White rook
Black rook

The rook (rʊk; ♖, ♜) is a piece in the game of chess. It may move any number of squares horizontally or vertically without jumping, and it may capture an enemy piece on its path; it may participate in castling. Each player starts the game with two rooks, one in each corner on their side of the board.

Formerly, the rook (from Persian رخ rokh/rukh, meaning "chariot")[1][2][3] was alternatively called the tower, marquess, rector, and comes (count or earl).[4] The term "castle" is considered to be informal or old-fashioned.[5][6]

Placement and movement

The white rooks start on the squares a1 and h1, while the black rooks start on a8 and h8. The rook moves horizontally or vertically, through any number of unoccupied squares. The rook cannot jump over pieces. The rook may capture an enemy piece by moving to the square on which the enemy piece stands, removing it from play. The rook also participates with the king in a special move called castling, wherein it is transferred to the square crossed by the king after the king is shifted two squares toward the rook.


Relative value

The rook is worth about five pawns. In general, rooks are stronger than bishops or knights and are considered greater in value than either of those pieces by nearly two pawns, but less valuable than two minor pieces by approximately a pawn. Two rooks are generally considered to be worth slightly more than a queen (see chess piece relative value).[7] Winning a rook for a bishop or knight is referred to as winning the exchange. Rooks and queens are called major pieces or heavy pieces, as opposed to bishops and knights, the minor pieces.[8]


In the opening, the rooks are blocked in by other pieces and cannot immediately participate in the game, so it is usually desirable to connect one's rooks on the first rank by castling and then clearing all pieces except the king and rooks from the first rank. In that position, the rooks support each other and can more easily move to occupy and control the most favorable files.

A common strategic goal is to develop a rook on the first rank of an open file (i.e., one unobstructed by pawns of either player) or a half-open file (i.e., one unobstructed by friendly pawns). From this position, the rook is relatively unexposed to risk but can exert control on every square on the file. If one file is particularly important, a player might advance one rook on it, then position the other rook behind—doubling the rooks.

A rook on the seventh rank (the opponent's second rank) is typically very powerful, as it threatens the opponent's unadvanced pawns and hems in the enemy king. A rook on the seventh rank is often considered sufficient compensation for a pawn.[9] In the diagrammed position from a game between Lev Polugaevsky and Larry Evans,[10] the rook on the seventh rank enables White to draw, despite being a pawn down.[11]

Two rooks on the seventh rank are often enough to force victory by the blind swine mate, or at least a draw by perpetual check.[12]


Rooks are most powerful towards the end of a game (i.e., the endgame), when they can move unobstructed by pawns and control large numbers of squares. They are somewhat clumsy at restraining enemy pawns from advancing towards promotion unless they can occupy the file behind the advancing pawn. As well, a rook best supports a friendly pawn towards promotion from behind it on the same file (see Tarrasch rule).

In a position with a rook and one or two minor pieces versus two rooks, generally in addition to pawns, and possibly other pieces, Lev Alburt advises that the player with the single rook should avoid exchanging the rook for one of his opponent's rooks.[13]

The rook is adept at delivering checkmate. Below are a few examples of rook checkmates that are easy to force. A single rook can force checkmate while a single minor piece cannot.


Further information: History of chess

In the medieval shatranj, the rook symbolized a chariot. The Persian word rukh means "chariot",[14] and the corresponding piece in the original Indian version, chaturanga, has the name ratha (meaning "chariot"). In modern times, it is mostly known as हाथी (elephant) to Hindi-speaking players, while East Asian chess games such as xiangqi and shogi have names also meaning chariot () for the same piece.[15]

Antique Indian Mughal chess elephant made from sandalwood representing the rook
19th-century illustration of a siege tower, which the rook may be intended to represent
The berserker used as a rook in the Lewis chessmen

Persian war chariots were heavily armored, carrying a driver and at least one ranged-weapon bearer, such as an archer. The sides of the chariot were built to resemble fortified stone work, giving the impression of small, mobile buildings, causing terror on the battlefield.[citation needed]

In Europe, the castle or tower appears for the first time in the 16th century in Vida's 1550 Ludus Scacchia, and then as a tower on the back of an elephant. In time, the elephant disappeared and only the tower was used as the piece.[16]

In the West, the rook is almost universally represented as a crenellated turret. The piece is called torre ("tower") in Italian, Portuguese, Catalan and Spanish; tour in French; toren in Dutch; Turm in German; torn in Swedish; and torni in Finnish. In Hungarian, it is bástya ("bastion") and in Hebrew ,it is called צריח (tsriʾaḥ, meaning "turret").[17] In the British Museum's collection of the medieval Lewis chess pieces, the rooks appear as stern warders, or wild-eyed berserker warriors.

