The Endgame Tactician: Not Quite Lucena


An interesting position, very similar to Lucena, is when the attacker's pawn is on the sixth rank with his king in front of it. If Black plays carefully and checks from the side he can draw, but in practice the defender mucks it up 80% of the time.

After this lesson, hopefully you and I will never muck up this defense.   :) 

The Rules:

  1. The defender's rook must be on the long side and his king on the short side.
  2. The defender's rook must be at least 3 files away.
  3. The defender's king must be only 1 file away, on the 6th or 7th rank.

Black to play. Aronian-Carlsen, Moscow 2006. This should be a draw, but Carlsen accidently allowed the White king to advance. This is a common mistake. 73...Ra7+? 74.Ke8! and Carlsen resigned. Much better was 73...Kg6=, preventing an advance and holding the draw.

Black to play. Sorin-Deumie, France 2004. Black's rook is already well-positioned, so a proper move might be 74...Kg6. Instead, Deumie blundered with 74...Kg8? and lost to 75.Kf6! This is a typical won position where the White rook will cut-off, skewer, or mate the Black king. The moral of the story is to keep your king on the 6th or 7th rank to hold a draw.

Black to move. Kosten-Scrholl, Austria 2003. Here Black made the dubious decision to check from below with 93...Rd2+?. White advanced with 94.Ke8! and soon won. Much better here was 93...Ra8, preventing an advance and holding the draw.

Black to move. Jablonski-Bouton, France 2003. Here Jablonski comes up with the 'bright idea' to attack from above with 68...Rd8. Continuing to attack from the side with 68...Rh8 is the only move that draws. Trying to get fancy loses.

Black to move. Feletar-Mrkonjic, Kaposvar 2001. After fighting courageously for 20 moves, Mrkonjic played 81...Rg8? This loses because now there is no longer 3 files between his rook and the pawn. The White king approaches the rook and soon wins.

This time we focused on the hard part... proper defense. Next time I will show you how an attacker can exploit a defender's mistakes to obtain victory.