Suicide Rook

Endgame Fundamentals: Suicide Rook

By Donny Gray

Many times, just when you think you have a won game, something horrible happens.  While there are countless bad things that can ruin your day on the chess board, today I want to take a look at the dreaded and heartbreaking Suicide Rook.

If you have ever been a victim of the beast that is the Suicide Rook, you know what I am talking about.  If you don’t, then it is good to know about them for two reasons:

1.  You need to know how to avoid them when winning

2.  You need to know how to inflict this on some unsuspecting soul right before he checkmates you!

On to the examples!

The most basic of all suicide rook positions looks something similar to our first position.




No matter whose move it is, this is a draw due to the suicide rook. Let’s take a look at it if it is black’s turn here.

1. ….        a3

What else?  He must try to get a queen.  But white has two ways to draw here.

2. Rg2+ and next move just take the pawn


2. Ra8 and next move either take the pawn if it is still on a2 or take it if it has turned into a queen

Either way, draw.

In our 2nd example, it is a bit more complicated.




Here it is black’s turn.  In fact, you may wonder why white does not just go ahead and resign and slink away before anyone sees the position.  But, white has one devastating trick up his sleeve if black plays carelessly. For example, if black plays

1. ….       Rc2??

The game is a dead draw!!!

2. Rh4+!

Now no matter what black does, it is a draw.


2. ….      Ka3

3. Ra4+!!  Suicide Rook.  Black is forced to take the rook and when he does it is stalemate!

Another try might go like:

2.Rh4+!       Kb5
3.Rb4+        Kc5
4.Rb5+        Kc4
5.Rc5+         Kd3
6.Rd5+        Ke2
7.Re5+         Kd1
8.Re1+         Kd2
9.Re2+        Draw

Black’s king can never take the rook nor get away from the pesky checks.  Draw.

If we go back to the position, we see that black can win easily with the following:

1. ….        Ka3

The threat is the powerful b2-Mate which cannot be stopped .

2.Rb1        Rc1!
3.Rc1        b2-Mate

In our next example, the Suicide Rook again saves the day and forces a draw.




In this example, it does not matter whose move it is, the Suicide Rook saves white from losing.  If it is black’s turn, his new queen on a1 will be taken immediately with the rook.  If it is white’s turn he has 2 ways to draw.

The boring way:

1.Rg1        a1-Q
2.Ra1        Ka1


The spectacular way:

1.Ra1!!    Ka1


Many times you may have the Suicide Rook, but it just is not quite good enough to draw.




White has a win here, but can go wrong very easily:

1.Bc6?        Ra6

And white will never win as black’s king will never move off the queening square of the pawn.

Another try that is wrong would be:

1. a7+           Kb7
2. Bc6+        Kb6
3. a8-Q        Ra8
4. Ba8

Draw.  You cannot mate with a bishop.

Now for the correct way to win by avoiding the Suicide Rook:

1. a7+              Kb7
2. a8-Q+ !!     Ka8
3. Kc7!

The point!  By controlling the queening square of the b pawn, white wins.

3. ….           Rc1+
4. Bc6+      Rc6+
5. Kc6        Kb8
6. b7           Ka7
7. Kc7 and wins

In our last example, it appears that the Suicide Rook will be able to force a draw.  And if white is careless, it will succeed.




1. c7        Rc1

So far so good.  White must queen or it is a draw.  Black must kill the c pawn or he loses.

2. Bc6        Rd1+

Black now must try to check forever, as any other idea loses to c1-Q.

3. Kc8?

This gets out of the checks, but now his c pawn cannot queen.

3. ….        Rc1
4. Kd7

Right back where we started.

White could try to go after the rook to get rid of the checks.  This would work except for a sneaky trick black has.

1. c7           Rc1
2. Bc6        Rd1+
3. Ke6        Re1+
4. Kd5        Rd1+
5. Ke4        Re1+
6. Kd3        Re8!!

The threat is to just play Rc8 and then take the pawn.

7. Be8        Kb7

And the pawn is dead.  Draw.

Now let’s take a look at how to defeat the Suicide Rook in this position:

1. c7            Rc1
2. Bc6        Rd1+
3. Ke7        Re1+
4. Kf7        Rf1+
5. Kg7        Rg1+
6. Kh7

White has found the only place where black cannot check him anymore.  By coming to h7 along the 7th rank he has also stopped black from ever playing his rook to the 8th rank stopping the c pawn.  Black is busted now in just a few more moves.

6. ….          Rc1
7. c8-Q+    Kb6
8. Qb7+     Kc5
9. Qb5+     Kd4
10. Qb2+   Rc3
11. Bb5

And black loses his rook on the next move.


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