Chess Lesson 9: the Rooks (aka “Castles”)
Knights and Bishops are Minor Pieces; Rooks and Queens are Major Pieces, because they’re much more powerful. Your two Rooks start the game at opposite ends of your back rank, on the A and H squares. This is ironic: because Rooks work best when they work together, they could hardly start worse off than to be separated by the whole rest of your army. So as you make moves early in the game, you’ll want to position your Rooks so that they can work together and support each other.
The Rook moves straight ahead–forward, backward, right or left, as far as you want it to go, provided nothing else is in the way. Unlike a Bishop, a Rook has access to every square on the board and can often get there in a hurry. Think of your Rooks as self-propelled heavy artillery, well-suited to breaking open a defensive position.
Together, the Rook and the King can execute a peculiar move called “castling,” the only time in chess when you can move more than one piece at a time. There is Queen’s side or “long castling,” to the left of the King, and King’s side or “short castling” to the right of the king.
Rules of castling: Neither the King nor the Rook involved can have moved before: the castling must be their first move. None of the squares covered by the castling move may be subject to enemy attack at the time. No other piece can be in the way between the King and the Rook.
Short castling, if you are White: King on e1, Rook on h1, King moves two squares to the right, to g1, and the Rook hops over him to f1. This is all counted as a single move. For long castling, King on e1, Rook on a1, King moves two squares to the left to c1 and Rook hops over him to d1. If you’re Black, the squares are e8, de8, a8, h8, f8, and c8.
Castling tends to confuse beginners, but eventually they get it.
Reasons for castling: It puts your King in a safer position, and puts your Rook in a more advantageous position from which to cooperate with the other Rook and maneuver offensively.
There’s a lot more to it, of course, but this is probably enough for now.
Lee Duigon is the author of the Bell Mountain series, which currently has 12 volumes. I definitely recommend his books for both kids and adults!
Stay tuned for Lesson Ten!