Recently I was playing a game on chess.com (300 rating) and after the game the engine showed that this move was a mistake, losing two points of material.

[FEN ""]

1. e4 a5 2. d4 h5 3. f3 f6 4. c3 c6 5. Nh3 b6 6. Bc4 e6 7. O-O d6 8. Na3 b5 9.
Nxb5 Ba6 10. Qb3 cxb5 11. Bxb5+ Nd7 12. Bxa6 Rxa6 13. Nf4 Rb6 14. Qc2 g5 15.
Nxe6 Qe7 16. Nxf8 Kxf8 17. b3 Rc6 18. Ba3 Nb6 19. Rfd1

Is there a reason I should play f4 instead? It seems like a dangerous move that has no merit.

  • What's the point of 19. Rfd1? Black's king is uncastled and weak, yet this move doesn't take advantage of that. 19. f4 (and/or possibly 19. e5) do, though. Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 20:40
  • 1
    Welcome to Chess Stack Exchange! You should learn how to provide more reasons as to why you think rfd1 is better than f4. This will let other users know that you have put eferts twoard your game.
    – user26887
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 20:53
  • You may be a beginner on chess.com, but real beginners don't have positions like that. You're a pretty good player, I think.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 14:56

2 Answers 2


You're not actually losing two points of material by playing Rfd1, but rather you're not gaining the advantage.

You currently have 3 pawns for a knight, which is roughly even, however black is somewhat cramped for space, their knight is undeveloped, their king is under x-ray attack from both the bishop on a3 and rook on f1, and they have two isolated pawns.

By pushing e5 or f4, you are threatening to open direct lines to the black king, eventually turning your positional advantage into a material advantage.

One possible continuation is:

[FEN ""]
[StartPly "36"]

1. e4 a5 2. d4 h5 3. f3 f6 4. c3 c6 5. Nh3 b6 6. Bc4 e6 7. O-O d6
8. Na3 b5 9. Nxb5 Ba6 10. Qb3 cxb5 11. Bxb5+ Nd7 12. Bxa6 Rxa6
13. Nf4 Rb6 14. Qc2 g5 15. Nxe6 Qe7 16. Nxf8 Kxf8 17. b3 Rc6 18. Ba3 Nb6
19. e5 Qd7 20. c4 Nd5 21. Qd2 Nb4 22. f4 g4 23. d5 Rc8 24. Rae1 h4 25.
Bb2 h3 26. g3 Qf5 27. Bc3 Rh7 28. a3 Na6 29. Bxa5 *

White has picked up another pawn, and now has two outside passed pawns. Black will have to give up more material to stop them and still has to contend with the pressure from the e5 pawn.

  • 1
    Your continuation doesn't include the suggested move of 19. f4. Is that intentional? Your move is still good according to the silicon overlord and less 'inhuman' than f4. And it's what I would have picked, too.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 14:55
  • @TonyEnnis The version of stockfish included in the browser extension I used to look at the position recommended e5.
    – Herb
    Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 2:15
  • Interesting. My version is recent, but not the most recent.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 21:57
  • As I think about it, I may have just tried the f4 and Rfd1 moves, and not gone back one move to see what Stockfish would say.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 22:06

In addition to what Herb said,

  1. your rook on f1 is already perfectly placed; it lines up on the black king.
  2. Further, Rfd1 doesn't force any action. Thus Black has time to solidify his kingside. Indeed, in Stockfish's analysis, White returns that rook to f1 two moves later.

And you are correct, f4 is a move that requires careful consideration. Good on you. However, it is hard to see how Black can exploit that open diagonal (a7-g1), having no black-squared bishop and a precariously placed queen.

Regarding f4, Stockfish rates the position at about +4:

    [FEN "5knr/4q3/1nrp1p2/p5pp/3PP3/BPP2P2/P1Q3PP/R4RK1 w - - 0 20"]

    1.f4 gxf4 2.e5 Kg7 3.Rae1 Qd7 4.Bxd6 Rxd6 5.exd6 Qxd6 6.Qf2 Ne7 7.c4 Nbc8 8.Qxf4 Qxf4 9.Rxf4 Kf7 10.Ref1 f5 11.d5 Rh6 12.Rd4 Rd6 13.Re4 Kf6 14.Re2 Rd7 15.Re6+ Kg5 16.Ra6 Nxd5 17.cxd5 Rxd5 18.a3 Nd6 19.Ra8 Ne4 20.Rh8 Kg6

You can see by about the 6th move how ugly Black's position is getting. He's giving up material to take the pressure off.

On Rfd1, Stockfish drops the score to +1.72:

    [FEN "5knr/4q3/1nrp1p2/p5pp/3PP3/BPP2P2/P1Q3PP/R4RK1 w - - 0 20"]

    1. Rfd1 Kf7 2.Rf1 Qb7 3.f4 gxf4 4.Rxf4 Nd7 5.c4 Ne7 6.Raf1 Ra6 7.R4f2 Ke8 8.Qd2 Qc7 9.Qe2 Qa7 10.Bb2 Kd8 11.Kh1 Nc6 12.Rd1 Kc8 13.Bc3 Kb8 14.Rf5 Kc8 15.Rb5 Qc7 16.a3 Rb6 17.d5 Rxb5 18.cxb5 Nb4 19.Bb2

Comparing the variations, you can see how the 2nd variation is much less dynamic and Black is in less danger.

  • 1
    Well, but I think you should pick a different line rather than having White move the rook back to f1 and then play f4 anyway. Of course it's going to be worse if White just gives Black two free moves.
    – D M
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 18:56
  • I agree. The Silicon Monster did the analysis, not me. If it put the rook back on f1 then it thought it was the best move, however odious to us. That's a signal to me that the original move wasn't great.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 19:28

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