Category Archives: Endgame Tactics

Chess Endgame Tactics: Handling Rook and Pawn endings

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We have discussed at length about basic chess endings with Rook and Pawn as also some special techniques for handling a few typical situations. We also said that with Rooks present, a majority of one or two pawns often do not yield much benefit and such chess endgames are more likely to result in a draw, especially if the pawns are on the same side with their Kings close at hand.

But that is only a general observation. In this article we go through the lengthy process of playing through such a situation where White thought that exact play could give him a win with his single pawn majority if he could get a passed and protected KP.

Rook and Pawn ending with multiple pawns

At first sight, there does not seem to be much prospect of a win for White, so let us see what exactly was in his mind! We can of course see that White King cannot advance now without losing the BP.

1. Rb6 Ra2   White’s move blocked Black King’s support to his KBP.
2. Rd6 Rb2   Black is shuttling his Rook on rank 2 as ‘wait and watch’ policy while preventing White King from moving forward
3. Kg2 Ra2   3. Kg3 f4+ 4. Kxf4 Rxf2+ loses a pawn for White or 3. Kg3 f4+ 4. exf4 doubles the pawns effectively giving White BP and RP against Black’s RP which is a technical draw
4. h4 Ra4  
5. Rd4 Ra6   Other options are worse for Black e.g.,
5. … Ra2 6. Kg3 Kf6 7. Rb4 Ke5 8. Rb7 f4+ 9. Kf3
5. … Ra2 6. Kg3 Re2 7. Rb4 Kf6 8. Rb6+ Kf7 9. h5 Kg7 10. Rb7+ Kh6 11. Rf7 Kg5 12. f4+ Kh6 13. Kf3 wins as Black K is out of position and both Black R and BP are en prise
6. Kg3 Kf6  
7. Kf4 h6  
8. h5 Rb6  
9. f3 Ra6   Black R cannot leave rank 6 for fear of check by White R
10. Rb4 Rc6  
11. Rb7 Rc4+   White was threatening 12. Rh7 followed by 13. Rxh6
12. e4 fxe4  
13. fxe4 Rc5   Whie has got his passed KP. Black could possibly try Rc1 here instead of waiting till move 16
14. Rb6+ Kg7  
15. Rg6+ Kh7   Black’s only move to save his RP. If White had a passed KBP rather than KP, Black could have saved the game.
16. e5 Rc1  
17. e6 Rh1  
18. Rg3 Rh4+   18. … Rxh5 19. e7 wins for White
18. … Re1 19. Re3 Rf1+ 20. Ke5 Rf8 21. e7 Re8 22. Ke6 Kg1 23. Kd7 Kf7 24. Rf3+ followed by 25. Kxe8
19. Rg4 Rh1  
20. Kf5 Rxh5+  
21. Kf6 Rh1  
22. e7 Re1   22. … Rf1+ 23. Ke5 Re1+ 24. Re4
23. Rg7+ Kh8  
24. Rf7 Rf1+  
25. Kg6   Black is helpless.
25. … Rg1+ 26. Kh5 Rg8 27. Rf8 Kg7 28. Rxg8+ Kxg8 29. e8=Q+
Alternatively, Black R can continue giving check while the White K keep moving in zig-zag fashion between g-file and h-file till it reaches rank 2 (g6-h5-g4-h3-g2) after which Black runs out of check and White KP gets promoted.


Chess Endgame Tactics: Basic Rook and Pawn endings

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In basic Rook and Pawn chess endings, as shown in following diagrams, White has a Rook and Pawn against only Rook for Black. White’s plan is to find ways to promote his Pawn with the help of his Rook while Black will use his Rook to try to stop that promotion.

Basic positions in Rook and Pawn endings

In position 1, the White Pawn cannot advance without getting captured. The White Rook cannot leave the seventh rank for the same reason. But the Black Rook is free to move up and down that file and still retain its hold on the Pawn.

In position 2 also, the White Rook cannot leave the seventh rank but White can now play Rf7 and Black Rook is unable to leave its position. If Black Rook moves along the rank, White will play Rf8 followed by g8=Q or gxf8=Q depending on Black Rook’s move.

The White Rook is badly placed in both these positions. But in position 3, the White Rook is able to move along the file and the Black Rook is tied to its position. If the White King can reach the Pawn first, Black will lose the Rook or the Pawn will get promoted. But if the Black King can do that, the Pawn will get captured. For the same reasons, Black’s position gets much better in position 4.

It should be clear that the Rook is best placed behind the pawn whether the Pawn belongs to you or not.

If we now examine the following position, we see how the promotion check can be effected or prevented.

