Your major pieces, the rook and queen in chess can wreak major havoc on your opponents. These powerful, long-range pieces often deliver the decisive follow-up blow after a sacrifice.
Despite their strength, they are not all about brute force, and as you get familiar with the rook and queen, you will learn to use them more subtly.
The following is an introduction to the major pieces and how you can get a little more from your rooks and queen in chess.
The Queen Is the Mighty Matriarch on the Chess Board
The queen in chess enters the game more quickly in open positions but can often remain a spectator until deep into the game in closed positions. Being a spectator in no way diminishes the queen's power in chess because your opponent knows if the position opens, she will soon become a major attacking force.
Yes, the queen does have the highest point value of all the pieces in chess, but being able to sacrifice the queen for lesser pieces adds to the value of the queen. You can sacrifice the queen to eliminate a crucial defender and deliver a mate with your other pieces.
Although the queen is a potent attacking piece in all three phases of the game, do not neglect your other pieces.
Knowing how to get the most out of all your pieces is vital to improving as a chess player. The best players know how to make full use of all their resources!
You can learn how to get more from your queen in chess games.
The Queen's Mobility Makes Her Mighty
One of the strongest features of the queen in chess is her mobility. The queen can move in a straight line and on a diagonal.
This makes the queen an extremely flexible attacking piece. Alekhine took advantage of the queen's mobility to transform an innocent-looking position into a won position with three dynamic queen moves.
Alekhine played 18.Qd6 attacking the knight on e5 and after 18.Ned7 18.Rfd1 Rad8 20.Qg3 g6 21.Qg5 Alekhine had the upper hand against Emmanuel Lasker.
Ironically Lasker missed the chance to use his own queen's mobility and played 21…Kh8 when 21…Qb5 would have offered a lot more resistance.
Alexander Alekhine - Emanuel Lasker, 1934.07.25, 1-0, Zurich Round 12, Zurich SUI
The Queen Is Also an Excellent Defender in Chess
Being able to move on the diagonal and in a straight line can also be helpful in defense.
One useful queen maneuver in chess involves making use of an open fifth rank. In many openings, there is a black knight on f6 or a bishop on e7, which prevent the queen from reaching the kingside on the d8-h4 diagonal.
Black can bring his queen to help defend the kingside in chess by first moving on the d8-a5 diagonal and then across the fifth rank to g5 or h5.
Many chess players overlook pieces on the opposite side of the board. They find it easy to see that the queen on d8 and bishop on e7 control the g5 square twice but will overlook that the queen on a5 and bishop on e7 do the same.
For example, after 1…Qa5 h3 Ne4 2.Nxe4 Bxe4 White might play 3.Ng5 attacking the bishop on e4, thinking the bishop on c1 adequately defends their piece.
Remember this important Qa5-h5 maneuver, or you might miss a critical defensive option like Lasker in the previous game.
Making Use of the Queen's Long-Range Ability in Chess
Although it is always a good idea to centralize your pieces, sometimes the queen can come under attack in the center. The queen can prove a helpful piece from long-range as well.
Placing your queen on an open diagonal can be an excellent attacking option, but a diagonal can be the means to reroute the queen.
Sometimes your opponent is wise enough to take precautions against your attacking options. Then it is time to switch to plan B.
The above position occurred in a game between David Janowski and Akiba Rubinstein in 1907. The black rooks are well placed, but the queen is not doing much.
Because all the white pieces are on the kingside, Rubinstein decides to improve his queen and attack the area of the board that White has left undefended. Rubinstein played 29…Qd8 and there followed 30.Qg4 Qb8 31. Kg2 Qa7.
The Qd8-b8-a7 maneuver is another excellent way to improve your queen in chess. Of course, if you are playing white, you could play Qd1-b1-a2 to activate your queen.
Do not neglect the kingside either, as h2/h7 is a good square for the queen to sneak into the game.
David Janowski - Akiba Rubinstein, 1907.08.26, Karlsbad Round 5. Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary) AUH
The Rook Roams in Straight Lines
Rooks have the second-highest points value of all the chess pieces behind the queen. Unlike the queen, that can move along a diagonal; the rooks can only move along ranks and files.
