Rooks on ranks and files

Knights like outposts, bishops like clear diagonals: you could guess that rooks like clear ranks and files. The best rank to put your rook on is the seventh, particularly if the opponent's king is trapped behind it. A rook on the seventh rank (or 'on the seventh' as people sometimes say) can threaten unmoved pawns and with assistance can create mate threats. To get to the seventh the rook will have to move along a file. You can see Znosko-Borovsky doing just that with the c-file in the Illustrative Games. The other use of rooks on files is to attack: we have seen some examples of rooks attacking down the central d- and e-files in the section above on Attacking the King, and in the other Illustrative Game we can see Tarrasch making good use of the g-file to attack a king which has castled.

  Rooks can be moved into action along the third rank; I include a brisk wins by Keene and Miles. Beginners often develop their rooks by going a4 and Ra3; this is a manoeuvre that you may rediscover as you get on - for example, Petrosian has often used that development against the Benoni, when he has already played a4 to slow up ...b5. This has good and bad points: for example, Miles-Clarke 1976 went 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 c5 5. Bxc4 e6 6. Nc3 a6 7. a4 cxd4 8. exd4 Be7 9. O-O Nc6 10. Re1 Nb4 11. Bg5 O-O 12. Ne5 Re8 13. Re3 Now, after playing 13.Re3 Miles spotted 13...Nfd5 14.Nxd5 Nxd5 15.Rh3 Bxg5 16.Qh5 but wasn't convinced that it worked (16...Qf6!?) - Clarke also thought about it but avoided it. It does show clearly some of the risks and opportunities of the Re3-h3 idea.

  Rs can also support knight outposts, so that - in a position like the diagram above in the section on outposts - if a knight on d5 is exchanged, a rook from d1 may recapture, still putting pressure on the pawn on d6.


van vliet-znosko-borovsky 1907

1.d4 d5 2.e3 c5 3.c3 e6 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.f4 Nf6 6.Nd2 Qc7 {!} 7.Ngf3 {?!} 7...cxd4! 8.cxd4 Nb4 9.Bb1 Bd7 10.a3 Rc8 11.O-O Bb5 12.Re1 Nc2 13.Bxc2 Qxc2 14.Qxc2 Rxc2 Lovely smooth stuff from Z-B.

  15.h3 Bd6 16.Nb1 Ne4 17.Nfd2 Bd3 18.Nxe4 Bxe4 19.Nd2 Kd7 20.Nxe4 dxe4 21.Rb1 Rhc8 Monster rooks!


22.b4 R8c3 23.Kf1 Kc6 24.Bb2 Rb3 25.Re2 Rxe2 26.Kxe2 Kb5 27.Kd2 Ka4 28.Ke2 a5 29.Kf2 axb4 30.axb4 Kxb4 31.Ke1 Kb5 {!} 32.Kd2 Ba3 33.Kc2 Rxb2+ 34.Rxb2+ Bxb2 35.Kxb2 Kc4 36.Kc2 b5 {0-1 }

[Event "rooks on ranks and files"][Site "-, Leipzig"][Date "1894.??.??"][Round "?"]


[White "tarrasch"][Black "von scheve"][Result "1-0"]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Nbd7 7.h3 Ne4
Tarrasch: "The decisive error. After the exchange of Knights, Black's capturing Pawn becomes weak, and needs protection by ...f5. It is then attacked by f3, forcing Black to exchange and open up the Knight file for White. Thereupon there ensues a combined attack of White's Queen, both Rooks and the Queen Bishop against the Knight Pawn (the keystone of the Castled position) an attack which is irresistible."

  He adds modestly: "I know of no game in all the chess literature in which it is possible to conceive of so detailed a plan, leading almost to mate, and in which the remaining 20 moves lead up to a catastrophe."



8.Nxe4 dxe4 9.Nd2 Bb4 10.a3 Bxd2+ 11.Qxd2 O-O 12.Qc2 f5 13.Bd6 Re8 14.O-O-O Nf6 15.Be5 Bd7 16.f3 exf3 17.gxf3 b5 18.Rg1 Rf8 19.Rd2 Rf7 20.Rdg2 a5

  The prediction fulfilled.



