How Do Rooks Move In Chess?

Rooks are a very valuable piece in chess, they have a huge role to play in many foundational chess strategy endgames. One Rook is valued to be the equivalent of five pawns, making it a very important chess piece for players.

Rooks are the pieces that resemble a castle or tower, and sometimes inexperienced players will refer to this powerful piece as a castle or tower.

How Do Rooks Move In Chess

In early forms of chess, the Rook was actually portrayed in the shape of a chariot but eventually adapted into its current castle-like shape.

Like all chess pieces, the Rook has a very specific way that it can move around the chess board, and in this piece, we look at exactly how rooks move in a game of chess and more.

How Rooks Can Move In Chess

In a game of chess, Rooks can be moved in straight lines, up and down the files or they can be moved side to side across the ranks. There is no limit to the number of squares they can move as long as they move in a straight line. 

While Rooks have the ability to move straight as many squares as the player wishes they cannot jump over other pieces that they meet on the board.

If an opponent’s piece is in the way the Rook will be used to stop the opponent’s piece or capture it. 

Rooks are used as an attacking piece and are also used to protect other pieces on the board. For example, the Rook could be used to protect the King to prevent the opponent from achieving a checkmate. 

Castling With The Rook 

There is one very special move that players often execute in a game when using the rook. This move is called castling and this move involves moving both the Rook and the king. 

Castling is a protective move as it enables the Rook to protect the King while also giving players the opportunity to coordinate or develop the Rooks.

To perform this move, the King is moved two squares to one side and then the rook is shifted beside the King on the opposite side. There are some rules around this move, these are:

  • Must be the first move made using the Rook
  • It must also be the first move made using the King
  • There must be no pieces blocking the way between the King and Rook
  • If the King is under “check”, meaning the other opponent has said checkmate, this move cannot be made
  • The King must not have been moved past one

You can perform castling in two different ways, these are:

  1. Kingside Castle: castling move is executed on the side of the board the King is closest to
  2. Queenside Castle: the castling move is executed on the side of the board that the Queen is closest to 

Mastering the castling move is a great way of advancing your chess skills and it is a move that can often protect you from losing a game in certain situations. 

Rooks On The Seventh Rank 

There are favorite places for each chess piece, this is a position on the board where the piece can be played best, and for the Rook, it is one when it is positioned on the seventh rank.

The seventh rank is the seventh row from your playing side of the chess board.

When a Rook is on the seventh rank there are two moves that a player can make, these are:

  • Attack the opponent’s unmoved Pawns diagonally
  • Trap the opponent’s King at the back row on the opponent’s side of the board

It is often worth sacrificing a Pawn to distract the opponent and get the Rook into position on the seventh rank.

Rook Lifts 

A Rook lift is another great move to play with these powerful pieces. At the beginning of a game, the Rooks are stuck in position, blocked in by other pieces.

Rooks are usually progressed along the board by moving them into empty files where a Pawn once was, these unblocked files are called open files.

Alternatively, you can use the Rook lift, which is when the Pawn in front of the Rook is moved two squares and the Rook then progresses up to the third rank.

The Rook is now in a great position to be easily moved to an available file to attack the opponent’s pieces. 

Rooks And Passed Pawns 

Rooks are often the final pieces on a chessboard and so a player needs to take time to learn and master some Rook endgames to help win the game.

It can be useful to memorize endgames so that when playing under pressure you won’t be left wasting time on the clock while considering what to do.

In Rook endgames the first thing to be aware of is to always keep your Rook active, it should never be placed in a passive position to defend a lesser piece, such as a Pawn.

Keep your Rook behind Pawns where possible so as not to create a dead space on the board where you cannot move two of your pieces. 

Final Thoughts 

The Rook is a powerful piece that should be utilized in chess games.

Not only can you use this piece to perform a castling move, but you can also use it to move backward in a straight line, as long as no pieces are blocking the way giving huge options to how you play this piece.

Like all pieces, there are also some limitations associated with the Rook.

The only limitations associated with this piece are that it is out of play for the first move and is trapped in the corner until Pawns are progressed along, leaving an open file for the Rook to be moved into. Another limitation is that a Rook cannot be moved diagonally. 

Once you understand each piece’s strengths and weaknesses you will soon see your chess ability improve hugely, benefiting your rating as well as your ability to play the game.

Jenna Ostria
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