Rook Endgames 101 - "Lucena" Rook Pawn

Rook Endgames 101 - "Lucena" Rook Pawn

CM rocklands
Oct 2, 2015, 2:44 PM |

Hello, chess friends and welcome to the next installment of the "Rook Endgames 101" series.

Last time we looked at the Philidor Position. This time, we will be looking at the "Lucena position" with a rook pawn.

The term "Lucena" is being used loosely here since a proper Lucena position is used with any pawn except a rook pawn.

Take a look at this position:

As you can see, the black rook cuts the white king off from escaping from its "cage" on a8 thus stopping the a-pawn from promoting, also note that white's rook is creating a barrier on the e-file that the black king cannot break through. This is very important. In these positions, the opposing king has to be cut off by four or more files to win.
Clearly, the only way for white to get his king out of its "cage" is to break the barrier of the black rook (the b-file). That's why white played 1.Rc1 White is going to bring his rook to c8 and then to b8, forcing black's rook to move away, allowing white to bring his king out. 1...Ke7 black tries to bring his king closer to the action as soon as possible. 2.Rc8 Kd6 (2...Kd7 3.Rb8 Ra2 4.Kb7 (4.Rb7+?? trying to get the king out while sheltering the checks on the b-file doesn't work because of 4...Kc8) 4...Rb2+ 5.Ka6 Ra2+ 6.Kb6 Rb2+ 7.Kc5 white will march his king towards the black rook and promote his a-pawn) 3.Rb8 Ra2 4.Kb7 Rb2+ 5.Kc8 (5.Ka6 Ra2+ 6.Kb6 Rb2 makes no progress) 5...Rc2+ 6.Kd8 Rh2! 7.Rb6+ (7.a8=Q?? Rh8 mate) 7...Kc5 (7...Ke5 8.Ra6 Rh8+ 9.Kc7 Ra8 10.Kb7 is even easier for white) 8.Rc6+! 
(The only way to win since 8.Ra6 doesn't work because of 8...Rh8+ 9.Ke7 Rh7+ 10.Kf8 (10.Kf6?? Rh6+) 10...Rh8+ 11.Kg7 Ra8 followed by ...Kb5 when the a-pawn is lost) 8...Kxc6 (8...Kb5 (8...Kd5 9.Ra6) 9.Rc8 Rh8+ 10.Kc7 Rh7+ 11.Kb8 is worse) 9.a8=Q+ and white is winning. I will continue just in case you're not sure on how to win this position. 9...Kc5 (9...Kb5 (9...Kd8 10.Qb8+ followed by 11.Qxh2) 10.Qb8+ and 11.Qxh2) 10.Qc8+ white wants to bring his queen to the kingside and make sure that the king cannot meet up with his rook. 10...Kd4 (10...Kd5 11.Qf5+ leads to the same thing) 11.Qg4+ Kd5 (11...Kc3 or 11...Kd3 or 11...Ke3 leads to the execution of the rook after 12.Qg3+ and 11...Ke5 12.Qg3+ and 11...Kc5 12.Qg1+ also fail) 12.Qf5+ Kc6 (12...Kc4 or 12...Kd4 or 12...Kd6 fail to 13.Qf4+) 13.Qe6+ Kb7 (13...Kb5 and13...Kc5 both drop the rook after 14.Qe5+) 14.Qc8+ Ka7 15.Qc7+ followed by 16.Qxh2 1-0
As you can see, this is a very complex example and is a little bit harder than the last two. It is very important to go over this example again and again until you understand it well enough.
Good Luck and keep on practicing!