Mastering Chess Strategy: How to Win with Only Queens Left

If you’ve ever found yourself with only queens left on the chessboard, you may be wondering how to secure a victory.

We will explore the world of Queen Endgames, including the basic rules, strategies for winning with just queens, common mistakes to avoid, and how to defend against an opponent in a similar situation.

By following these tips and tactics, you can enhance your skills and master the art of Queen Endgames.

Key Takeaways:

  • Master the basic rules of queen endgames, such as controlling the center and creating passed pawns.
  • Use your queen to attack and your king to support in order to secure a win with only queens left on the board.
  • When defending against an opponent with only queens left, prioritize protecting your king, creating counterplay, and using your queen to block.
  • What Are Queen Endgames?

    Queen endgames refer to chess endgames where only one or both players have only queens remaining. In the following chess endgame position below, White’s victory or inconclusive king safety are drawbacks for Black as he has difficulty defending or hiding his king. White controls the vital 4th and one of the central files. Black has a pawn majority on the queenside but 9/18 pawns blocked and the open c-file will allow free access to White’s position.

    What Are the Basic Rules of Queen Endgames?

    The basic rules of queen endgames refer to the essential rules and guidelines every chessplayer must know to effectively play the endgame with only queens left. The median of endgame theory says that it is better to centralize the king and the queens and challenge your opponent’s mobility and coordination.

    Opening up play on a side of the board where your king can quickly get into the action is a strategic way to play. Often this entails using pawns to create an open zone against your enemy’s king to limit their mobility. Remember that a passed pawn is often the game-changer. As such, queens work particularly well when there is an advanced, supported passed pawn that is both complexities and capable of turning into a queen not only surviving, so do your theoretical study, but garner your own experience as often as you can.

    Do not make it easy for your opponent to win by underestimating his abilities. The best endgame players are those who are good at both offense and defense. According to the best endgame players, the key to success in the endgame is to play it patiently and be ready to capitalize on any mistakes the opponent makes, usually as a result of their impatience or overly complex tactics.

    How to Win in Chess with Only Queens Left?

    Winning in chess with only queens left in the endgame generally requries a combination of a strong detailed strategy combined with fast, efficient, and accurate calculations. This is because queens are such strong pieces that they can at any moment change the evaluation of the position with moves that lead to checkmating an adversary. For such calculation-intensive and decisive endgames, most grandmasters prefer to improve their queens’ safety and attack potential when ahead, while improving their king’s security when they are down a queen.

    While the duration of the game increases with only queens on the boards, there is a high likelihood of quick wins in decisive positions. Former Chinese women’s champion and one of the best women’s players in the world, Xu Yuhua, suggested that a player’s intuition could prove vital in quick wins and improving sub-optimal situations in the end game. She also stated that it is very important to be an expert of endgame theory, as the smallest mistake could lead to a stalemate or blunder in such a position which might still be salvageable with more optimal play. Masters of play like former world champion Bobby Fisher demonstrated that even in endgame positions with the length of a death march, finding the best moves in the right order could win.

    Step 1: Control the Center

    Controlling the center is the central concept in chess. Being in the center allows the Queen to control 27 squares and maximize both offensive and defensive flexibility. Using the Queen in the center limits the mobility of opposing Queens and prevents two Queens from attacking the same piece. Having two Queens maintain a central position to control the center from a distance greatly increases the winning potential of a position and accelerates the endgame victory.

    Here two examples show the power of the second Queen in maintaining the center. In figure 2, two Queens threaten A4 and G4. Black is forced to move their Kings from F1 to H2 making themselves vulnerable to the multi-Queen threat from the White Queen on A7.

    The best move for White is for will be Qa7 – Qe7 – Qg6, while for Black is Kh2

    Figure 15 below shows that two Queens covering C4, F4 and the G4 escape square limit Black’s King’s movement and let the White Queen catch it in the corner of the board.

    Step 2: Create a Passed Pawn

    An Passed Pawn is a pawn that has passed all the opponent’s pawns, often with the expectation that it is able to transform into a queen, as it has no opposition it must stop from promoting. In practice, since there are only queens and pawns left, the term Passed Pawn is a notional one in this final endgame stage of only Queens left. From a practical point of view, creating a passed pawn is a key strategy for beginners at this stage.

    To create a passed pawn in a scenario of just two players and only queens and pawns makes it easiest to divide the board in half. The player whose turn it is to move should try to quickly move their pawn or queen far ahead of the opponent’s side of the board. This creates a passed pawn which is either impossible or inefficient to prevent it from being promoted in time.