Basic Rook and Pawn endings for promotion check

Here the White Rook cannot leave its position without allowing the Pawn capture by Black Rook. But to force White Rook to remain immobile, Black King itself is forced to shuttle between a7 and b7 squares only. If the King ventures to rank 6, White can immediately give check and promote the Pawn on next move. If the Black King remains on rank 7 but moves to c7, White will play Ra8! If Black Rook captures the Pawn, White’s move Ra7+ captures the Black Rook. Any other move by Black will allow White to promote the Pawn. In this type of situation, both the above two possibilities are to be considered when trying to move the King along a rank or file.

The rule that needs to be remembered in chess endings with Rook and Pawn against Rook is that if the defending King can reach the promotion square, it is a draw. If this can be prevented, the Pawn will get promoted. The exception is when the Pawn is on the Rook file because even if the attacking King reaches the promotion square. The defending Rook on Rank 7 or defending King in opposition or continuous check by defending Rook can prevent the Pawn promotion. It is extremely difficult to promote Rook’s Pawn because of the above and a draw is the most likely result.

We have shown in Chess Endgame Tactics for Rook and Pawn endings that a Rook alone cannot stop the promotion of one of the two connected passed Pawns when both have reached the sixth rank. But even a single Pawn in contact with its King, if able to advance to rank 4 or beyond, will draw against a Rook provided the enemy King cannot come to the support of its Rook. This will be clear from the following diagram.

Basic Rook and Pawn endings with Rook and Pawn against Rook

Though White Pawn has reached rank 4, White King has not. In this position with Black to play, Black would win as shown below.

1. Rh4  
2. a5 Kb1  
3. a6 Kc1  
4. a7 Rh8  
5. Kb4 Ra8  
6. Kb5 Rxa7   wins for Black


It can be seen that if the White King were one more step ahead, it would be supporting the Pawn preventing the capture by Black Rook. Having the first move, White would play Kb4 bringing both the King and Pawn to the 4th rank, and the end result would be a draw.

Chess Endgame Tactics: Rook and Pawn endings – Part 3

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In Endgame Tactics for Rook and Pawn endings Part 2, we averred that the Lucena maneuver does not work if the Pawn is on a Rook file as shown below.

Rook and Pawn ending type 5

1. Rg4 Rf2   White Rook is unable to deliver check to drive Black King away


Other alternatives also do not work e.g.

1. Rf1+ Ke7   If White Rook next tries to go to g-file, Black King goes back to original position
2. Kg7 Rg2+   2. Rf4 Rg2 does not help
3. Kh6 Rh2+  
4. Kg6 Rg2+   and it goes nowhere


The reason it works for Pawn on b-file to g-file as shown in Chess Endgame Tactics for Rook and Pawn endings Part 2 is that the White King can come out on either side of the Pawn. One side is blocked by Black Rook, other side by Black King. When White Rook drives away the Black King, the Black Rook cannot guard both sides simultaneously.

But with Pawn on a-file or h-file, White King can come out only one way, so either of Black King or Black Rook can guard against White King’s escape.

To win with Pawn on Rook file, there has to be a gap of 4 files between the Pawn and the Black King when the Black Rook is guarding the file next to Rook file as shown in following diagram. So when the White Rook is brought to drive away the Black Rook guarding the Knight file, the Black King is still too far away to take up the blocking position against White King.

Rook and Pawn ending type 6

The sequence of moves with most resistance by Black will be as follows. (To improve your understanding, you can work out the results of other variations to experience how incorrect moves can take away your win).

1. Ra1 Kd7  
2. Ra8 Ke6  
3. Rg8 Rh2  
4. Kg7 Rg2+  
5. Kf8 Rf2+  
6. Ke8 Ra2   Black threatens checkmate on next move
7. Rg6+ Kf5  
8. Rf6+ Kg5   7. … Kxf6 8. h8=Q+ wins
9. Rf8 Ra8+  
10. Kf7 Ra7+  
11. Kg8   wins for White


In the next part, we will examine the chess tactics for Philidor position that gives an endgame with Rook and a Pawn against Rook and gives a draw to the defending side with careful play.


Chess Endgame Tactics: Rook and Pawn endings – Part 2

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In Part 1, you have seen some basic Rook and Pawn endings and how to tackle them. In this part, we will examine some more patterns.

A very well-established winning position in Rook and Pawn endings is known as Lucena position, supposedly taking its name from a Spanish chess writer of 15th century.

Rook and Pawn ending type 4

The Lucena position covers all such situations (or their mirror images) with the pawn on any file except the Rook’s file (a-file and h-file) and White having the first move.

In order to win, White has to tackle following problems:

  • White King has to come out to allow the pawn to promote
  • once out, it will have to get a respite from Black Rook’s check for White to get a chance to move his pawn
  • White King has to remain in touch with the passed pawn to prevent its capture by Rook
  • Black King must be prevented from approaching the queening square
  • A very precise set of moves is necessary for White to solve the problems and promote his pawn as shown below.

