General Strategy of the Opening and Relative Value of the Pieces

General Strategy of the Opening and Relative Value of the Pieces

May 11, 2014, 8:35 AM |


Before going on to the general principles of the openings, it is advisable to give the student an idea of the proper relative value of the pieces. There is no complete and accurate table for all of them, and the only thing to do is to compare the pieces separately.

For all general theoretical purposes the Bishop and the Knight have to be considered as of the same value, though it is my opinion that the Bishop will prove the more valuable piece in most cases; and it is well known that two Bishops are almost always better than two Knights.

The Bishop will be stronger against Pawns than the Knight, and in combination with Pawns will also be stronger against the Rook than the Knight will be.{25}

A Bishop and a Rook are also stronger than a Knight and a Rook, but a Queen and a Knight may be stronger than a Queen and a Bishop.

A Bishop will often be worth more than three Pawns, but a Knight very seldom so, and may even not be worth so much.

A Rook will be worth a Knight and two Pawns, or a Bishop and two Pawns, but, as said before, the Bishop will be a better piece against the Rook.

Two Rooks are slightly stronger than a Queen. They are slightly weaker than two Knights and a Bishop, and a little more so than two Bishops and a Knight. The power of the Knight decreases as the pieces are changed off. The power of the Rook, on the contrary, increases.

The King, a purely defensive piece throughout the middle-game, becomes an offensive piece once all the pieces are off the board, and sometimes even when there are one or two minor pieces left. The handling of the King becomes of paramount importance once the end-game stage is reached.


The main thing is to develop the pieces quickly. Get them into play as fast as you can. First, the complete development of the opening has taken only seven moves. (This varies up to ten or twelve moves in some very exceptional cases. As a rule, eight should be enough.) Second, Black has {28}been compelled to exchange a Bishop for a Knight, but as a compensation he has isolated White's Q R P and doubled a Pawn. (This, at such an early stage of the game, is rather an advantage for White, as the Pawn is doubled towards the centre of the board.) Third, White by the exchange brings up a Pawn to control the square Q 4, puts Black on the defensive, as experience will show, and thus keeps the initiative, an unquestionable advantage.[1] The strategical principles expounded above are the same for all the openings, only their tactical application varies according to the circumstances. Before proceeding further I wish to lay stress on the following point which the student should bear in mind. Before development has been completed no piece should be moved more than once, unless it is essential in order to obtain either material advantage or to secure freedom of action. The beginner would do well to remember this, as well as what has already been stated: viz., bring out the Knights before bringing out the Bishops."

Quoted from Jose Capabanca's book Chess Fundementals