Which Rook to Bring: The Brief Guide

Which Rook to Bring: The Brief Guide

The road to improvement and becoming a strong player is usually long and requires a lot of time and patience. If you are a club player who doesn’t fully dedicate to chess or you are just starting the long journey of improving yourself, we suggest that you focus on improving your chess understanding. As we have said before, we believe that investing a lot of time in learning long and complicated theoretical lines is not particularly useful at this point. Decide on a repertoire that suits your style, but doesn’t rely on exact moves; understand the resulting positions, see many model games and learn how to develop them to your advantage.

It is important that you study the classics, understand the main chess patterns, learn how to deal with different pawn structures and get to master the basic positional elements – weaknesses, the bishop pair, positions with opposite color bishops, knight versus bishop and so on.

If you are still looking for a point to start on those, make sure you check our previous work on these topics.

You will find detailed explanations and interesting games played by strong Grandmasters to help you understand the concepts. One particular moment of the game that puts not only beginners and club players but also Grandmasters in a dilemma is when it’s time to develop the rooks. At this point, an important question arises – which rook to move?

There is no general rule to tell us how to do it, so we usually have to decide it on the spot. One thing that you can do is to imagine how your pieces should be placed in order to achieve the idea you have in mind and from there decide which rook should stand where; you can also think about the possible ideas you could have in the position and start from there.

For example; you have to bring one rook to the center, but you also know that the typical plans (even if you can’t achieve them right away) involve actions on the queenside; the usual thing to do in such cases is to bring the kingside rook to the center and keep the other where it is for when action will start to develop.

These are general guidelines and they don’t always work; in this article, we will show you a few games where strong Grandmasters were put in this position and their train of thought in order to make the right decision.

We will start with a very instructive example from the game of a young Judit Polgar:

what rook to bring

Polgar, J – Lazic, M, 1990

White to play The d5 pawn is under attack and it’s clear that white must defend it. In order to do so, a rook should be brought to d1; but which one? Try to think by yourself for a few moments and make the decision before reading the solution.

This is a very instructive moment that Judit solved brilliantly. In this case, no rule could help you tell which rook has to go to d1 – it’s all calculation.

She continued with 22.Rad1! The point is to meet 22…Red7 with 23.Rc1! and give the d5 pawn for the one on c7. Why was this moment so important? Let’s take a moment to analyze 22.Rfd1.

Now, when the black goes 22…Red7, 23.Rdc1 (or even 23.Rac1) is no longer possible, as after 23…Rxd5 24.Rxc7 white is getting mated on the first rank.

White went on to win this game in a beautiful manner, so make sure to play through the game below:

Now let’s take the following middlegame position:

what rook to bring 2

Capablanca, J.R. – Michell, R, London 1913

White to play Rooks should go to open files; this is a well-known rule. In the position above, which rook would you place on d1 and why?

Take a moment to decide and then check out the game continuation. In the game, Capablanca continued with 14.Rfd1 and chose to keep the other rook on its initial position.

The reason is quite simple once you spot the idea – he has a queenside majority and he needs to put it in motion. In conclusion, the rook should remain on a1 and help do so, as we will see in the game.

Check it out:

As you can see, the answer to the question “which rook to bring to the open file?” always depends on the position you have on the board.

You have to consider all factors, both tactical (as we saw in the first example) and positional and decide accordingly.

We hope you enjoyed playing through the examples and they will help you next time you are in this situation.

Thank you for reading!

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Updated 01.07.2024


Pradeep K:
Unlike your usual posts, I found this a little difficult to digest. Of course, that's not the fault of the authors. Clearly in chess, some simple questions do not have straightforward answers. Some decisions are based on subjective factors, and it is only in post mortem that we know whether the decision was good.