Typical Rook Endgames: Winning with 4 v. 3

  • GM dbojkov
  • | May 11, 2012

(Four versus Three on the Same Flank: Part 1-Attack) 

As the rooks are the most clumsy chess pieces and as they tend to get in the game very late, one of the most common endgames that arises on the board is the rook endgame.

Therefore, studying the typical situations that might appear in these endgames makes a lot of sense for the active tournament player.

In many semi-open games, and positions with an isolated queen pawn, the side which plays against the isolani often manages to prove that this pawn is a weakness and capture it after a long and thorough preparation. Then on the board usually appears the position in question.

Four pawns against three rook endgames on the same flank are usually a draw. However, the stronger side can-- and should-- play for a win.

There are various ways to try, but I decided to make things maximally simplified, and to boil the question down to three hints.

Hint 1

The best plan for the stronger side is to try and create a passed e-pawn. However, as this straightforward plan is usually connected with many pawn trades (something that they need to avoid) the attacker tries first to paralyze the king’s flank with their h-pawn.

Here is a classical example:

You have realized that the win is anything but trivial, and demands a certain help from the opponent.

Hint 2

However, if the attacker manages to fix the h-pawn closer to its initial square, then they usually win much easier:

Hint 3

One final tip- when the active side manages to "reach" the opponent's f-pawn, they almost always win. A necessary pre-condition is the maximal activity of the pieces:

[Ed Hint #4- know the defender's key ideas-- stay tuned for next week's article!]


  • 4 years ago


    These endgames remind me of the end of one of my games (even though it wasn't 4 vs. 3 on one side):


    The rook endgame begins at move 31.

  • 5 years ago


    For the people who ask for more explanations, I'd like to recommend -- in general, not only for this very nice article -- using the comments section and taking advantage of the presence of many experienced chess practitioners who read articles and can provide ideas as well.

    For example, try to find the meaning behind a given move that puzzles you, then post it and ask a question.  One of us will surely respond, and we can collectively learn from the experience.  

    After all, while the authors of such articles are extremely good at the subject and much stronger than most of us, they aren't usually writing every single explanation for pure brevity and understandability.  But the chief way to learn is to dig yourself, then ask a clarifying question, then learn from the answer.  And the answer, as I said, can be given my many people who read here.

    Try it, and you'll be delighted!

  • 5 years ago


    Great Article. As a class-A player it was very instructive for me. I would recommend more comments on the moves whose reasons seem clear to me, but likely not to less advanced players. Technique and such

  • 5 years ago

    GM dbojkov

    It is very difficult and sometimes just needless to explain each and every move. The explanations are also different for the different levels.

    In general if a move is given a (!) mark then it is important in a conceptual way, or is a beginning of a good plan or maneuver.

    I hope that this helps.

  • 5 years ago


    not enough explanation per move , it's like a story partially told

  • 5 years ago


    This is a subject I'd really like to know more about but I wish you had more annotations for the reasons behind each move.  For a lot of the moves (rook, pawn, or king), it's mysterious to me why it is a good move or a move to consider.

  • 5 years ago


    Very nice article! Thank you!

  • 5 years ago

    GM dbojkov

    Thank you for your interest and additional information! Благодаря, Ники! Cheers!

  • 5 years ago

    NM GreenLaser

    Capablanca outplayed Yates. The better player often wins in a better position. The weaker player usually makes more mistakes. In addition to the chances pointed out, according to Kopaev, after 49...f6! 50.Re7+ Kf8 51.Re6 Kf7 52.f5 gxf5 53.gxf5 h5 54.Kf2 Ra1, White makes no progress.

  • 5 years ago


    Very informative

  • 5 years ago

    NM GargleBlaster

    IIRC, the arguably most celebrated example of this endgame is Gligoric-Euwe from Zurich '53 with Bronstein's famous annotations:

  • 5 years ago


    Amazin Article. Thanks

  • 5 years ago

    NM ih8sens


  • 5 years ago



    Thank you for the clarification and willingness to be helpful.

  • 5 years ago


    Mnogo hubava statija. Imash mnogo chitateli iverojatno  mnogo verni prijateli i poznati.

    you surely have a lot of friends and acquaintances in Bulgaria. 

  • 5 years ago


    Great stuff as always.

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago


    good situation for an rook endgame...

  • 5 years ago



    the ideal position for the three pawns tends to (from black's perspective) be the f7-g6-h5 pawn chain. In the notes to Capablanca-Yates, Yates failed to play h5! after Capa's Rb5. Pawn exchanges become easier that way. Preventing black's h5 is extremely useful in going for the win. Note Botvinnik-Najdorf.

    BTW, "active side" is shorthand for the side with the extra pawn.

  • 5 years ago


    I don't quite follow what Hint #2 means. Is the attacker "fixing" the h-pawn by stopping black's h-pawn? 

    In Hint #3, what does it mean when an active side "reaches" the f-pawn? Does active side refer to the active rooks or does it refer to white or black?

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