The Nerd Club - Rooks

Dec 10, 2015, 12:16 AM |

This is the blog for the CMT-group chess club. The idea is to teach a bunch of theoretical phycisists how to play chess.

Hi guys! I will just start out by putting some of the recent games played by our members here first since I feel they are quite topical wrt. the themes we have been talking about in the chess club (they are not a part of today's topic though - they are just for fun. So skip this beginning part if you just want to learn about rooks). In the following game, notice how Black does not castle, which to begin with is not that big of a deal, but somehow Black makes a mistake or two somewhere, and suddenly the uncastled king is in big trouble. This fits well in with the theme of last week.

In this following game I want to focus on the strong opening play by White (the game is Morten Munk as White against Andreas). I like how White does not rush to play d4 at first, which would give away the e4-pawn, but calmly develops his pieces until d4 can be reached more naturally. Then he keeps on playing solid moves and has a nice position after Bb2. After Black plays b5 he should have just reacted with his knight (either Na5 and later Nc6, or just Ne3) would have secured a sizeable advantage, but he blunders the piece. He fights for some tricks but has a bad position when Black loses on time just before playing Qxd2.
And here is a game of Jens (White) vs. Asbjørn (Black) where both sides follow good opening principles, until White goes Ba4 (setting up a pin), which seems to try to trick Black more than get a good position. Black calmy rejects the pin and White blunders on the next move, and from there Black never looks back.

Here the article starts

Before we dive into the topic of today, I want you to briefly look at the following game played tuesday in the London Chess Classic, and think about the battle of the minor pieces (it is most relevant to look from move 30 and onwards). 

I think from around move 30 it is clear that White has the better minor piece - there is actually a term for this called "good knight vs. bad bishop". The idea is simple - the knight has a fantastic, supported outppost/hole on d5, while the Black bishop lacks scope since it is restricted by the d6 and e5-pawns. White even sacrifices a pawn on move 42 to activate his rook; he believes so much in his superior minor piece that this pawn is not an issue. And eventually he wins the game. So please take note of how having the better minor piece can be a game-winner :)

Now: rooks!

We have talked about minor pieces before, but we have not yet talked much about how to make your rooks happy. So that will be the topic of today's post (I am again following "How to Reassess Your Chess" by J. Silman, stealing bits and pieces everywhere). The simple thing you should know about rooks is: If you want your rooks to be effective, they need an open file. The trick here is not to sit around hoping that an open file magically appears, but to play actively trying to make it happen. Take a look at the following opening sequence.

I feel I have said that this is bad play by White a lot of times. But why is it bad? The point is, here White seems only to care about developing his minor pieces - getting his knights and bishops out. But in the haste, he has not given any thought to his rooks, particularly the a1-rook. By playing Nc3, he blocks the advance of the c-pawn. Instead White probably should have tried something like this:

The difference in the position is clear. Now both the knight and the c4-pawn are fighting against d5; and, once the rook moves to c1, a later cxd5 will open up the c-file for the rook, activating it in the game! So an important statement is that pawn tension and pawn breaks are the tools that create open (or half-open) files.

Here is a good example of White playing to activate his rooks:

So we see that a file is something very valuable because it the road that the rooks use to penetrate into the enemy position. So if you can own a file with a rook while your opponent cannot, it is usually a good idea. Let's see another example:

Here we saw White using some mating tricks to play some good moves. But actually quite often when you have a rook deep into the enemy position there are strong tactics available, often connected to mating ideas. This is explained in the following section:

Control of the 7th or 8th ranks.

One rook on the 7th rank may be nice, but two rooks are even better! Two such rooks are called 'pigs on the 7th', presumably because they devour everything in sight. Let's see a basic example:

This shouldn't give the impression that a rook on the 7th or 8th rank is always 'winning'. It depends on the concrete situation whether that is the case. Take the following example: