Making Wise Captures
The chess pieces are assigned certain points to show how valuable they are. These points are shown in the table below:
|The Queen||Q||9 points|
|The Rook.||R||5 points|
|The Bishop||B||3 points|
|The Knight||N||3 points|
|The Pawn||P||1 point|
From the table you can see that the Queen is worth 9 points and the pawn is worth 1 point. This tells us that the Queen is more important than a pawn. The Bishops and Knights are worth 3 points but it is generally considered that the Bishops are worth slightly more than the Knights. However, it depends upon the position on the board. In positions where the centre is blocked by pawns, Knights (that can jump over these pawns) can be better than Bishops that need open diagonals to function efficiently.
In the diagram below, White is able to capture either the Queen or the Bishop with her Rook. The Queen is worth 9 points and the Bishop is worth 3 points. Therefore, it would be better if White captured the Queen because the Queen is more valuable than the Bishop.
In the following diagram the Knight is able to capture the Bishop or the Rook. If White captures either piece the Knight will be recaptured with a pawn. Is it still a good idea to capture one of the pieces? If White captures the Bishop she will lose her Knight. Therefore, she will have gained 3 points and lost 3 points. It would be an equal exchange. Nobody has gained anything. However, if White captures the Rook she will gain 5 points and only lose 3 points so capturing the Rook is a good exchange!
Now let's look at the following diagram:
Should White capture the Black Knight? If the White Knight captured the Black Knight the black pawn could take the White Knight and it would be an equal exchanged. However, let's look at little closer at the position. The Black Knight is being attacked by White's Knight, Bishop, Queen and Rook. Thus it is being attacked four times. It is being defended three times by the Black pawn, Bishop and Queen. White can win a pawn by playing 1.Nxd5 cxd5 2.Bxd5 Bxd5 3.Qxd5 Qxd5 4.Rxd5. It is generally a good idea to capture with the piece of smallest value first. If White had played 1.Qxd5 Black could answer with 1...cxd5 2.Nxd5 and Black need not continue to exchange pieces. White has lost a Queen and only gained a Knight and a pawn. This is not good!
Counting how many times a piece is attacked and defended is a good way of working out whether captures are wise. If a piece is attacked more times than it is defended, it is possible that you will gain something by capturing it. When you attack something with the same or fewer number of pieces you will not gain anything. When applying this rule you must also remember the value of the pieces. It would not be good to win a Knight and a pawn for a Queen!
In the next diagram, the White Knight is attacking the pawn on e5 but it is being defended by the Knight on c6. White can still win the pawn by capturing the defending Knight. 1.Bxc6 dxc6 2.Nxe5 wins a pawn.
Some good advice about exchanging chess pieces
- Exchange pieces if by doing so you gain material. As little as an extra pawn can lead to a won game.
- When you have more material than your opponent, exchange pieces not pawns. When there are lots of pieces on the board the effects of your extra piece will not be felt as much. International Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier gives a graphical explanation. He says, "It's sort of like basketball or soccer: five players will sometimes have trouble scoring against four opposing players, but take away three from each side and the stronger team will find it easier to score with two players against one."
- When you have less material than your opponent, exchange pawns not pieces. If your opponent has a Knight and pawns she will try to promote a pawn as she can not checkmate with only a Knight. If she has only a Knight and no pawns the game is drawn!
- When you are under severe attack exchange pieces. To quote Bisguier again, "The fewer men each player has, the weaker the attacking player's threats become, and the easier it is for the defending side to meet these threats."
- If you have a cramped position where your pieces do not have much room for movement it is a good idea to exchange pieces. Exchange some of them and the others will have more room to move!
- Exchange pieces if you weaken your opponents pawn structure by doing so.