To trade or not to trade

Apr 26, 2015, 12:29 PM |

The question "to trade or not to trade" is a recurring question in chess games.

Some amateur chess players, especially beginners, have made trading pieces almost their "trademark" Smile

Perhaps trading pieces a lot is a good idea when your name is Magnus Carlsen and you're good at grinding down "equal" looking endgame positions.

But if you're trading pieces a lot, and losing games partially because of that, then it is time to improve your way of thinking regarding trading or not.

It seems to me that trading pieces in chess games should roughly be done as following :

  • Check whether the trade of pieces is really giving you an advantage, or whether it fits your long term plan in your chess game. Evaluate the position after trading.
  • As an exception trading can be good in a defensive position. Will trading pieces make defending your position easier to handle ?
  • If trading pieces does not give you any advantage, try to find a better move.

And as a rule of thumb :

  • Trading is usually good when defending a position where you are under attack
  • Trading is usually good in cramped positions where you have little space, and where your opponent has a space advantage
  • Trading can be good when simplifying into a clearly won endgame position.
  • Trading is usually not good when you are attacking, or having a space advantage.
  • In rook endings when you are up material and having advantage it is good to swap one pair of rooks, and keeping one pair.

A chess friend of mine, who is kind of a chess student of mine as well, has a habit to trade a lot of pieces in some of his games (while in other games he plays like an amazing attacking chess player, sac-ing for nice checkmate combinations)

Here's a few examples of that habit, and after that I'll show some annotated games of mine where trading or not will be the topic.


Now I'll show some examples of my own games where there's trading or avoiding of trading material.

I'm using my own games as examples because it is easy for me to grasp those positions and comment on them.