    If there is a passed pawn, see if your opponent’s Queen can stop it. If your own Queen can help your Passed Pawn along. For example, in the game between Nigel Short and Jan Timman played in 1991, Nigel Short won the last remaining queen against Timman with the following position. Timman was facing a lose-lose decision with his last move. He had to decide if he wanted to give a check with the queen from d4 to e5, or queening the a-pawn to queen the passed pawn. After the move, it made it next to impossible to prevent Short from making a passed pawn by queening the a-pawn.

    Step 3: Use Your Queen to Attack

    With only queens left, a queen vs. queen endgame is possible but unlikely. Face the board with a singular queen ready to either attack or defend. With the strategy to win the game still likely to involve moving your queen (or opponent’s queen) off the board, you should be prepared to attack and defend as well if the opponent has a queen. Whether you or the opponent has a queen, use smart positional moves to attempt to initiate and control the exchange.

    Queens have great mobility and you need to prevent your opponent’s queen from moving freely across the board. If you cannot initiate the exchange – keep the queens safely on the squares where access to pieces is blocked. This will keep the opponent’s queen limited in its mobility.

    When the board thins, the strength of the queens becomes more pronounced and as demonstrated in the examples of Kupreikiené vs. Ziaziulinas in 2013 and Warren vs. Burns in 2003, gaining an advantage with your queen when only queens are left is one of the ultimate goals. To minimize your opponent’s options and take three of the most important squares associated with the king (e7, f7, g7 for black and e2, f2, g2 for white), as well as controlling the center squares.

    There is an element of the aesthetic of the game and honor in some of the toughest play when only queens are left.

    Step 4: Use Your King to Support

    Your King, as a minor piece, can be occasionally activated to influence the battle. But during the endgame, with only Queens left, it should stay at a safe distance to avoid being a target for the opponent’s Queen. Particularly in a maximum likelihood position when you have two Queens in a corner, your King is most useful during a draw as the opponent’s King is very slow to approach this position. Controlling a key square near the enemy King is useful in forcing a win or draw situation depending on the skill of the opponent.

    In this two Queens versus one Queen and one Rook example, the key square for the King (Ke1) is f2. If the Rook moves to f2, the White King should move to f1 at which point Black cannot win. Thanks to the opponents check, after some moves both Kings should be alternating between g1 and f1 resulting in a draw. However, if the White King goes to g1 instead, Black’s Queens can attack from the f2 box after stopping there on the move communicating there White is in check by moving to e2. This will then result in Black winning after a few moves.

    Let’s close this two Queens versus one Queen example. A critical move that some players overlook is that Queens control the game board and are not passive. They have the ability to deprive the enemy Queen from reaching key squares. This is demonstrated below.

    What Are Some Common Mistakes in Queen Endgames?

    Common mistakes in queen endgames according to Luděk Pachman include underestimation of the strength of the opponent’s king and poor selection of moves against a knight or bishop. The biggest mistake was against Fischer when Spassky selected a mysterious move in a seemingly winning position. Opponent’s passed pawns or pawn storms also require particular vigilance, and according to Pachman, attentive to the mating dangers posed by multiple passers on enemy files.

    Focusing Too Much on Attacking

    The most common beginner mistake is focusing too much on attacking. Of criteria for chess strategy, non-attacking has the highest weight when only queens are on the board. Attack moves often serve better when lower-value pieces are still on the board because this can force the exchange of material to your advantage or even force the checkmate, but when only queens are on the board attacking weakens one’s position by removing material rather than strengthening it as one’s own queen, the only strong piece, is lost or to the benefit of the opponent when a queen trade results in a stronger strategic position.

    Always ask if an attack of an opposing piece actually helps or hurts one’s position. If it helps, go for it, either through the established mates according to the desired available space and possibility to execute the correct strategy or by seeing an opportunity for a queen trade which is advantageous. If it reduces your strength and advantage, use the queen for defense and increasing position rather than attacking.

    Not Protecting Your King

    Not protecting your king is the worst mistake you can make with only queens left. Here is an example of what can happen if you leave your king unprotected.

    1. Dubov vs Grischuk, 2nd Quarter Final Game from FIDE Online Chess World Cup

    During a game of high stakes on August 7 of 2021, Alexander Grischuk had a splendid chance with his 47th move (47… Qd1+), a move up that, if everything goes as planned, could lead one to quickly checkmate at move 48 (Nxg4+ Qxg4). Unfortunately, this did not go as planned for Grischuk as he resigned at move 83 (Qc8). Queen’s were the only pieces remaining on the board towards the end of this match between powerful top chess candidates as well.

    If he had protected his king with 47…Qg6 in the following position, the checkmate from Dubov would have been impossible due to queen placement. Grischuk resigned after nearly another 40 moves, unable to stem the tide.

    It is very difficult to recover after leaving your king unprotected in an equal queen endgame, which makes most starting positions with only queens and kings on the board very dangerous. An error can have rapid consequences.