    1. Rf4 Rh1   Black’s other options result in following:
    1. … Ke7 2. Re4+ Kf6 3. Kf8 wins
    1. … Re2 (to prevent White Rook’s check) 2. Rh4 with 3. Kh8 to follow will also win
    2. Re4+ Kd7  
    3. Kf7 Rf1+  
    4. Kg6 Rg1+  
    5. Kf6 Rf1+   For any other move of Black Rook, White plays 6. Re5 followed by 7. Rg5 allowing White King to take shelter at g6
    Other options:
    5. … Kd6 6. Rd4+ Kc6 7. Rd8 Rf1+ 8. Ke5 Re1+ 9. Kf4 Rf1+ 10. Ke3 Re1+ 11. Kf2 ends further checks
    6. Kg5 Rg1+  
    7. Rg4   White King gets shelter from checks and the Pawn gets promoted on next move


    These moves by White King and Rook to reach the final position was described as “building the bridge” by GM Nimzowitsch, also known as Nimzovich (1886-1935), a great chess theoretician of his times.

    The White Rook’s move precisely to f4 is important. It is close enough to provide shelter to the King at the appropriate time while remaining far enough from the reach of Black King. For example, if White played 1. Rf5, the sequence of moves would be:

    1. Rf5 Ke7  
    2. Re5+ Kd6   2. … Kf6 3. Kf8 Rg2 4. Re7 Rg1 5. Rf7+ will win for White
    3. Kf7 Rf2+  
    4. Kg6 Kxe5  
    5. g8=Q Rg2+  
    6. Kf7 Rxg8  
    7. Kxg8   Drawn


    In Part 3, we will see why the Lucena maneuver does not work when the Pawn is on Rook file.

Chess Endgame Tactics: Rook and Pawn endings – Part 1

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All is well that ends well is probably at its truest in case of chess endgames! The endgame is the phase where the amateurs are at greatest disadvantage against experienced opponents. They are often at a loss on how to move or position their few pieces and pawns, with the result that they lose or draw games that should have been won.

We have discussed about the general principles of the endgame tactics that should be adopted in different kinds of endings though these were for King and other pieces against a lone King. But amongst the endgame situations that occur in chess games, Rook and Pawn endings are by far the most common and so you should learn the specific tactics that will help you in handling different types of such endings effectively.

In fact, knowing these patterns is helpful for deciding on your action plans. If you know that the situation is favorable, you will persevere to get the win. But if the position is a theoretical draw, you can settle with your opponent without wasting time and effort.

The knowledge of such patterns also helps you to decide on your strategy even before entering the endgame phase. Depending on the chessboard situation, you can exchange and/or move pieces and pawns to reach the pattern that is best possible for you.

Let us now examine some basic positions in Rook and Pawn endings. One fundamental tenet is that a Rook is helpless against two connected passed pawns that have reached the sixth rank.

White to move and win:

Rook and Pawn ending type 1

  1. g7 Rc8    
  2. f7 Rb8+    
  3. Ka6 Kc6    
  4. g8=Q      

In the following position, White will win no matter who has the first move. Check for yourself.

Rook and Pawn ending type 2

But had the Black King been ahead of the pawns to cooperate with his Rook, both White pawns would be captured and Black would win.

Let us now look at King, Rook and Pawn against King and Rook. There are various possibilities.

Rook and Pawn ending type 3

We remind you again about what we said on Chess Strategies for positioning your Rook with reference to your passed pawn. Rook behind your Pawn adds power to it, Rook in front of it makes both immobile. The above is a typical situation which results in a draw. The White Rook cannot come out as the Pawn will get captured. If White King tries to go towards its Pawn, it will not get any shelter against Black Rook’s checks!

But Black has to ensure that the King remains on the seventh rank. If it were on, say, the sixth rank, White Rook would gain a tempo by delivering a check, and the Pawn gets promoted on the next move. Black will lose his Rook against the promoted Queen and White King and Rook will win against the lone King.

Even on the seventh rank, Black King must not stray beyond one square from the edge. See what happens otherwise.

1. Kg2 Kg7
2. Kf2 Kf7
3. Rh8 Rxa7
4. Rh7+ skewers the Rook and wins the game

The presence of other pawns on the board may sometimes mask the position containing above theme. If you can identify it and can make your pawn moves, even sacrificing those as necessary, in such a way that the enemy King is exposed and forced to move to the sixth rank or two squares away from the edge, you can apply above tactics to capture the Rook. Of course, you should be sure that the result of exchanges will not allow your opponent to get one of his pawns to reach position of promotion!

In Endgame Tactics for Rook and Pawn Endings Part 2, we will discuss some more endgames with Rook and Pawn.