Here’s the conclusion of an online rapidplay game I played recently which resulted in an exciting rook ending with fluctuating fortunes. I lost it in the end, but really should have won it on two occasions.

If you follow this lesson you can learn to play rook endings better than me (and my opponent)!

We’ll pick up the game with my opponent, playing White, about to play his 40th move.

White’s a pawn ahead and has two connected passed pawns on the queenside, with his king on hand to provide support. I’ve been desperately trying to find some counterplay with my rook.

There are three winning moves here according to Stockfish: 40. b4!, 40. a5! and 40. Rc1!?. White’s plan should be to forget about everything else and just push the b-pawn as quickly as possible. You might want to make a comparison with this ending.

But the game continued:

40. g3? Rxf2
41. gxh4+?

Now Black also has some dangerous passed pawns. The two drawing moves were 41. b4! and 41. a5!. There’s no time to lose.

41.. Kxh4
42. a5 Ra2?

I’d remembered that Rooks Belong Behind Passed Pawns (RBPP), but again I should have pushed my passed pawn instead. I had a choice of principles to follow but chose the wrong one! 42.. f4! was the winning move.

43. b4 e4
44. Kb3 Rf2?

The wrong way: I should have kept my rook behind the a-pawn. 44.. Ra1 45. Kb2 Ra4 46. Kb4 would be a logical draw by repetition.

45. a6! Rf1

46. Kc4??

The clearest winning moves were 46. Kb2! and 46. Ka2!, to stop me getting my rook back in place. 46. b5!? and 46. Re3!? were the other two winning moves. This move, however, converts a winning position into a losing position.

46.. Ra1!

Now Black should be winning.

47. b5 f4!

This move should win: all other moves should lose.

48. Kd4 f3??

A ridiculous blunder caused by a combination of time shortage and panic. Either 48.. e3! or 48.. f4! should win.

49. Kxe4! f2

50. Rf3!

The only winning move: everything else loses.

50.. f1Q
51. Rxf1 Rxf1

We were both aware that, in the absence of kings, two connected pawns on the sixth rank beat a rook.

52. b6 f5+
53. Ke5 Ra1
54. b7 Rxa6
55. b8Q

KQ v KR can often be tricky but this is perhaps one of the easier positions. Needless to say, I blundered my rook a few moves later.

Some important rook ending lessons here for less experienced players:

  1. Passed Pawns should be Pushed
  2. Rooks Belong Behind Passed Pawns
  3. In the absence of kings, two connected pawns on the 6th rank beat a rook
  4. In the immortal words of Lance-Corporal Jones: Don’t Panic!

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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