Sending the Rook to the Opposite Wing

Posted: 9/13/2005
By: Mark Dvoretsky

Bringing the Rook into the Attack

Shipov - Miles
Hastings 1998/99


16. Ra1-a4!+-

White already had dangerous kingside pressure; adding the rook brings the fight quickly to an end.

16...Qe8 17. Rg4 g6 (17...Rg8 18. Rxg7!; 17...Bxf3 18. Rxg7!, intending 19. Rg8+ Rxg8 20. Bh6+) 18. Bh6+ Kg8 19. Ng5 Bf8 20. Bxf8 Kxf8 21. Rgd4 Bc6 22. Rf4 f5 23. ef e5 24. Qd3! Black resigned.

Saverymuttu - van der Berg
Arosa 1972


12. Ra1-a4!!

An unusual and very strong move. White now has the terrible threat of trapping the queen by 13. b5 ab 14. Rh4.

12...Nce7 (12...Nge7 13. b5 Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Qxe5 15. Re1 would be hopeless) 13. b5 Ng6 14. g4! Qh3 15. Re1 (threatening 16. Bf1) 15...Nh4 16. Nxh4 Qxh4 17. b6! cb 18. g5 Qh3 19. e6! de 20. Re3 Black resigned.

Lobzhanidze - Nadanian
Pasanauri 1997     


12...Ra8-b8!? 13. Be2-f3 Rb8-b4!

Black plays for mate. After 14. g3, however, the success of his intended attack would remain problematical, as 14...Rh4! now would mean sacrificing a whole rook.

It is true that it could not be taken at once: 15. gh? Qe5 16. Re1 Bh3-+. White would have to choose either 15. Nxd5 Nxd5 16. Bxd5 cd 17. gh Bxh2+ 18. Kxh2 Qxh4+, with perpetual check; or 15. Nb5!? cb 16. gh Bh3 17. Bg2 (17. Re1 Bb8 18. Bh1 is worth consideration, preparing to defend h2 by f2-f4) 17...Bxg2 18. Kxg2 Qe4+ 19. Qf3 Qxh4 20. h3 Ne4! 21. Rad1 (21. Qg4 Qh6, intending 22...f5) 21...f5, with a double-edged position (22. Rxd5? Ng5 is bad).

14. Ne2?! Rh4! 15. g3 Rh6 16. Bg2 Ba6?!

The bishop should not have been taken off the c8-h3 diagonal. After 16...Ng4! 17. h3, the continuation 17...Nxe3?! 18. fe Qxe3+ 19. Rf2 is dubious; but simply 17...Nf6 or 17...Ne5 would have maintained the attack. White might have had to continue 17. Nd4!? Nxh2 18. Nxc6 Qg5 19. Re1 Bg4 20. f4 Qh5 21. Qxd5 Qxd5 22. Bxd5 Nf3+ 23. Bxf3 Bxf3; but Black has a dangerous initiative in this endgame, offering more than enough compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

17. Re1 Qd7 18. Qc2 Ne4!? 19. f3 Ng5 20. Nd4 Bc8 21. f4 Nh3+ 22. Kh1 c5 23. Nf3, with a complicated game.

Activating the Rook

Dvoretsky - Kurajica
European Champions’ Cup, Solingen 1976


14. Ra1-a4!

For the rook, an open line can mean not only a file, but sometimes a rank as well.

14...Raf8 15. ef gf 16. Nh4!

Sacrificing a pawn to increase the rook’s control over the 4th rank.


On 16...Rg8, 17. Qh5 is strong. After 16...Nxh4 17. Rxh4 Qxa5 (17...f5 18. Rh6) 18. Ne4 Qd8 19. Bc3 (the idea being 20. Ng5, or 20. Rh6 and 21. Qh5), White’s active pieces assure him sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn. On e6-e5, he always has f2-f4.

