14 November 2013

Endgame Training: Lucena Position

A basic goal of endgame training is to develop skills that make it possible to anticipate how simple technical wins are achieved from positions that seem more complex. From this position, for example, can Black reliably expect to reach a Lucena Position? I was not certain. A few moves later, however, I knew that the Lucena Position was my winning plan.

Black to move

I played 45...Ke6, but the immediate 45...Rxg2 might have been better.

The Lucena Position

Fifteen moves later, the position was simpler.*

Black to move

Having spent many hours half a decade ago studying the Lucena Position, and then many more hours teaching it to some of the most promising junior players in my city, I knew exactly how to play this position.

61...Re1 62.Kd2 Re5

In the textbooks, the pawn is already on g2 when this move is played. Real life often differs from the text.

63.Rg8 Kf2 64.Rf8+ Kg1 65.Rg8 g2 66.Rg7

Black to move

The game reaches a textbook Lucena Position with the first two tasks already accomplished. The White king has been driven away, which in this case was accomplished because he started further from the kingside. The Black rook has taken up its position on the fifth rank: "building a bridge" that will shield the king from checks and permit the pawn to promote.

67...Kf2 67.Rf7+ Kg3 68.Rg7+

My opponent offered a draw. Was this offer because he did not know the Lucena Position, or because he was hoping that I did not? It matters not. I instantly refused the offer and made my move.

Black to move

68...Kf3 69.Rf7+ Kg4 70.Kd3

In the textbooks, White plays 70.Rg7+, to which Black responds 70...Rg5, and the pawn will promote.

70...g1Q 71.Rg7+ Rg5 and White resigned.

A Textbook Lucena

A typical example of the Lucena Position in endgame textbooks looks something like the next diagram.

Black to move

Black wins easily with 1...Re8+ 2.Kd2 Re5 and the position is identical to that above after 66.Rg7, except that it is White's turn to move.

If White tries to prevent Kf2 with 3.Rf7, then Black plays 3...Kh2 with the same idea as in the game above.

*The moves from the first to the second diagram were 45...Ke6 46.g3 (46.g4 makes Black's job harder, but a Lucena Position will be reached) 46...Kf5 47.Re3 Kg4 48.Rd3 Rg2! In the game, it was at this point that I knew that I would reach a Lucena. 49.Rxc3 Rxg3 50.Rc7 Kxf4 51.Rxh7 Kxg5 52.Kb2 Kg4 53.Rg7 g5 54.Rg6 Kh3 55.Rh6+ Kg2 56.Rg6 g4 57.Rg5 Kf3 58.Rg8 59.Kxb3 g3 60.Rf8+ Kg2 61.Kc2.

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