Mastery: Strategy

The Art of Exchanging Pieces

The Art of Exchanging Pieces

There are many occasions when an attack isn't possible and positional chess is the order of the day. This means you try to create various favorable imbalances (space, superior minor pieces, weak squares, fractured enemy pawns, etc.) and milk it for all its worth. This particular course explores the eternal question of piece trades: should you or should you not trade one minor piece for another, your Rook for his, or your all-powerful Queen for his equally imposing female deity?

  • Art Of The Trade 1

    We're here to learn when to trade and when to avoid a trade. There are always clear reasons for these decisions, and all of the examples presented on this theme will be logical and easy to comprehend. Our first peek into the art of the exchange shows how exchanges and all other aspects of the position are completely interconnected.

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 2

    In general, one makes an even trade of pieces in order to prevent the enemy piece from becoming too active or to give you time to accomplish another task. Other even trades turn out to be far from even, in that an exchange leads to a very clear positional, tactical, or even defensive gain. In this lesson, a possible trade may or may not lead to something concrete. It's up to you to judge whether or not this is the case.

    • 5 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 3

    You appear to be in trouble since your King is a bit loose and you're a pawn down. You're also in check and must decide whether to swap Queens (which would enter a pawn down endgame) or move your King to one of several available squares. What would you do?

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 4

    Many teachers and books like to tell us that Bishops are slightly superior to Knights. We'll take a look at that rule in this lesson, and also discuss the importance of other positional factors that must always be carefully considered whenever any minor piece discussion is under way.

    • 4 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 5

    Pawn exchanges are a world of their own. In my experience, players tend to hate having pawns face off where either can capture the other. The situation spooks them, and most resolve it by making the capture either right away or as soon as their nerve gives out. This "take it if it's possible" mentality is a sure road to mediocrity and needs to be excised from the mind of the chess student. This is the first of several problems that take a look at this pawn vs. pawn phenomenon.

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 6

    One of the biggest problems I've seen in my students is their inability to not exchange pawns when they can capture each other. We call this face-off, "pawn tension", and few can handle the strain of allowing it to sit there move after move, neither side knowing when the opponent will finally make the capture. In the present lesson, we see a vivid case of pawn tension. Should one side or the other make the capture? And why or why not?

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 7

    The desire to make (or avoid) exchanges is a key part of the opening, middlegame, and endgame. A trade might seem like a little thing, but more often than not it's huge. In our present example, getting an exchange right is the difference between a protracted battle and pure Black pain.

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 8

    This lesson features a key position from the game DeFirmian-Beliavsky, Copenhagen 2004. White's position seems the more pleasant, but Black appears to have his bases covered. What can White do to prove that he has more than a slight plus?

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 9

    We have a minor piece endgame that would normally be very nice for White, but here Black's extra pawn leaves us wondering what's really going on. This position (from the game Bronstein-Beliavsky, Yerevan 1975) can only be played correctly if you notice the one factor which dictates much of the following play. This one imbalance easily trumps all others.

    • 4 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 10

    Exchanges (and the avoidance of exchanges) are often the things that set up an endless array of strategic plans. This lesson (from the game Winter-Capablanca, Hastings 1919/20) focuses on the possibility of an exchange, asking you (the student) if it's a good idea, and what its ramifications might be.

    • 4 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 11

    Here we will enter the world of opening theory. No, we're not going to advocate the memorization of endless moves. Instead, one can play most openings with some measure of skill if you understand the ideas and basic plans of all the systems you play. In the present case we will see how exchanges, and the avoidance of exchanges, are a major part of many opening lines.

    • 4 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 12

    This position is from the game E.Jimenez-B.Larsen, Palma de Mallorca 1967. In his prime, Bent Larsen was one of the greatest fighters in the history of the game, and so it's no surprise that he is looking for ways to sharpen up a position that, at first glance, doesn't really offer Black anything too exciting.

    • 5 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 13

    This is a position from the Dragon Sicilian, though Black proved to be unaware of certain basics. The game was Guseinov-MisterBlack, ICC (Clock Simul) 2007. Here we'll see White mix attacking threats with possible exchanges that might lead to favorable endgames. This ability to blend together attack, tactics, and positional advantages in one seamless whole is a must-have skill set for a chess professional.

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 14

    Many view a trade of pieces as something mundane -- something that makes a game more boring every time it occurs. But is this true? We've seen that exchanges can create superior minor pieces, lead to structural weaknesses in the opponent's camp, and can change the whole direction a game is taking. The "boring" exchange has another use: it often proves to be a very important defensive tool!