17. Nxg6+ hg 18. f4 Bd6?! (18...ef was better) 19. Ne4 ef 20. Nxd6 Qxd6 21. Bxf4 Qd5 22. Qf2

White’s king is much better protected than Black’s; with opposite-colored bishops, this is a very significant factor. I have time to quietly improve my position, since my opponent is unable to undertake anything.

22...g5 23. Bd2 Kg7 24. Bc3 Kg6 25. Rae4 Qd6 26. h3 (26. b4!) 26...b6 27. b3 Rh8 28. R4e3 Rhf8 29. Rf3 Re7, and here White could have secured a decisive advantage after 30. Re4! f5 (30...Rxe4 31. de and 32. e5) 31. h4! (31...g4 32. Rxg4+).

Winning Material

Dreev - Shabalov
International Junior Tournament, Leningrad 1983


23. e4-e5! d6-d5 24. Rh3, with a double attack, is quite bad for Black.

24. Rf3-f4!  

The ability to take in the entire board at once is the mark of a great talent. One might think Alyosha Dreev was attacking the king; instead, he obtains a decisive advantage by exploiting the unfortunate position of the knight, stuck out on the queenside.

24...Be6 25. Rxb4 Bxb4 26. Qxb4 Rac8 27. Ne2 Rd7 28. Nf4 Qc7 29. Bd4 Qd8 30. h4 h6 31. Bb6 Qf8 32. Qxf8+ Kxf8 33. gh Ne8 34. Nb3 Kg8 25. Nc5 Re7 36. Nxa6 Rc4 37. Nd3 Bc8 38. Nab4 Nc7 39. b3 Rxh4 40. Nc6 Re6 41. Na7 Black resigned.

Larsen - Suetin
Copenhagen 1965


27. Re1-e5!

The rook aims for a5, and Black cannot avoid the loss of a pawn, for example: 27...Qb1+ 28. Kg2 Qb6 29. Qxb6 ab 30. Rb5 Rb8 31. Rb4.

27...Qa6 28. Ra5 Rc8 (28...Qb6 29. Rxa7) 29. Qxf7+ Kxf7 30. Rxa6 Rc7

If 30...Rxc2 31. Rxa7+ Ke6!? (31...Kg6 32. Ra4) 32. Rxg7 Rd2, the simplest is 33. Bg4+! Nxg4 34. Rxg4 Rxd3 35. Kf1! Kd5 36. Rh4+- (Larsen).

31. Kf1 Nd7 32. Ra2! Nb6 33. Be4 g6 34. Ke1 Kf6 35. Kd2 g5?! 36. Ra5, and White won.


Zlotnik - Kakhiani
Kiev 1976

Finding a good way of parrying the threatened 1...Bxf4 is not so simple.

1. Rc1-h1!! Bd6xf4?

Black had to play 1...Rxd4! 2. ed g6!?, intending Q(B)xf4 or Bf8-g7 – Black would then have solid compensation for the sacrificed exchange.

2. Rh1-h4! Qf5xg5+ 3. Rh4-g4

A piece down, Black soon resigned.

Sending the Rook to a Neighboring File

Sometimes the rook remains on the same wing, but moves to a different file. Practically speaking, this changes nothing: the motives behind the maneuver remain the same.

Smyslov - Robatsch
Olympiad, Amsterdam 1954


The b1-h7 diagonal is a gaping wound in Black’s position. One more attack on the knight covering the diagonal, and...

24. Re1-e3!

There is no satisfactory defense to the threatened 25. Rf3.

24...Qe7 25. Rf3 e4 26. Nxe4 Nh4 27. Nf6+ Bxf6 28. Rxf6 Rxf6 29. Bxf6 Qxf6 30. Qh7+ Kf8 31. Qxd7 Re8 32. Qxc7 g4 33. hg Qf4 34. Bf5 Black resigned.

