Practical Rook Endgames

Rook Endgame is the most common type of Endgame and one of the more complex one. There are many nuances – activity of the rook, king’s position, pawn structure that can easily distort what seems to be a clear picture. 

Today, I’d like to show an example from the very recent game that my student has played at the HB Global Chess Challenge.

It is in the Q&A format. Take it seriously and see if you can find the right answers.

Z.D – J.G

HB Global Chess Challenge (7), 21.05.2005

 Black to move

 How would you evaluate this position? What would you play? Spend 5-15 minutes.

STOP!! Answer is below!
White has extra pawn, Black has better pawn structure – just count the “pawn islands”. Black has 2 and White has 4. The position is dynamically equal. 

Black’s strategy should be trying to start harassing White’s weaknesses ASAP. Otherwise, White could bring his K towards the center to help with the defense. Also, Black should consider getting his King to e7. White’s strategy is consolidating defense of weak pawns, getting K towards the center and trading both rooks. Another important idea for White is to trade some of his weak pawns. 

Move-candidates – two moves to consider. One seems to lead to draw almost immediately - 24...Rxd4 25.exd4 Rd8 26.Rd1 Rc8 27.Rc1 Rd8 28. Rd1 Draw. White can only get in trouble if he tries 28.c5 as Black can win the pawn d4 and then come back with the rook, stop pawn c, bring the K and win it. 

Another idea is to try for more than Draw and play 24…Rc8, hoping for the following line: 25.Rc1 Rc7 (defending 7th rank from Rd7) 26.Kg2 R8c8 and 27... b5. But after 27.a4, White can defend the pawns and is not at risk at all. He could also try some other moves earlier – like 25.Rd7 – utilizing strategy of trading weak pawns (c4 for a7 or b6) 

Correct answer: Position is Equal/Draw. Best move – 24…Rxd4. 


In the game – Black didn’t take on d4 and proceeded with Rc8 plan. Eventually, the game arrived to the following position. 

Black to Move

How do you evaluate position now? What is the best move? Spend 5-15 minutes.
STOP!! Answer is below!

Well, White managed to consolidate and clearly is not at risk. Black should play carefully and Draw is the likely outcome.
White’s strategy is not obvious. He can try to win Pawn b5, but it is not likely. He can try bringing K to Q-side, but it is dangerous – K-side Pawns will start falling like ripe apples. Advancing pawns e and f also doesn’t look promising. 

Black’s strategy – well, since he is defending, he should be more reactive than active. Since we can’t identify White’s strategy, it is better to sit tight and prepare for whatever White will choose.


Move-candidates – aggressive moves are wrong and penalized.32…Ra4?? 33. Rxa4 bxa 34.e4 and having an extra pawn in the endgame, White should win without any trouble. 32. …b4?? 33. Ra4 and White manages to win the b-pawn without losing his a-pawn. “Normal” 32…Kf6 - advancing the King, is OK, but not the best as Black K can’t advance any further. Partial credit. 
I like to improve Black Rook. After 32…Rc2 Black is tying White K to the pawn f2 and also can shift it to a2 or b2. 

Correct answer: White has small advantage, but Draw is likely. Best move – 32…Rc2. 


The game continues - 32…Kf6 33.Ra4 


Black to Move

How do you evaluate position now? What is the best move? Spend 5-15 minutes.

STOP!! Answer is below!

Here evaluation should be secondary to the move as Black has to address the threat 34.Rxb5. If he looses the pawn, the Draw will be difficult to obtain.
Once again, bad moves are 33….Ra4 34.Rxa4; 33…b4 34.Ra4. Also, bad is 33…Rc5 34.a4. The only move is 33…Rc3, however, it is sufficient to save the pawn and maintain the excellent drawing chances. 

Correct answer: White has small advantage, but Draw is likely. Best move – 33…Rc3.

Rate yourself – 5 points for correct evaluation and 5 points for correct move; 2 points for partial credit; bad moves - 1 point penalty. 

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Copyrighted @ 2005 Igor Khmelnitsky

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