Good and Bad Pieces
Each piece has its relative value. During the game it may vary depending on what position the piece occupies and what role it plays. It’s hard to win when some of your pieces are misplaced. Therefore, you should make sure all your pieces are taking part in the fight, and try to worsen the placement of opponent’s pieces.
Here are some general tips (as always in chess, there are exceptions) for each piece:
- King. Good: in the opening and middlegame it should be castled, safely protected by pawns; active in the endgame. Bad: exposed and uncastled in the opening and middlegame; locked out of the game or far away from the main action in the endgame.
- Queen. Good: active, participates in the main action, has lots of maneuvering space. Bad: passive, serves as a blocker for a pawn or a target for the opponent’s pieces.
- Rook. Good: placed on open files, 7-8th (1-2 for Black) ranks; doubled rooks are especially powerful. Bad: no open files and maneuvering space.
- Bishop. Good: there are open diagonals, attacks both flanks and has a nice “shooting range”. Bad: limited in maneuvering, blocked by pawns.
- Knight. Good: placed on key squares, e.g. in the centre or near the opponent’s king (e.g. on f5 if Black castles short). Bad: on the rim of the board, on the 1st or 8th rank.
- Pawn. Good: controls important squares and can potentially be promoted. Bad: isolated or doubled.
This is general advice, each particular position should be considered individually. Sometimes positional sacrifices occur that are connected with the dynamic strength of the pieces (when their value increases above their nominal value). Another important point is coordination of the pieces. Even if each piece is active on its own, but not coordinated and working together, their power decreases. The synergistic effect of well-coordinated pieces may often overpower armies composed of more valuable (in the nominal sense) pieces that aren’t cooperating well enough.
So, one of the main rules of chess is to keep all your pieces in the game (except for, maybe, the king). Always ask yourself a simple question: are all my pieces happy? If not, try to improve their placement. Coordinated pieces are much more powerful than lonely ones.
Rule #2 – try to worsen the position of your opponent’s pieces, hinder their coordination. One of the possible approaches is to limit the activity of the pieces and lock them out on one of the flanks, while attacking on the other. Create weaknesses in your opponent’s camp so that he/she has to guard them, thus limiting the activity of the pieces. The player who has more active well-coordinated forces is usually a clear favorite.
The following game has been played at the recent Russian Team Chess Championship vs WGM Vera Nebolsina.
Black didn’t simplify the position in time, so White’s chances for a win increased. I decided to exploit the weakness of Black’s dark-squared bishop and sacrificed a pawn. However, in time trouble I made a serious blunder by accidentally repeating the position thrice instead of twice.