The Lucena Position

By Donny Gray

The Lucena position is one of the most famous and important rook endings that exists in chess. If the side with the pawn can reach this type of position, he can forcibly win the game. The position is named after the Spaniard Luis Ramirez de Lucena, although he did not analyze it or publish it! He did, however, publish the first existing chess book!

Here is a page out of his book published in 1497, Repetition of Love and the Art of Playing Chess.

The Lucena position can be with any of the pawns except the a & h pawns.  It is with this study that we get the chess term “building a bridge.” The position is where white has gotten a pawn to the 7th rank, but his own king is in the way of queening and if he gets out of the way he is checked by the black rook. There are alternative ways to win this position but the “bridge” method is the most famous.

Here is the Lucena position. As you can see the white king cannot get out of the way of his own pawn. The black king and rook see to that. Let’s first take a look at how most students try to win this.

1.Rf1+ Kg6   2.Ke7 Re6+ 3.Kd6 Rd3+ 4.Kc2 Rc3+ and around and around we go. They just can’t seem to be able to be free of the checks.

Now let’s take a look at alternative ways to win this position besides “building a bridge.” It is good to know more than one way to win this.

1.Ra1  Rc2   2.Ra8  Rc3   3.Rc8  Ra3   4.Kc7


1.Ra1 Kf6   2.Ra8 Rh3   3.Kc7 Rh7 4.Kd6

In both cases black cannot stop white from queening. There are countless other ways black can try to stop the pawn from queening but this method is unstoppable.

Now for the famous “building the bridge.”

1.Rf1+ Kg6 (If black plays Ke6? here the win is simple with 2.Ke8)
2.Rf4!  Rc1 3.Ke7 Re1+ 4.Kd6 Rd1+ 5.Ke6 Re1+ 6.Kd5 Rd1+ 7.Rd4
And white will queen.