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2 pawns for a bishop or knight

  • #1

    Recently I have had several games with this situation:

    Before any material exchange or otherwise developmentally early, I see an opportunity to take a pawn, backed by another pawn, with my bishop or knight. I take the pawn, and lose my piece to the backup pawn. Then I capture the second pawn with another attack piece. (This is usually the B-C or F-G pawns.)

    Materially, it's a small disadvantage. In my experience, if I am able to use the positional advantage gained, it can be very successful. However if I let the game grind out, the loss of an attack piece tends to be a hindrance.

    I would love to hear about using this tactic, if other players find it effective, and how to optimize its use. Thank you!

  • #2

    I do that to try and improve my tactics.

    I basically fight to get my material back...when it works I feel great.

    But if the game does grind on then the loss of material decides the game.

  • #3

    Unless I have a clear strategy planned out that ends in a checkmate or material gain, I never do this. Technically, it's only a one pawn disadvantage for position, but then again, technically two rooks equal a queen and a pawn.

    If I had a bad bishop blocked in by pawns, I might consider this strategy.

  • #4

    Pieces are MUCH more valuable in the middlegame and opening because they are very good at recapturing pawn. If this is a combo, go ahead, but I don't think i've seen this queen-side sacrifice work (or king-side... if 0-0-0).

    Is this sort of thing what you would talk about?

  • #5

    If white castles queenside, he ends up with a weak king.  If he castles kingside, I would think that black just has a material advantage and with strong play, black wins.  Correct me if i'm wrong -- I don't play 1d4...d5 at all.  Anyway, no one should just go around sacking pieces for pawns unless they can calculate the advantage.  Otherwise, your just picking up blitz habits that make you a worse player when you eventually play in your first real, over the board, tournament where your opponent has an hour to figure out how to beat you with a material advantage.

  • #6

    wish i could access the game. i played it last year here. i was able to sac a minor piece for  2 pawns (i actually calculated i could win 3 but my attack was too strong for that). taking the 2nd pawn ended with check which forfeited my opponents right to castle, and trapped his rook in its' corner with no activity. i do believe however that my win was pivotal on the fact that it was the opening and i had a strong lead in development.  

  • #7

    I have had some success with trading a N on the king side for the kings rook pawn and knight pawn.  This is much more effective if you can get them to trade after they have castled, but most players won't push the knights pawn after they have castled.  I agree that the pieces are more valuable in the middlegame, so trading off a piece for 2 pawns would probably be more valuable after you get alot of material off the board.   "Pawns are golden in the endgame!"  In most other situations it probably wouldn't be a good itea to make that type of trade, for one reason because it opens up the files for your oponent to get his rooks into play.

  • #8

    My friend beat me by using this sacrifice. It just did not occur to me as a logical move at first, but it turned out to be successful. Two pawns for a knight is only good in the endgame though.

  • #9
    as a general rule of thumb, one should avoid such trades because the loss of a piece is an immediate disadvantage: it might take a number of moves to take advantage of thier lack of pawns, particually if they castle AWAY from the exchange...
    However, there are a few good situations where it is a good trade.
    a) the creation of passed pawns in the endgame:
    EDIT #2: found a much better example.
    b) opening lines of attack:
    this is a 'constructed game' I just made off the top of my head, hopefully it demonstrates the sorts of positions and ideas the make this sort of sac work...:)
    edit: also compare this position with that of Bobbereights (post#3)

    In my example Nxg5 works, but in his it doesn't. think about the the differences (I have already mentions a few) and how this affects our evaluation.
    c) pure tactics... I dont think you need an example!
  • #10

    It depends on the position. SOmetimes it cna be very useful in the endgame, and sometimes you may have to sacrifice something to open up lines for an attack or because your position is becoming constricted. If I had a bad piece, especially, I would make such an exchange.

  • #11
    paulgottlieb wrote:

    The short answer, of course, is that it all depends on the position. But there are certainly many positions where sacrificing a piece for two pawns is quite reasonable, as long as you get something else for your piece. For instance, if you can prevent the enemy King from castling, or tie up the enemy pieces with threats, then go ahead! Aside from its objective value, you will learn a lot about attacking and defending as you try these aggressive sacrifices.

    Of course, this sacrifice does not have to be aggressive, I actually think it's most often used a defensive ploy, to deny an opponent sufficient mating material for example.

  • #12

    When the opponent castles queen-side, you sometimes get an oppotunity to throw away your bishop in return for last 2 pawns, which totally exposes the king.

  • #13

    I'm with the "depends on the position" comments above. I look for such trades when the opposing pieces are poorly placed to resist my extra pawns.


    If you make a habit of trading N or B for 2P without clear compensation, you will lose most games against players of equal strength. And as your strength improves you'll lose more often, because a more experienced player will be more adept at blockading pawns and leveraging the extra piece.

  • #14

    If the pawns were important such as center pawns, or if it disrupts their pawns and you get targets, or if it's an endgame and you get passers, this is good.  It depends on the position.  Otherwise if everything else is equal, you'll be at a disadvantage.

  • #15
  • #16

    Well I just did it. I saw a way to expose the White King so I changed my bishop for 2 paws. I thought about it and since I won position advantage I think it is a good trade. Lets see If I can win on this. Anyway I was just double checking and found this discussion. Valueable insights. Thank You!
  • #17

    i did this just minutes ago.. i just sacked my knight for 2 pawns + the advantage of stripping his queenside (he castled long, me short, and my king is also stripped up.. the game is not yet finished so i can't post it for ethical or sportsmanship like purposes..Laughing) it's real fun game since the only thing that covers my king from his attack is his pawn which is already on h7, his pawn on g4 (which hinders his attack on the semi-open g-file), my dark squared bishop owning the long diagonal and my center pawns (also semi-open files)

    but in that game i sacked my knight because i already saw ahead (thanks to analysis boardTongue out) that i can recover material plus interest of queen, knight and 2 pawns for knight and rook at best play (mates in 2 if he doesn't find the defensive resource).

    all in all, this idea works if you know you'll have a clear advantage or at least a positional advantage that you can easily convert into material gain..

    if not, i recommend not do it at all (especially if your purposes is for experimenting only)..

    that's my low-rated opinion, is all..Tongue out



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