In our chess studies we hear the term “Rook battery” quite often. A Rook battery is a pair of Rooks on an open or half-open file; the Rooks support each other and are poised to batter the enemy position (hence the term “battery”). But a pair of Rooks on an open rank can also be an effective and deadly combination, especially when they’re positioned on the seventh rank (with the opposing King trapped on its own back rank). GM Yasser Seirawan often refers to such a Rook pair as “pigs on the seventh” because, like greedy hogs, they can gobble up pawns (and everything else in sight).
Even titled players sometimes forget the power of pigs on the seventh. In this game from the 1982 Danish Championship, Jesper Norgaard (playing Black) is in some serious trouble; his position is pretty near lost, but he can still make a fight of it:
His opponent, Curt Hansen, increases the pressure by playing 43.e6. Here’s where Norgaard slips and forgets the power of the paired Rooks on the seventh rank. Instead of moving his Bishop to a better spot, or maybe even trying a desperate escape with …Kg7, Norgaard reflexively takes the offered pawn by 43…fxe6:
Norgaard has completely opened up the seventh rank, and now the pigs can run wild. As much as I despise the phrase “the rest is a matter of technique”, it definitely applies here: this position is quite literally the textbook example of how to mate with a pair of Rooks on the seventh rank. It’s a forced mate-in-three. Do you see it? Take a minute to try to find it before looking at the answer below.
Sometimes a little help is required in order for the Rooks to achieve a back-rank mate. We’ll look at an example of that in an upcoming post.
Answer: The forced mate-in-three revolves around driving the King into the corner with one Rook, then letting it come back and be mated by the second Rook. It goes like this — 44.Rg7+ Kh8 45.Rh7+ Kg8 46.Rbg7#.
Have fun! — Steve
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