Imagine that you were about to enter an ending with two extra doubled pawns (similar to the above diagram) and that both sides also had one other piece.
Would you prefer that piece to be a Queen or a Rook? Which of these two pieces do you think would give White the best chances of converting his two extra pawns? And why?
These are practical matters that every master should know, understand and be familiar with. If for no other reason than these endings arise quite frequently in praxis.
Curiously, most endgame books don’t even discuss this theme at all, while those that do mention them do so superficially. Today I want to take a closer look at each of these endings, with an eye to point out practical and useful tips and advice should you ever find yourself on either side of this ending.
Part One: With a Rook
The Typical Case
I deliberately focus only on good practical examples of this ending, shying away from exotic studies or extreme cases where the pawns have mysteriously advanced all the way up the board.
The student needs a minimum of confusion, allowing him to instead comprehend sound principles and methods for both the attack and defence. And, of course, some good old fashioned common sense.
Here White has placed his Rook on the 7th rank and is about to advance his King to the 6th rank to create mating threats and drive away the Black King.
This kind of position has been known to be a reasonably straightforward draw for more than 100 years. Endgame tablebases have not found anything new and have only confirmed what was already known.
Of course, the defence must exercise reasonable caution and be familiar with the more subtle points of the Philidor Position. (See HERE for an excellent explanation.)
Black should either place his Rook on his 3rd rank (preventing the King’s advance) as in the Philidor Position, or activate his Rook and attack the d4-pawn. White’s only winning chances are if Black blunders.
The above example demonstrates all of Black’s drawing resources and techniques. I can not stress enough the similarity with the Philidor Position.
Here 19-year old Boris Spassky finds himself being tested by future World Champion Tigran Petrosian. Spassky does not miss a beat. He uses the same techniques and methods as in the previous example.
The Candidates Tournament opening ceremony. A young Boris Spassky shaking hands with the mayor of Amsterdam.
Carlsen,Magnus – Kramnik,Vlad Tata Steel 2017 Wijk Aan Zee
The Knight pawns can be a bit trickier for the defender (closer to the corner) but as long as you keep a cool head and don’t blunder you will be fine! Have faith that these positions are draws with reasonable play.
Here Carlsen avoids all of Kramnik’s tricks and makes a comfortable draw employing the same techniques and methods as above.
To conclude, if the defender is careful not to fall for a trick or blunder, then he will make a solid and painless draw. In general, the ending with a Rook on each side (when one has extra doubled pawns) offers no real winning chances. Practical chances, yes, but only if your opponent misplays.
Things are quite a different story when you have Queens on the board, as we shall next investigate!