Grivas on the Mad Rook

by Efstratios Grivas
4/23/2024 – During the endgame, stalemate is a resource that can enable the player with the inferior position to draw the game rather than lose. In more complex positions, stalemate is much rarer, usually taking the form of a swindle that succeeds only if the superior side is inattentive. Chess Trainer GM Efstratios Grivas shows us how a "mad rook" can complicate matters for the superior side.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Stalemate is a situation where the player whose turn it is to move is not in check and has no legal move. The outcome of a stalemate was standardised as a draw in the 19th century. Before this standardisation, its treatment varied widely, including being deemed a win for the stalemating player, a half-win for that player, or a loss for that player, not being permitted, and resulting in the stalemated player missing a turn.

With stalemate a clean draw, the side that has noticed the possibility of a stalemate (and wishes to go for it), has to get rid of all possible moves of his pieces.  Stalemate is also a common theme in endgame studies and other chess problems.

The theme of the Mad Rook is an easy one to understand, but of course, a much more complicated matter to implement. The defending side puts his king into a stalemate position, after which the remaining piece (a rook or even a queen) becomes suicidal, offering itself for capture. The only way to escape the mad rook is to capture it with a move that relieves the stalemate.

Before we come to the annotated games, here's a historic position for you to solve.

Black has just played 97...Ra8-c8, to which Post replied with 98.Kb1? Why was that a big mistake, and how should White have proceeded instead? Try winning against the diagram engine, which will defend for the black side.

And here are the annotated games in which a mad rook played a decisive role:

In the above replay window you can click the fan button to start an engine. It will assist you in your analysis. You can also change the layout by clicking the Layout button on the right.

Have fun looking at and learning from the Mad Rook positions.

Efstratios (30.03.1966) is a highly experienced chess trainer and chess author. He has been awarded by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) the titles of International Chess Grandmaster, FIDE Senior Trainer, International Chess Arbiter and International Chess Organiser.
Discussion and Feedback Submit your feedback to the editors