History and Tips about Chess Rooks

Posted by Wholesale Chess on 25th Apr 2019

History and Tips about Chess Rooks

This is part two of our series on how chess pieces move as well as the history of chess pieces. Check back in two weeks for our next installment on the Knight.


It may look like a castle, but it is called the Rook! The Rook is a powerful piece that often makes itself known toward the end of the game, when it can be unleashed to devastating effect. 

When chess was first invented in India, the piece in the corner represented the chariot on the ancient battlefield. As the chariot was a powerful war machine in ancient times, it should come as no surprise that the Rook, with its long-range movement, was the most powerful piece in early versions of chess. 

The movement of the Rook has remained unchanged since its beginnings as a chariot, but the name varies in different language. In English, the modern name for the Rook comes from the Persian word for chariot, rukh. However, in many other languages, the name refers to a tower ( tour in French, torre in Spanish, Turm in German), a ship (ладья or ladya in Russian), or cannon (топ or top in Bulgarian.)

How the Rook Moves and Captures

The rook can move any number of unoccupied squares horizontally or vertically. The rook cannot jump other pieces. Each player starts with two rooks; white’s rooks begin the game on a1 and h1, while black’s rooks start on a8 and h8.

When taking chess notation, we generally indicate a rook move with the letter R and the square to which it is moving. For example, “Re1” indicates the rook moving the the e1 square. Occasionally, both rooks can move to the same square, requiring a player taking notation to show which rook is moving – a player may do this by using the file letter or rank number of the rook that is moved. Accordingly, “Rae1” would mean that the rook on a1 is moving to e1, where it is possible for both rooks to move to a1.

Special Move for the Rook and King: CASTLING!

Castling is a special move that allows you to move your king out of danger (if you do it right) and move your rook into play. The following conditions must be met (if any of these conditions are not met, you cannot castle!):

  • It must be the rook's first move
  • It must be the king's first move
  • There cannot be any pieces between the rook and king
  • The king may not be in check or pass through a check while castling.

Here's how it works: the player who meets all of the above conditions may move the king two squares to one side, and then move the rook from that side to the other side of the king. See a demonstration of this move below.