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.