Rocket Rooks


Rooks are strong pieces. That’s no secret, but do you really know how to use them and get the maximun of their potential? In the next examples we’re going to see some fantastic rook lifts that will change the way you look at this piece.

Our first example is the game Zhigalko,S -Antipov,M Yerevan, 2014 in which, after 12 moves of an English opening, the players reached a typical Isolated Queen’s Pawn position:

Zhigalko-Antipov1Zhigalko,S -Antipov,M Yerevan, 2014
White to Play

We can see that black has firmly blocked the pawn on d4. However, he still has some problems to solve – it is not easy to develop the Knight on b8, as Nd7 would allow white to trade on d5, forcing black to take with the e6 pawn and losing the blockade. In that case of symetrical pawn structure white would have some advantage due to the more active pieces. Capturing on c3 is also a dubious option for black since the white pawns would gain considerable space after white plays c3-c4.

White has a few candidate moves here: 13.Ne4 ; 13.Ne5 ; 13.Bd2 followed by Rc1 all of these ideas are natural. The move played by Zhigalko is deeper and presents black more problems:


White’s plan is to play 14.Ne5 and then Rh3/g3. Perhaps black should now play 13..Nd7 and accept a worse position after 14.Nxd5!? Bxd5 15.Bxd5 exd5 16.Bf4. White has good prospects here, with Rae1 / Re3  in mind. In the game, black fell for the temptation of chasing the rook by playing: 13…Nb4 14.Re3 Nd5 15.Re5! White is confident that nothing can stop his rook from reaching the kingside.

Zhigalko-Antipov3Zhigalko,S -Antipov,M Yerevan, 2014
Position after 15.Re5!

Black still has problems, if 15…Nd7 then 16.Nxd5 Bxd5 17.Rxd5! exd5 18.Bxd5 gives white more than enough compensationfor the exchange. Perhaps black should have played this anyway. Instead he continued chasing the rook with 15…Bd6 16.Rh5 Nf6 17.Rh3

Zhigalko-Antipov4 White is now clearly better, if we look at the first Diagram after move 12 the only change is that his rook is now on h3 putting black under a lot of pressure. The idea of Ne5 followed by Bf4 (g5) is something to worry about, and let’s not forget that he can play Bc2 anytime. Black makes a panic decision: 17…Bxf3? Suicidal. 18.Qxf3 Nc6 19.Be3 Be7 20.Rd1 With the idea of pushing d4-d5, opening the position. 20…Qa5

Zhigalko-Antipov5Zhigalko,S -Antipov,M Yerevan, 2014
Position after 20…Qa5

Here white can already play 21.d5 with a big advantage, but again Zhigalko finds an even stronger move : 21.g4!! +- The attack is unstoppable. The game went on 21…g6 22.g5 Nh5 23.d5! exd5 24.Rxd5 Qc7

Zhigalko-Antipov625.Rxh5! gxh5 26.Qxh5 (threat Bc2) …Nb4 27.Rf5 Qd6 28.Rxf7+ Rxf7 29.Qxf7+ Kh8 30.Nb5 1-0 A great attacking game.

In the game Gilberto Hernandez (2517) – Kevin Cori (2382) played recently in the ”Latin Cup Kirsan Illunzhinov” Buenos Aires, Argentina, the following position occurred:

Gilberto-Quispe1Gilberto Hernandez (2517) – Kevin Cori (2382)
White To Play

Gilberto here played 18.Ra4!? b5 19.Rh4 (planning to continue with Bd3) …Nd5 20.Rg4 (20.Rh3!?) f6 21. Nf3 with complicated play. Black drifted now with 21…e5 22.c4 Nf4?

Gilberto-Quispe223.Nxe5! +- (23…fe5 24.Bxe5 Ng6 25.Bxb8 Qxb8 26.Rxg6+-) g5 24.Rxf4 gf4 25.Qg4+ Kh8 26.Nd7 1-0

Another recent example, in the game Harika,D – Kosteniuk,A, black found a nice plan to attack white’s weakness:

Kosteniuk-HarikaHarika,D – Kosteniuk,A
Black to Play

Kosteniuk went 17…Ra5! activating the rook 18.f4 b6 19.Rf2 h5 20.Rc3 Bxd4 21.Qxd4 Rc5!


Black’s rook on c5 does not only attack on c4, but also keeps full control along the 5th rank, defending against any f4-f5 ideas. Kosteniuk went on to win the game.

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