Basic Rook Endgames: Philidor and Lucena

Basic Rook Endgames: Philidor and Lucena

IM vinniethepooh

Hey guys. This is vinniethepooh and today I am going to share some basic rook endgame knowledge. The endgames we are going to discuss are rather elementary, however very important to remember.

These two endgames can lead you to your way of playing when a rook ending arrives. Rook endings are very common in chess and have a high chance of coming in games, more often than the other endgames.

The two theoretical endgames I am talking about is the 'Philidor position' and the 'Lucena position'.

Image result for Philidor chess

Meet Philidor, the person who composed a drawing technique that would become the basis of learning rook endings for a long time to come. A great teacher, he has contributed a lot in theory. One of his most famous quotes "Pawns are the Soul of Chess!" keeps ringing in my mind.

The Philidor position is also called the 3rd rank defense. When you look at the above diagram, the question is clearly how to make progress with Black?

There are these two plans:

  • Playing e3 which threatens the killer Kf3
  • Exchanging rooks on 3rd rank

The way to refute both of these plans is nicely illustrated in the following game:

So, did you understand? This is an important defense to know. Make it a part of your endgame training! Once you understand the idea, it's quite simple.

The Lucena position on the contrary, is a way to play for the win. Most rook endgames, if played accurately, head to one of these endgame. The side with the pull often tries to picture the Lucena coming, while the inferior side will do his best to try and avoid this fate and reach the Philidor position.

It is not really known who was Lucena (it was the 15th century going on!) when he created this awesome piece of art. No even official photos are there-- he has hardly got any recognition.

But what he has given to the chess world can never be forgotten- 'The Bridge Idea'

This is the starting position of Lucena. It might seem that the game is heading towards a draw since White's king is boxed in.

So, how to win?

  • First, drive the king away from the d file. This can be done by Rd1 check.
  • Second, place your rook on the 4th rank (Rd4) and you are ready to take out your king. This is called creating a "bridge".

Really? But how? Here is another nice example (colors reversed) to illustrate the ideas:

I hope you all understood these endgames and will start to apply it in your games whenever a rook endgame is on the board! This kind of Basic knowledge is very important and I believe you understand it better after today.