Rooks on the Seventh, Revisited

  • GM DanielNaroditsky
  • | Aug 15, 2014

Despite his irritable personality and somewhat dogmatic assertions, Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) is the undisputed patriarch of modern positional thought.

In his magnum opus My System (1925), Nimzowitsch formulated and verbalized a litany of strategic concepts (prophylaxis, overprotection, and blockade, just to name a few) that we now take for granted.

Although many of his principal contentions are now regarded as self-evident, I believe that there is one notion in particular that chess players still routinely misunderstand: the power of two rooks on the seventh (second) rank. 

Castle at the Fore by William Pitcher

It is tempting to assume that two rooks are stationed on the seventh rank for one purpose only: to deliver checkmate. 

However, with the eighth rank defended by an enemy rook or queen, two rooks on the seventh (TRS) can almost never checkmate the king by themselves.

I will illustrate with a simple example.

Nimzowitsch himself was quick to establish that TRS derive their power not only from their attacking potential, but also from their mobility and restrictive capacity. Indeed, operating two active rooks requires far more technique and subtelty than one might think. In this article, I would like to shed some light on how this technique should be developed.

Projekt 52: Türme by 5auge

In many cases, TRS should be treated as a transitional advantage -- one that should be transformed into a more tangible one. This can either be done by by forcing a favorable trade of rooks, or by winning material. The following game furnishes a textbook example of the latter. 

Once all of the pawns were eaten, the two rooks had nothing left to do on the second rank. When the occasion called for it, Pantsulaia did not hesitate to make them fulfill a defensive duty on the g-file. 

As for exchanges, it can be quite painful to trade an ultra-active rook for a significantly more passive one, but sometimes there is simply no other way forward. In the next game, Czech IM Jan Sikora Lerch demonstrates the power of concrete thinking. 

Frequently, it is a good idea to call up an auxiliary force (usually a pawn) in order to increase the pressure along the seventh rank. In order to prevent said pawn from reaching the sixth rank (thereby supporting one of the rooks and making checkmate a real possibility), your opponent might well be forced to make a fatal concession. 

Once again, notice that White did not advance his h-pawn with the express intention of giving checkmate; he was merely aiming to win the g6 pawn by utilizing a tactical nuance (the impossibility of 37...gxh5). 

And now, please try your luck at the following exercise. Remember: the threat of mate should often be used as a way of transforming the advantage.

Everyone loves "pigs on the seventh" (a nickname introduced by GM Yasser Seirawan in his Winning Chess series -- it makes me laugh every time), but hopefully, I have been successful in showing exactly why they are so dominant. Adieu! 



  • 20 months ago


    Double Wow!

  • 2 years ago


    In the game Gopal-Pantsulaia in the comment to white's 37th, after 37. Rxg7 white doesn't lose a rook but a king after 37... Ra1

  • 2 years ago

    IM zoranp

    Extremely interesting article, congratulations. I only have a few remarks for the analysis of the first game, Gopal-Pentsulaia: analyze after 43.Rxb7 (instead of the game move 43.Rf8?) - 49.Rc5 is clear mistake which loses after 49...Rg2 50.Kd3 Ra2. Better is 49.Ra6 and after possible 49...Rd7 50.Ra5 things aren`t so clear, most likely - draw. Move 49...Rd7 (in the same analyze) is mistake because after 50.Ra5 Ke4 51.Kc3 position is - draw. Rook endgames are very complex!

  • 2 years ago

    NM FLchessplayer

    Very good article ... I enjoyed it a lot. Thank you for sharing it with the other chess players here at "chess-dot-com."

  • 2 years ago


    Last week, I had been reviewing the lessons about "Rook on the Seventh" when I got my attention to this TRS article written by you, GM Daniel Naroditsky. I am thankful to you that I find your article here in chessdotcom in the right timing for my "rook study". 

  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago


    Nice article about "7th heaven" Cool

  • 2 years ago


    Great article. Thanks. 

  • 2 years ago


    I call them "Two Pigs In A Trough."  Even one rook on the 7th is very powerful because it stops the enemy king from coming out. The two together can gobble up pawns and threaten mate simultaneously so they are indeed very powerful. Whenever you have that type of position, whether you have the two rooks or your opponent has them you should be sure to take your time to figure out the fullest extent of damage that can be done!

  • 2 years ago


    2 pigs on the seventh

  • 2 years ago


    interesting maybe if i read up on it a little i'll get out my losing streaks

  • 2 years ago


    I  believe Praxis and My System are two different books...choose the latter!

  • 2 years ago


    Thanks again 4 the great article@GM DanielNaroditsky

  • 2 years ago


    I got a power of that book when I was in jr high (the traslator chose the title: My Praxis), and I couldn't follow because it used descriptive notation... perhaps it is time to try it again...

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