The other day I witnessed a National Master fail to checkmate using a queen vs rook.

I witnessed some of the worst technique known to man by a 2200+ player. It's clear he didn't know Philidor's position.

Just because it's blitz does not justify the poor play. Anyone who knows king and pawn endings, for example, can quickly promote in a kp vs. k situation. And this is with two second increment.

How can masters be so bad at endings? This is embarassing.

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    "Masters are bad at endings" does not logically follow from "I once saw a master flub an ending". – Nuclear Wang Oct 17 '18 at 17:27
  • @Nuclear Wang I've seen it happen time and time again, sir. – Jossie Calderon Oct 17 '18 at 17:46
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    This might be the most condescending question on this site to date. – Scounged Oct 17 '18 at 19:39
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    Yeah, and why are the greatest basketball players so bad at dunking? – ETD Oct 17 '18 at 19:40
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    To me it seems like the downvotes are proportional to how condescending the question is. In truth this sounds more like a rant that a real question. – Isac Oct 18 '18 at 15:44

Some pawnless endgames, like mating with bishop and knight, or the queen vs. rook case you mention, just don't occur that much in practice, especially compared to pawn endgames or rook endgames. That means players are less likely to study them, and unfortunately for those players, in these endgames one often can't rely on general principles (rooks behind passed pawns or on the 7th rank, weak vs. strong bishops). I doubt masters would have any difficulties with a king + pawn vs. king endgame.

Also, let me quote Karsten Müller and Frank Lamprecht from their book Fundamental Chess Endings:

The queen always wins against a lone rook unless there is an immediate draw such as perpetual check or stalemate. The winning nature of the ending has been known for a long time and it was believed to be quite easy to force a win. However, the appearance of computer databases in 1978 caused the ending to be seen in a new light. While they confirmed that the queen should win from all normal starting positions, they also showed that it was quite difficult to win if the defender played precisely.

(emphasis mine)

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  • I agree, it is difficult to win with precise defense. But in the game the defender defended in a shambolic manner. The supposed "NM" missed an opportunity to obtain Philidor's position. – Jossie Calderon Oct 17 '18 at 18:14
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    I agree with you that it can be a little disappointing, especially if you are a much weaker player, to see a Master play badly the endgame. Because Master "sees everything, knows everything", that's what we believe... But (1) it was blitz, and (2) not all Masters are equally prepared / skilled in theoretical endgames, especially the tricky ones (see answer above). Yes, we believe that Master can (should) be able to reach basic theoretical win. And that's why I tend to share your disappointment... – A. N. Other Oct 17 '18 at 18:28

The problem is that winning with a Q v R requires multiple quiet moves which are not obvious at all to a human in blitz play. Not to mention these type of endgames are really only studied by GMs because at master level these endgames do not happen enough to justify studying them extensively. And even GMs screw up these type of endgames like RB V R or even RK v R in classic time controls fairly often.


Kasparov won a dead drawn endgame that even I should be able to draw no problem.

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  • Not really true. The technique from KBN v. K can be applied to many practical situations. Anyways, sad by Judit - absolutely shambolic. – Jossie Calderon Oct 17 '18 at 21:06

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