21.Qf2 Ne8 22.Rg5 Qe7 23.Qh4 Nf6 24.Qh6 Ra7 25.Bd6 Qxd6 26.Rxg7+ Kf8 27.Rxh7+ Ke7 28.Rxf7+ Kxf7 29.Rg7+ Kf8 30.Qxf6+ 1-0


miles-clarke 1977

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 c5
5. Bxc4 e6 6. Nc3 a6 7. a4 cxd4 8. exd4 Be7 9. O-O Nc6 10. Re1 Nb4 11. Bg5 O-O 12. Ne5 Re8 13. Re3


13... Bd7 After playing 13.Re3 Miles spotted 13...Nfd5 14.Nxd5 Nxd5 15.Rh3 Bxg5 16.Qh5 but wasn't convinced that it worked (16...Qf6!?) - Clarke also thought about it but avoided it. It does show the risks and opportunities of the Re3-h3 idea

  14. Qb3 a5 15. Bxf6 Bxf6 16. Nxd7 Qxd7 17. Bb5 Nc6
18. d5 thematic 18... exd5 19. Nxd5 Qd6 20. Rd1 Rxe3 21. Qxe3 Nb4 22. Nxf6+ Qxf6
23. Rd7 a crushing entrance



23... Qxb2 24. Qe7 h6 25. Qxf7+ Kh8 26. h4 Qa1+ 27. Kh2 b6 28. g3 Rc8 29. Re7 Qd4 30. Bd7 1-0 miles-clarke 1976

(...Re8+ Rxe8; Qxe8+ Kh7; Bf5+ mates)


Here's Tony Miles on the sharp end of the same idea.


[Event "Rook on the third rank"][Site "hastings"][Date "1975.??.??"][Round "?"]


[White "keene, r."][Black "miles, aj"][Result "1-0"]

1. c4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6. e3 cxd5 7. exd5 Be7 (the position actually arose by a different move order) 8. Bd3 O-O 9. O-O Nc6 10. Re1 Nf6 (10... Ncb4 11. Bb1 Nf6 12. Bg5 Bd7 13. Ne5 is similar to the game) 11. Bg5
11... Nb4 (right idea against the isolated d-pawn, but too early) 12. Bb1 b6 13. Ne5 Bb7 14. Re3 This is the key move of the game, and thematic for this section. White gets away brilliantly with it in this game, but obviously the downside of this manoeuvre is that the Rook is very exposed once it is committed to the attack. The play now becomes sharp and tactical; the strategy is decided.



14...g6 (or 14... Ng4 15. Bxe7 Nxe3 16. Bxh7+ Kh8 17. Qh5 Ng4 18. Bg6+ Nh6)
15. Rg3 (15. Rg3 Re8 16. Bh6 Bf8 17. Bxf8 Rxf8 18. Qd2 {+- keene} 18... Rc8 19. Nxg6 hxg6 20. Bxg6 fxg6 21. Qh6 Kf7 22. Rxg6 Rg8)
15... Rc8 (or 15... Nc6 16. Bh6 Qxd4 17. Qxd4 Nxd4 18. Bxf8 Kxf8 19. h3 Rd8)
16. Bh6 Re8 17. a3 Nc6 18. Nxg6 hxg6 19. Bxg6 (19. Bxg6 Bd6 20. Bxf7+ Kxf7 21. Rg7+ Kf8 22. Qf3)
19... fxg6 (19... Bf8 20. Bc2+ Kh8 21. Bxf8 Rxf8 22. Qd2 Ng8 23. Rh3+ Kg7 24. Rh7+ Kf6 25. d5)



20. Qb1 (20. Qc2 doesn't quite work as well) 20... Ne5 21. dxe5 Ne4 22. Nxe4 Kh7 23. Nf6+ Bxf6 24. Qxg6+ Kh8 25. Bg7+ Bxg7 26. Qxg7# 1-0

Chess Quotes

"A lot of the difference between an IM and GM is a seriousness to the game. The GM is willing to go through all this. He's willing to put up with anything. This shows his dedication. One other thing is the GMs superiority in tactics. For example Christiansen can find tactics in any position. If you're a GM you should be able to overpower the IM tactically. The GM will often blow out the IM in this area. "
— Nick de FIRMIAN, in How To Get Better at Chess : Chess Masters on Their Art by GM Larry Evans, IM Jeremy B Silman and Betty Roberts

EDITORIAL NOTE: This of course contradicts David Norwood's view. While David's opinion is based on research, I think Nick's is the correct one. I have a wonderful proof of this theorem, but unfortunately this page is too small to hold it. - Dr.Dave.