"What is the air speed velocity of a coconut laden swallow?"

"What is the air speed velocity of a coconut laden swallow?"

Jan 8, 2016, 8:37 PM |

Monty Python and the Holy Grail


Rook Ending Lessons on being a Troll of the Bridge

The knights are trying to cross a bridge when a troll stops them and tells them they have to answer three questions.

"What is your name?
What is your quest?
What is the air speed velocity of a coconut laden swallow?"


Rook Endings can be like crossing a bridge. The defensive Rook must act like the Troll guarding the bridge, not allowing the enemy King to pass. Such was my lesson when working through Rook Ending 108 from Chess Informant's Encyclopaedia of Chess Endings Rooks Volume 2. As per usual, I set up the position against Shredder, attempting to play it out and finding out the cause of any mistakes leading to improving understanding.

Position 108: Akopian-Panchenko, Rostov-on-Don 1993

Black to Move and Draw


Attempt 1: Getting the Black King to e5 and thus not allowing the White King to support the pawn



This failed as White could get his own Rook to f6 and cut off the f-file. Then his King can come in front of the pawn to build a bridge and win.

Attempt 2: Checks from behind and limiting the White King to the h-file


This failed because White's King put the Black Rook to a critical question by playing Kh3. If Black chose to keep the Rook go the g-file, the White wins a tempo with Ra6 and the pawn is immune due to the skewer along the 5th rank. This allows White time to get his King in front of the g-pawn thus building a bridge and winning.

Attempt 3: Checks from behind and cutting the King to the 4th rank
This failed because the White King was still too close to the White pawn. After Black's King is cut off from the f-file, the White King moves over to the f-file to avoid g-file checks once the pawn advances.

Attempt 4: The right idea of cutting the King off from the 3rd rank. Being a Troll that guards the Bridge
The 3rd rank was best for the cut off, as the White King is too far away to support the pawn. Thus the Black King breaks the communication between White Rook and pawn, and when the Black Rook leaves the 3rd rank to chase down the pawn, the White King is too far away to participate.

Here we see that the defensive Rook must act like a troll. He had to harass the White King from behind with checks, but not allow valuable tempo to be won, and hence switched to cutting off the 3rd rank. Harassing checks continue should the White King attempt to rejoin on the 3rd rank.