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The Positional Rook Lift

  • GM DanielNaroditsky
  • | Jul 25, 2014

Last week, we examined the rook lift as an attacking tool. Of course, a rook is not only an attacking piece -- it can be mobilized for positional reasons as well.

In this article, we will analyze several instances in which the rook lift serves a strategic purpose. 

Rook lifts are remarkably self-explanatory. Some ideas cannot be truly comprehended without a thorough analysis or explanation, but rook lifts are usually both straightforward and tremendously difficult to neutralize.

From a positional standpoint, rook lifts normally serve one of three purposes: 

1. Increase pressure on a weak pawn or square. 

2. Facilitate an important piece trade. 

3. Prepare a breakthrough. 

This is not an all-encompassing list by any means, but I have never seen a positional rook lift that does not have at least one of these three ideas as its main purpose.

White Rook _1311651 by Christopher Irwin

As usual, we will deal with each point separately.

1. Increase pressure on a weak pawn or square.

Because of a rook's lateral mobility, it often does not take long to maneuver it from one side of the board to the other. In the following masterpiece (against Karpov, mind you), GM Valery Salov proves that a positional rook lift is usually worth a lot more than two or three tempi! 

Notice how the rook lift completely altered the course of the game, allowing White to viciously target an ostensibly unimportant weakness.

via wikipedia


2. Facilitate an important piece trade. 

Trading a piece is usually an intermediate step in a plan, but it can very well be your end goal. I first saw the next brilliant positional victory -- one of Bobby Fischer's finest games, if you ask me -- in Mikhail Shereshevsky's famous work Endgame Strategy. I analyzed it in my own book, Mastering Complex Endgames, but it deserves another revival. 

As you can see, the queen trade drastically altered not only the objective evaluation of the position, but also the course of the game. Reshevsky found himself with terribly passive pieces and no counterplay, and Bobby smoothly ran him off the board, almost as if Reshevsky were a class-D player at the local chess club! 

Rook by Mingo Hagen

3. Prepare a breakthrough.

At times -- especially when your opponent is hanging on the precipice -- the result of the game hinges on your ability to crash through his or her defensive bastion with a pawn break. If you find yourself unable to make a tempting breakthrough work, a rook lift that tightens the screws and increases the tension even further might just be the solution.

With this, unfortunately, our study of rook lifts comes to an end. Whether you are engaged in a mind-bending tactical skirmish or a maneuvering slugfest, do not forget that rooks are meant to be "lifted" and mobilized.

As usual, please feel free to post examples of rook lifts from your own games. Sayonara! 



  • 12 months ago


    good example, we need more

  • 14 months ago


    good one

  • 15 months ago


    fantastic article! thanks!

  • 15 months ago


    very informative ! able to apply these tactics to my game !

  • 15 months ago


    nice article...

  • 15 months ago


    Loves Rooks...

  • 15 months ago


    Also check out GM Naroditsky's column on the endgame in the USCF magazine Chess Life . So far Daniel's written two columns and the endgames he's chosen and analyzed are remarkable for their beauty and cleverness.

  • 15 months ago

    FM gauranga

    Salov last played two FIDE rated games in January of 2000.

  • 15 months ago


    Daniel I would tell you you are a fkng master, but actually you are a GM :) much more

  • 15 months ago


    Thanks Daniel, even low rated chess players like me can understand the ideas behind what you are presenting, and follow the simple variations(5 to 6 moves),  and this article seems to be a nice balance of art, position and analysis. Great writing and maturity for an 18 year old GM!

    Experts who can distil and present a complex game for the wider public have a real natural gift for teaching imo

  • 15 months ago


    Well written. Showcases the role of rooks in the game.

  • 15 months ago


  • 15 months ago


    GM Naroditsky is very quickly becoming my favourite author on Chess.com. Well done!

  • 15 months ago


    Very helpful! Many thanks and keep the articles coming please.

  • 15 months ago


    amazing article !

  • 15 months ago

    NM TheNomNomFactor

    Wonderful article again, wow.

    Again, it's always interesting to note the differences between these annotations and the chessbase annotations.  For example, in Salov-Karpov, Salov himself gives 19.Qa4 a (!), and in Fischer's game, 18...f6 is given as (?).

    It just goes to show that this amazing game which we play isn't necessarily "concrete" with certain solutions to all positions or anything, but is rather based more on  creativity, imagination, practical play, more human traits, etc etc.

  • 15 months ago

    IM DanielRensch

    Love those rook pictures Laughing.

    Oh yeah, the article was pretty good too!

  • 15 months ago


    Great examples. Thanks for the very instructive article. Every time I read one of your articles, I learn something inspiring! Thanks again!

  • 15 months ago


    That was so freaking POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP

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