Up a Rook in the Endgame

  • WIM energia
  • | Apr 6, 2012

Today's article is for players rated 800-1000, and we will look at rook endgames where one side has an extra rook. There are several rules that one has to follow in realizing this extra rook into a win. I will go over the most important ones here. We will look at ideas of:

  • paying attention to the opponent's passed pawns
  • looking after the back rank
  • trading rooks
  • creating our own passed pawns
  • cutting off the opponent's king from the passed pawns
  • and occupying the 7th-rank

All of these ideas will be illustrated by examining real games played by players rated around 1000.

An inexperienced player might panic at seeing both black pawns three rows away from queening. While usually in such a situation one should be alarmed, in the given example white can handle the passed pawns because white has an extra bishop and a rook. White correctly gives up the bishop for one of the pawns right away. There is no time to mess with the passed pawns - one should either stop them or sacrifice a piece to eliminate them. Next, white is not distracted by taking the f6-pawn but instead creates a window for the king. Getting checkmated on the 1st or 8th-rank is so common that one automatically has to make moves such as h3 to safeguard the king. Make sure to look through all the lines in the example as they illustrate how white could have gotten in trouble even being a rook up.

When you are up in material it is important to trade pieces. In the next example black is a rook up and the first thing she does is she offers a rook trade. White should have tried keeping her last rook on the board as it gave her at least some fighting chances. After the rook trade black's top priority was identifying that the c-pawn can become a dangerous passed pawn and stopping it. In the game she used the king to stop the pawn, which is a good alternative to stopping the pawn with the rook.

Another important concept to remember is cutting off the opponent's king from your own passed pawns. This is best done with the rook on an open file. The king cannot stop the pawns if it cannot stand in front of them. In the next example black captures the important open c-file and then uses it to cut off the white king from stopping the passed b- and a-pawns.

We hear many experienced chess players saying something like "my rook gets to the 7th rank and it should compensate for the missing pawn". What is the big deal about the rook on the 2nd or the 7th rank? Those ranks are important because this is the place where all the pawns are in the starting position. When one reaches an endgame many pawns still remain on the 2nd or 7th-ranks, so if the rook gets there one has a chance for a good pawn harvest. If two rooks get to the 2nd-rank as black did in the next example, then white not only has to care about the pawns but also about the king's protection.

Today we looked at how to win a rook endgame with an extra rook. We covered a range of ideas that should help you in realizing an extra rook advantage more easily. These ideas included back rank mate, passed pawns, rooks on the 2nd-rank, blocking the opponent's passed-pawn with a king and many more. Next week we will go to more complex examples of winning endgames with only an extra minor piece.


  • 4 years ago


    Great article. This is an excellent complement to GM Serper's article titled "*It ain't over till it's over".

  • 4 years ago


    @ZucchiniMann yes ! That's it , thanks for posting it .


    Another point is that if only black also had the dark-squared bishop , he could have had some chance on penetrating on the c-file . Wait , aren't we going too OP ? This article is meant for maximizing the material advantage in the endgame . But nevertheless , It's still nice to add some info 'bout the rooks :')


  • 4 years ago


    I made a quick research, AlcherTheMovie, and you probably meant that game:

  • 4 years ago


    @BraindeadBrainiac it's possible to get those rooks on the 1'st and 2nd rank , but most probably they can get kicked , and worst can get trapped , by pawns and minor pieces . And a battery is only powerful if it can get rolling on that open file . A good example is in the game "Zukertort's Immortal" , black concentrated his efforts on building a heavy assault on the only open file , but only to find that white's choice of development allows the bishop pair to void the "battery" on that file and concentrate on an attack on the kingside .


    PS. I'd really like to post that game here , but my connection is awfully slow , so if you still haven't seen that game , it's really a good example on this topic .

  • 4 years ago


    wonderful article for the learners!!

  • 4 years ago



    -2 Rooks on the 1st/2nd rank? It's like the Holy Grail! It can't happen that early because of the minor pieces.

    -Rook batteries are often very strong. Rook are often more dangerous when they are connected; e.g. vs. a Queen. Being on an open file has more meaning if you are controlling the only open file.

  • 4 years ago


    @Jopica: Actually, the saying is, "If you are heard, then speak. If you are not, then stop." This was said by Chuang-Tzu, a devoted student of Lao-Tzu, who is the author of the Tao-teh-Ch'ing and father to the philosophy/religion of Taoism. It's interesting to note that this saying mirrors what was said by Jesus when he said, "Cast not your pearls before swine lest they trample them under your feet and turn and rend you also." Or, the other saying by Confucious, loosely interpreted, meaning "Better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

    Evidentally, I know more about philosphy than I do Chess. In my games, it appears that if I get my rooks on their 2nd rank early in the game, it seems to be an advantage, though I don't have a rook to look after the 1st / 2nd ranks. Evidentally, it is an error to get both rooks up there, especially early?

    I would also like to see an artical about batteries (one rook behind another). My chess coach years ago indicated that this was a powerful weapon, but batteries seem to give me only a fleeting advantage ending in severe disadvantage later or otherwise get me into trouble. I'd like to see an artical about when and how to use this technique.

    Thank you for this article.

  • 4 years ago


    I agree this is aimed at the 800 - 1000 level.

    Good article for beginners, certainly.

    @tarraschtalker - some 800-1000 do know K R vs K :P where as many 1200's don't. What 0 - 1400's know/don't know cannot to the slightest extent be generalized.You never know what they know :)

    I was one contacted by a fellow chess.com member for coaching. He was rated about 900 and said he had memorized at least 20 to 30 openings at lesat 15 moves deep... he had so much theory memorized, but of course was a complete beginner at understanding any of it or any other part of chess.

  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago


    good job, but it's easy move for me

  • 4 years ago


    Its for basic students!

  • 4 years ago


    Foot in mouth

  • 4 years ago


    @jopica , ofc you'll shut up if you have nothing to say :)

    Also , you can even sac your extra rook if it will ensure 2 pawns on the 6th rank .

  • 4 years ago


    Very nice article, thank you!

  • 4 years ago


    @JoPiCa: And YOU contributed? I didn't see much...Well, here is  something useful. In the first game, some players might find it easier to go ahead and immediately sacrifice the second rook instead of gobbling pawns.

  • 4 years ago


    jopica i think the saying is if you have nothing good to say then say nothing 

  • 4 years ago


    What a great move. Tnx 4 the lesson

  • 4 years ago


    ... some, if not most of these comments, add nothing to the discussion/value of the article. Some are even rude (shall we say unacceptable?). Once a wise man said it " if you have nothing to say just shut up". Happy Easter.

  • 4 years ago


    Of course in the first game white is still fine if he doesn't sacrifice material immediately. He was completely winning all the way until 36. Rb1 in the sideline given. Better safe than sorry though.

  • 4 years ago


    Great learning material.  Keep up the good work!

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