When tripled pawns are better than one

The ending of rook and knight's pawn against rook, with the defending king in front of the pawn, is normally drawn - so long as the defender plays his rook correctly.

A second (or even, as here) a third pawn on the same file will in most cases make no difference, though there are exceptions.

In this classic endgame Blackburne taught his long-time rival Bird a lesson about such endings, and the seven-man tablebase even reveals one variation in which the third pawn could come in handy,

(1) Bird,Henry Edward - Blackburne,Joseph Henry [C31]
British Chess Association international, Bradford 1888

1.f4 e5 2.e4 d5 3.exd5 e4 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 c6 6.Qc2 Bf5 7.Nge2 Bc5 8.Ng3 Bf2+! 9.Kd1 Bxg3 10.hxg3 0-0 11.Be2 Na6 12.Ke1 cxd5 13.cxd5 Nb4 14.Qb3 Nbxd5 15.Nxd5 Qxd5 16.Qxd5 Nxd5 17.a3 Rac8 18.b4 Rfd8 19.g4 Bd7 20.g3 f6 21.Bd1 Be6 22.Kf2 Rc7 23.f5 Bf7 24.Re1 Re7 25.Bc2 Rde8 26.Ba4 Rc8 27.Bb2 Nb6 28.Bd1 Nc4 29.Bc3 Rd8 30.Re2 Rd3 31.Rc1 Bd5 32.Re1 Nxd2 33.Bxd2 Rxd2+ 34.Be2 e3+ 35.Kg1 a6 36.Rc8+ Kf7 37.Rd8 Bb3 38.Rh8 Rc7 39.g5 fxg5 40.Bh5+ Kf6 41.Rf8+ Bf7 42.Bxf7 Rxf7 43.Rxf7+ Kxf7 44.Rxe3 h5 45.a4 Rb2 46.Re4 Kf6 47.g4! hxg4 48.Re6+ Kxf5 49.Rb6 g3 50.Rxb7 Kg4 51.b5 axb5 52.Rxb5 Ra2 53.Rb8 Rxa4

54.Kg2 [RR54.Rb3 Ra2 55.Rc3 Kh3 56.Rc1 TH: The defending rook must stay on the 3rd rank (or with knight's pawn only, the first rank) until the advanced pawn goes to the sixth rank, then it goes to the 8th. With stronger side having TWO knights pawns, I drew this ending against R. Johannes comfortably in the Major Open 1977 at Ayr. The third pawn certainly gives an additional chance but should not alter the result. 56...Rg2+ 57.Kf1 Rh2 58.Kg1 g4 Threat ...g2, Rh1+ etc (58...g2?? 59.Rc3+ ) 59.Rc8 Kh4 60.Rh8+ Kg5 61.Rf8 Tablebase confirms this is ALSO DRAW (61.Rxh2 gxh2+ 62.Kxh2 Kf4 63.Kg2 g3 64.Kg1 (64.Kf1 Kf3 65.Kg1 g2 ) 64...Kf3 65.Kf1 g6-+ ) ] 54...Ra2+ 55.Kg1 Re2 56.Ra8 g2 57.Rb8 Kf3= 58.Rf8+? [58.Kh2 draws; 58.Rb1 draws; RR58.Rb3+? (works against TWO g-pawns) but here it LOSES as Black can give up one of the three, viz, 58...Re3! 59.Rb1 (59.Rxe3+ Kxe3 60.Kxg2 Kf4 61.Kf2 g4 and at some point Black will play ...g6 to gain the opposition and win.) 59...Kg3 60.Ra1 g4 61.Rb1 Rf3 62.Rb3 Kh3 63.Rb1 Rf1+ 64.Rxf1 gxf1Q+ 65.Kxf1 Kh2 the winning method in the actual game] 58...Kg3 59.Re8 Rf2! 60.Rf8 [60.Re3+ Rf3 61.Rd3 g4 62.Ra3 Kh3! 63.Ra1 Rf1+ etc.] 60...Rf1+ 0-1

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