Video on using your rooks?

Dec 22, 2013, 6:10 PM |

Thankyou, David C. & Brett & Marcus & Karen & Peter & Jeddah.  Last Saturday, particularly, was such a pleasurable one for me, in diverse ways.  I got a chance to be useful to Karen, Marcus & David.  And Karen helped Marcus a lot, and Ilan & Jeddah played a full-on fighting tussle which showed the great improvements Jeddah has achieved... and my dad & Jeddah yakked a lot... and Brett generously shouted us all some food & wine from the cafe, saying, "people here have shouted me drinks, and I've just got a big order for firewood so I'm almost rich, and I just wanted to say thankyou."  ("People here" means Branko, Peter & John.)  So my pleasure has a dollop of pride on the top of it: pride in the gracious & generous treatment of group-members towards one another.


Today, I want to talk about rooks, use of.  This subject will take some time to approach.  Let's begin with what I can remember of Saturday's games. The following position and sequence shows the last few moves of what Marcus & Karen actually played.

In this starting position, Karen's rooks have been excellently used: doubled up on the open b-file; joined together and so protecting & reinforcing one another; placed to make life a brief thing for Marcus's king!  Marcus has no rooks.  His only good pieces left are his central pawns and his bishop on e4... and you sure made good use of that!  Karen, you had here earned a thorough victory.  You could best have ignored Marcus's first move, above, and proceded with Bxh5+ with checkmate following before Marcus could so much as check you.


This example shows rooks well-used in an end-game... that is, if you can have an endgame with queens still on the board.  It is much harder to use a blunt instrument like the rook in the middle-game, when the board is still chockers.  By contrast, jumping knights and sidling bishops are more evasive than rooks, and less expensive to put at risk.  So let's see if I can remember that same game at an earlier stage.  The following sequence shows what I think they should have played, or considered, rook-wise:

No, the starting position isn't right, but it's close enough.  It's similar to what you had just as Karen was emerging from the opening, and just as Marcus was about to emerge.  In this particular approximation of your game, white hasn't yet done the final tasks of the opening, and black hasn't done all the initial ones.  So black has fallen behind in time, and white has a distinct edge, though by no means a decisive one.  When we get to the end of the sequence entered above, you'll see that what I think comes from the opening you've played is an advance by white, supported by the rooks.  White is better able to do this than black because of that edge in development.  So white's perception of the strength of her position can accompany a perception of black's weakness on the same side of the board, the "queen's side".  Hence, a queen-side attack is a logical course for white to take.  The support of the rooks is essential here, I think. One can sometimes do wonderful and amazing things against a castled king with just a queen and a knight - in some positions.  Mostly, more considered coordination of forces is needed.  Rooks!


In the sequence I suggest above, Karen might have looked at her position, come to the conclusion above and decided to put her rooks on the b & c files to support a pawn-push.  Note that by the 5th move, the rooks are joined up, this time on 1st rank rather than on the b-file as later in the game.  Another very good use of her rooks in that later stage of the game would be to have them lined up together on a rank on the 7th rank.  This would have them trained on the black bishop, and on the king behind that:

Some of what I've said above is complex, I think.  It's also inadequate, and grounds for discussion.  I don't want anyone to attempt merely to adopt what I say as Guide To Proper Play.  There ain't no such thee-yung.  Furthermore, we are a varied group: some complete beginners, some with years of chess behind them.  In one way or another, and at every level, these subjects can be gone over and over again.  So here's an idea:  I have recently bought a membership of Chess.Com which gives me access to video-lessons.  How about I find us an appropriate video to look at together, next SAturday afternoon?

I think that the hardest thing is choosing where to put your rooks so they will be where they are needed! On time!  Not "Oh I wish I had some backing on this file now..."  It is indeed difficult to see the need and make a good choice, a good-enough choice if not the one-&-only right choice (again, they-yar ain't no sich they-ang.  So take it easy on yourself.)  I think this difficulty showed in two other games of last Saturday.

In this interesting game, Jeddah has won a bishop and has a clear advantage in that respect only.  Ilan has played a fine attacking game with the pieces he has, and threatens checkmate on d8.  Jeddah is very weak on black squares, and if she didn't have a black-squared bishop her game would be simply lost.  Well, not quite, as she can block the d-file with her white squared bishop.  Conversely, Ilan has no piece with which to control or even contest the white squares occupied by Jeddah's bishop and pawns.  And note that Ilan's position would be a little better again if queen and attendant bishop were swapped about:





And Jeddah's position would be a little better if her king's rook were on h7 instead of g8.  I know she thought long and hard over that difficult decision, but I think she made the wrong choice.  Easy for me to say, now!

aAnd another thing, Ilan: I wonder if you might have considered placing your rooks on the h-file instead of the d-file , as you have even more control of h8 than you do of d8.  Hard to get 'em there, I know, but still:


Lastly, there is the game which David & I played:


David played better than me in the first 6 moves, and so I wasted time defending then exchanging my valuable black-squared bishop for his knight.  He has two bishops, and he could do well in an open end-game.  However, his queen and his white-squared bishop are not well-placed.  Nor is my queen.  His position would have been handsomely won some moves previously if he could have placed a rook on e8.  He still wants urgently to do that, and cannot.  David, this would be possible if you had thought of rook-placement during a tactical flurry of some moves previously.  I can't remember it properly, but the thing I want to discuss is demonstrated in the following approximations:

I haven't accurately recalled the position we reached.  I don't think black's white-squared bishop was so badly placed; and knowing you, David, it's a good guess that black's queen was out and about, bottling up her breath to scream, "off with his head!"  Nevertheless, the full horror of white's queen-placement is potentially there, pinned to the king.  And it's that last move by black, Pxd5, which deprives black's rooks of the square they need most of all.  Pxd5 leaves e8 contested by white's bishop.  interesting, hey?  If you had played it just slightly differently, then as white I would have been completely cactus.  Here is how you might have done it:

 For a while, I thought I was really in trouble.  And I would have been if you had taken the chance, shown in the sequence above, to push my white-squared bishop away from its control of e8.  As this is where your  rook wants to go.

So:  if I had a crystal ball, or if I was plugged into Deep Blue, then perhaps I would be more mindful of where my rooks want to go.  A little sooner than I currently am.  I think we will be able to review this subject many times over, again and again.