my first basic endgame article you mastered the
Lucena Position (You DID master that position,
didn’t you? If not, click HERE
and reread article #1.). Now we will take a look
at something that’s almost as important:
the PHILIDOR POSITION.
Okay, who can remember strange names about this
position or that position? Fair enough. Suffice
it to say that we’re talking about a situation
where each side has one Rook (no other pieces),
but the superior side has an extra pawn (one pawn
to none). Thus: Rook and pawn vs. Rook.
This definition would still lead to many kinds
of situations, so we’ll further shrink our
choice to Rook and pawn vs. Rook positions where
the defender’s King is in front of the enemy
In general, such a position is drawn. However,
things can turn ugly if the defender’s Rook
is passively placed, giving the stronger side
free reign to do whatever he wishes to do.
BLACK’S PASSIVE ROOK LEADS TO HIS
In diagram one White wins because Black’s
Rook is stuck on his first rank (moving the Rook
off the first rank allows Rh8+). Since Black’s
Rook is a bystander and can’t bother the
White King, the first player can calmly play 1.Ra7!
when 2.Ra8+ can’t be stopped. Black would
then have to resign. The idea of swinging the
Rook over to the other side is worth remembering
since we’ll make use of it again in this
article (and you’ll likely make use of it
to win real games!).
This teaches us an IMPORTANT RULE:
If you’re defending such an endgame, don’t
allow your Rook to become passively placed!
Let’s glance at another, equally hopeless,
passive Rook position (diagram two).
DIFFERENT PAWN, but BLACK’S STILL
White scores the point by using that same “swing
the Rook to the other side” technique: 1.Ra7
Kb8 (not a happy choice, but 2.Ra8+ had
to be stopped) 2.c7+ Kc8 3.Ra8+ Kd7 4.Rxg8
and Black might be well advised to find something
better to do with his time.
Sometimes, though, you can play horribly and
still exit with your skin intact. In diagram three
Black has allowed his Rook to become passive,
but it doesn’t matter because White can’t
win if he’s left with a Kt-pawn or R-pawn.
BLACK DRAWS DESPITE HIMSELF!
If only White could swing his Rook over to the
file left of the a-file! Sadly, such a file doesn’t
exist. Because of this, White can’t force
a catastrophic back rank check (as occurred in
diagram one after 1.Ra7) and, as a result, can’t
win the game: 1.Rb7+ Ka8 2.Ra7+ Kb8
and no progress can be made.
This gives us access to another RULE:
If your opponent’s extra pawn is a Kt-pawn
or R-pawn and your King is in front of it, you
should effortlessly draw even if the lobotomy
scar hasn’t completely healed yet.
Having taken a look at the key passive Rook positions,
it’s finally time to study a basic Philidor
Position in all its glory.
BLACK TO MOVE DRAWS EASILY
I can’t begin to tell you how many people
have lost this position as Black. Yet, in just
a few moments you’ll be able to draw Kasparov
with ease! The big idea here is to take away the
whole sixth rank from the White King: 1...Rh6!
Believe it or not, this simple move ices the
draw. Black was aware that passive play failed
due to our old “swinging Rook crouching
check” trick: 1…Rf7 (“Why let
White check our King?” is a common line
of reasoning. But stopping such a check turns
out to be unrealistic after) 2.Ra8! when Ra7+
can’t be prevented.
But why didn’t Black play for the active
Rook by 1…Rh1 (threatening to check on d1)?
Because after 2.Rg7+ Ke8 White has the strong
NOT WHAT BLACK WANTS!
Suddenly Black can’t maintain a cascade
of checks since 3...Rh6+ runs into 4.e6 (using
the pawn to block the check and threatening Rg8
mate) when 4…Rh8 leads to the lost passive
Rook positions already discussed in our first
two diagrams. Also note that 3...Rd1+ also fails
to 4.Ke6 when the checks are over and Rg8+ is
once again “on.”
The idea of blocking checks by using
as cover is a big one, and Black must do
to avoid this pitfall. By the way, the
in diagram five turns out to be drawn
but it’s far from easy and is anything
“basic."Look for a future article to
explain how Black faces his fear and survives against impossible odds.".
our purpose (i.e., proving that the
is an easy draw), we’ll say that you
be smart to avoid the position in
Fortunately, playing 1…Rh6! (from diagram
four) makes life good (and easy!) again.
2.Rg7+ Ke8 3.Ra7 Rg6
“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” shouts
the Black Rook to the White King
The deep defensive idea is now clear. If left
alone, Black will bravely play …Rh6 and
…Rg6 until the cows come home (or wrist-cramp
sets in). Of course, if Black lusts for adventure
then he can toss in …Rb6 (a “longer”
and more flowery move) but it all amounts to the
same thing: White’s King desperately wants
to step forward but can’t due to the blocking
power of the Black Rook!
Not what White wanted to play but he has no other
choices since 4.Ra8+ Ke7 makes Black happy. Now
White threatens the strong Kd6 when Black’s
King will feel some serious heat.
Only now does this active move work. Since White’s
King can’t hide behind his pawn any longer
the upcoming avalanche of checks makes the draw
NO COVER FOR THE WHITE KING
In diagram five White was able to use his pawn
as cover. Here he cannot. You would be wise to
compare the two positions!
No better is 5.Kd6 Rd1+ 6.Ke5 Re1+ and White
should be a good sport and shake hands.
Also fine is 5...Rd1+ 6.Rd4 Rxd4+ 7.Kxd4 Ke7
8.Kd5 Ke8 9.Kd6 Kd8 10.e7+ Ke8 11.Ke6, draw.
6.Ra7+ Ke8 and White’s
getting nowhere fast.
I strongly recommend that you ponder the ideas
in this very common endgame. These themes will
help you save games when down a pawn and win games
when you possess the extra bit against an unschooled