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Rook + two pawns (f+h) vs Rook (Gligoric - Smyslov) position analysis

bangalos
Nov 22, 2016, 11:04 PM 1

In this post, I will attempt solving R+2P v R position - the famous Gligoric - Smyslov position - in an original way. I will then compare it to analysis given in a few books to see what was missed.

 

Background:

Rook endgames are incredibly hard. One of the reasons is - there are no good teaching material! Yes, in one fell swoop, I am dismissing the greatest endgame teachers as inadequate - including Fine, Keres, Smyslov, Capablanca, Averbakh, Nunn, de la Villa, Muller, Dvoretsky, Karpov and Rubinstein.

 

Here is a case in point - Rook and two pawns vs Rook. The position is from the game Gligoric - Smyslov. I came across this position in the latest book - Understanding Rook Endgames - by Karsten Muller and Yakov Konoval. 

 

 

Rant (or motivation by another name): 

  1. The book does not even attempt to explain the solution ground up. It directly jumps into this position. And only one more position is analyzed (Radjabov - Grishchuk). Really? Do I just need to study 2 positions to understand this?
  2. Frustrated by this book, I went to the book that Carlsen reported to have mastered - Fundamental Chess Endings by Karsten Muller. Understandably, the same material was reported there. Somewhere in there, Dvoretsky was mentioned.
  3. I opened the Dvoretsky book - Endgame Manual - and same problem was present. There was no ground up approach .... just a bunch of variations ... 
  4. If anyone knows a good book to understand Rook endgames better plmk in comments. Dream come true would be Danny Rensch presenting a video series on this topic - it will be awesome!

Approach:

Stage 1: We start with 3 "Rules Of Thumb" for R+2P v R endgames.

Stage 2: Then we will identify which variations to calculate further.

Stage 3: Then, we will iteratively calculate each variation until the position is reduced (when any exchange occurs).

Stage 4: We will assume that reduced material positions are already mastered. Or look it up.

 

STAGE 1: ESSENTIAL KNOWLEDGE

 

First Rule Of Thumb: The Defending Idea: If there is no obvious danger, the Defending Rook should stay in farthest corner from pawns. In our case, it will stay on squares a1, a2 and b1.

 

Second Rule Of Thumb: Simple Attacking idea: The attacking side should sacrifice one of the pawns at a favorable opportunity to transform the position into winning R+P vs R endgame. So, we should focus on examining only those lines that actively try to sacrifice f or h pawn. All other Rook moves and King moves that do not contribute to these objectives can be ignored as harmless (or as Ford Prefect would correct it later - "mostly harmless").

 

Third Rule Of Thumb: Advanced Attacking idea:  The attacking side should make the defenders King irrelevant by either pushing the defending king to eighth rank and cutting if off with its rook on seventh OR, by pushing the King to the center and cutting it off with Rook along the file. All such positions can be assumed to be winning. For instance, in the starting position 1. Rh7+ Kg8?? wins for White.

 

STAGE 2: IDENTIFICATION OF VARIATIONS TO BE CALCULATED

 

I think it was Rowson who pointed out that while there are limited number of moves in a position, there are unlimited number of ideas in the position. So, instead of listing candidate moves, I will list candidate ideas to identify variations worth calculating.

 

IDEA #1: Advance pawns to sacrifice - either on f6, f7, h6 or h7.

Variation 1: White can first push the h pawn, then the f pawn.

1.h6+ Kh7 2.f5 [f5 is need to improve King's position]

 

Variation 2: White can push f pawn twice to give check .

1.f5 Rb1 2. f6+ Kf7 3. Kg5

 

Variation 3: White can push f pawn only once, and then check with h pawn. The resulting positions are superset of Variation 1. So, we can scratch of Variation 1.

1.f5 Rb1 2.h6+ Kh7

 

IDEA #2: Push Black's King to eighth Rank

Variation 4: White can use Rook and King to push the King to the eighth.

1. Rg6+ Kf7 2. Rg5 Rb1 3.Ra5 Kf6 4.Ra6+

 

Variation 5: White can use Rook on 7th Rank

1.Rg6+ Kf7 2.Rg5 Rb1 3.h6 Ra1 4.Rg7+ 

 

STAGE 3: CALCULATE VARIATIONS

Variation 1 was scratched when we considered Variation 3:

 

Variation 2: White can push f pawn twice to give check .

1.f5 Rb1 2. f6+ Kf7 3. Kg5

In this position, if Black passes with 3..Rc1 or 3..Rb2, then, White threatens 4.Ra7+ Kg8 +- OR 4.Ra7+ Kf6 5.Rf7+ Ke6 +-. The +- assessment is based on "Rule of thumb #3 - Advanced attacking idea".

 

So, let us consider 3..Rg1+. White can play either 4.Kh6 or 4.Kf5.

Line 1: [I always find that I have to restart from beginning all the time]

1.f5 Rb1

2. f6+ Kf7

3. Kg5 Rg1+

4. Kh6 Rf1

5. Kh7 Rxf6

6. Rxf6+ Kxf6=

White's King is stuck with Rook's pawn, and it is a draw.

 

Line 2: 

1.f5 Rb1

2. f6+ Kf7

3. Kg5 Rg1+

4. Kf5 Rf1+

5. Ke5 Re1+ =

Looking at this position, it is clear that Black can give endless checks or go after h pawn with Rook when White's king is too far. It is equal.

 

All of it is presented in the diagram here.

 

Variation 3: White can push f pawn only once, and then check with h pawn.

