Rook versus Pawns

It frequently happens that a Rook and Pawn ending terminates in one rook being sacrificed for an advanced passed pawn, driving the stronger side's king to a distant position. The defender then tries to draw (or sometimes win) by advancing his pawns.

The play of the Rook and King to prevent this is not always obvious. In this example White has a winning position, with correct play, because the presence of his last pawn complicates matters for the side with the many pawns. Even so, White has to make the right choice at move 73 - and if he had made the wrong one, Black would have a tough choice of his own to make.

Fressinet - Caruana
Paris Grand Chess Tour rapid, 9 June 2016

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.c4 0-0 5.0-0 c6 6.d4 d5 7.b3 Bf5 8.Bb2 Ne4 9.e3 Nd7 10.Qe2 a5 11.Nc3 Nxc3 12.Bxc3 Be4 13.cxd5 cxd5 14.Qb5 b6 15.Rac1 e6 16.Ne5 Bxe5 17.dxe5 Bxg2 18.Kxg2 Qe7 19.Bd4 Rac8 20.Rc6 Qb4 21.Qxb4 axb4 22.Rfc1 Rxc6 23.Rxc6 Ra8 24.Rc7 Nc5 25.Bxc5 bxc5 26.Rxc5 Rxa2 27.Rb5 g5 28.g4 Kg7 29.Rxb4 Kg6 30.Rb7 Rd2 31.Rb4 h5 32.h3 Rb2 33.Rb8 h4 34.Rb6 Rd2 35.Rb4 Rb2 36.Kf3 Kg7 37.Rb8 Rd2 38.b4 d4 39.b5 dxe3 40.Kxe3 Rb2 41.b6 Rb3+ 42.Kd4 Rxh3 43.Ra8 Rb3 44.Kc5 h3 45.Ra1 f6 46.Kc6 Rc3+ 47.Kd7 Rb3 48.Kc7 Rc3+ 49.Kb8 h2 50.b7 Ra3 51.Rc1 Rc3 52.Rxc3 h1Q 53.Kc8 Qh8+ 54.Kc7 Qh2 55.Rc5 Qxf2 56.Rc6 Qa7 57.Kc8 Qa4 58.Rc7+ Kg6 59.b8Q Qe8+ 60.Kb7 Qb5+ 61.Kc8 Qe8+ 62.Kb7 Qb5+ 63.Ka8 Qa5+ 64.Qa7 Qd5+ 65.Qb7 Qa5+ 66.Qa7 Qd5+ 67.Qb7 Qd8+ 68.Qc8 Qd5+ 69.Rb7 Qa5+ 70.Kb8 Qxe5+ 71.Qc7 Qxc7+ 72.Kxc7 Start of the 7-man ending. 72...f5

There is no hope for Black unless he can eliminate the White pawn and bring his king forward. 73.Kd6! [73.gxf5+? would enable Black to draw - but only with the correct recapture: 73...Kxf5! (73...exf5 keeps the pawns together but is too slow. The main line from the tablebase goes 74.Rb6+ Best, but not the only winning move. The Black king must decide. 74...Kh5 (74...Kg7 75.Kc6 Kg6 76.Kd5+ Kh5 77.Ke5 f4 78.Ke4 Kg4 79.Rb3 and the pawns will soon die.) 75.Kd6 f4 76.Ke5 Kg4 77.Rb3 f3 78.Ke4 f2 79.Rf3 etc.) 74.Kd6 g4! 75.Rb3 Kf4 The g-pawn is strong enough to draw by itself. (75...e5 also holds.) 76.Kxe6 g3 etc., drawing.] 73...Kf6 74.Rb8 74 Rb2 is one move quicker to mate. 74...fxg4 75.Rf8+! Others allow Black to save himself. 75...Kg6 76.Kxe6 g3 77.Rg8+ Kh5 78.Kf5 1-0

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