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Philidor & Lucena Position – Rook and Pawn vs. Rook

Philidor & Lucena Position - Rook and Pawn vs. Rook

Philidor & Lucena Position – Rook and Pawn vs. Rook:
Most of us know Philidor’s position is ‘Rook and pawn vs. Rook’ but actually philidor has studied many endgame positions out of which there are three positions which are called philidor’s position.
1. Rook and Pawn vs. Rook
2. Queen vs. Rook
3. Rook and Bishop vs. Rook, Today we will discuss the first one.
GM Yasser Seirawan covers the Lucena and Philidor Positions
Here is another video tutorial about the topic

Philidor Position

It is basically a drawing technique where defender is pawn down in a rook ending. This is also called third rank defence.
Conditions for the position :
  • Defending king controls queening square
  • Pawn has not crossed its 5th rank
  • Stronger side king is beyond the defender’s third rank
  • Defending rook on his third rank.

Now you can see in this position, Black Rook is cutting down white king from entering into 3rd rank (Defender’s). In order to progress, white must has to move his pawn to 1.d6 there is no other way. Where black can play Rook to last rank (Defender’s) 1…Ra1 and checking strong side’s king from last rank where he cannot hide himself in shelter so that now white is not able to make any progress. If White try to exchange rook from c6 or f6 (2 possible ways), you can simply capture it then will be able to get the opposition.
Why defenders hold the position?
Mainly two reason.
  • King Control or occupies queening square
  • Active rook so don’t immobilize your rook.
This is the most simple yet most effective method of saving half point in rook endings.

Let’s take a look at this position

It may at first seem as though black is lost; white is a pawn up, has a great position for his king and an active rook. However, regardless of who has the move this position is a stone cold draw.
For the sake of argument, let’s look at both scenarios, starting with black to move first:

The draw was gained here by employing the ‘3rd Rank Defence’ technique with 1…Rh6! But what happens if we give white the move? The answer is it’s still a draw!
Let’s take a look at two different strategies white might take to force the win here. First, let’s see what happens is white tries to take the 3rd rank away from black:

Could white be more aggressive and swing the rook over to the other side of the board and attempt to skewer the enemy king and rook…?

And with that, you should now be able to draw the Philidor position in your sleep.
Before you attempt any puzzles to try out your newly gained knowledge however, it is worth taking a look at the consequences of not employing your rook as an active defender as early as possible. Let’s look at a similar position with white to move and the black rook not able to stop a check on the 7th rank.

Of course, if black had the move here then all would be fine as Rg7 would prevent any check from the side and the draw would be assured as already shown.
Let’s take a look at another tragic case of black having a passively placed rook.

However, if you are the attacker, beware the knight and dreaded rook pawns! In these situations it won’t matter if the defenders rook is passive IF the defending king is in front of the pawn.

Have a go at this puzzle to make sure you have this concept grasped!

Lucena Position

So far we studied ‘Philidor Position’ where we learned that how to draw when you are a pawn down in rook endgames. In Rook endgames ‘Lucena’ position has its own importance as it gives guarantee to win. Any rook endgame with either side with extra pawn reaches to either Philidor position or Lucena position.

Please see the below diagram, it is winning for stronger side with pawn on any file except rook file.

Note: Whatever preconditions I am going to discuss Lucena position are not applicable to Rook Pawn. We will discuss those positions separately.
Preconditions:
  • Stronger side King is on queening square (In Diagram Kd8).
  • Stronger side Rook cuts off opposite side king with minimum of one file (In diagram Re2 cuts off Black king from e file)
  • Stronger side pawn is on 7th rank (Diagram Pawn on d7).
  • Defending side Rook is not allowing opponent’s king to come over other side in order to promote pawn.(Black’s Rook on c1 not allowing white king to come over c file).
  • Weaker side king is opposite the stronger side King or at Knight Distance in our diagram Kf8 or Kf7
Winning Process:
This process called building bridge, where stronger side rook will provide shield to king and therefore stronger side will be able to promote your pawn to queen.

Example from Grandmaster’s Game (Gashimov V (2746) vs Aronian, Levon (2808)

Here is another typical Lucena position

White is a pawn up, and desperate to promote it. However, three things stand in whites way – the active black king, the active black rook and whites own king!

Giving white the move, we see that in dealing with the last two problems the former becomes a non-entity.
1. Rd4! is by and far the easiest way to build a bridge in this position, and like in any sport when we are given the opportunity to crush our opponent then we should. Playing with your food is not an option! However, it is perfectly possible to build a bridge on the 5th rank, but opens up possible side-lines that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

So, what happens if the attacking side as a rook pawn? Does the Lucena position still hold true? Well, yes, but only if the following criteria are met:

  1. The attacking rook is already on the 4th rank
  2. The defending rook is not on the file adjacent to the pawn or his own king
  3. The attacker has the move

For example:

However, what happens if we make a subtle change and put the white rook on e3 instead of e4?

This notion of building a bridge is useful in endgames, even if it’s not a Lucena position. Here’s an example where such a bridge was the first step in completing a crushing endgame.

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