Chess Tips: To Exchange Or Not Exchange

by Brady Y Wynn

During the course of a game, chess pieces will be captured, removed, transformed, and defended on a chess board. When planning an attack, tactic, or overall strategy, it’s wise to keep in mind the value of your active chess pieces. At varying points, you’ll need to decide what you’re willing to exchange in order to move forward or into position. If a rook is captured, but in the process, a knight is sacrificed – is the exchange worth it? Chess sets are comprised of two sets of 16 pieces: 1 king, 1 queen, 2 bishops, 2 knights, 2 rooks, and 8 pawns. Value-wise, a pawn is given a “1” while a queen is the highest at “9.” This value directly ties into the chess piece’s movement (and consequent power) on a chess board. While the queen can move in any direction for any number of squares, a pawn can only move forward one square at a time and can only capture on the diagonal. In a chess set, the major pieces are the queen and rook and the minors are the bishop and knight. This again relates to each piece’s relative movement and overall impact on the game. In chess, exchanges are a big part of strategy. At times, giving up a particular chess piece is worth it (even if it’s not a pawn). If the trade happens to weaken your opponent’s position and/or enables your pieces to move more freely on the chess board, then it’s advisable to do so. Also, keep in mind that, while it’s important to maintain your “army,” it’s also at times a disadvantage to have too many pieces cramped together. If this happens, movement will be limited within the “field” and options will be decreased. To further understand this concept, visualize the chess board, with a majority of your pieces clumped in one area. Given that each chess piece comes with its own basic move(s) and contribution to the game, it’s important to allow each piece to have the space to realize that potential. Thus, for chess pieces that move in a straight line, you’ll want to ideally create open lines of movement. In other words, don’t clog the lanes. For the pawns of foot soldiers, try and build an interdependent pawn structure. Since pawns are the weakest pieces of a chess set (before promotion), reinforce them by having them work together. Not alone. And lastly, remember that chess power emanates from the center of the board. The four center squares are the strongest, with the 12 squares surrounding them comprising the “extended center.” Movement within these (16) squares is what you work for, as it provides your chess pieces with the greatest range of movement and thereby, greatest options of play.

About the Author

Brady is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with friends and family. He loves playing chess on his marble resin chess set against his nephew Steven.
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