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© 2015 Jonathan Whitcomb
Queen Versus Rook Endgame of Chess Handling a Near-Philidor Position
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This is very similar to the Philidor position, with the white king just one move away from its key square: Instead of being on f3, in Diagram-1, the attacking king is on f4. A key point to remember in this chess end game is that the defender has the move, otherwise the attacker can just move the king to the key square and make it an orthodox Philidor position. The following positions are from the defender attacking the queen, for that looks like a promising defense: Black will move Rg1.
Notice that the defender has few options in Diagram-1. If black moves Kh3, white has a mate in three: Qh1+, followed by Qf3+ and Qg4# (mate). Of course a distant defense is possible, by the rook moving far to the left or far to the top, but white would then have options available for hunting down that rook (which techniques will be covered elsewhere).
From the position in Diagram-2, white has a forced sequence, a combination that fences the defending king into a mating net, with no stalemate available for the defender. Queen-versus-rook end games, in their countless possible positions, usually do not have such a quick easy winning combination as we see here.
Qh4+ forces the defending king to g2, with no other legal move available.
Notice that the defender’s options are limited because the rook is in the way. This distinguishs this particular variation of queen versus rook from most other variations of this end game.
In Diagram-5, the black king will move to f1, for after Kh1 white checkmates the defender with Qh3+.
Black has just moved Kf1, in Diagram-6. White now will continue driving the defending king to the left.
Black now has only one legal move: Ke1. The queen moved to f3 partly to avoid capture from the rook. The mating net is about to close on the defending king.
Now consider Diagram-8 (white to move). How would you proceed if you had the white pieces? If it were black’s turn, the king could escape towards the center: Kd2, the only legal move for the defender. How do you prevent that escape by black and, in fact, prevent any move by the defending king?
After white moves Ke3, black has no escape. The king has no move and any move by the rook is futile. White threatens Qe2#, ending this queen-versus-rook end game with a victory for white. The only moves that prevent that mate are Rg2 and Rg3, both of which lose the rook without any stalemate. Notice that if the rook were on d1, black would get a draw after Rd3+, for the capture of the rook on d3 would result in immediate stalemate.
What exactly is this “near Philidor” position in the endgame of the queen versus rook? Let’s define it thus: 1) The rook is on the near      diagonal to a corner 2) The defending king is next      to both that rook and that      corner square. 3) The queen is on the edge,      three squares away from      that corner square but is      not checking that king.      It is also a knight’s move      away from the rook. 4) The attacking king is a      knight’s move away from      the rook and on a diagonal      from the defending king.
Eight different appearances of the near-Philidor (queen versus rook) are possible on the chess board: two for each of the four corners.