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Rook and Pawn vs. Rook

User Rating: / 6
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 07 August 2013

By GM Lars Bo Hansen, PhD, MBA

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Paradoxically, endgame positions with very limited material are often just as hard to play as complicated middlegames with plenty of pieces hanging around the board. Take the deceptively simple constellation of Rook and Pawn vs. Rook, for example. The theory of this type of technical endgame is well developed and has even been verified by the so-called tablebases. But at the board, in the heat of the battle and with time running out, it is not easy to stay on track. Even world-class endgame virtuosos like Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, or Boris Gelfand have slipped up in such endgames in recent years.

The question is how to study technical endgames? There are a number of very good endgame manuals on the market and I certainly recommend a thorough study of one or more of these. But it is a time-consuming endeavor and to help mitigate the practical issue of time I have recently published a Survival Guide to Rook and Pawn vs. Rook in my What Would a GM Do e-lesson series. In this Survival Guide, I provide a shortcut to understanding this type of endgames by outlining the ten in my experience most critical principles for Rook and Pawn vs. Rook. Knowing these ten principles can help you gain many extra half points.

Two top-level Grandmaster games from the past few days show examples of this. In Vachier-Lagraeve Nepomniachtchi from the tournament in Biel, White faced a critical decision on move 57. Should he liquidate to a Rook and f-pawn vs. Rook endgame or not?

Knowing the principles of Rule of Five and Horizontal Barrier, Vachier-Lagraeve made the right choice he went for it and brought home the point by applying these principles.

Replay the game

In Caruana Meier from the tournament in Dortmund we see an even more striking example of how knowledge of the fundamental principles can help you survive a critical position. On move 46, Georg Meier played a fantastic, counterintuitive defensive move 46Rc8! rather than the obvious 46Kxg4 which would very likely have lost.

Thats because Meier knows that in Rule of Five positions, the rook needs to have sufficient checking distance from the back rank. This helped him save a draw against the number three rated player in the World. In the resulting race it was vital for Black to be able to liquidate all Whites pawns, and by 46Rc8! and 50Rc8! he ensured that would happen as the White rook had to leave the protection of the f6-pawn.

Replay the game

Related materials:
Thinking in schemes
Does the "Draw with Black, Win with White" approach work anymore?
Boris Gelfand & maintaining a strong center
How to react to a chess novelty
A lesson from the Ukrainian Chess Champion
Carlsen-Anand @ Tal Memorial
Strategy of Restriction

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 10 August 2013 )
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