Up a Rook in the Endgame

Up a Rook in the Endgame

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  • Endgames

Today's article is for players rated 800-1000, and we will look at rook endgames where one side has an extra rook. There are several rules that one has to follow in realizing this extra rook into a win. I will go over the most important ones here. We will look at ideas of:

  • paying attention to the opponent's passed pawns
  • looking after the back rank
  • trading rooks
  • creating our own passed pawns
  • cutting off the opponent's king from the passed pawns
  • and occupying the 7th-rank

All of these ideas will be illustrated by examining real games played by players rated around 1000.

An inexperienced player might panic at seeing both black pawns three rows away from queening. While usually in such a situation one should be alarmed, in the given example white can handle the passed pawns because white has an extra bishop and a rook. White correctly gives up the bishop for one of the pawns right away. There is no time to mess with the passed pawns - one should either stop them or sacrifice a piece to eliminate them. Next, white is not distracted by taking the f6-pawn but instead creates a window for the king. Getting checkmated on the 1st or 8th-rank is so common that one automatically has to make moves such as h3 to safeguard the king. Make sure to look through all the lines in the example as they illustrate how white could have gotten in trouble even being a rook up.

When you are up in material it is important to trade pieces. In the next example black is a rook up and the first thing she does is she offers a rook trade. White should have tried keeping her last rook on the board as it gave her at least some fighting chances. After the rook trade black's top priority was identifying that the c-pawn can become a dangerous passed pawn and stopping it. In the game she used the king to stop the pawn, which is a good alternative to stopping the pawn with the rook.


Another important concept to remember is cutting off the opponent's king from your own passed pawns. This is best done with the rook on an open file. The king cannot stop the pawns if it cannot stand in front of them. In the next example black captures the important open c-file and then uses it to cut off the white king from stopping the passed b- and a-pawns.


We hear many experienced chess players saying something like "my rook gets to the 7th rank and it should compensate for the missing pawn". What is the big deal about the rook on the 2nd or the 7th rank? Those ranks are important because this is the place where all the pawns are in the starting position. When one reaches an endgame many pawns still remain on the 2nd or 7th-ranks, so if the rook gets there one has a chance for a good pawn harvest. If two rooks get to the 2nd-rank as black did in the next example, then white not only has to care about the pawns but also about the king's protection.

Today we looked at how to win a rook endgame with an extra rook. We covered a range of ideas that should help you in realizing an extra rook advantage more easily. These ideas included back rank mate, passed pawns, rooks on the 2nd-rank, blocking the opponent's passed-pawn with a king and many more. Next week we will go to more complex examples of winning endgames with only an extra minor piece.

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