Today we will look at rook and bishop endgames where the bishops are of opposite color and where one side has a passed pawn. We will explore attacking and defensive strategies by examining three examples. The complexity of the examples increases from the first position to the third. The general rules of placing the rook behind the passed pawn and threats of rook exchange to transfer into opposite colored bishop endgames apply here as well.
White is down a pawn but the advanced pawn on b6 wholly compensates the material disadvantage. If the rooks were taken off the board the game most likely would end in a draw. In the game black made a mistake here and lost on the spot. By just glancing at the position one can come up with the move Rb4. We all know that when there are passed pawns on the board, the ideal position of a rook is behind the passed pawn. Here Rb4 will stop the b6-pawn from advancing to b7 and at the same time prevent the white rook from stepping on the b-file at some point (for example the Rc3-Rb3 maneuver). What black did in the game is logical too, he played Kf8- bringing the king to the centre. However, the activity of the king is not the top priority for black in this position. Stopping the b-pawn is at the top of the list. And not surprisingly that Kf8 turns out to be a blunder.
Advancing a passed pawn is not an easy task when the defender’s rook is behind it. Without the king’s help, white cannot advance the pawn because of the opposite colored bishops. There is also a defensive idea of a rook exchange, when it happens too early and the strong side cannot bring the king to support the pawn in time then the game most likely will end in a draw. In the next example white has to consider these factors. Moreover, as the king walks to help the pawn on the queenside white has to be careful and not lose the pawns on the kingside. In the game before bringing the king to the queenside white places the rook on f4 where it protects the f2-pawn. You can also notice how the pawn on e5 cramps black’s kingside. The pawn e5, Bd6 and Rf4 do not let the black king out.
The next example features an advanced pawn in a rook and bishop endgame but it comes about later on. For now black has to decide whether to trade queens or not. White is up a pawn and the bishop on c3 is out of play which allows white to create an attack on the kingside. Black does not have many weaknesses on the kingside and probably can defend successfully. It seems to me that saving the queens will give black the most drawing chances. If black trades rooks having Q+B material favors the defending side. If white tries to win this endgame by pushing the central or kingside pawns then he will expose the king and with the queens at the board black surely can take advantage of it. On the other side, if the material is R+B then the white king can help the pawn advance without coming under attack. Under no circumstances did black have to allow the creation of a passed pawn in the centre as happened in the game.
Today we looked at the R+B endgames with bishops of opposite colors where one side had a passed pawn. Advancing the passed pawn is not an easy task. It is usually combined with the weakness creation somewhere where the stronger side perpetually threatens to advance the pawn or to use the other weakness. The best defensive chances are when the defending rook is behind the passed pawn as we saw in the second example. Black would have drawn the endgame if he found the correct defense of the f7-weakness. With the far advanced pawn even the rook trade does not achieve a draw.