Rooks are usually similar in appearance to small castles; thus, a rook is sometimes called a "castle",[18] though modern chess literature rarely, if ever, uses this term.[19]

In some languages, the rook is called a ship: Thai เรือ (reūa), Armenian Նավակ (navak), Russian ладья (ladya), Javanese ꦥꦿꦲꦸ (prahu). This may be because of the use of an Arabic style V-shaped rook piece, which some may have mistaken for a ship.[20][21][22][23] It is possible that the rendition comes from Sanskrit roka (ship); however, no chaturanga pieces were ever called a roka. Murray argued that the Javanese could not visualize a chariot moving through the jungles in sweeping fashion as the rook. The only vehicle that moved in straight fashion was ship, thus they replaced it with prahu. Murray, however, did not give an explanation of why the Russians call the piece a "ship".[23]

Peter Tyson suggests that there is a correlation between the name of the piece and the word rukh, a mythical giant bird of prey from Persian mythology.[24]

In South Slavic languages, it is called the "cannon" (Топ, Romanised top).

In Kannada, it is known as ಆನೆ (āāne), meaning "elephant".[25] This is unusual, as the term for elephant is in many other languages applied to the bishop.[26]

Name translations

Overview of chess piece names

Rook Translation
Afrikaans T Toring tower
Albanian T Torra tower
Arabic ر رخ / طابية (rukhkh / ṭābiya) fortress / castle
Azerbaijani T Top cannon
Armenian Ն Նավակ (Navak) ship
Basque G Gaztelua castle
Belarusian (Taraškievica) Лд ладзьдзя boat
Bengali N নৌকা (noukā) Boat
Bulgarian Т топ cannon
Catalan T torre tower
Chinese R (jū) chariot
Czech V věž tower
Danish T tårn tower
Dutch T toren / kasteel tower / castle
English R rook, castle
Esperanto T turo tower
Estonian[27] V vanker chariot / carriage
Finnish T torni tower
French T tour tower
Galician T torre tower
Georgian ეტლი (etli) chariot
German[28] T Turm tower
Greek Π πύργος (pýrgos) tower
Hindi H हाथी (hāthī) elephant
Hebrew צ צריח (Tzariach) tower
Hausa R sansanin fortress
Hungarian B bástya bastion
Icelandic H hrókur rook
Ido T turmo tower
Indonesian B benteng castle / fortress
Interslavic Z zamok / věža castle / tower
Irish C caiseal bulwark
Italian T torre tower
Japanese R ルーク (rūku)
Javanese B bèntèng fortress
Kannada ಆನೆ (aane) elephant
Kazakh Т тура (tura) tower
Korean R 룩 (rug)
Latin T turris / elephas tower / elephant[29]
Latvian T tornis tower
Lithuanian B bokštas tower
Lojban S slanydi'u castle
Luxembourgish T Tuerm tower
Macedonian T топ cannon
Malayalam R തേര് (therú) chariot
Marathi H हत्ती (hātti) elephant
Mongolian т тэрэг (tereg) chariot
Norwegian Bokmål T tårn tower
Norwegian Nynorsk T tårn tower
Odia R ଡଙ୍ଗା (ḍôṅga) boat
Persian ق/ر قلعه/رخ castle
Polish W wieża tower
Portuguese T torre tower
Romanian T turn / tură tower
Russian Л ладья (ladya) boat
Scottish Gaelic T tùr tower
Serbo-Croatian T top / kula (Т топ / кула) cannon / tower
Northern Sotho N Ntlosebô / Moshate
Sicilian T turru tower
Slovak V veža tower
Slovene T trdnjava castle
Spanish T torre tower
Swedish T torn tower
Tamil R கோட்டை (kōṭṭai) castle
Telugu ఏనుగు (ēnugu) elephant
Thai เรือ (ruea) ship
Turkish K kale castle
Ukrainian T тура (tura) tower
Urdu رخ (rukh)
Vietnamese X xe chariot
Welsh C castell castle


Arms of the English family of Rookwood, featuring chess rooks as a cant on the name

Chess rooks frequently occur as heraldic charges. Heraldic rooks are usually shown as they looked in medieval chess sets, with the usual battlements replaced by two outward-curving horns. They occur in arms from around the 13th century onwards.

