Pawn Breakthrough

It’s White to play here: would you trade rooks or keep them on the board?

I was Black here in a ‘slow’ rapid game from an internal club online tournament. I’d blundered early on in a Ruy Lopez Schliemann and had been lost most of the game against my young and inexperienced, but talented, opponent. He played for this position, presumably thinking the pawn ending was won: he’d capture my queenside pawns and win on the kingside.

The game continued:

40. Rxd6?

Moving the rook away would have led to a level ending.

40.. Kxd6
41. Kxe4

As we were playing a relatively slow time limit I was able – because I knew the classics – to see the idea here and calculate that it really did work. The immediate 41.. a4 also worked.

41.. gxf5+
42. gxf5 a4!
43. Kd4

43. f6 leads to the same sort of thing

43.. c3!
44. bxc3 b3!
45. axb3 a3!

Although I now have two pawns against four, my a-pawn is going to promote.

Not so hard if you know the 3P v 3P breakthrough: featured in most ending books, including Chess Endings for Heroes.

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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