A Rook Ending from Southport

Southport. A place Nigel knows well, I believe. I went there myself once, probably in the late 1960s, when visiting relations in nearby Ormskirk.

But if I’d visited 1905 I’d have to witness the 2nd British Chess Championships, where the great Henry Ernest Atkins ran out a comfortable winner of the top section.

Here’s a rook ending of interest from the game Gunston – Wainwright.

We pick the game up after Black’s 34th move.

It’s very level at the moment. The first few moves are self-explanatory. White captures the e-pawn while Black gets his rook to the 7th rank and wins the c-pawn.

35. Rf1 Rd8
36. Re1 Rd2
37. Rxe3 Rxc2

This must surely be drawn. Black’s isolated pawns are compensated by his rook on the 7th. Now the natural and obvious thing for White to play, here or later, would be Ra3, trading his b-pawn for the black a-pawn. For some reason Mr Gunston had other plans.

38. Rb3 Kf7
39. h3 Ke6
40. Kh2 a5
41. Kg3 a4
42. Rb7 Kd6
43. A3 Kd5
44. Kf3 Kd4
45. g4 g5
46. ​​Rb4+ Rc4
47. Rb8 Kd3

Mr Wainwright, following the KUFTE (King Up For The Ending) principle, has made considerable progress over the last few moves. Now White makes what could have been a fatal mistake. 48. Rb7 or 48. Kg3 followed by h4 would have kept him in the game.

48. b3?

How would you (or your students) continue in this position?

48.. axb3 49. Rxb3+ Rc3 50. Rb7 c5 is winning, but even better, if he’d followed it up correctly, was…

48.. Rf4+
49. Kg2 axb3?

The winning move here was 49.. c5!, pushing what will shortly become a passed pawn while preventing Rb4 in some lines. Try it out for yourself. Now White may be able to hold. The next few moves are all very logical.

50. Rxb3+ Kc2
51. Rb5 Kc3
52. Rb7 c5
53. Rb6 c4
54. A4 Kd3
55. a5 c3
56. Rd6+ Ke2
57. Re6+ Kd2
58. Rd6+ Kc1
59. Rxh6 Ra4
60. a6 Ra2+
61. Kg3

White had to be careful: Kf3 would have been a mistake because of a potential skewer after both sides promote.


White to play and lose!

62. Rb6?

Other horizontal rook moves draw. Rg6 will reach an ending where his g- and h-pawns will draw against Black’s rook. Rf6 or Re6 will meet Ra1 with a check on the rank. Rd6 will prevent Kd2. Rc6 will prepare a timely sacrifice of the rook for the c-pawn.

Try them all out for yourself and see what happens, then use an engine to check your analysis.

62.. Ra1
63. Rd6 Kb2
64. Rb6+ Kc3
65. Rc6+ Kd3
66. Rd6+ Ke3 0-1

In case you’re interested, here’s the complete game. A curiosity: Black’s king’s knight reached b8 on move 10 (is this a record?) and remained there until move 23.

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website www.minichess.uk, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through www.chessheroes. uk. View all posts by Richard James

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