Monday, June 8, 2015

Practical Rook Endgames 02: Lucena Applied

As a voraciously reading boy, I was a big fan of Encyclopedia Brown and The Three Investigators, but at some point I must have come across Henry Reed and Midge Glass because I remember a tedious discussion about Pure and Applied Research. Practical Rook Endgames 01 set up the pure Lucena. This post shows its application.

In my third club championship quarterfinal game, I reached this position.

White to move

My opponent played 62.Rg1-g8

Black to move

And then I knew this game was in the bag. Phase One: Escort the pawn to the seventh. 62...f4 63.Rf8 Kg3 64.Rg8+ Kf2 65.Rf8 f3 66.Rg8 Kf1 67.Rf8 f2 68.Rg8

Pawn Nearly Queened

Phase Two: Build a Bridge. 68...Rd5 I envision the meandering path of the king in case of a spiteful rook will be e2-f3-e3-f4 and then Rf5 blocks the check and the pawn queens because it is out of range of the White King.

Bridge Built

Phase Three: Get out of the way of the pawn 69.Rg7 Ke2 70.Re7+ Kf3 71.Rf7+ Ke3 72.Rf8

Pawn Freed But Not Safe

So he didn't keep checking and why should he? The pawn can't queen right now. Black takes a move to make sure the White King is further out of play. Phase Four: Push the Defending King Away 72...Rc5+ 73.Kb2

Defending King Pushed Away

Phase Five: Queen the Pawn 73...Rc4 threatening Rf4 74.Re8+ Kf3 now White can't sacrifice RxQ. 75.Kb3 Rf4 Bridge built, so White can't skewer the newly queened pawn. 76.Rg8 f1Q and my opponent resigned four moves later. If instead of 73.Kb2, White could have tried either 73.Kb3 or 73.Kb4. A simple way to win is to play 73...Re5, with the plan Ke2 and f1Q.

Surprisingly, in my 500+ tournament games, this is the only game I could remember that was settled by a Lucena position. However, there are many rook draws in my collection, so it could be said that the Lucena position was used as a reference point for how NOT to lose those games. Winning this game boosted me into the club championship semifinals for 2015. But well-executed technique was not the whole tale of this game. For my next post on this topic, we're going backward in time to where this endgame was far more complicated and could have been drawn.

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