Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mastering KRpKR

It took me two weeks to get the hang of the general technique to promote a pawn in a KRpKR ending, starting at the 4th rank. I can now play it a tempo. I developed a technique that isn't necessarily the fastest, but a sure way to escort a pawn to promotion. The necessary positions for this standard method cannot always be reached though. Now I'm trying to get the hang of the exceptions. That's no easy task. I made a problemset with my failures at CT and wrote down the themes of the exceptions.

It is impossible to find all positions, since there are too many exceptions. For instance there are 209 different positions of mutual zugzwang alone. But the amount of themes they can be classified by seems to be fairly limited. Sofar I have found the following themes:
  • Rook pawns need a totally different approach.
  • Sometimes there is a mate at the edge of the board. Both the attacker and the defender can fall victim.
  • Beware of skewers and pins. King against rook, king against pawn, rook against pawn.
  • The king of the attacker always needs a refuge. Behind his pawn, behind his rook, behind the defender's king, near the defender's rook.
  • Be aware of checks from the long side. From all four directions.
  • Prevent the defenders king and rook working together against the pawn. Cut off the king if you can. Horizontally or vertically.
  • Tactical trick: chase away the defenders king from his defense of his rook.
  • Beware of rook trades by the defender that leaves you with a drawn pawn ending (where you don't have the opposition).
  • Beware of an overloaded king, who has to defend both the rook and the pawn. In that case the defender can take the pawn.
Sofar I have spent three days with the exceptions. It will take me another two weeks at least to fully master them.


  1. I guess it is now (or soon) a good time to take a rook ending book and work through it. You might end up with a KRPKR endgame, however you will even more often entcounter KRPPKRP or more pawns in your real games.

    In real games, there is also the tendency that once you reached the very basic 5 stoner endgame (or even 7 stoner endgame) you are likely not having a lot of time left to win this ending.

    I had about 1 min a 20 seconds left when my KRPKR with Bishop-pawn emerged. My opponent had about 2 minutes.
    When I finally promoted my pawn into a queen I had 15 seconds left and if I recall correctly, he had 15 seconds left, too. Since it was a real game, you cant move as fast as in online games because moving and hitting the clock button takes some time. But I was lucky: he was so excited that when I finally took my freshly born queen with his rook, that he stumbled and his rook got out of his hand and fell of the board. Picking up his rook up placing it back onto the board cost him altogether 4-5 seconds. I started to check mate him frantically with K+Q vs K, and claimed loudly "T-I-I-I-M-E!!" when his electrical chess clock showed 00:00:00 while mine showed 00:00:06!

    I doubt I would have managed to check mate him in time. Long story, short lesson: try to promote your pawn in your trained KRPKR endings in about a minute.

    But it is not only the speed at the basic endgame, but during the game I wished I would have known more about rook endings in general, and not only how to do lucedian bridge building method in a KRPKR ending.

  2. You are quite right. But I had no feeling whatsoever for this ending. The most important thing is that I did develop a feeling the past weeks.

    There is a big gap between the middlegame and these kind of endings indeed. But I can never even hope to bridge this gap if I don't have a feeling for the very end of the game first. Only then I can start to think about endgame strategy.

    Luckily in more and more tournaments mr. Fischer (that is to say, his clock) is going to be my friend here.

  3. I think an important part off getting better in chess is to aquire many "pairs" : ( Situation, [possible]Strategy ). At OTB we have to recognise the Situation (patternrecognition) and remember ( LTM ) the possible usefull strategys how to handle this situation. This will give us the candidate moves which have to be calculated.

    But is suspect KRPkr endgames to be common only in/after closed openings. Open Openings will have often early rook exchanges.

  4. @Aox,
    you certainly have a point here. Despite the fact that I play open games with white and still got a few rook endings lately when I failed to enter time trouble.

    But I like to look at it the other way around. Since I knew nothing of ensuing endgames, my opening choice is based on other considerations. I used gambits to learn tactics, and I changed to positional openings a few years ago to learn positional play. This means that the endgames I get are not the result of a conscious choice.

    If I learn how to play the endgame, then the next logical step is to choose openings that are in line with the positions I want to reach. Just as Capablanca suggested.

    Maybe rook endings are especially interesting, since it is so easy to go astray for an opponent with unsufficient knowledge of this ending.

  5. Someone who chose "quiet" openings will have often long games and will get often the "related" endgames.
    An "old" player who played his openings for centuries will know "his" endgames. Its necessary to stick to an opening and learn/analyse these ( complete ) games - then you will see and lern the related endgames.

    But i enjoy CT's endgamepuzzles too. It seems that improvement is "easy" there.