Middle game tactics: Dilemma over the choice of rooks to move

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One of the important set of pieces with unique advantages of moving forward and backward only on verticals and horizontals and not otherwise is the rooks. The importance of the rooks can be assessed by the fact that the value of two rooks is more than the value of the Queen. No other combination of the major and minor pieces gives a value more than the value of the queen in the game of chess. The rooks are basically stationed at the flanks at the start of the game. As part of the opening strategy, it is imperative that the players try to bring these two rooks into play by preferring to castle and prepare the rooks for further development.

At the start of a typical middle game stage, one could invariably find both the rooks occupying the back ranks while all other minor pieces leave that first rank and take interesting positions in the other ranks. Most of the time even the Queen moves out of the back rank, but the rooks will be stationed there before preparing for the development.

It is imperative that which of the two rooks should be moved as part of the development or defence should be correctly assessed, based on the evaluation of the position of the board, and a wise decision is taken. The choice of the wrong rook for movement will not only complicate the position, it might give away the advantage to the opponent to pounce on the weakness.

To emphasize this important fact, let us look at a part of the game played in German Bundesliga by two grandmasters, where a wrong decision by white has forced him to part with the control over the board and ultimately after great defending and futile attacking, had to settle for a draw.

This is the position of the game after 15 moves, and it is the turn of the White to make a move.


(White to move)

A cursory look at the position indicates that both the players have developed their pieces fairly well, and are in the midst of an intriguing middle game. It is obvious that White would want to move his rook to the e1 square to share the advantage of the open e file. Here comes the dilemma as to which of the two rooks – rook at c1 or the rook at f1 – that should be moved to the e1 square – is the problem.

The merits of moving the rook at f1 to e1 include – having two rooks at each side – queenside and the kingside – and exercising control over the “c” file and the “e” file. On the contrary, moving the rook at c1 to e1 means the rook at f1 is blocked.

White decided to go ahead with the second option of moving the rook at c1 to e1.

The moves are as follows:

16. Rce1 Qd6
17. Re3 …. White anticipated that an exchange of Rooks as:

1. ….. Rxe3

2. fxe3 ….. would strengthen his position with the Rook at f1

17. …. Bg7 Black did not accept the invitation for exchange

The game continued further and after another 30 moves or more, both the players agreed for a draw.

This is a nice example, which emphasizes that every move, especially the wrong ones such as this one by white, should be judged on its merits.


  1. ChessTeacher says:

    I will try my best to put up a video of the game.

  2. PKS says:

    Value of 2 rooks != 1 Queen. In general this may be true but at certain positions it is a whole different game. It also depends on your game plan and initiative so if you are in an attack and you sense that the 2 rooks will be stronger than queen or vice versa then may be otherwise I think Queen is a dynamic piece.

    my 2 cents

  3. Mark B says:

    Most beginners tend to keep their Rooks in the corner, it is always great to move them in the game e or d square are always the optimal ones.

    Coming to the value of 2 rooks being that of a Queen, will it does hold true, they are the only 2 pieces that sort of match the value of Queen, i would still say it is a hard call.

  4. Josh says:

    Thought i’ll comment as I am regular reader around this blog. How do you know which Rook to move in a balanced position? Can you give me some tips, it is my weakest part when it comes to making a rook move. 10x.

  5. Joker says:

    Rook on c file is pretty much solid, it is an open file and will probably be useful later in the endgame, Rce1? it sort of blocks the other rook, Rfe1 would have been optimal, with ideas like bringing the Knight to f5 and getting a solid square and put more pressure on d5 square.

  6. None says:

    John Walter once said ~
    `“These are not pieces, they are men! For any man to walk into the line of fire will be one less man in your army to fight for you. Value every troop and use him wisely, throw him not to the dogs as he is there to serve his King”
    Better think before your move, in a glance this looks like white might have upper hand due to active pieces and mobility.

  7. ChessTeacher says:

    @None, you probably meant Jamie Walter Adams right? As I have read this quote of his before.

  8. Jim Myers says:

    ChessTeacher is right @noone, This quote is attributed to “Jamie Walter Adams”. In chess we strive to give the proper due and accredited weight to those in chess who accomplish great games, legendary status and even not so accredited quotes such as the one above. Please give credit to the right person. Although, a mistake like this is easily overlooked considering the common knowledge of the author of this and other quotes, it is still unnecessarily rude to not take the time to get it right. Give credit where credit is due for the sake of the prosperity of chess.

  9. ChessTeacher says:

    @Jim thanks


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