Barczay - Lengyel
Kecskemet 1968



Next comes 41...Rb6 (or 41...Ra6) – Black’s heavy pieces start working together, and the enemy king will have no escape from persecution. For example: 41. Qf7 Qd1+ 42. Kb2 Rb6+, or 41. Qe2 Rb6! 42. Kd3 Qa6+! 43. Kc2 Qa4+ 44. Kd3 Rd6+.

41. c4 Qa2+ 42. Kc1 Qa1+ 43. Kc2 Ra6! (43...Rb6 was also strong) 44. Qf4 Ra2+ 45. Kd3 Qb1+ 46. Ke3 Ra3+ White resigned.

In order to fix the habit of these rook maneuvers, why don’t you solve the next set of fairly simple exercises on your own?

Exercise 1


Exercise 2


Exercise 3


Exercise 4


Exercise 5


Exercise 6


Exercise 7


Exercise 8



1 Chechelian - Dvoretsky, USSR Team Championship, Moscow 1979


The only way to bring the queen’s rook into play.

22. Bd3 Re5 (22...Bb4 runs into the strong reply 23. Ne4!) 23. Rfe1 Rxe1+ 24. Rxe1 Bb4 25. Re2 Rd8 26. Bc2 Kf8 27. Kf2 g6! Thanks to his pair of bishops, Black has real winning chances.

2 Groszpeter - Kupreichik, Minsk 1982


Intending ...Rg6, ...Bd6, ...Qe5. Black concentrates all his forces in an attack on the king. As usual, the presence of opposite-colored bishops reinforces Black’s planned attack.

21...f4?! 22. ef Rxf4 23. g3 Rf6 (23...Rf3 24. Qg4 Re8 25. Rac1) 24. Qe2 Re8 25. Kg2, with 26. Rad1 to follow, would have been less effective.

22. Rfd1 Rg6 23. Qe2 Bd6 24. Bc4 Qe5 25. g3 f4 26. ef Qxf4 (threatening 27...Bc5 or 27...e3) 27. Rxd6 Qxd6 28. Qxe4 Qc5 29. Qg2 Rgf6 30. Ra2 Rf3 31. Re2 h6, and Black won.

3 Yurkov - Belinkov, Moscow 1967

1...Rxf3? (expecting 2. d8Q? Rf2-+) would be a mistake, in view of 2. Qxe5, when 2...Rf2? 3. Qg3 would even lose, while 2...Qe3! 3. d8Q Rxh3+ 4. gh Qf2+ leads to perpetual check.


White has no satisfactory defense against 2...Rg6 (which would be Black’s reply to 2. d8Q, for example). If 2. Qc1 Rg6 3. Qg1 Qd2-+.

2. Kg1 Qe1+ (2...Rg6! was a quicker finish: 3. g4 Qe3+ 4. Kg2 Rf6) 3. Kh2 Qf2 4. Qc1 Rg6 5. Qg1 Qd2 6. Bb2 Qxd7 7. Bxe5 Qxa4, and Black won.

4 Plaskett - Tkachiev, London 1993

31. Re1-e5!!

An elegant move, securing the transfer of the rook to the a-file and the win of the a7-pawn (since! 32. Nxe5+ and 33. Nxg4 is hopeless for Black).

But Jim Plaskett failed to see this tactical shot. His choice, 31. c5? Ne6 32. Rc2 Nc7 33. Ra5 Nd5 34. Rc4 Rg6 35. Rca4 Rf6 36. Nd2 a6 37. a3 Rf2 let Black maintain the balance.

5 Bebchuk - Bakulin, Moscow 1963

13. Ra1-a4!

Bringing the queen’s rook into the game strengthens White’s position considerably. From now on, Black can never get in the important defensive move Qe5, in view of Re4.

In Prandstetter - Beljavsky (Bucharest 1980), White played the inferior continuation 13. Bg5?! Qe5 14. Qxe5 de 15. c4 c6!

