Chess Strategy: Exchanging Pieces

One of the most important strategies in chess is knowing when and when not to exchange pieces. What is exchanging pieces? It’s trading one of your pieces for one of your opponent’s that is of equal value.

Let’s take a look at the value of chess pieces. They rank in power as follows from the highest to the lowest; queen, rook, bishop, knight and pawn. The value of bishop and knight can differ, depending on the stage of the play of the game. When the game is in the early stages, your knight is more valuable because he has the ability to move over other players. As the game progresses, the bishop becomes more valuable for its ability to cover the board in a diagonal direction. The rook is another piece that is not as valuable in the early stages of the game. But… as the game moves toward the end, the rook is a very important piece. As the lines clear, the rook can be deadly to your opponent. Remember, a piece’s importance fluctuates during the game.

When you exchange pieces, you trade a bishop for a bishop, or a knight for a knight. Exchanging a knight for a bishop or vice versa is also considered an equal exchange. An example of an unequal exchange would be a rook or queen being exchanged for a bishop or a knight.

People who are learning the game of chess tend to exchange pieces often. Experienced players usually prefer to avoid exchanges. Is exchanging pieces a good move? As with all things in life, it depends on the circumstances. If you are thinking of exchanging pieces, be sure to study the board carefully. How are the pieces configured and in what direction is the flow of the game? Never exchange pieces unless it benefits you directly.

What are the advantages for exchanging pieces? If you can see that one of your opponent’s pieces is the foundation of his strategy, take the piece, if possible. This takes away from his defensive and offensive strategy, leaving him venerable while you loss the identical piece that is not as important to your strategy. Another example of a good time to exchange pieces is when your opponent uses a piece very frequently. Some players depend heavily on certain pieces and if that piece is exchanged, their strategy is weakened.

Exchanging pieces can move the game along at a more rapid pace. If your strategy or the number of pieces you have on the board gives you a definite advantage, you may benefit by removing as many pieces as possible from the board. This causes your opponent’s army to be depleted, ensuring that you maintain your advantage.

As mentioned earlier, rooks are more valuable near the game’s end. Exchanging pawn can be beneficial to open the board for your rook to move more freely. This is definitely to your advantage if your opponent has lost one or both of his rooks earlier in the game.

There are also advantages to retreating when your opponent offers an exchange of pieces. The more pieces you have on the board, the more control you have, as long as you can maneuver them to protect one another. Also, take into consideration how taking an opponent’s piece will affect the game. Will it disrupt your strategy or prohibit you from protecting your pieces? If so, avoid the exchange if possible. Chess is not about how many of your opponent’s pieces you can remove from the board. Your goal is to put your opponent’s king in checkmate. Removing just one piece can leave large gaps in your ability to defend your pieces and put them and your position in jeopardy. Always study the board thoroughly before exchanging or removing pieces. You must be aware of what the gaps will do to your defensive abilities.

Before making any exchanges, or moves for that matter, study the board and try to predict what your move will mean to your army. Chess is all about strategy and strategy either wins or losses the game. By Mary M. Alward.