# A Rook or Two Minor Pieces? Part Two

• GM Gserper
• | Oct 7, 2012
• | 12096 views
• | 25 comments

It is common knowledge that in openings, as a rule, it is not a good idea to give up two minor pieces for a Rook and a pawn. The explanation is very simple: there are not many open files for your 'extra' Rook to work on and therefore such a sacrifice is usually unsound.  But from the other side, there are a bunch of openings where a 'trade' of a pair of minor pieces for a Rook and a pawn is part of the whole opening strategy. Take a look at so called Dilworth Variation of the Ruy Lopez:

I guess GM Yusupov didn't receive the memo about two minor pieces being better than a Rook and a pawn since he used this variation in many of his games.

You can argue that in the above-mentioned game White pieces were pinned and his King was vulnerable. But what about the next theoretical line in the Philidor Defense?

The similar situation can be seen in the early middle game. Theoretically two minor pieces should be better than a Rook and a pawn, but it is not always the case:

If such a sacrifice of two minor pieces for a Rook and a pawn is indeed no good, then we have a suspiciously large number of exceptions to the rule.

In my opinion, the best answer for this problem was given by Mikhail Tal in his annotations to his game vs. Johannessen, which we analyzed in the first part of this article.  He wrote: " In my opinion a sacrifice like this doesn't require any calculation, it is enough just to take a look at the resulting position to see that the sacrifice should be sound. And what kind of sacrifice are we talking about here? Black gets two minor pieces for a Rook and a pawn, which, according to most textbooks is just an extra half of a pawn."

I am not sure what Tal meant about "extra half of a pawn" since when I was learning chess my textbooks were saying that a Rook was worth 5 pawns and a minor piece is worth 3 pawns, but I like his idea a lot. Just look at the resulting position and if you have better placed pieces and an initiative, then you'll be better regardless if you have two minor pieces or a Rook! And this is why it is so difficult to answer this simple question frequently asked by beginners.  In order to evaluate the sacrifice you need to evaluate the resulting position correctly, which is something beginners cannot do properly in many cases.

to be continued...

### Comments

• 2 years ago

That's a good point, but what is the difference between a good point an a bad point? I know the hat on the top of the Bishop's head is only one point, and my chess set's king has a pointy cross with 3 points, and the crown on the Q has 9 points. Is that how they decide the vaulue of a Q? The pawns don't have any points at all. But when it comes to the value of a pawn, I saw some gold and silver sets where the pawns way about a half ounce, so the silver ones are only worth 20 bucks while the gold ones are worth \$800. That would make one gold pawn worth 6 silver Q's Except I saw a chess set online for \$12,000 because it was made out of wooly mamoth tusk. A pawn from that set could be worth a lot if one was missing and the owner wanted to replace it really bad, He might make a really king sized sacrifice to replace it.

• 2 years ago

Chess is like kung-fu....

• 2 years ago

About the value of the pieces, it depends on where did you buy them. I have a wooden pawn that is worth at least 3 plastic queens. Also it depends on how inspired you are that day, some days I have queens that only want to commit suicide all the time, and some others I have pawns that will look in the eye at two rooks and a queen and will show a devilish smile.

And of course, there is the theme of how high your ELO is, I know for a fact that six damned pawns of a GM are worth all of my chess sets put together. I have also read that in some cases, a Rook is worth 3+(SQRT 27x3,44/7), but do not ask me when.

Also note that chess is a phycological game, and if your pawns realize you think they are worth only 1 point, while you consider that fellow rook (just a bit taller) a whole 5 points, their morale is gonna be really low. You must make them believe you only consider the enemy pawns to be worth 1 point, but you consider them to be worth 4 points at least.

But on top of all remember that we are all different, all valuable, and if some day somebody tells you that you are worth only one point, look at him and smile from your heart, for only you know how much you are worth.

Ah, when you go to the next OTB tournament, do not forget your calculator.

• 2 years ago

I must be bored, since I read through all the comments, but in modern chess theory a rook is only considered worth 4.5 pawns (or points if you prefer), so a rook and a pawn would be 5.5 points of material, while two minor pieces are 6 points of material.  This would be the .5 point material difference that Tal was referring to. (also explaining why, in general trading two minors for a rook and a pawn is not a good idea, but trading two minors for a rook and two pawns usually is.)

Also in reference to something else someone said, the bishop pair is generally considered to give a .5 pawn advantage.

• 2 years ago

Man, talking about my strategy!  I always try to take a rook and pawn for two minors.  I am really strong with rook play so this even exchange favors me personally.

• 2 years ago

Here is an example of a rook for 2 pieces trade that I played this very day.

• 2 years ago

I would say it was the pawn disadvantage that caused Ree to resign. Not only was he down 2 pawns, Murey's pawns were far more coordinated.

As a beginner playing other beginners I would never resign in situations like that, but I'd say at that level it's pretty cut-and-dry who will win the endgame

• 2 years ago

8 hours ago

Borislaurent wrote,

Regarding the value of pieces I follow the analysis of IM Larry Kaufmann, see here:

To sum up: Pawn=1, minor piece =3.25, rook=5, queen=9.75, bishop pair=0.5.

This is pretty much identical to pawn = 3, rook = 15, minor = 10, queen = 29 and bishop pair = 1 or 2. And there are not decimals to add!

• 2 years ago

Rooks are pretty much useless in the opening. Bishops and knights are way better at dealing with pawn chains.

• 2 years ago

my son is 5 years old and my daughter is 6 and as much as i tried to get them interested in chess at age 2 they only became interested a couple months ago. For them i have a very very very basic principles to help them make better decisions that will help them play.Neither of them have any strategy or understanding of position, tempo. At first their only thing they could think about was the amount of pieces and it was driving me crazy. "But Papi! It's not fair! I only got her Q, but she has TWO pieces instead of just one, my too favorite pawns! Their names were Frediie and Mellissa and they were cousins. (the pawns)"

Every 5 minutes they are counting their pieces, "i have 5 and he has 6, so i need to get another piece so i am going to take that protected pawn with my Rook!" So from me, "HANNAH, don't do that! It's not an equal trade." "But he has more pieces than me and at least i get a piece." "But Hannah, if you take that piece, his other pawn standing right next to it will take your R so it is just like if you never took a piece at all." "Yeah, but at least i took a piece." AAAHHHAAAARRRR. Frustrating!

So finally i managed to explain it in a way that helped. Rather than breaking it down into points that confuse, and with kids that don't yet have anything at all to do with positional factors or strategic factors or tempo or space or weak points or anything. They don't yet have enough math skills to think about point values or 3.4 points or 8.5 vs 3 x minor pieces.

a pawn is the smallest unit. you have to take 3 pawns to be a fair trade for one B or N. But the R are twice as strong as the B and N so you need 2 of them to be a fair trade for a R or 6 pawns. and the Queen is twice as strong as the R so you need 2 R to be a fair trade for the Q or 12 pawns. But there are'nt 12 pawns, but it helps teach them a little math and it drives in a deeper concept, DON'T LET YOUR Q GET TAKEN unless it gets ALL of the rest of their pieces!

There are plenty of other rules i give them to help steer them in the right direction toward strategy and stuff, but it is a slow process for HIGH energy kindergarteners, and for the basic start with nothing else factored in,it is not a "point value" but a "pawn value" that takes the mind away from the "amount" of pieces, to the "strongness" of pieces.

It is all fun! but it is a good starting point and the magic word is "EXCEPT!!" "that is worth that many of those "EXCEPT!" when it causes your K to get captured. or "EXCEPT!!" When it means that you pawn is about to turn into a Q so the pawn is not a normal pawn but it is a "princess" that is about to turn into a Q and become worth a lot more. Those "exceptions" are the start of building an understanding of strategy.

So the advice i give is... don't look at the pieces with a point value, but in their value compared against other pieces... and always look for the "exception" because there ALWAYS is an exception.

• 2 years ago

In the first two examples, they actually win another pawn quite quickly. So you could say it's a rook and 2 pawns against 2 minor pieces

• 2 years ago

Regarding the value of pieces I follow the analysis of IM Larry Kaufmann, see here:

http://home.comcast.net/~danheisman/Articles/evaluation_of_material_imbalance.htm

To sum up: Pawn=1, minor piece =3,25, rook=5, queen=9,75, bishop pair=0,5.

• 2 years ago

quantumpuppy says above:

Regarding Tal's comment that two minors is a half pawn greater than a rook and a pawn -

The old rook = 5, pawn = 1, minor = 3 formula is just that...old.

I use a newer, more precise formula that has the following piece values;

Queen = 29, rook = 15, bishop/knight = 10, pawn = 3.

I use Q=9 R=5 B/N=3+ P=1, which is similar. According to your values, I should use Q=9+. What is 3+? Like maybe B=3 1/3 and N= 3 1/4, something like that. This are just averages, of course.

• 2 years ago

How you value your pieces is also dependant on your playing style and which pieces your most skillful at utilizing. I've played games in which I got simply shredded by my opponent's bishops. On the other hand I've played games in which I made my opponent wish knights had never been invented. : )

P.S. Can someone explain to me why Ree resigned in the example vs Murey?

• 2 years ago

Disagree

• 2 years ago

how about this

• 2 years ago

When assessing the value for exchanging pieces the value is more flexible. It is obvious to experienced players, but if you are a beginner, don't limit yourself to calculating based on only one master's point system, but look at all of them as being correct and also make up your own value system as well, then interchange those values with the situation. example, understanding the complexity of N movement is difficult, but if you played just played a game against someone who tortured you with Ns in the endgame, then next time you play him the point value of his Ns might be worth 4 points each and your own Ns only have a point value of 2. Your own understanding of a piece affects its value. When I play a Q pawn opening, my dark squared B is only worth 2 points, but my light squared B is worth 4. I might even sacrifice a R in order to keep my light squared B.

• 2 years ago

Regarding Tal's comment that two minors is a half pawn greater than a rook and a pawn -

The old rook = 5, pawn = 1, minor = 3 formula is just that...old.

I use a newer, more precise formula that has the following piece values;

Queen = 29, rook = 15, bishop/knight = 10, pawn = 3.

I also recall that having the bishop pair vs. two knights or a bishop and a knight is worth an extra 1 or 2 points (i can't recall which)

Using this system, two minors is actually 2/3 of a pawn but Tal was pretty close.

I beleive the logic of the old system was in part based on the fact that a queen + pawn should be equal to 2 rooks because the two rooks can simply double up and snap up the pawn.

The new system really seems to make a lot of sense to me.

For example, bishop vs 3 pawns: In I think a bishop usually can outmanouver 3 pawns but the old system has this as equal.

3 minors vs a queen: Old system as this as equal but Rbyka thinks otherwise.

As for the queen versus rook, minor and pawn, Rybka also prefers the queen. Food for thought.

• 2 years ago

In the Tal quote, I think the "extra half of a pawn" he is referring to is the slight difference between what players consider a bishop to be worth. Some players consider any minor piece (knight or bishop) to be worth 3 pawns, while some others consider a bishop to be worth slightly more than that, like 3.5 pawns. This extra half of a pawn is because of the bishop's long-range capabilities compared to a knight, especially in open positions. Having the bishop pair is also considered to be a half of a pawn advantage. Therefore, if you consider a bishop to be worth 3.5 pawns rather than just 3, then a knight and bishop are worth a half of a pawn more than a rook and pawn (i.e. 3+3.5=6.5, 5+1=6, 6.5-6=0.5).

• 2 years ago

all i can say is i'm new at playing chess, and i'm still trying to get the basics, so these rules i'm still learniing. very interesting article anyways.

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