Lucky Lucena

I was looking through some of the games played in last weekend’s 4NCL congress when I came across this rook ending. It was played in Round 2 between Julian Cast (2015) and Arjun Pyda (1780).

We’ll pick up the game after White’s 56th move.

With his active king, Black has what should be a winning advantage here. There’s no need to rush, but 56.. e4, for instance, would be strong.

Instead, Black became impatient, playing…

56… d4?

Releasing the tension here only helps White by activating his rook.

57.  cxd4 exd4
58. Re7 g6

Now the white rook can attack Black’s weak pawns. 59. Rf7+ should hold, but instead he allowed a skewer.

59. Kc2? Ra2+
60. Kd3 Rxf2
61. Kxd4

Now Black has one winning move: Rd2+, driving the king further away before going after the white pawns. By now both players should be asking Lucy for advice: thinking about the Lucena Position.

61.. Rh2?
62. Re4+!

The only move to draw.

62.. Kg3
63. Re5 Kh4
64. Re6?

Now Black’s winning again. 64. Ke3 was the only move to draw: White needs to get back with his king before Black cuts him off.

64.. Rxh3
65. Rxg6 Kxg4

Reaching a position with RP v R, where Black is winning because the white king is cut off.

66. Ke4 Rh1
67. Ke3

Now Black has a choice of two winning moves. He can cut the king off vertically with Rf1 or horizontally with Rh2.

67.. Re1+?

Now the position’s drawn again.

68. Kf2 Ra1
69. Rg8 Ra2+
70. Kf1 Kf4

White has only one move to hold the draw here: 71. Kg1!, reaching the promotion square safely, when he can ask Phil (the Philidor Position) how to continue.

71. Rf8+? Kg3

Now it’s too late to reach g1 without getting mated. Black can head for the Lucena position. It’s clear from the remainder of the game that he now knows exactly what to do.

72. Rh8 g4
73. Rb8 Ra1+
74. Ke2 Kg2
75. Ke3 Rf1
76. Rh8 g3
77. Ke2 Rf5

Occupying the fourth rank and preparing to ‘build a bridge’.

78. Rh4 Re5+
79. Kd3 Kg1
80. Kd2 g2
81. Rh7 Kf2
82. Rf7+ Kg3
83. Rg7+ Kf3
84. Rf7+ Kg4


A lot of missed opportunities but would you have done better, playing on an increment? I’m sure I wouldn’t have done.

So I’m not going to criticise the players in this game – far from it. Chess is hard. Instead I’m going to thank them both for their part in an instructive ending, and congratulate Black for correctly using his knowledge of the Lucena Position to bring home the full point.

My view is that amateurs will often learn more from games played at their level where typical mistakes are made than from grandmaster games which are conducted perfectly.

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 ( or 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, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through View all posts by Richard James

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