Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rook Endings at SEA Selection - Part 1

Important Note: This is one of the blog posts that because of the I will make sticky by creating a menu (at the top of the page) called Important Posts. You can always access this article by going to the Important Posts menu and click on the corresponding link there.

The most common ending that occurred in practical play are rook endings. This is why I always teach my students this ending first. Early in my career I went through a classic book, Rook Endings (over 200 pages) by Levenfish and Smyslov. Believe me, if you know this ending well, you will save many half points.

Now the difficulty with playing endgames is that while most endgame books that you study give you the basic positions. But these are not the positions that you start with in your actual games. There is always a critical position just prior to one of these basic positions where you need to choose the most advantageous position to head for. And the only way you can make the right decision is to know these positions by heart.

So at the recent SEA Games selection, I was lucky to observe a few games with this particular ending.

My first position is from the Women's selection involving Nur Nabila and Sarika Subramaniam. A draw would see a three way tie between Nabila , Mi Yen and Azhar Puteri Rifqah Fahada for the fourth place. According to tie-break Mi Yen would take the fourth spot.

Because of the complexity of this ending, I suggest you use an actual board and pieces to go through the analysis. You will gain more understanding and remember the plans and ideas much better rather than reading moves off the screen.

Before we start examining the game, we should know the relevant basic draws.

Position 1, N and R pawn draws
Against a rook or knight pawn, the defending side can rely on the first rank defence. Black just keeps moving his rook back and forth along the first rank. White cannot improve his position. 1. Rb7+ Ka8 2. Ra7+ Kb8 etc. The pawn cannot be queened.

Position 2, bishop pawn wins

For bishop and centre pawns it is easy win. 1. Rb7+ Ka8 (or Kc8) 2. Ra7+ Kb8 3. c7+ Kc8 4. Ra8+ Kd7 5. Rxe8 Kxe8 6. c8=Q

Nabila-Sarika, Round 9
Now let's examine the actual game.

62...Kf6 It would be most tragic if black plays 62...Kd5?? 63. Re7 followed by mate on e5. 63. Kc4 Ke6 64. d5+ White has nothing better but to try this cxd5+ 65. Kd4 (black is in zugzwang and must lose back the pawn) Rf8 Better move is 65....Rh8 and black is sure of winning the white a-pawn 66. Ke3 This should not change the result. Black can now continue 66...Rh8 67. Rxb7 Rh3+! 68. Kd4 Rh4+ 69. Kd3 Rxa4 reaching a drawn game. The idea is that once the white king is cut off from supporting the passed pawn, the draw is assured. The rook and pawn rarely can force through to queen without the support of king.  66.. Rb8 67.Rh7 d4+? There was no reason to give up the pawn. 68. Kxd4 Rd8+ 69. Kc4 Rd7 70. Rh8 Exchange of rooks lead to a drawn pawn ending 70. Rxd7 Kxd7 71. Kb5 Kc7 72. Kxa5 Kc6 73. Kb4 b6 74. cxb6 Kxb6. 70...Rc7? In most rook ending, we must keep the rook active - 70...Rd1! 71.Kb5 Rb1+ 72. Kxa5 Kd5 73 Rc8 Rb2 and white cannot improve his position. 71. Kb5 

After 71. Kb5
 Kd5?? The king cannot reach the corner after this move.The last chance to reach a draw was 71...Kd7!  Perhaps Sarika thought the exchange of rooks would lose for her because white captures the a-pawn for free. However 72. Rh7+ Kc8 73. Rxc7+ Kxc7 74. Kxa5 Kc6 75. Kb4 b6 exchanges into a drawn RP ending.

72. Rb8 Ke6 73. Kb6 (The difference is that the black king is not cut off from the queen-side - 73. Rd8 Rc6 holds) Rc6+! (If you remember the two earlier basic positions , Black does not mind giving the a-pawn for white's c-pawn ) 74. Kxb7 Rxc5 75. Ra8 Kd7 76. Rxa5 Rxa5 77. Kxa5 Kc8 and black reaches a drawn rook pawn ending.
 72. Rd8+ Ke6 73. Rd6+ Ke7 Black king is now cut off along the d-file and cannot reach the right side corner. Black is lost. 74. Kb6  Rc8 75. Rh6 Kd8 76. Rh8+ Kd7 77. Rh7+ Kd8 78.
Rxb7 Ra8 79. c6 Rc8 80. Kc5 Rc7 81. Rxc7 Kxc7 82. Kb5 Kb8 83. Kxa5 Kc7 84. Kb5
Kb8 85. Kb6 Ka8 86. Kc7 Ka7 87. Kd8 1-0


edfong said...

When I was watching the game live, I thought after 66 Ke3, 66.. Rf7 and Black is better with one pawn up. If White exchanges Rooks, the pawn endgame should be winning for Black.
Whereas if 67 Rc8, then ...Ke6-d7-c6 to protect the d-pawn and attack White c-pawn, followed by if necessary ...Rf7-e7-e4-c4, and White is the one who'll have to fight for a draw one pawn down.

Jimmy Liew said...

After 67 Rc8 and 68. Ra8 white should win back the pawn but it is still drawn. The rook might get trapped on a5 but black cannot exploit it. Still this is another drawing (probably best) possibility.
Black was never losing this ending from the starting position. To say that black can win...its always possible if white tries too hard to win.

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