rook miracle 2

Endgame Fundamentals: Rook Miracles

By Donny Gray

It has always been said that endings between two equal players will most likely be rook endings, so if you can learn the in’s and out’s of rooks and pawns, you will most likely improve.

But instead of us looking at the normal rook and pawns vs rook and pawns, I want to explore just rook vs pawns.  Not as common, but very important in your chess training.  On to the examples!!

Example #1

endgame 1

Here many students claim that it is a draw, as the black pawn is just too far advanced.  All they see is sacrificing the rook for the pawn to secure the draw.  And if white fools around, he will indeed draw the game.  All it takes is the wrong first move and the game is a draw.  For example:

1.Ra1?    Kf5

And now it is a dead draw.  Even Rybka cannot win.

2.Kb7        g3
3.Kc6        Kf4
4.Kd5        g2
5.Kd4        Kf3
6.Kd3        Kf2
7.Ra2+      Kf3

However, white wins with correct play!


White makes sure that the black king cannot help the pawn by cutting him off on the 5th rank.  Black has two ways to continue here.  Black’s first try involves pushing the g pawn.  Whether he does that now or later, however, the rook catches it with ease.

1. …        g3
2.Ra3     g2
And white wins

Another try would be shuffling his king back and forth.  But this just allows white to bring in his king

1.Ra5!        Kb6
2.Kb7        Kf6
3.Kc6        Kg6

Note: if black strays too far from his pawn, he loses immediately.  For example, if here Ke6 white just plays Rg5

4.Rc5        Kf6
5.Kd6        Kg6
6.Kf4        Kh4

In the next example, note that with just a little thought we can see that sometimes it is very easy to see the win.  Just keep the black king’s options to just one move.

Example #2

endgame 2


Black’s king has but one move here, and on each of the following moves.  All forced!

…          Ka1
2.Rb1+    Ka2
3.Rb3      Ka1

Nice.  But not all rook vs pawns are so easy.  In the next example, it may seem impossible to win, much less salvage a draw.

Example #3

endgame 3

It is well known that two connected passed pawns on the 6th rank equal a rook.  Here black is almost there.  How in the world can white win?

First lets see how quickly things can go bad here for white.

1.Re1         f3
2.Ke6        g3
3.Rf1         Kf4
4.d4          g2
5.Rg1        Kg3
6.d5          f2
7.Rg2+    Kg2
8.d6         f1-Q

And black wins no matter what he does now.

MUCH better is…


Many times in these types of positions, if you can check and attack one of the pawns at the same time you gain a valuable tempo.

…     Kh4

Once the white king can come close to the pawns, black is in big trouble

…           f3
3.Kf5        Kh3

Of course not g3 as 4.Rh8 is mate

4.Rg4        f2
5.Rf4        Kg2
6.d4          f1-Q
7.Rf1         Kf1

And white queens!

The side with the rook does not always win.  Sometimes the pawn wins the day.  In probably the most famous position of a rook vs a pawn is called the Saavedra Position.  It is named after the Spanish priest Rev. Fernando Saavedra (1849–1922), who while living in Glasgow in the late 19th century, spotted a win in a position previously thought to have been a draw. The solution is a famous example of an under-promotion, that is the promotion of a pawn to something other than a queen.

Example #4

endgame 4

1. c7        Rd6+

Only way to win.  If…

2.Kc5?  then Rc1 and black will pick off the new queen.


2.Kb7?    then Rd7 pins the pawn and kills it next move.

So after…

2.Kb5!!    Rd5+
3.Kb4       Rd4+
4.Kb3       Rd3+
5.Kc2       And it looks like black should call it a day.  However, he has one last trick!

…          Rd4!

Now, if white hurries to queen…

6.c8-Q?    Rc4+!

Forcing a stalemate!!!

But white has a miracle move to avoid the stalemate:

6.c8-R!!    Now Rc4+ just loses the rook for nothing.

Ra4 what else?

7.Kb3!!    Resigns.

Black will either be mated or lose the rook.  Fantastic!

But if you think this was a fantastic ending, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  In the next example, it truly must be a miracle.

Example #5

endgame 5

I found this amazing position in the book, Endgame Tactics, by Van Perlo.  This is the position that occurred in a simultaneous in London in the year 1973.  The players were Lukek Pachman vs Gerard Welling.  White must have thought that with the extra pawns, and one about to queen, he had the game in the bag.  But watch how black wins with a miracle!!

1.  …          Rc7+
2.Kg8       Rc8+
3.Kg7        Rh8!!!

Unbelievable!!  This forces a win!!

4.Kh8        Kf7

Now we see the point to this rook sacrifice.  White’s king has no moves, so he must commit suicide.

5. b4        ab
6. Resigns

Now to be sure, let’s see what happens if white does not take the rook.

4.h3        Ke7
5.h4        Ke8
6.h5        Ke7
7.h6        Ke8
8.Kf6      Rh7
9.Kg6     Rh8!

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