Rook Endgames 101 - Lucena Position

Rook Endgames 101 - Lucena Position

CM rocklands
Sep 23, 2015, 12:21 PM |

Endgames are the last and maybe the most important phase of chess. You can play well in the opening and in the middlegame, but if you can't play the endgame, usually all of that hard work during the game is all for nothing. You might not like endgames, but you have to study it. Undecided

One of the most important types of endgames is rook endgames. Rook endgames are usually complicated and require you to understand them well to apply them in your own games, but how can you do that? The first step is to study the basic rook endgames. Understanding cannot come without knowledge!

Today, we'll learn one the basic(but important!) rook endgames called the Lucena Position. 

Take a look at the following position:


Clearly white is better here. He has a passed pawn on the 7th rank and white's rook is active. The only problem is white's king. Black's rook and king cut white's king off, making sure his passed pawn cannot move.

We now understand what we have to do: Force one of black's pieces to move away so that our king can escape and advance the pawn. Since we cannot move black's rook away by force(The rook can just move up and down on the a-file.) We have to chase away black's king. 

We can now easily find the move 1.Rd1+ forcing the king to move off the d-file and allowing our king to come out of its cage.

1...Ke7 2.Kc7? This doesn't make any progress because black can just keep on checking white's king, never allowing him to promote his pawn. 2...Rc2+ 3.Kb6 Rb2+ 4.Ka7 Ra2+ 5.Kb8 Rb2 And white has made no progress.

Since we saw that white cannot just bring his king out in the open without any shelter from opposing checks. The only way to do this is to use his rook as a shield:

1.Rd1+ Ke7 2.Rd4!

Can you see white's idea? Once the king comes out he will be able to slide his rook over and block the checks. This idea is known as "Building the bridge":

2...Ra1 (Black doesn't have anything better to do. Note that moving the rook to the c-file: 2...Rc2, White will just bring the king out via the a-file: 3.Ka7) 3.Kc7 Rc1+ 4.Kb6 Rb1+ 5.Kc6 Rc1+ 6.Kb5 Rb1+ 7.Rb4! Blocking the checks with his rook and allowing his pawn to promote. Note that black's king is too far away from the pawn to stop it from queening.


Let's summarize:

1) Let your king out of the "cage" by forcing black's king to move away.

2) Create shelter for your king against checks by using your rook to block them.

3) Make sure that black's king is far enough from your pawn so that it cannot stop it from queening.


Keep going over this example until you know it by heart. Practice makes perfect! Smile


Keep on studying and Good Luck!