Essential Endgames: Rook & Pawn vs Rook (The Lucena Position)
Have you ever found yourself in the following (or similar) situation?
Your opponent survives your vicious middlegame attack (albeit at the cost of a pawn) and trades down to a rook-and-pawn versus rook endgame.
Now imagine this: you've got a minute remaining on your clock; your game is a must-win situation for your team; your team mates (and your opponent's team mates) surround your table, watching anxiously as the endgame unfolds; adrenaline is coursing through your veins, and your hands are shaking; you can't afford any mistakes...
Could you win this endgame? Or would your opponent defend this position? Under time pressure, how confident are you of your endgame technique?
You see, not every R+P vs R endgame is won. The outcome depends on the placement of the pieces.
For example, how far advanced is the pawn? Where is the king relative to the pawn? Is it a rook's pawn? Where is your opponent's king relative to the pawn? Where are the rooks relative to the pawn, the kings and each other?
To play R+P vs R endgames confidently (particularly, under time pressure), you must know the following:
- The typical winning position (for example, the Lucena Position, which we'll discuss below);
- The typical winning plan (for example, how to convert the Lucena Position); and
- Your opponent's defensive resources.
In this first article of my "Essential Endgames" series on R+P vs R endgames, we'll get aquainted with the typical winning position, the Lucena position.
What is the Lucena Position?
The diagram above represents the Lucena Position. With R+P vs R, you're aiming to reach this winning position.
Caveat: You cannot use this winning technique if the pawn is a rook's pawn (that is, if the pawn is on the a- or h-file).
Now let's discuss the diagram above: The White king has shepherded the pawn to the 7th rank, and he must find a way to step aside (to the f- or h-file) for the pawn to advance to the 8th rank and queen. However, the Black rook and king work in tandem to prevent the White king from moving to the h- and f-files, respectively. So how does White make progress in this position?
It's actually not that difficult! White uses a five-step method, as follows:
- White forces the Black king further away
- White brings his rook closer to his king - bridging the gap #1
- White brings his king closer to his rook - bridging the gap #2
- White's bridge prevents checks and shields the pawn
- White queens the pawn or wins the Black rook
Does Black have any defensive resources? Not really. Let's have a look at another example:
Ok! Let's test your understanding of the Lucena Position:
In my next article, we'll see if Black can stop White reaching the Lucena Position. Stay tuned!