In the medieval shatranj, the rook symbolized a chariot. The Persian word rukh means chariot (Davidson 1949:10), and the corresponding pieces in Oriental chess games such as xiangqi and shogi have names also meaning chariot (車).
Persian war chariots were heavily armoured, 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. However, in the West the rook is almost universally represented as a crenellated turret. One possible explanation is that when the game was imported to Italy, the Persian rukh became the Italian word rocca, meaning fortress, and from there spread in the rest of Europe. Another possible explanation is that rooks represent siege towers – the piece is called torre, meaning tower, in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish; tour in French; toren in Dutch; Turm in German; and Torn in Swedish. An alternative name in Russian: тура (pronounced as toura). Finally, the chariot was sometimes represented as a silhouette, a square with two points above representing the horse's heads, which may have been seen to resemble a building with arrowports to the medieval imagination. An exception is seen in the British Museum's collection of the medieval Lewis chess pieces in which the rooks appear as stern warders or wild-eyed Berzerker warriors. Rooks usually are similar in appearance to small castles, and as a result a rook is sometimes called a "castle" (Hooper & Whyld 1992). This usage was common in the past ("The Rook, or Castle, is next in power to the Queen" – Howard Staunton, 1847) but today it is rarely if ever used in chess literature or among players, except in the expression "castling."
The Russian name for the rook (ladya) means a sailing boat or longship of Northern cultures such as the Vikings.
A common strategic goal is to place 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.
Alekhine's gun is a formation in chess named after the former World Chess Champion, Alexander Alekhine. This formation was named after a game he played against Grandmaster Aaron Nimzowitsch in San Remo 1930, ending with Alekhine’s victory.
The idea consists of placing the two rooks stacked one behind another and the queen at the rear. This can lead to massive damage to the opponent as it usually marks the beginning of the final assault (in this case it was only four moves before resignation). In rare cases it can be two queens and one rook on the same file.
[pgn][Event "San Remo"]
[Site "San Remo ITA"]
[White "Alexander Alekhine"]
[Black "Aron Nimzowitsch"]
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. Bd2 Ne7 6. Nb5 Bxd2+
7. Qxd2 O-O 8. c3 b6 9. f4 Ba6 10. Nf3 Qd7 11. a4 Nbc6 12. b4
cxb4 13. cxb4 Bb7 14. Nd6 f5 15. a5 Nc8 16. Nxb7 Qxb7 17. a6
Qf7 18. Bb5 N8e7 19. O-O h6 20. Rfc1 Rfc8 21. Rc2 Qe8 22. Rac1
Rab8 23. Qe3 Rc7 24. Rc3 Qd7 25. R1c2 Kf8 26. Qc1 Rbc8 27. Ba4
b5 28. Bxb5 Ke8 29. Ba4 Kd8 30. h4 1-0
In heraldry, chess rooks are often used as charges. Unlike a real chess rook, they are conventionally shown with two outward-curving horns. This is because they would otherwise appear to be castle towers, since there is no proportion on a coat of arms. This charge is always blazoned "chess rook" so as not to be confused with the bird of that name; it is also not to be confused with the zule, a similar-looking object with two outward-curving horns at both top and bottom.
In Canadian heraldry, the chess rook is the brisure of the fifth daughter.