Chess Without The Queen: Can You Really Play?

The queen is the most powerful piece on the chess board. She is capable of charging in any direction and any number of squares in that direction and she can capture whatever she can land on. She’s nearly the equivalent of an army in her own right. So is it possible to beat someone at a game of chess with the queen? Could you remove her from the board?

Can you play chess without a queen? Yes, you can play chess without a queen. You can, and often should, continue playing the game if you lose the queen, especially early on in the game. Although the odds will be against you, playing without a queen can force you to think out of the box, try new tactics, and learn something new. It is definitely worth the mental exercise of playing chess without the queen.

Of course, the rules of chess require players that each have a queen on the board at the start of play but as we said, losing her doesn’t have to end the game immediately. You could win without her, and at the very least, you could learn something of value. Let’s see how.

Chess without the queen can you really play? - ChessPulse.com
Chess without the queen can you really play? – ChessPulse.com

Playing Chess Without A Queen? Don’t Resign Just Yet

So you’re playing a game and your opponent manages to capture your queen. This is, of course, a huge setback for your game. The queen is scored at 9 points when weighing up the material on the board. That means she is worth more than all the pawns (8 points combined), or 3 knights or bishops (3 points each) and even as much as a rook, a bishop (or knight) and a pawn (rooks are 5 points each).

This means that many players automatically resign when they lose their queen. They see this material disadvantage as too much to overcome and give up.

This is a terrible way to play chess and it’s going to hurt your game in the long run. The only way to get better at chess is to play chess. Resigning may soothe your bruised ego but it’s not playing chess.

When you are down a large amount of material, you can afford to take risks and try out new tactics – after all, you thought you were going to lose anyway, what do you have to lose on top of that? Players make mistakes and continuing to play gives your opponent the chance to make mistakes. Sure, winning when you’re a queen down is unlikely but “unlikely” is not the same thing as “impossible”.

So, not only can you play without a queen on the board. We’d recommend that you do continue to play. We would also note that if you play any form of speed chess then the loss of any given piece tends to be much less severe than it would be in a longer game. When the opponent is pushed for time to think, they are less likely to be able to capitalize on an unexpected gain of your queen.


The Art Of Offering “Odds” In A Game Of Chess

The second of our two scenarios is a process known as “offering odds”. In other sports it might be referred to as a “handicap”.

The idea is that it can become very tedious for a weaker player to be resoundingly thrashed by a much stronger player over and over again. For example, while the author is a player of a decent standard, it is likely that even if he played for a month against Magnus Carlsen, he would lose every game.

This would be no fun for the author and would probably get boring for Mr. Carlsen too.

To make things more interesting the World Number 1 might offer our intrepid author odds of a piece. Thus, providing the weaker player with an advantage from the beginning of the game.

In times gone by, the offering of odds was quite common and as the name “odds” suggests that’s because chess used to be a gambler’s sport. When two players met for a cerebral workout on the board, they were often risking their own finances to do so.

An 18th or 19th century chess player could make a decent living playing chess as long as they kept winning but, of course, the better they got – the harder it would become to find another player willing to take them on for money. Thus, the concept of “odds” was born.

There are four forms of odds typically offered in a chess game:

  1. The player removes a piece or pieces from the board to give their opponent a starting advantage – this could be anything from a pawn to a queen or more
  2. The player offers the weaker player some extra moves – these are played to begin the game and allow them to develop a better position
  3. The player offers the weaker player extra time on the clock – sometimes, a weak player just needs a bit more time to think to strengthen their moves
  4. The player provides “special conditions” – such as they agree to only carry out checkmate with their knight or never to castle during the game

Odds may be combined too – so a player can offer “a pawn, 5 minutes and a guarantee that checkmate will only be made with a rook move”.

Odds are not very common in chess today, however, as most games are for fun and not for money and if one player is overwhelmingly better than their opponent – they are both more likely to go and find other people to play.

However, there is one form of chess in which odds are still found in the 21st century and that is human vs computer chess. Is it common to see a computer offer a human opponent a queen odds and if so or if not, why?


Odds Of Winning Chess Without The Queen

As we’ve discussed earlier, the queen is an extraordinarily powerful chess piece and, in fact, she is so powerful that if you were to remove the queen from the board between two reasonably well-matched players – you would expect the queen-less player to lose every time.

It is also true to say that even between two players of considerably different skill such as say a World Champion and a FIDE Master, the loss of a queen is simply too much to make up for. You would expect a decent player to beat the world champion as long as they kept their head when the opponent is a queen down to begin with.

This is also true in computer chess. There is no doubt that chess computers are better than people – though the game of chess cannot be solved – as we discussed here.

However, the most common odds that a chess computer will offer an international grandmaster of high standing is a knight. A queen is simply too much of a material advantage to surrender even for the greatest chess players the world has ever known.


Conclusion

Can you play chess without a queen? You can certainly play without a queen when you lose her during a game – there’s nothing inherently special about the queen (unlike the king where the threat of losing your king can end the game), it’s just another chess piece and, in fact, in some cases it may be beneficial to sacrifice your queen for other advantages in the game.

Can you win without a queen? That’s a bigger question and you’re unlikely to ever see two reasonably proficient players ever offer such odds in a game. The loss of a queen is really the equivalent of losing all your pawns without gaining any material in return. It’s more of a joke to consider such odds than it is a reality. The best players in the world sometimes offer odds of a knight and, strangely, this is also the odds that the best chess computers now offer the best players.

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