What if any, is the term for a piece whose owner gets a draw by keeping up a relentless series of checks with it -- a paradox being that even if this player puts it en prise, the opponent daren't capture it because that would deliver stalemate?

The piece is in many cases a rook, and I have come across the terms "rambling rook" and "roving rook", but they seem to mean something else.

I've also come across the term "desperado", and that seems to mean something similar, but it is not the same. A desperado is a piece which might do some damage, e.g. delaying-checks, but they merely delay mate: those checks run out, and the other side captures the desperado without stalemating, and goes on to win.

The tactic is an unusual form of perpetual check. In most perpetual checks, the checking piece switches back between two squares on neither of which is it en prise.

  • 4
    Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual uses the term "desparado" for such a piece.
    – Qudit
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 5:22
  • 3
    Desperado has two meanings connected by the idea that in its death the piece causes some damage to the enemy. One usage is the above, but the other is not really as stated in the question. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desperado_(chess)
    – Ian Bush
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 7:14
  • @IanBush Ah -- "desperado" is not as specific as I'd thought, given where I'd seen it used.
    – Rosie F
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 9:03
  • sometimes in some languages it is called 'MAD' piece, usually 'MAD ROOK'
    – Drako
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 14:28
  • 1
    @Ian Bush Desperado could also mean a piece that is inevitably going to be captured, so you use it to cause as much destruction as possible before this happens. Commented May 30, 2019 at 1:21

3 Answers 3


I'd use the term you already mentioned, "rambling rook", for this (at least when it's a rook). Tim Krabbé claims to have invented it:

If the term 'Rambling Rook' sounds unfamiliar, this could be because I invented it. In Russian it is beshenaya ladya, in Dutch dolle toren, both meaning 'crazy rook.' There is no English term, and I thought a little alliteration would be in its place.

Here are a couple of usages, showing that the term is quite widespread:

Rambling Rooks, compiled by SwitchingQuylthulg on chessgames.com

Rambling Rooks

Witness rooks selflessly throw theirselves at the opponent's mercy again and again... until there is no choice but to take them and accept draw by stalemate.

Can you stop the rambling rook? by user Sleafar on our sister site Puzzling Stack Exchange:

The rook can't be taken, because black couldn't move anymore which is a stalemate (= draw). If the king moves away the rook will continue to give checks.

Can you stop the rambling rook and find a way for white to win the game anyway?

  • 2
    Russian "beshenaya" is not exactly "crazy", but rather "possessed". The semantics is formed by "bes", an unclean spirit. Very hard to translate.
    – user58697
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 21:25
  • FWIW I have heard "crazy rook" before.
    – Brandon_J
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 14:34

Well, that's only possible with a rook or a queen (at least, in most realistic situations) and indeed it's a typical theme in rook endgames.

In Spanish, we have a name for that: torre loca (meaning "crazy rook") I think "crazy rook" is also used in English, but I don't find so many links, so maybe there are other names for it or those I can find are a translation error

  • 2
    In french we also use "tour folle" (crazy rook).
    – Evargalo
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 14:33

Sometimes I hear it referred to as a "poison piece," because it kills you if you take (consume?) it.

  • 2
    Note that the term poisoned pawn usually has another meaning.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 13:38

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