Qa5 46. f4 $1 {Weaving a mating net to force
Black's king away from the defence of the pawn.} (46. Rh7+ Kg5 {would leave
White without a real follow-up.}) 46... g5 47. Kh2 {Anticipating any checks on
e1 or a1.} Kg6 ({Obviously not} 47... gxf4 48. Rh7+ Kg6 49. Rcg7+ Kf5 50. Rxh5+
{.}) 48. fxg5 Kxg5 (48... fxg5 {is more tenacious; while the position after}
49. Rd6+ Kf5 50. Rf7+ Ke5 51. Rh6 h4 52. gxh4 Qd2 53. hxg5 Qxg5 {is a
tablebase win, it takes 50 moves with perfect play. I recommend you go to http:
//, input the position and check out the
technique for yourself.}) 49. Rh7 {Now it's easy for White.} f5 50. Rcg7+ Kf6
51. Ra7 Qb4 52. Ra6+ Ke5 53. Rxh5 Qb1 54. Ra5+ Kf6 55. Raxf5+ Kg6 56. Rfg5+ Kf6
{It's a lot easier to win with two pawns instead of one as they block checks
from two different routes.} 57. Rb5 Qc2 58. Rh6+ Kg7 59. Rbb6 Qc5 60. Rbg6+ Kf8
61. Rh7 Qf5 62. Rgg7 Qe6 63. Re7 {Black resigned.} 1-0 

Now that we fully understand the methods of play with a queen against two rooks by themselves,

let’s see what happens when we throw two minor for each side into the equation. In this case we’ll

find that the queen is not at all inferior to two rooks:

[Event "Piatigorsky-Cup 2nd"]
[Site "Santa Monica"]
[Date "1966.08.03"]
[Round "11"]
[White "Portisch, Lajos"]
[Black "Fischer, Robert James"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E45"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "70"]
[EventDate "1966.07.17"]
[EventRounds "18"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 b6 5. Nge2 Ba6 6. Ng3 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 d5 8.
Qf3 O-O 9. e4 $6 {It's because of Fischer's subsequent two rooks for queen
trade that it's now considered better to play} (9. cxd5 Qxd5 10. e4 Qa5 11.
Bxa6 Qxa6 {, although here too Black is doing quite well. A constant theme in
this 5...Ba6 line is that the c4-pawn/square becomes a weakness that a Black
knight may later occupy.}) 9... dxe4 10. Nxe4 Nxe4 11. Qxe4 Qd7 $1 {An
excellent defence - Fischer realises that White is not threatening to take on
a8.} 12. Ba3 $6 {This only loses time by misplacing the bishop.} (12. Be2 Nc6
13. O-O Na5 14. c5 Bxe2 15. Qxe2 Rfd8 {is also a bit better for Black because
of his superior minor piece, but is nothing compared to the game.}) 12... Re8
13. Bd3 f5 $1 {A powerful move to take the initiative.} 14. Qxa8 $2 {This may
already be the decisive mistake.} (14. Qe2 {was called for, but Black is still
quite significantly better after} Nc6 15. f4 Na5 {when White has insufficient
light-squared defence.}) 14... Nc6 15. Qxe8+ Qxe8 {White is strategically lost
here as he will lose the c4-pawn, leaving him helpless on the light squares,
and the queen will be just as good as the two rooks in the resulting position.}
16. O-O Na5 {All according to plan. Find your target, then destroy it!} 17.
Rae1 Bxc4 (17... Qa4 18. Bb4 Bxc4 19. Bxc4 Nxc4 20. Rxe6 a5 21. Be7 Nd2 {was
perhaps too messy for Fischer's liking, but is also very strong after} 22. Ra1
Ne4 {.}) 18. Bxc4 Nxc4 19. Bc1 c5 $5 {Black strikes as building up with} (19...
Qc6 20. Re2 b5 21. Rfe1 Nd6 22. Rxe6 Qxc3 {gives White some drawing chances as
he managed to coordinate his rooks and open the position for his bishop.}) 20.
dxc5 bxc5 21. Bf4 (21. Re2 e5 22. f3 Qb5 {is another typical continuation, but
Black is still a lot better because of his extra pawn and his domination of
his knight over White's bishop.}) 21... h6 22. Re2 g5 23. Be5 Qd8 (23... Qd7 $1
{was more precise, preventing Rd1 while guarding Black's pawns.}) 24. Rfe1 $6 (
24. Rb1 Kf7 25. Ree1 {gave White better chances of drawing.}) 24... Kf7 (24...
f4 $1 {leaves the e5-bishop completely stuck and would have been winning for
Black as well.}) 25. h3 f4 $1 {White is completely tied up for the pending
assault.} 26. Kh2 a6 (26... Qd5 27. Bb8 f3 $1 {was also very strong, making an
example of White's king too.}) 27. Re4 (27. f3 {was the best defence, but
Black can still play} a5 {and advance his pawn to a3, followed by taking the
a2-pawn.}) 27... Qd5 28. h4 (28. R4e2 f3 29. gxf3 Nd2 {also wins material.})
28... Ne3 29. R1xe3 fxe3 30. Rxe3 Qxa2 {Now it's over, red rover.} 31. Rf3+ Ke8
32. Bg7 Qc4 33. hxg5 hxg5 34. Rf8+ Kd7 35. Ra8 Kc6 0-1 

Thanks for reading, and I hope you learned something new!