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Among chess pieces, the chess rook is arguably the most vital chess piece on the chessboard after the queen, and they can move long distances to rattle rival chess pieces. Hence, the chess rook is considered a vital cog toward victory in a game.

At the start of a chess game, players gain control over two rooks each. When the chess pieces are arranged in the beginning, rooks take up the corner squares of the last row of the board. In chess parlance, the white rooks will be positioned at a1 and h1, and the black rooks will occupy a8 and h8.

Standard chess rules state that a chess rook is a ‘major’ piece worth five points. In the value scale, the chess rook is placed only below the queen, which has a value of nine points. The rest of the chess pieces – the bishop, the knight, and the pawn have lower values than the rook.

This makes it a valuable piece on the board, and understanding its strengths and weaknesses can go a long way in transforming anyone into a much better chess player.

How Do Rooks Move In Chess

One of the first questions that come to mind while learning about chess rooks is, ‘How do rooks move in chess?’ We have already mentioned that the chess rook is a powerful piece, second only to the queen in versatility.

So, it is no wonder it can move to its front, back and sideways. It can do so on any rank or file on the chess board. Its only limitation is its inability to move in the diagonal direction. Here lies the difference between the chess rook and the chess queen.

Now you may be wondering how far rooks can move in chess. A chess rook can move as many squares/tiles in the upwards or downwards as well as lateral direction, considering those squares are not occupied. This also answers another query that many newcomers in chess have, i.e., ‘Can rooks move sideways in chess?’

These characteristics of the chess rook make it a deadly piece in the middle and the endgame when both chess players look to destabilise their opponents and win the match. Especially towards the final phases of a chess match, when the board becomes open and spacious, rooks become doubly active and go for the kill swiftly.

Rooks capture rival chess pieces by moving over to their spots. It does not have the novel feature of the knight being able to jump over pieces to reach its objective destination. If the path of the chess rook is blocked by a similar colour piece, it is forced to remain stationary at its place.

How To Checkmate Using The Chess Rook

While reading about ‘How do rooks move in chess?’, it is critical to know the ways they can be used to gain advantage during a match. Rooks are versatile chess pieces that can checkmate in a variety of ways. Out of the many, three typical rook-based checkmates are very popular among established chess players. They are known as:

Single Rook Mate – In this type of checkmate, the rook forces the rival king into submission with the help of the same side king. This situation arises towards the end of a chess match when the board is almost out of chess pieces, and the kings become the cynosure of all the action.

Double Rook Mate – When two rooks start working in tandem on the chess board, it rarely bodes well for the opposition’s chess pieces.

Back-Rank Mate – Arguably the most well-known checkmate involving rooks, the bank-rank mate is a highly effective tool to corner the enemy king. This occurs when a player finds the opponent’s king in a precarious position, i.e., placed at the last rank of the chessboard with no empty square/tile to escape to in the case of an impending check.

How To Make The Best Use Of The Chess Rook

Like all chess pieces, rooks, too, have their strengths and weaknesses. Being the second most powerful chess piece on the chessboard after the queen, the rook becomes highly valuable during the middle and the endgame when players try to go for the win.

For a rook to be the most effective, the files and ranks must be open to the front/back and side/s. Cramped-up spaces are the bane for rooks on a chessboard. It is no wonder that rooks become part of the more extensive play not before the middle game but most during the endgame phase.

To bring the rooks into action early in a chess game, a player must be willing to play their pawns systematically so that enough space is created for them to enter the fray. To this end, a player could even have to sacrifice a few pawns to facilitate the entry of the rooks into the open board. 

Chess rooks are helpful in providing support to other chess pieces during play. While attempting to attack enemy pieces, good players tend to back their bishops or knights with rooks. Rooks also come in handy when a player’s pawns try to reach the other end of the board to be promoted to a higher piece.

Once a player successfully places a rook on an open rank or file, that entire zone is controlled by the same. This gives a great advantage to the person applying that strategy. In the latter stages of a chess game, rooks begin to show their potential by limiting the movement of the rival king.

Since rooks are considered as ‘high’ value chess pieces, they are often constantly under attack from the opponents’ pieces during a game. The bishops, knights and pawns are always looking to take out the enemy rooks on the board.

One of the objectives that all chess players should have is to try and free their rooks from the extreme corners of the chess boards by the time the game reaches the middle phase. That would allow any player to think and strategise better, enabling faster victories.

Due to positional restrictions, rooks come into the larger picture relatively late into the game when both players have already set up the momentum pretty well.

This article has spoken of all a beginner in chess, or a general reader should know about the chess rook. From ‘How do rooks move in chess?’ to ‘How far can rooks move in chess?’ and ‘Can rooks move sideways in chess?’, we have covered the significant aspects of this vital chess piece.

To learn more about chess and the essential pointers one should keep in mind while learning to play, check out our blog titled ‘How To Win Chess Games’, where you will find the basic ideas for how to go about winning your first chess games. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How do rooks move in chess when one uses the ‘rook lift’ technique’?

The ‘rook lift’ technique involves the pawns placed directly in front of the two rooks on the chessboard at the beginning of a match. As rooks are generally clustered at the corners of the board on both sides, the method of the pawns two places ahead from their starting position allows the rooks behind them to get ahead by two squares. This technique is beneficial when a player brings the rooks into play early in a match.

2. Is it possible to move the chess rook backwards?

Yes, it is possible to move the chess rook backwards, considering there is space for the rook to move. If the rank or files are occupied with chess pieces of the same colour, then the rook will not be able to progress along the rank or file.

This feature of the rook, of being able to move backwards, is shared by the queen and the knight to some degree, but not by the bishops and the pawns.

3. Do chess rooks move along the chessboard in the diagonal direction?

Unlike the bishops, the chess rooks do not move in the diagonal direction. They may move either up or down and right or left on the board, depending on the space they get.

Among the chess pieces that have the capacity to move diagonally, there exist the king, the queen, the bishop, and at times the pawn when they complete the ‘en passant’ move.

4. Can rooks move when they are at the starting position?

No, it is not possible to move rooks when they are stationed at their respective starting positions to the extreme corners of the chessboard.

Only when the rank or file next to them is clear can they begin their movement.

The only chess pieces on a standard chessboard that can start moving without requiring the pawns in front of them to give them space are the knights. Knights have the fantastic property of jumping over the pawns standing in front of them to enter the central part of the board.