Capturing Pieces

Capturing Pieces‎

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6 | For Beginners

The reigning Computer Chess Champion is Leela Chess Zero, the neural network heir to AlphaZero. Check out a selection of Lc0's greatest games!

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The Value Of The Pieces: Each piece has a numerical value that can help you evaluate whether exchanging it makes sense. Pawns = 1. Knights = 3. Bishops = 3. Rooks = 5. Queens = 9. Kings = The whole game! This tells you that trading a knight for a bishop is OK, but you wouldn't want to lose a queen and only get a rook. When evaluating possible trades you should try to capture as much or more value than your opponent does unless you have a very good reason.

Tactics And Hanging Pieces: Tactics are the types of moves you can use to gain an immediate advantage. One way to get an advantage is to capture hanging, also called free, pieces. Watch out for which pieces are unprotected each turn. If you can capture one, it's usually a good idea!

Counting Captures: It's usually a good idea to capture something if you have more attacking pieces than the opponent has defending pieces. That way you will get to make the first and last capture in the exchange. Make sure to pay attention to which pieces are captured. You don't want to lose a queen to win two pawns!

Forks:  A great way to win material is to attack more than one piece at a time with one of your own. This technique is known as a fork. Because the opponent can only move one piece each turn, if you attack two or more pieces, you will be able to capture something.

Pins:  A pin occurs when a piece is under attack and cannot move without exposing a more valuable piece to capture. An absolute pin occurs when it would be illegal to move the attacked piece because of a check. A relative pin occurs when it would be inadvisable to move the attacked piece because a more valuable piece lies behind it.

Piling Up: Once you have pinned a piece, it can't or shouldn't move. Frequently the best way to take advantage of this situation is to add more attacking pieces until the pinned piece can be captured in the most advantageous way.

Skewers: A skewer occurs when one piece attacks an opposing piece, that has a less valuable piece behind it, that can be captured once it moves. The skewer can be thought of as a backwards pin because the more valuable piece is the one in immediate danger.

Avoiding Bad Trades:  Don't make the mistake of giving up your good pieces for less valuable ones. It's important that you evaluate all possible captures each turn. Often there are multiple options, but only one of them will lead to a favorable exchange.

What's your favorite trick to get ahead in a chess game? Let us know in the comments!

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