Open Files in Chess: What They Are And Why They’re Important

In chess, open files can be an important line of attack for long range pieces such as queen or rook. Let’s find out what open files are and how we can use them to attack our opponent!

What are Open Files in Chess?

Just as a reminder: In chess, files are the columns of the chess board. Meaning, they run from top-to-bottom vertically. We refer to files by their notation-letters; for example f-file or h-file. Don’t confuse files with rows, which are also called ranks โ€“ those run horizontally from left to right.

So, what exactly are open files then?

Open files are files with no pawn of either color on it. This diagram should make it very clear:

what are open files in chess
What Even Are Open Files In Chess?

As you can see, the white rook on the d1 can freely attack down the complete d-file, aiming deep into the enemy position.

Why Are Open Files Important?

Open files are valuable strategic assets for the player that can place one or more long range attacking pieces onto them. Open files give access to the vulnerable seventh (or second) rank, making it possible for a rook to scoop up yet-unmoved pawns.

So, whenever you have access to an open file, make sure to put at least one major piece on it. Otherwise, your opponent might do so, using the file to eye deep into your defensive position.

Examples For Open Files In Grandmaster Play

This position occurred in a game between Viswanathan Anand and Vasyl Ivanchuk, 2001:

example of an open file
Showing The Importance of Open Files in Chess

Have a look at the d-file; both of white’s rook occupy the empty d-file, creating a scary attack, with the possibility of moving onto the seventh and eighths rank.

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