Are Rooks Overrated?
Daniel Gurevich with Garry Kasparov at SuperNationals IV, April 2009

Are Rooks Overrated?

RoaringPawn
RoaringPawn
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Often, the answer is yes. Almost all chess beginners are initially taught that a rook is worth five pawns, and a knight or bishop is only three. However, ask any grandmaster whether a rook is always worth two pawns more than a bishop or knight, he will reply that it is often not the case. Indeed, two bishops, "worth six pawns" are far stronger than a rook and a pawn, also "worth six pawns."

A common solution to this problem is to say that, indeed, the rook is equal to five pawns, but bishop and knights are worth the same as 3.5 pawns. Really, is there such a thing as half a pawn? Of course, other complications arise: A rook is in practice much less useful than two connected pawns on the seventh. So are these pawns worth more than "normal" pawns?

More and more complicated formulae are required, and more and more exceptios arise. How do you know how to evaluate the position at all, if a piece has no absolute value? The answer is that these material rules, like any other rules, are only guidelines. For example, a bishop on the long diagonal may be worth far more than a rook with no open files, although that bishop becomes much less valuable if its diagonal is blocked. A knight on d3 may be far more valuable than a rook in the corner, unless it is exchanged. The rule to remember:

The specifics of the position are the deciding factor.

The games from this year's Georgia State championship beautifully demonstrate this rule.

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This article by IM Daniel Gurevich @Wormpaca appeared in the Georgia Chess magazine, September/October 2010 (he was 12 back then)
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Daniel Gurevich Daniel Gurevich with GM Roman Dzindzichashvili in Atlanta, June 2005Daniel Gurevich with GM Roman Dzindzichashvili in Atlanta, June 2005
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US Chess Sschool, Los Angeles, Dec 2010

front row: Daniel Gurevich (3L), Samuel Sevian @Konavets (1R), back row: Kostya Kavutskiy @hellokostya (2R), Kayden Troff @KaydenTroffChess (1R)

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