Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri played out an instructive Rook endgame at the Grand Chess Tour Paris Blitz event this year.
Material is level but Nakamura (White) has his Rook ideally placed behind his pawn and his King is helping out too.
Nevertheless, this is a drawn position. Only 1 move gets the draw however, the other 21 lose.
Anish Giri chose 68…Rb8 covering the promotion square – and lost.
This position isn’t really about stopping the a-pawn. White will get it to a7, Black must play …Ra8 then White brings his King to b7. Black is going to have to give up his Rook for the pawn eventually. The question is “will Black be able to do anything with his pawn?”
Let’s see what happened in the game 69.a6 Kf6 70.a7 Ra8 71.Kb7 Rxa7+ 72.Kxa7 Ke5 (diagram)
Now there are many ways for White to win. He can cut off the King with 73.Ra4 forcing Black to protect the pawn, advance 1 square, protect… while White’s King races to help Kb6-c5-d4.
When the White King is close, the Rook goes behind the pawn (Ra8-g8) and the pieces combine to win it.
What Anish Giri should have played is 68…Rf5! with the idea of perpetually checking. Clearly f5 is the only square to operate from as here (and on f6/f7/f8) it is protected and it can’t go to the h-file as the Black King and pawn would get in the way.
To stop the checks, the White King must go to e4 69.a6 Rf6+ 70.Kd5 Rf5+ 71.Ke4 Rf8 72.a7 Ra8. Now it’s going to take White 3 moves to get to b7, compared to 1 in the game. 73.Kd5 Kf6 74.Kc6 Ke5! (staying close to the pawn but making it tougher for the White King to get to d4) 75.Kb7 Rxa7+ 76.Kxa7 g5 (diagram).
Black has gained 1 tempo (pawn on g5 instead of g6) and it makes all the difference. 77.Ra4 Kf5 78.Kb6 g4 79.Kc5 g3 80.Kd4 g2 81.Ra1 Kf4 Draw (diagram).
Of course, you don’t need to calculate all this out in a game (and this was blitz). If you have a similar position as Giri where you’ll have to give up your Rook for a pawn, make your opponent use the maximum number of moves to do it!
You can use the extra tempi to carry out your own plan.
What did you think of this endgame? Any comments or questions? Leave them below!