I recently came across a wonderful article on Chess.com about under promotion of pawns. One of the situations is here:

[FEN "8/8/1KP5/3r4/8/8/8/k7 w - - 0 1"]
[Date "1895.??.??"]
[White "Saavedra, Fernando"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Setup "1"]
[FEN "8/8/1KP5/3r4/8/8/8/k7 w - - 0 1"]
[Plycount "13"]
[Sourcedate "2014.05.08"]

1.c7 Rd6+ 2. Kb5 Rd5+ 3. Kb4 Rd4+ 4. Kb3 Rd3+ 5. Kc2 Rd4

In the above game using Rook instead of Queen for promotion seems to win it for white.

If white is promoted to Queen, then 6.. Rc4+ and Qxc4 is forced which will be a stalemate.

How many other situations can we consider for the under promotion?


Here's my take on this question, since I find the other two answers lacking actual examples.

Knight promotion

In the situation below black has been trying to prevent white from promoting the pawn (white has earlier given up his rook for a black pawn). White manages to promote, but only one of the promotions secures a (tablebase) draw.

[white "Alexander Evdokimov"]
[black "Evgeni Ellinovich Sveshnikov"]
[event "56th Russian Championships, 2003"]
[fen "8/r3KP2/8/4k3/8/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

1.Ke8 Ke6 2. f8=N+! {2. ... Ra8+ otherwise} 1/2-1/2

Here, white underpromotes to avoid stalemate.

[white "Iroda Khamrakulova"]
[black "Ekaterina Ubiennykh"]
[event "WJun Women, 2001"]
[fen "6r1/k1P5/P7/1K1R4/8/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. Rd8 {according to tablebases, Rd7 wins faster} Rxd8 {again, there are slower ways for black to lose} 2. cxd8=N! {stalemate if rook or queen is promoted, a draw if a bishop (wrong corner)} 1-0

In the situation below, white has just played Qg3. Black underpromotes to gain a tempo, as white threatens checkmate and fork rival king and queen.

[white "Zvonimir Mestrovic"]
[black "Svetozar Gligoric"]
[event "Hastings, 1971/72"]
[fen "7k/1p2Npbp/8/2P5/1P1r4/3b2QP/3q1pPK/2RB4 b - - 0 1"]

1. f1=N+! 0-1

In the position below, white underpromotes to deliver a checkmate.

[white "William Strum"]
[black "John McManus"]
[event "Eastern Open, 1997"]
[fen "8/p3R2P/1p4k1/6p1/2rB2KR/P1r5/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. h8=N+ 1-0

Last, but not least, a very neat opening trap. Black undepromotes to gain a tempo and subsequently win the white queen.

[fen "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. e3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 dxe3 6. Bxb4 exf2+ 7. Ke2 fxg1=N+ 8. Rxg1 Bg4+ 0-1

Rook promotion

Arguably, less spectacular than knight underpromotions. One would promote to a rook in order to avoid a stalemate (otherwise, anything a rook can do, a queen also can). Two examples from endgames below.

[fen "6k1/6P1/5K2/8/8/6P1/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. g4 Kh7 2. Kf7 Kh6 3. g8=R! {stalemate in case of queen promotion. Knight promotion would also win, but would take longer} 1-0


[fen "4r3/5RPk/5K2/8/8/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. Rf8 Rxf8 2. gxf8=R {stalemate in case of queen promotion, unable to win if promoting to a minor piece} 1-0

Bishop promotion These are the rarest of the bunch. Usually would be to avoid a stalemate, or some other extraordinary situations, since otherwise, anything a bishop can do, a queen also can. First, a classic.

[fen "4Q3/Pq4pk/5p1p/5P1K/6PP/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. a8=B! {promoting to rook or queen runs into Qf7+ and stalemate} 1-0

Another endgame.

[fen "8/8/5b2/8/K7/4N3/kp6/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. Nd1 b1=B! {Nc3+ if promoting to rook or queen - draw} 0-1

Lastly, this amazing position.

[fen "1r5K/6PP/8/8/8/1k4q1/6P1/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. g8=B+! {black must move the king and it is a stalemate} 1/2-1/2

Sources for these and many more examples



  • Good compilation! :) Thanks. – Manoj Kumar Oct 14 '15 at 2:07

Underpromoting is extremely rare (as you may guess), but outside of chess studies, in tournament practice, when it does happen, it is often for promotion to a knight to give an important check (in order to avoid getting mated or to fork the king and queen). Underpromotion to avoid stalemate is exceptionally rare.

  • Seems like the down voter realized this should be a comment :) – Manoj Kumar Oct 14 '15 at 2:15

I think promoting to queen will be a win for white rather promoting to rook. Sorry but I didn't understood your question.

I found perfect solution for this actually white made a mistake playing Kb5 instead of Kc5.

Sorry then Rd1 is possible

  • 1
    If white is promoted to Queen, then 6.. Rc4+ and Qxc4 is forced which will be a stalemate. – Manoj Kumar May 25 '15 at 12:57
  • +1. I missed the point, too. Thanks, @ManojKumar, for the explanation. – Pete Becker May 25 '15 at 17:40
  • Seems like the down voter realized this should be a comment :) – Manoj Kumar Oct 14 '15 at 2:15

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