How to lose a rook endgame!

How to lose a rook endgame!

Jul 15, 2015, 5:10 PM |

All rook endings are drawn. -- Siegbert Tarrasch

Chess fanatics should be all too familiar with this quote. Mr. Tarrasch, a prominent chess teacher, also suggested that rooks belong behind passed pawns. 

But as theory has progessed, we can understand that his quote is inaccurate. Granted, one must work hard for the win in such endgames, and sometimes one or two pawns may not be enough to win. But of course there are cases where one side can play for the win. For the side playing for the draw, it is still a non-trivial task: the draw will not be handed to you!


Another aspect of interest is technique. You could have a theoretically won endgame and still be unable to convert the win. In fact, you might even lose! Let's take a look at an example.

You might be thinking: WTF? how is this a rook endgame? Not even close! Well..., the correct move here is 25. Bxc7, winning a pawn. But doesn't 25. Qxg5 do the same thing, and more?
I thought so too.
So we reach our key position.
This game is black's to win and White's to draw. 
Even though the extra pawn is a double pawn, black should be able to create an outside passer given the configuration of my pawns, giving him winning chances. Fortunately, he followed the steps required to lose a rook endgame, much to my delight!
What are these steps? Well,
  • How to lose a rook endgame
  • 1. Put your rook passively. No surprise here. If the most powerful piece is being defensive, then there's no way you can progress.
  • 2. Neglect your king. While in the opening middlegame, the king should be in safety, the endgame the king counts as an important piece! If it is not helping out the rook then you gotta problem!
  • 3. Not pushing your pawns. Serious no-brainer, but you'll be surprised how big of an effect this creates. Did you really think that you'll win the endgame because of your rook?
  • 4. Move without aim. When you are making waiting moves, your opponent is probably not waiting...
  • 5. Blitz through the moves. Rook endgames require time and technique. Even in time pressure make sure you spend enough time thinkng about the position.


Let's see how my opponent put this list to good use.


As you can see, losing a rook endgame can be quite drastic. Make sure you know what you're doing because it's not child's play ;)
Tell me what you think :)