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  • How The Pieces Move >> Rooks         Pawns     Knights     Bishops     Archbishops     Chancellors     Queens     Kings


    The Rooks can move horizontally or vertically. They are probably the easiest of the pieces to understand. Like all sliders, they can move as many spaces that are not blocked by friendly pieces.
    The first part of the animation shown above demonstrates the range of moves available to a Rook on an open board from two different starting squares.
    It should be noted that experienced players don't really activate their Rooks until the later portions of the game. The most common use for Rooks is shown at the end of the animation.
    The castling procedure, where the Rook and King both move at the same time, is explained here, and most often produces a position where both friendly Rooks can defend one another in the back rank.
    Back rank protection is an important motiff expounded upon in the next section.
     
    Back Rank Checkmates         Pawns     Knights     Bishops     Archbishops     Chancellors     Queens     Kings


    The most common use of the Rooks is the defending of the back rank from mating threats issued by the other stronger major pieces.
    You can see that without Rooks in the back rank, either side to move can checkmate their opponent.
    White to move slides the Queen to g8 for checkmate.
    Black to move plays the Chancellor on d1 for check. The white Queen must block the check, and the Chancellor captures the Queen for checkmate next.




    You can see that just adding one Rook to each side, as shown above, prevents such "easy" back rank checkmates. For most of the game, the Rooks will reside on the 1st/8th ranks, serving as the guards for each side. But one should not relax just because you have a Rook in your back rank, as the next section demonstrates.
     
    Checkmating An Insufficiently Defended Back Rank         Pawns     Knights     Bishops     Archbishops     Chancellors     Queens     Kings


    In the animated example shown above, we repositioned the Rook on black's back rank.
    That seemingly innocuous nudge of the black Rook allows white to checkmate!
    As before, the white Queen comes down the pike to g8, giving check, but this time it is a sacrifice to guarantee checkmate.
    The black Rook captures the Queen. But now, the white Chancellor is aligned to recapture the Rook, and thereby deliver checkmate.
    We must always verify our strategic ideas (defending the back rank with a Rook) with tactical calculation (evaluating the consequences of specific lines of play).
     
    Pressuring An Insufficiently Defended Back Rank         Pawns     Knights     Bishops     Archbishops     Chancellors     Queens     Kings


    The Rooks play an important role in this example. White has seized the 7th rank with his Rook. Black is defending the back rank against a checkmate by white.
    It has been said that it is harder to defend than attack. When we are on the defensive, it is not pleasant. We would rather be the one winning the game rather than just trying to hang on.
    For this reason, it is often best to keep applying pressure to the opponent's position, even if you cannot see a clear path to a checkmate.
    In this example, the white player identified some opportunities associated with black's weak back rank. White has a winning position, even though it looks like black has real chances to promote a pawn.
    Notice that if the black Bishop moves, white has Qxi7 for checkmate. White simply attacks this frozen piece with his own Bishop, adding more pressure to the situation.
    Black correctly avoids "Bishop takes Bishop," dodging the mate in 1. But, with time running out on his clock, he makes a strategic decision to advance his Pawn to b2, one move away from becoming a second Queen for him.
    The correct first move for black should have been freeing up a flight square for his own King by pushing the j-pawn. But now we have a tactical checkmate as a result of the erroneous move played.
    After 1. Be4 d2? white has 2. Rxh7! which is referred to as sacrificing The Exchange in regular 8x8 chess parlance.
    Black has no time to ignore this capture since white is again threatening a mate in 1. White has successfully deflected the black Rook from its task of defending its back rank.
    Most likely black was able to see as far ahead as 1. Be4 d2 2. Rxh7 Rxh7 3. Qg8+ Qh8 where it appears everything is defended sufficiently after the black Queen intervenes to block the check.
    But now the black Queen is pinned, so the "surprise" 4. Bxh7+ checks the black King away from the defense of the black Queen. White mates by capturing the black Queen next.
     
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