Essential Endgames: Rook & Pawn vs Rook (The Philidor Defence)

Jan 8, 2016, 4:54 AM |

In the second article of my "Essential Endgames" series on R+P vs R endgames <>, I introduced you to the Philidor (or Third Rank) Defence.

In this article, we'll examine the Philidor Defence in more detail.

Have a look at the diagram below. We've learned that, if it's White to move in the diagram postion, he can save the game. Pop quiz: What should White play to hold the draw?

Answer: White should play Rh3. Remember, he must prevent Black from bringing the Black king to the 6th rank in front of the Black pawn.

For example:

Let's refer back to that first diagram again. This might surprise you, but, if it's Black to move, our Third Rank Defence loses (so we need to play something else)!

To explain: With Black to move, Black can play his king to the 6th rank (to the rank) in front of his pawn (that is, Kb3!).

In other words, if White play Rh3+ with the Black king already on the 6th rank, he merely gives Black a tempo to: (1) block checks from the side; and (2) set up mating threats on the back rank.

Let's explain the above via a game sequence:

So how does White hold the draw? Let's have a look:

In our examples thus far, the defender has always managed to draw, employing either the Third Rank Defence (if the attacker's king is on the 5th rank), or "king to short-side & rook to long-side" (if the attacker's king is on the 6th rank).

Now although the Third Rank Defence defends against a pawn on any file, "king to short-side & rook to long-side" does not. If the attacker's rook commands the furthermost file on the long side, then "king to short-side & rook to long-side" should not defend against centre pawns (that is, pawns on the d- or e-files).

Let's explain via a game excerpt:

In future articles, I'll discuss R+P vs R endings where the defender hasn't managed to bring his king to the front of the pawn. Stay tuned!