Trading Pieces, Part 1: Forced or Fantastic

Trading Pieces, Part 1: Forced or Fantastic

NM zkman
Sep 3, 2014, 11:00 AM |

   Hello! My name is Zach Kasiurak. I am a National Master living in Columbus, OH rated 2273 USCF and 2198 FIDE. I am seriously pursuing my chess career and looking to improve rapidly as a player and coach.

   I have created my blog to provide insight into ideas or themes I have discovered in my own games, game of my students, or in games of strong players. I hope to convey my personal struggles as well as successes in my own studies, my tournament, and the coaching scenes.

Trading Pieces

   From a very early stage in one's chess career the concept of trading pieces is emphasized. Platitudes such as "trade when you are ahead" or "trade when you have less space" are thrown around frequently. While these concepts are useful, they should not be applied heedlessly as they are often applied improperly. In this series, I will present key postions with analysis to improve your understanding of trading pieces.


  In this first position, identify to the two main candidate moves for Black (which moves you are most strongly considering) and decide which one your would play.


   Black's two candidate moves are both forcing, ...Bxd5 and ...Rxb3. Let's focus on the trade ...Bxd5 first. Black follows the common adage, "Trade when you are ahead". Let's look at an example line that could occur.


   We reach a complex rook and pawn endgame. Black has winning chances, but this position is far from clear cut. Now let's analyze ...Rxb3.


   Black uses his active pieces (including his king) and reaches a clearly winning position. The platitude, "Trade when you are ahead" , has failed us. What concept should Black consider in this position? As the title states, Forced or Fantastic. When trading pieces you are making a move and forgoing another move to improve your position. Unless you gain something tangible from your time investment, very often another move would serve your position better.

   In this position specifically, although the knight looks powerful on the d5 post, it is not doing too much. On the otherhand, the bishop defends the queenside pawns and controls key squares on the kingside. White cannot create counterplay on the queenside as long as the bishop stays firmly planted on c6. Therefore, since this trade is not forced nor fantastic, Black should refrain from trading and play ...Rxb3. 


  Is it forced or fantasic? You decide.

Final Thoughts

1. Do not become reliant on common platitudes.

   Guidelines are useful for assessing a postion. However, it is important to review each postion individually and decide whether a trade improves your position.

2. Forced or Fantastic

   Each trade you make forgoes the opportunity to improve your position with a different move. When considering a trade, make sure it improves your position or it is forced.


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