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Reading What is the proper Algebraic Notation for a pawn being promoted? made me wonder whether pawn promotion to rook or bishop ever happens. The only time I can think this might happen is when promotion to a queen would provide stalemate.

Are there any other situations where one might choose a rook or bishop over a queen (or knight)? Secondly, has this ever been a case where promotion to a rook/bishop gave an advantage in an actual game?

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Preferably answers to the second question should be between players of some repute, but if you've ever seen any game where this happened I'd be interested. –  tttppp Feb 27 '12 at 17:36
    
I love this question, particularly the fact that it contains an answer that had never occurred to me - to prevent stalemate. I only play chess at a 1500 level, I guess it shows :) –  Dónal Mar 23 '12 at 23:13
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@tttppp: Did you see the new chess.SE site? Just thought you might be interested, since you asked this question. –  Daniel δ May 23 '12 at 16:36

2 Answers 2

up vote 29 down vote accepted

Under-promotion to bishop/rook happens from time-to-time. I've only seen it in three cases:

  1. The pawn will be captured regardless of what it's promoted to, and the promoting player wants to be cocky
  2. It's checkmate with just a bishop or just a rook, and the promoting player wants to be cocky (in those cases, a queen would mate also)
  3. Promoting to a queen is stalemate

Of those, the only one that's interesting is #3. It's extremely rare, but has happened in tournament games. For example, in the game Ruben - Sultan Khan, 1930:

(image)

Playing 1. f8=Q leaves Black in stalemate, but 1. f8=R does not (though 1. Kf6! would have been better :) )


Here is another example (Vasiukov - Tukmakov, 1976)

(image)

White, in a last-ditch effort, played 1. Rg1+ - 1.. hxg1=Q would be stalemate! Black responded 1.. hxg1=R! 0-1


Under-promotion to knight is more common (though still very rare) than to rook/bishop because, unlike rooks/bishops, the knight has the possibility to attack squares the queen cannot, which can sometimes be necessary to win material or force checkmate.

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Isn't your second one also an example of #3? White's laying a little trap; hxg1=Q is stalemate, so if Black wants to capture the rook he has to underpromote... (obviously h1=Q+ wins too, but Black comes out further ahead on material with the underpromotion). –  Steven Stadnicki Feb 27 '12 at 20:19
    
@Steven: Yes you're correct - cripes, I didn't even notice that!! I've edited that into my answer. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Feb 27 '12 at 20:49
    
Thanks, this answer is great! In the second example I'm not sure I would have spotted the stalemate (but then again I'm not a grandmaster!) –  tttppp Feb 28 '12 at 18:12
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@Steven h1=Q+ would not "obviously" have won, because it is illegal. –  RoundTower Jun 17 '12 at 18:42

I have seen situations where under-promotion to a rook or bishop has been a key move to prevent a stalemate. Without going into two much detail, its possible for the opponent to place his King in a place whereby your pawn being promoted stalemates him, but an under-promotion to a rook or a bishop leaves a square unthreatened for the opponent's king to move into. Unfortunately, the situations I've seen where in semi-casual or academic play, and I have no citations involving players of note or repute in these scenarios.

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