Rooks use open files to enter the opponent's position, often reaching the 7th rank, where they cut off the opponent's king and target his pawns, or the 8th rank with potential back rank mates. To open a file, you must first have some pawn tension. This gives you the opportunity to open the file. Lets see an example:
1. fxe4 fxe4 2. ♖f7! Notice that the rook now has a permanent position on the 7th because it has three free squares. The king can never chase it away, without losing his kingside pawns. In fact having a permanent rook on the 7th is worth at least a pawn. So, it's often best not to capture pawns if it means leaving the 7th rank and instead leave that task for the white king.
16. dxc5! Opening the open file to fight for it.
21... g6 Slowly improving the position would have been much better.
IM Jop Delemarre (www.schaaktrainer.nl) shows you everything you need to know about open files. Classic examples, tips & tricks, and exercises to practice your knowledge.
Replay the companion Open Files webcast on-demand!
Learn how to create and make use of open files to finish off your opponent.
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