The Unstoppable Ra7

The Unstoppable Ra7‎

WIM energia
32 | Middlegame

Some time ago one of my students told me that it is hard to find rook moves that do not capture the opponent's rook but rather put it in close proximity to the enemy rook. The examples of white playing Ra7 when black’s rook is on a8 came to my mind right away. I would like to share with you here some of the positions from this topic. The advantage of playing Ra7, while having the other rook on the a-file as well is that we take control of the 7th rank. The seventh rank is usually important because it is inside the enemy’s camp and all his pieces can be distorted. Sometimes, by playing Ra7 we force our opponent to capture the rook with his on a8 thus giving up the a file. Playing rook to a7 might have a paralyzing effect on the opponent’s camp, since taking the rook would lead to loss of the file, while leaving it there will cripple his actions. Now let us take a look at a set of examples.

In this position Ra7 was played as a culminating maneuver after a brilliant attack.  I would like to show the attack as well; it is very educational because both opponents had to solve many problems of what pieces to exchange. This is a position with the kings castled on opposite sides. The center is closed therefore there would be wing attacks: white would attack on the queenside b4-b5, while black on the kingside g5-g4. The position is about equal, it all depends on who would be faster in his attack.





The pawn structure is fixed, making Bb7 a dead piece. All the black pawns are on light squares, thus completely burying the bishop. Ideally, white would want to trade all the pieces but leave one knight versus black’s bishop. White is clearly better here, let's see how white accomplishes this task.





Sometimes, Ra7 is aimed as a tactical operation. The following example illustrates this topic.





The last example shows how Ra7 paralyzes the opponent’s camp. All black did from move 32 to move 42 was to move his queen, he had nothing better to do. While if you look carefully, white improved his position greatly by making small maneuvers here and there. Like in the second example having two bishops does not favor black because of the fixed pawn structure.





Overall, Ra7 is a maneuver that is well-known and well-studied by many. I do not attempt to open new frontiers with this article but rather to support the old truths. I can go on and on about the topic of control of the open file, Ra7 aims at controlling the 7th rank as well. It can be used as a positional or tactical operation; it can cripple the opponent’s pieces or serve as deflection so white can start operations on the other wing.

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