Monday, 25 June 2007

Active rook

I've talked previously about the value of good endgame technique. One 'rule of thumb' I gave for rook endings is that the active continuation is usually better than the passive. The following ending from round 2 at Hawick graphically illustrates that rule:

chess ending Coathup Hulme Hawick 2007
Roger Coathup - William Hulme, Hawick 2007.

Playing White, I'd given up a pawn in the opening, but received little in return. In this position (with Black to move) I was holding out some hopes of salvaging a draw after 1 ... Nc6; 2 Bb4 Nxb4; 3 ab.

Instead, Black played poorly:

1 ... Rc7?; 2 Bxa5 ba; 3 Rhc1!

And the threat of a back rank mate not only prevents Black from doubling rooks, but also forces him to concede the open file.

3 ... Rxc1; 4 Rxc1 Rb8; 5 Rc7

With an active rook and better king postion, White now has a clear advantage. Black's best try is probably 5 ... h5, stopping the mating threat and also looking to generate counterplay on the kingside by the manouevre Rb8-b2 x h2.

5 ... Kf8; 6 Kc2

Not the immediate 6 Rxa7 because of 6 ... Rb3+, followed by 7 ... Rxa3. I also avoided 6 Kc3, because of 6 ... a4! renewing the threat of ... Rb3 with gain of tempo. Kc2 also has the advantage of denying Black access squares on the b-file to activate his rook.

6 ... Ke7?!

Better is 6 ... a6 denying the White king access to the b5 square.

7 Rxa7 Rb5;

Attempts to go active now with ... Rb1, intending ... Rh1xh2, fail as White's a-pawn will advance too quickly.

8 Kc3 f6; 9 a4 Rd5; 10 Kc4 fe; 11 fe

chess ending Coathup Hulme Hawick 2007

The perfect illustration of the power of an active rook over a passive one. The rook on d5 has no moves, and Black has no good way to prevent Ra7-b7-b5 exchanging into a winning king and pawn ending.

11 ... Kd8; 12 Rb7! d6; 13 ed Rxd6; 14 Rxg7 h5; 15 Rg5 1-0

Recommended endgame reading (Amazon links):
Fundamental Chess Endings: A New One-volume Endgame Encyclopaedia for the 21st Century
Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge (Cadogan Chess & Bridge Books)

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Chess Tales by Roger Coathup: A collection of online articles about chess and chess players.