A Rook Ending from Kenilworth

Here’s a rook ending from the Chessable English Championships. This is Jacob Watson (1922) – Ian Thompson (2074), and we’ll pick it up after Black’s 66th move.

I’m not going to provide a lot of instruction here: I’m not a strong enough player to understand what’s happening and all my fairly serious chess was played long before endings of this nature became important. But if you want to improve your rook ending skills, you might find it helpful to try and work it out for yourself.

We have on the board the notorious Rfh v R ending, which, as you should know, is often drawn, although it’s not always easy to do so.

The tablebases tell me that this position is indeed drawn with correct play, as long as White finds either Kg2 or Kg1 here. He managed to find one of the drawing moves.

67. Kg2! Ra3
68. Rc4 h3+
69. Kh2!

The only move to draw.

69.. f4
70. Rc8 Kg4
71. Rg8+!

Again the only drawing move.

71.. Kf3
72. Kxh3?

It’s what you’d probably play without thinking if you’re on increments, isn’t it? But it loses! White’s three drawing moves here were Rf8 (rooks belong behind passed pawns), Rc8 and Rb8, but Rd8 and Re8 both lose. The rook either needs to be behind the pawn or far away from the enemy king.

72.. Kf2+?

The one winning move was 72.. Ke2+!, keeping a free path for the f-pawn.

73. Kh2!

The only saving resource.

73.. f3
74. Rb8!

The other way to draw was the sneaky 74. Rg2+ – it’s stalemate if Black captures.

74.. Re3
75. Rb1!

The solitary correct option: White must prevent Kf1.

75.. Re2
76. Rb3?

Alas, White makes a fatal mistake. There were 7 drawing moves here: Rb4/5/6/7/8, Ra1 and Kh3, while the other moves all lost. Now Black makes no mistake.

76.. Kf1+!
77. Kg3 f2
78. Kh2?!

He might have tried 78. Kf3!? Kg1! 79. Kxe2 f1Q+, forcing Black to demonstrate his knowledge of KQ v KR. Now it’s all over.

78.. Re8
79. Rb1+ Ke2
80. Rb2+ Kf3
81. Rb3+ Re3
82. Rb1 Re1
83. Rb3+ Ke4
84. Rb4+ Kd3
85. Rb3+ Kc4 0-1

Chess is a cruel game. While Black undoubtedly deserved to win, White certainly didn’t deserve to lose. It’s very hard even for strong players like these to find the correct move in this sort of ending. Practice is important.

As always, I’d suggest you practise playing out endings of this nature against a training partner, your chess teacher or a computer. When you’ve played one out analyse it yourself, and then check your analysis using engines and tablebases.

A quick update on my posts elsewhere.

I’ve written an article about the little-known Richmond problemist JMK Lupton, which you can read here. There are also a few problems for you to solve.

100 years ago a major international tournament took place in London, won by Capablanca ahead of Alekhine and many other top players. This week’s Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club puzzle is taken from this event.

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website www.minichess.uk, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through www.chessheroes.uk. View all posts by Richard James

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