Lesson 3 - The Relative Value of Chess Pieces: Material vs Positional

If you did not go through the previous page giving an introduction about the value of the pieces, I recommend that you do so before continuing.

The system we learned in the previous page is useful to provide the concrete value of the pieces. However, we cannot use this system to give a real value to a piece using only this system (it would have been too easy...!). When evaluating a piece (friend of foo), we have to take into consideration its "relative" value which is defined by the context and the environment of the piece. To help you understand this notion, you have to know that the position of the piece during a game is more important than its relative value. Indeed, a player can have a material advantage over his opponent and loose the game! This is possible because the opponent's pieces are active, better coordinated and have more space to deploy their power. In the example below, White has a material advantage (they have an extra knight) but what good it is giving them? All his pieces except the King are blocked! Black, despite their material deficit, has a better position. Black has more chance to win the game even if they have a smaller force on the board.

Diagram 3.1 -  Positional versus Material Advantage

Diagram 3.1 - Positional versus Material Advantage

To help you evaluate the relative value of a piece during a real game, ask yourself the following question when your opponent offers to exchange pieces: "is it really good for me to let this piece go?», «does this exchange improve my opponent's position?». 

Later, we will study strategical notions and the way to get positional advantage during a game of chess. For now, just keep in mind that a piece value is built up from material and context considerations.

Let's continue the lesson with the next page on the attacks and threatsonline chess tutorial.