# How to draw this rook and pawn vs. rook endgame?

According to endgame tablebases, this position is a draw:

``````[fen "3r4/6R1/1kp5/8/8/8/5K2/8 w - - 1 61"]

1. Ke3 Kc5 2. Rg4 Kb5 3. Ke2 c5 4. Rg3 Kb4 5. Ke1 c4 6. Rg4 Kb3 7. Rg7 c3 8. Rb7+ Kc2 9. Rb4 Re8+ 10. Kf2 Kd2 11. Rd4+ Kc1 12. Rc4 c2 13. Rc7 Rb8 14. Ke2 Kb2 0-1
``````

Nevertheless, I (as black) played on and marched the king and pawn down the board and won without much trouble. The endgame tablebase gives `3. Ke2` as the losing move.

Question: How does one draw this endgame as white? (Is there a name for this position?)

I'm not finding the tablebase particularly educational. It works, but I'm not sure why.

• Here's where you can go to experiment with an online table base to see why things work. Or fail. chessok.com/?page_id=361. Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 12:27

In your diagram/game, black is allowed to set up a Lucena position and therefore wins. However, with correct way of harassing the black king, it is possible to prevent that from happening. After 2... Kc5, you can utilize what's called a frontal defense by playing 3. Rg1. In the lines shown below, black simply cannot proceed.

Note, that this defense may or may not work depending on which line and how advanced the opponents pawn is - see reference below.

``````3r4/6R1/2p5/2k5/8/4K3/8/8 w - - 0 2

1. Rg1 Kb4 2. Rb1+ Kc4 (2... Ka4 3. Ra1+ Kb3 4. Rc1 Rc8 5. Kd4 (5... Rd8+ 6. Kc5=) Kb4 6. Rb1+=) 3. Rc1+ Kb5 4. Rb1+=
``````

If black moves his rook away from d-file in attempt to block your checks or harass your king, then you can bring your king in front of the pawn and set up a 3rd rank defense - Philidor position or a back rank defense (depending on how the game develops).

Also, this wiki page gives an excellent quick overview of R+P vs R endings.

``````[fen "3r4/6R1/1kp5/8/8/8/5K2/8 w - - 1 61"]

1. Ke3 Kc5 2. Rg4 Kb5 3. Ke2 c5 4. Rg3 Kb4 5. Ke1 c4 6. Rg4 Kb3 7. Rg7 c3 8. Rb7+ Kc2 9. Rb4 Re8+ 10. Kf2 Kd2 11. Rd4+ Kc1 12. Rc4 c2 13. Rc7 Rb8 14. Ke2 Kb2 0-1
``````

This is a situation where the king is cut off by one file from the pawn. The king has to make a timely jump to the second rank and prepare to exchange rooks. In the meantime, the king shall remain on the third or fourth rank.

When is the jump "timely"? In a king and pawn vs. king endgame, pawn on the fifth rank, the key squares the king needs to reach in order to promote the pawn are b3, c3, and d3 (in this case): no matter whose move it is. White will threaten to exchange rooks when it is clear the black king cannot reach these squares because the white king will be shouldering, i.e. in the way.

It is clear that 3. Ke2? was a losing move. The rook isn't even ready to be traded, so right away this move is premature. Instead assume that the rook was already on the back rank (Rg1 instead of Rg7). 3... c5 4. Rd1 Rxd1 5. Kxd1 Kb5 6. Kc1! And it's clear that the black king won't access b3, c3, or d3, because white wins the opposition: draw.

Now let's assume that white stuck with his plan of exchanging rooks: 4. Rg1. 4... Kb4 5. Rd1 Rxd1 6. Rxd1 Kb3 and the ending is won for black. Note the hasty 6... c4?? loses to 7. Kc2.

As for the rook, frontal checks with distant effectiveness must be performed (that is, checks with your rook on the back rank, far away from the enemy pawn). The defending rook must not leave this back rank.

While the rook isn't delivering checks, he should be threatening to capture the pawn: Rc1 is the correct position. The correct maneuver is to check the king, separating him and the pawn by a file (Rb1+, Rc1; but not Rb1+, Ra1+? too many checks) -OR- causing him to hide behind the pawn (Rb1+, Rc1 - here he cannot advance the pawn, so you move the king upward with Ke5 and threaten to capture on c6). In both cases you threaten to capture the pawn, so he must use tempi in defending the pawn by moving the rook -OR- moving the king, in which the latter leads to perpetual check. Draw.

White could have troubled you with 4. Rg1 (threatening Rb1+ - though due to his misplaced king, still loses after 4... Rd5! Now 5. Ke4 isn't possible) but instead he's escorting you to his back rank: Slowly, but surely with 4. Rg3? which does, to put it bluntly, absolutely nothing.

Of course, the Philidor position is still reachable because the pawn is so far from promotion i.e. it has not reached the fifth rank yet.

So how should have this game proceeded?

1. Rg1 preparing to restrain the pawn from sole advancement. Now 1... Kc5 doesn't make any sense because of 2. Rc1+, where 2... Kd6? is a clear draw, and 2... Kb5 3. Rb1+ Ka5 4. Rc1 sees no progress as well.

Black can try 1... c5, but this now allows 2. Ke3! Kb5 3. Rb1+ Ka4 4. Rc1 Rd5 5. Ke4!! Now the king, not ill-positioned as before, springs into action.

For further reading, please see Ending 59 of Jesus De La Villa's 100 Endgames You Must Know.

Unfortunately it is a VERY bad idea to try to learn endgame play from table bases. Almost any book written by a human being could explain this so that you would understand it after half an hour. It would be a half hour well spent because this situation is so common.

You need first to understand K+P vs K, so that you know when it is safe to exchange Rooks. But you have to do that anyway.

Given that, the defender can always draw if his King can safely reach the queening square, in your case c1. The defenders Rook should stay on the third Rank, to avoid situations where the attacker plays his King to the 6th, threatening mate. This is no longer a threat once the pawn has moved to the 6th, so at that stage the defender can play his Rook down the board to give checks from behind. There are one or two cases where extra care is needed, which the book will explain, but the third-rank defense is the basic thing that can be remembered easily.