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?

  • 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 May 23 '12 at 16:36
  • See this Chess Stack Exchange question: What are some examples of promoting a pawn to a rook or bishop? – Glorfindel May 22 at 9:33

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:


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)


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
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    Link for the first game: chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1135506 Link for the second game: chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1368406 – SQB Aug 14 '14 at 13:04

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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Tim Krabbé compiled a list of over 40 serious examples of promotion to rook and bishop, including some seen in the top answers.

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    Welcome to Board & Card Games! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. – Glorfindel Jun 13 at 16:34
  • This mentions the possibility of underpromoting to create uncertainty on the board, something I haven't seen mentioned before: "Had he played h1Q+ or h1R, White would have had to capture, but now he had to think". It would be great to update this answer with a summary of that page and some examples. – tttppp Jun 14 at 21:21

If you have a winning position but you are running out of time, then you'll want to be able to deliver checkmate without having to think for too long about each move. In these situations a rook can be safer than a queen because you are less likely to accidentally put your opponent in stalemate, even if you could have delivered mate with a queen had you more time to think about your moves. For this reason I have seen blitz games at lower levels where the winning player promotes to rook to safely finish it off. But I'm not aware of this having been done at master level or in slow games.

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enter image description here If black move and selects Q then it's stalemate.

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  • And also a checkmate next step if you chose a rook. – Jack Marvel Jul 14 '18 at 16:31
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    This does no provide an answer to the question. The asker stated in the question that they're aware of the possibility of using this to avoid a stalemate; they wanted to know about real games where it has happened; or other reasons it might happen. – GendoIkari Jul 15 '18 at 19:52

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