1.f5 Rb1 2.h6+ Kh7

Here White can improve Rook, King or Pawn. So, the three moves I considered were 3.Rg6, 3.f6 and 3.Kg5. Each of these is critical, and Black cannot be idle.

 

Line 3: (Have I mentioned I need to restart from the beginning?)

1.f5 Rb1

2. h6+ Kh7

3. Rg6 Rg1+

4. Kf4 Rxg6 =

 

Line 4: 

1.f5 Rb1

2. h6+ Kh7

3. f6 Kxh6

4. f7+ Kg7 =

 

Line 5:

1.f5 Rb1

2. h6+ Kh7

3. Kg5 Rg1+

4. Kf4 Rf1+

5. Ke5 Re1+

6. Kf6

From here, there are some branches:

Line 5a.

6.. Kxh6 ===> Reduced Material Position 1

 

Line 5b.

6..Rb1

7.Ra7+ Kxh6 ===> Reduced Material Position 2

 

Line 5c.

6..Rb1

7.Kf7 Rb7+

8. Kf6 Kxh6 ===> Reduced Material Position 3

 

===

Basically, there are a bunch of similar looking reduced material positions towards the end, and I wished I had mastery of those to come to a conclusion. I will investigate them next.

 

Here is a diagram with all the lines discussed in this variation.

 

 

Variation 4: White can use Rook and King to push the King to the eighth.

1. Rg6+ Kf7 2. Rg5 Rb1 3.Ra5 Kf6 4.Ra6+

Here, the move is important - If 4.. Kf7 5.Kg5 Rg1+ 6.Kf5, then, Black has no checks, and White is threatening 7.Ra7+ forcing Black's King to eighth rank, which we know is bad from 3rd rule of thumb. So, 4..Kg7 needs to be played. Here is the line:

Line 6:

1. Rg6+ Kf7

2. Rg5 Rb1

3. Ra5 Kf6

4. Ra6+ Kg7

5. Kg5 Rg1+

6. Kf5 Rb1

7. Ra7+ Kh6 (King avoids 8th rank)

8. Re7 Ra1

9. Re6+ Kg7

10.h6+ Kh7

11. Kf6 Kxh6 ===> Reduced Material Position 4.

 

 

Variation 5: White can use Rook on 7th Rank

1.Rg6+ Kf7 2.Rg5 Rb1 3.h6 Ra1 4.Rg7+ 

I had missed this idea the first time I calculated the variations. When I looked up the book, that is when I realized.

So, when Black replies 4..Kf6, Black is really threatening 5..Rg1+ and 6..Rxg7 ... therefore, White is forced to move the Rook - say to b7. Here is the line I calculated:

 

Line 7:

1.Rg6+ Kf7

2.Rg5 Rb1

3.h6 Ra1

4.Rg7+ Kf6

5.Rb7 Kg6

6.h7 Rh1

7. Rb5 Kg7

8.Rg5+ Kh8 = (This is the exceptional case where King moves to 8th Rank).  But it was obvious. Black had to avoid the King and pawn endings after all other moves.

 
STAGE 4: EXAMINING REDUCED MATERIAL POSITIONS
So, we have 4 reduced material positions. If they are all drawing, then, we have solved the problem. Actually, we need either (#1 and #4 to be draw) or (#2 and #3 and #4 to be draws). 
 

Position 1:

1.f5 Rb1 2. h6+ Kh7 3. Kg5 Rg1+ 4. Kf4 Rf1+ 5. Ke5 Re1+ 6. Kf6 Kxh6 is winning for White!

 

Position 2:

1.f5 Rb1 2. h6+ Kh7 3. Kg5 Rg1+ 4. Kf4 Rf1+ 5. Ke5 Re1+ 6. Kf6 Rb1 7.Ra7+ Kxh6 is an easy Draw!

 

Position 3: 

1.f5 Rb1 2. h6+ Kh7 3. Kg5 Rg1+ 4. Kf4 Rf1+ 5. Ke5 Re1+ 6. Kf6 Rb1 7.Kf7 Rb7+ 8. Kf6 Kxh6 .. This is same as previous position, except the Black rook is on b7 instead of b1. This is an easy draw as well as the difference is not significant!

 

 

Position 4:

1. Rg6+ Kf7 2. Rg5 Rb1 3. Ra5 Kf6 4. Ra6+ Kg7 5. Kg5 Rg1+ 6. Kf5 Rb17. Ra7+ Kh6 8. Re7 Ra1 9. Re6+ Kg7 10.h6+ Kh7 11. Kf6 Kxh6 - this is a draw if you know one of the fundamental positions in R+P v R.

 

 

 =============

 

Time to check what other variations were considered that I missed [I am sure there are a million of them].

 

In Karsten Muller's book Understanding Rook Endgames, there are two positions mentioned that I did not cover that both involve the same maneuver.

 

1. Rg6+ Kf7 2.Kh4 Rb1 3.Kg5 Rg1+ 4.Kf5 Rh1 5.Rg5 Ra1 6. h6 Ra5+ 7.Kg4 Ra1 8.h7 Rg1+ 9.Kf3 Rh1 10.Ra5 Kg6 11.Ra7 Kf5

 

1. Rg6+ Kf7 2.Rg5 Rb1 3.h6 Ra1 4.h7 Rg1+ 5.Kf3 Rh1 6.Ra5 Kg6 7.Ra7 Kf5

 

Both of them are show in the following diagram.

 

CONCLUSION:
Hopefully this will prove to be useful ... 

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