In chess, the queen and rook are considered major pieces, while bishops and knights are called minor pieces. Because of their higher value, the major pieces tend to work primarily from your side of the board.
There are times when the rooks advance far down the board, but it is usually to gain control of the seventh rank and put pressure on your opponent's king.
Rooks on the seventh is a common phrase in chess and a vital strategy to remember. There are two other important uses for rooks
- The rook swing is mainly used to attack.
- Taking control of an open file.
Rooks Come to Life on Open Files
Gaining control of the open file allows the rook to penetrate to the seventh rank. When your rooks control the open file as you transition to an endgame, you stop your opponent from bringing his king into the game.
Rooks are also strong on semi-open files and often get placed on a semi-open file to open the file with a pawn advance or capture. In the Sicilian Defense …cxd4 creates a semi-open file, while in the French Defense Advance Variation, after …cxd4 and cxd4, the c-file becomes an open file.
Even if you cannot open a file, your rook can support a pawn advance in the middlegame. We often think of a passed pawn as crucial in the endgame, but passed pawns can cause havoc during the middlegame.
The further your pawn advances, the more active your rook behind it becomes!
In the above position, it looks like the white rooks on the h-file will soon secure victory. However, the passed c-pawn helped win the game for Black.
The Swinging Rook Is a Powerful Attacker
The rook swing occurs most often along the third and fourth ranks. The chance to use the rook swing is something to keep in mind after you place your rooks on d1 or e1.
Black might control the d3 square with a bishop on f5 or g6 but seldom controls both the e3 and d3 squares. Another common entry point for a white rook is a3.
In the Dutch Defense 1….f5 allows a rook to enter the game with Rf6-g6 or h6.
Remember to make a note of how you will activate all your pieces when studying the opening!
Always pay attention to the major pieces' roles and how to get them involved in the middlegame. Learning the standard tactics and sacrifices of your opening will help you learn how to position all your pieces on their best squares.
It is unusual for the rook swing to take place along the fifth rank since the enemy pawns and minor pieces often control many squares on the fifth rank. However, it happened in the game Between Keres and Smyslov in the famous 1953 Candidates Tournament in Zurich.
Keres played 17.Rxe5 (see diagram on the right) and met 17…Bf6 with 18.Rh5. A second rook swing soon followed with 19.Rch3.
Unfortunately for Keres, his opponent knew to meet a flank attack with a counterattack in the center. Eventually, Smyslov's centralized rooks and queen won the game.
Paul Keres - Vasily Smyslov, 1953.10.13, 0-1, Zurich Candidates Round 24, Zurich SUI
Rampaging Rook on the Seventh Rank
Piece activity is vital in all phases of the chess game. One of the most dangerous active pieces is a rook on the seventh rank.
A rook on the seventh rank becomes a game-winner when there are targets for it to attack on the seventh rank. The rook can eliminate crucial defenders, restrict your opponent's pieces, and work with your minor pieces to create weaknesses.
You might not deliver checkmate or win a massive amount of material, but the rook on the seventh rank can get exchanges for other advantages.
There are many ways to win a chess game, and we must never forget that the pieces on the board count the most!
Despite having a material advantage of rook versus knight and pawn, Black resigned in this position. There is no way to free the king and rook since the only active black piece is a light-squared bishop, and both White's minor pieces are on dark squares.
White achieved this dominating position thanks to a rook rampaging on the seventh rank. Here is how the game unfolded.
Moises A Kupferstich - Harry Andreasen, 1953.01.12, 1-0, Club Tournament, Copenhagen DEN
The rook and queen in chess are the pieces with the highest points for a good reason. These two pieces can be vital to successful attacks and when it comes to defending your king.
The importance of the rook and queen in defense cannot be overstated. Many games were lost because a rook advanced from the first rank and allowed a back-rank checkmate.
Yes, it pays to play cautiously with the rook and queen in chess, but do not let your caution damper your attacking play. The rook and queen can control many squares and support attacks from the first rank.
Take care of your rooks and queen in chess, and they will reward you with many fine victories.