In Canadian heraldry, the chess rook is the cadency mark of a fifth daughter.


Main article: Chess symbols in Unicode

Unicode defines three codepoints for a rook:

U+2656 White Chess Rook

U+265C Black Chess Rook

🨂 U+1FA02 Neutral Chess Rook

See also


  1. ^ "Rook - noun²". The Oxford English Dictionary. July 2023. doi:10.1093/OED/5381483047. Retrieved 18 March 2024.
  2. ^ "Rocco". treccani.it (in Italian). Treccani. Retrieved 18 March 2024.
  3. ^ "Rocco". etimo.it (in Italian). Vocabolario etimologico della lingua italiana. Retrieved 18 March 2024.
  4. ^ Sunnucks 1970
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. (online version, accessed Jan. 27, 2009), entry for "Castle", def. 9. "Chess. One of the pieces, made to represent a castle; also called a ROOK.". New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd ed. (2005) says that "castle" is informal and an "old-fashioned term for rook". The Oxford Companion to Chess, by David Hooper & Kenneth Whyld, 2nd ed. (1992), p. 344 says "In English-speaking countries non-players sometimes call it a castle...". Let's Play Chess by Bruce Pandolfini (1986) p. 30, says "The rook is the piece mistakenly called the castle."; The Everything Chess Basics Book by Peter Kurzdorfer and the United States Chess Federation, Adams Media 2003, page 30, says "... often incorrectly referred to as a castle by the uninitiated".
  6. ^ The Official Rules of Chess by Eric Schiller, The US Chess Federation Official Rules of Chess (five editions by various authors), Official Chess Handbook, by Kenneth Harkness, Official Chess Rulebook by Harkness, and The Official Laws of Chess by FIDE (two editions) all use only the term "rook". Books for beginners such as Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, A World Champion's Guide to Chess by Susan Polgar, The Complete Book of Chess by I. A. Horowitz & P. L. Rothenberg, and Chess Fundamentals by José Capablanca (2006 revision by Nick de Firmian) also only mention "rook".
  7. ^ "The value of the chess pieces". Schach.de. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  8. ^ "Understanding The Value Of Chess Pieces". ChessKid.com. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  9. ^ Fine & Benko 2003, p. 586
  10. ^ "Lev Polugaevsky vs Larry Melvyn Evans (1970)". www.chessgames.com.
  11. ^ Griffiths 1992, pp. 102–3
  12. ^ The two rooks are sometimes colloquially referred to as "pigs on the seventh", because they often threaten to "eat" the opponent's pieces or pawns.
  13. ^ Alburt 2009, p. 44
  14. ^ Davidson 1949, p. 10
  15. ^ 現代漢語詞典 (Modern Chinese Dictionary). ISBN 978-962-07-0211-2
  16. ^ "Article by Dr. Hans Holländer, "CYCLOPES, ELEPHANTS AND CHESS ROOKS"". Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  17. ^ מילון מורפיקס: צריח. תרגום מורפיקס. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  18. ^ Hooper & Whyld 1996
  19. ^ Horton 1959, p. 175
  20. ^ Stachowski, Marek (January 4, 2002). "Studia Etymologica Cracoviensia". Ksie̦garnia Akademicka – via Google Books.
  21. ^ "ภาพแห่งปี! โรนัลโด้-เมสซี่โพสต์รูปเดียวกันขณะนั่งเล่นหมากรุก". www.siamsport.co.th.
  22. ^ Global, AIST. "Շախմատային նավակ". chessschool.am.
  23. ^ a b Davidson, Henry A. (2012-10-10). A Short History of Chess. Crown. ISBN 978-0-307-82829-3.
  24. ^ Tyson, Peter (2000). The eighth continent: life, death, and discovery in the lost world of Madagascar. HarperCollins. p. 138. ISBN 0-380-97577-7.
  25. ^ "English :: Kannada Online Dictionary". English :: Kannada Online Dictionary.
  26. ^ Candler, Howard (January 1, 1907). "How the Elephant became a Bishop: An Enquiry into the Origin of the Names of Chess Pieces". Archaeological Journal. 64 (1): 80–90. doi:10.1080/00665983.1907.10853048.
  27. ^ The Estonian chess terms were coined by Ado Grenzstein.
  28. ^ "Handbook". www.fide.com. Retrieved 22 March 2019. The pieces bear the names: Koenig, Dame, Turm, Laeufer, Springer, Bauer
  29. ^ H. J. R. Murray, A History of Chess, ch. 11.