    Not Utilizing Passed Pawns

    If both players have only queens left, the game is complicated, and the side with an advantage will likely be the winner. From the starting position, the game is usually decided on the 2nd, 3rd, or fourth move. All players have spoken about certain general approaches to the situation, and listed both patterns and mistakes that can help when queen endings occur. Then, they proceed to illustrate their ideas with actual examples of critical positions that have occurred in queen endings.

    A queen ending with no pawns on the board in which only kings remain is a deadlock. If queens are on the board and one side has pawns, it is important to exploit those pawns as many of them will go on to decide the game. Otherwise, if such a pawn victory is not possible, it is important to have a passed pawn so that promoting it to a pawn can force the opponent to trade queens.

    When both players possess only queens, it is important to think about passed pawns. A passed pawn has no other pawns in its column that can prevent its promotion. Passed pawns must not have to contend with the presence of other enemy pawns. This diagram shows an example of a passed pawn. If passed pawns do exist, make use of them. Push them until the queen must take. Caruana explained, “When you have only a queen left, the side that has passed pawns with it is always the one that is better.” At the beginning of 2019, a Women’s World Champion has not faced a multiple queen ending, but Maria Fominykh has faced a situation with three queens and both sides’ passed pawns.

    How to Defend Against an Opponent with Only Queens Left?

    To defend against an opponent with only queens left in chess, move your weaker pieces in a manner that keeps your king safe. Be sure to prioritize keeping pieces as close to your king as possible and shelter them with the `king` so they cannot easily be threatened by the queen’s mobility. Maintain control of the board despite material deficits by utilizing active piece play. Make forward moves so your less powerful pieces can make exchanges when possible (though not always). It is important to keep center control to offer pieces a wider defensive range, to limit the queen’s movements and to prepare against an opposing queen’s material advantage.

    Keep Your King Safe

    Yes, the King plays the most important role in chess endgames so Keep Your King Safe. The fewer forces there are on the board, the more of a focal point does the king become. With just queens on the board, a lone king without the support of other forces contrasts supremely weakly which means your king and your opponent’s king becomes easier to attack.

    Create Counterplay

    Create counterplay with fewer queens in an endgame with only queens left. In 2004, chess legend Garry Kasparov lost to Peter Svidler during the Russian championship due to black’s control of the center. In terms of tactics on a general board having other pieces is indeed important. It is even more crucial in the specific endgame of only queens existing on the board, where both players will need all the assistance available.

    Providing stalemate or stalemate threats are good ways to create counterplay, with the probability that a queen can make a mistake later down the road. If you have more pawns than the other player, using those pawns to create threats is also a good strategy. In this game, Ratmir Kholmov pinned a Gyula Sax queen through the vast region of open space the other pieces left behind and thus won the game.

    While in this game, Bernstein trapped a Capablanca queen, which goes on to demonstrate the crucial importance of other pieces even with the non-existence of queens. Just the king stood against the entire ensemble of Capablanca’s pieces, to capture Bernstein’s queen, only for the former to then play a series of amazing moves that led to Capablanca’s loss, whose own king was checkmated incomplete isolation from the rest of the board’s chess pieces.

    Use Your Queen to Block

    If an opponent’s queen is threatening your back rank but is blockable, you can position your queen in the direct line of access to your back rank. In the following position, white’s black queen cannot capture the pawn on g2 because white’s queen is blocking the path. Black’s queen does not pose as much of a threat in this position as black may think.


    To win in chess with only queens left, one must reduce their opponent’s king’s mobility, restrict the liberty of any remaining enemy queens, and then launch an attack to interfere with building of the defense line. This will allow for a successful assault to capture the enemy king.

    When stalemated with a mixed Queens and other pieces position, if the opponent’s accumulated material (other than queens) has the potential to force checkmate or checkmate as a standalone force (through the use of two rooks, rook-and-bishop, or pawn armies) then it is wise to seek an immediate change of material to a lone-queen ending, as queens untenable against the other pieces.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can I win in chess with only queens left?
    Yes, it is possible to win in chess with only queens left on the board. However, it requires strategic thinking and careful planning.

    What is the best strategy for winning with only queens?
    The best strategy for winning with only queens is to control the center of the board and to use your queens to attack the opponent’s king.

    How many queens do I need to win?
    You only need one queen to checkmate the opponent’s king and win the game.

    Can my queen be captured in this scenario?
    Yes, your queen can still be captured in a game with only queens left on the board. You must protect your queen and be mindful of the opponent’s moves.

    What happens if both players only have queens left?
    If both players only have queens left, the game will most likely end in a draw. It is difficult to checkmate with only queens and the players may agree to a draw.

    How do I prevent my opponent from promoting their pawn to a queen?
    It is important to keep your queens active and to use them to control the board. This will make it difficult for your opponent to promote their pawn to a queen.

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