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 15

    In this lesson we take a look at a position from the game Aronin-Simagin, 22nd USSR Ch. Both sides have positives to make use of and negatives to solve, so it's all quite interesting and full of tension. As is always the case in this set of lessons, we are going to face one or more possible exchanges. Some will be important to accomplish and others are important to avoid! So hold onto your hat, because you'll have your work cut out for you in this rather advanced lesson!

    • 4 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 16

    Even in the openings, a simple threat to exchange one piece for another can dictate the way both sides play for much of the game. Due to the enormous influence exchanges have, you have to give serious thought to each and every trade, and do your best to understand its implications regarding squares, structure, and the plans both sides will have to employ.

    • 4 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 17

    In this lesson White is faced with many tempting possibilities. To wend your way through a position that offers "too much" (as if there ever could be too much), you will usually find that it's a big help to verbalize the key positional (and/or tactical) factors and decide which juicy goal best caters to your position as a whole (in other words, it helps your whole army).

    • 4 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 18

    Trades occur in every game, and most seem to be rather innocuous. However, a trained eye realizes that every exchange should be filled with some kind of meaning, be it a gain of time, conquest of a square, creating a superior minor piece, or reaching a specific endgame where the exchange of pieces or pawns helps push a specific agenda for one reason or another. Our present position, from the game Rublevsky-Volkov, Smolensk 1991, shows a very basic positional device, but because it's "basic" doesn't make it unimportant. In fact, it's an extremely effective concept that every player should be thoroughly familiar with.

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 19

    In his heyday, (East) Germany's Wolfgang Uhlmann was one of the finest players in the world. Young players (who rarely follow chess history) are most likely to be completely unaware of his existence, so this game (Uhlmann-W.Schmidt, Polanica Zdroj 1967) not only teaches us a new aspect of exchanging, but also introduces a whole new generation to this powerful player via a simple but elegant win.

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 20

    You might decide that your structure is already ideal -- as a result you will want to avoid pawn moves and pawn exchanges. On the other hand, your structure might not be supporting the piece(s) you have. In that case you'll want to change the structure via pawn advances and/or exchanges. In a nutshell, don't bemoan the fact that a particular structure isn't your friend. MAKE it your friend. Make it conform to your creative will.

    • 4 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 21

    What makes a trade worthwhile? At times you can double your opponent's pawns, but perhaps you would have to part with a piece you like to make that happen. At other times you can get rid of an enemy Bishop that's a bit better than yours, but it would take you several moves to accomplish the exchange. Should you do it? Perhaps it's a bad idea? There is no crystal clear answer to this kind of question; it has to be addressed in every individual position and answered based on that position's "identity."

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 22

    When to trade and when to avoid a trade -- heavy questions that can only be answered in relation to a specific position. In this lesson we tackle these questions head on, with Karpov (as White vs. A.Sokolov, Linares 1987) as our instructor.

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 23

    At times it seems your opponent's position should crumble to dust under the weight of its weaknesses, yet it doesn't. Afterwards you don't know how he or she held on -- surely the way to improve your position had to be something far beyond your present understanding of the game! Yet, perhaps not. Perhaps the right way called for the exchange of a single piece. Something so simple and easy to do that its effectiveness just never occurred to you. That's right. Sometimes chess can be far easier than one might suspect!

    • 3 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 24

    We've seen exchanges that seem esoteric, complex, or obvious. However, more often than not, an exchange or series of exchanges makes perfect sense once you see it played on the board, but for some reason isn't so easy to spot during an actual game. This is because a player often fails to see the big picture, and thus can't see how an exchange fits into this "invisible" template of the position. The ability to break down a position into its component parts is critically important, but few possess it (though it's actually quite easy once you master my concept of imbalances). In this problem we'll break it all down and see if this helps make the correct ideas leap into your field of vision.

    • 5 challenges
  • Art Of The Trade 25

    From an old game that featured three players (Brodd, Paulsson & Mandel) vs. Nimzovich, Uppsala 1921. Here we explore a position full of possible exchanges (both sides can initiate them), but only one is correct. Remember: don't make an exchange because it leads to a piece for a piece or pawn for a pawn (that's simplistic and lazy), make an exchange because it accomplishes a specific goal that embraces your pawn structure and other pieces.

    • 5 challenges
Lessons
What is Chess.com?