13...0-0 14. Rf4 (14. Bg5?! Qxb2 is weaker) 14...Bf5 (14...Nf5!? 15. g4 Bd7 was preferable) 15. g4 Rae8 16. Kd1! Qe5 17. Qxe5 de 18. Rxf5 Nxf5 19. gf Rd8 20. Bg2 Bxf2 21. Ke2, with a won position for White.

6 Raetsky - Bologan, Bern 1997


Black intends to continue 13...Ra5, hitting at e5. There appears to be no way to save the pawn. White’s relative best was 13. Rad1!? Ra5 14. Ne4 Ndxe5 15. Nxe5 Nxe5 16. f4 Nc6 with a slight plus for Black.

13. Qe3 Ra5 14. Qc3 Qb4! 15. Ne4 Ndxe5 16. Nxe5 Rxe5 17. Rfd1 Ra5 18. Qxb4 Nxb4 19. a3 Na6 20. f4 e5 21. fe Rxe5, and Black won.

7 Motylev - Shariyazdanov, Russian Championship, Tomsk 2004.

25. f4 is tempting, expecting 25...Bxf4? 26. Bxb5! However, Black has 25...Rf6.

25. Re3-e4!

This modest move is very strong, because it creates two threats at once: f2-f4 and Rb4. For example, on 25...b4, 26. f4 Rf6 27. Qxh5 is decisive; and 25...Qd5 26. f4 Rf6 27. g3 g6 28. Rd1! is quite joyless as well.

25...g6 26. Rb4 (26. Qe3 is OK, since Black cannot reply 26...Kg7? 27. Rxe5; but the text is stronger) 26...Kg7 27. Rxb5 (27. Bxb5!?) 27...Rhh8 28. b3 Rxb5 29. Bxb5, and White won.

8 Shrentzel - Shvidler, Israel 1985

11...Ra8-b8! 12. Nb1-c3?!

White should have forestalled the black rook maneuver, but that would also have validated Black’s choice. After 12. Nd3, the knight abandons the center, and Black could reply, among other things, 12...Nd5 13. Bd2 Bf6. In a game Chiburdanidze - Romanishin (Frunze 1985), White played 12. a3!?, and after 12...Rb6, the black rook went to e6.


The prelude to a spectacular storming of the enemy king’s fortress.

13. Qa5 Bb7 14. f3?! Rh4!

An improvement on the game Chiburdanidze - Lukacs (Polanica Zdroj 1984), in which White got somewhat the better game after 14...d5?! 15. Nd3 Rb6 16. Bf4.

15. a3 (the threat of 15...Bb4 16. Qa4 Bc5+ must be parried) 15...Rh5! 16. g4

16...Nxg4! 17. fg Rxh2!!

White’s in bad shape. Black’s chief attacking resource is getting his queen onto the d8-h4 diagonal. For example: 18. Kxh2 Bb4! 19. Qxb4 Qh4+, or 18. Nc6 Bc5+! 19. Qxc5 Qh4 20. Ne7+ Kh8 21. Ng6+ hg 22. Qxf8+ Kh7. On 18. Nd5, the most convincing line is 18...Bb4! 19. Qxb4 Bxd5. 18...Rxc2 19. Nc6! Bxc6 20. Nxe7+ Kh8 would be less clear, although 18...Bc5+ 19. Qxc5 d6! is possible. Of course, Black couldn’t play 19...Qh4? 20. Qxf8+! Kxf8 21. Nxd7+, when suddenly he’s the one getting mated.

The game continued with 18. Ne4, when Black could have ended the game quickly with 18...Bc5+! 19. Kxh2 Qh4+ 20. g2 Bxe4+ 21. Rxe4 Qf2+ 22. Kh3 Qf1+ followed by Bf2+, or 19. Qxc5 Qh4 20. Nf3 Rh1+ 21. Kg2 Qh3+ 22. Kf2 Bxe4. Black chose the less energetic 18...Rxc2? 19. Qa4! Rc5! 20. Bf4! Rb5 21. Rab1, winning only after a long struggle.