The Exchange: When Chess Pieces Fight for Value

In a coming heat of battle, there will be an exchange of fire. This is true in actual war and in chess. In actual combat this means ammos and artillery; in chess it's the strategy value of pieces. Chess exchange of pieces should be learnt well in calculating chess odds.

Exchanging pieces means a momentary skirmish of capturing and counter capturing with serious regard for piece value. Normally, we won't exchange our bishop for an enemy pawn. But in certain situations we may do this for a more important ulterior motive. Sometimes we do this out of play-reading the enemy when we try to size the enemy up. At other times it's done simply for lack of better options. Whatever the reason, we should be aware of the strategy value of chess pieces.

Normally, major pieces (king, queen, and rook) value higher than minor pieces (bishop, knight, and pawns). A king is definitely higher than a queen; a queen is higher than a rook; a rook is higher than a bishop and a knight, and both are higher than pawns. Most players treat knights and bishops equal. Others say bishops value higher than knights. But this differs case to case.

When we face an unavoidable exchange we should think fast. If the enemy is about to gain a knight we should find a way to gain an enemy knight or bishop. If the enemy gains a rook and we gain a bishop we lose the round. We should at least gain 2 bishops or a bishop and a knight or a bishop or knight and 3 pawns to make up for a rook loss. If we lose a queen, we should make up by gaining the enemy queen or at least 2 rooks and 2 bishops, or a rook, a bishop, and a knight.

An opponent may gain a knight somewhere but we let it happen because we're also about to gain a bishop somewhere on the board---and not just gain a bishop but also check or capture a rook or the queen in the process. This chess exchange of pieces is called exchange sacrifice---we sacrifice a little now to gain something bigger later. We may also dare the opponent with a deadly exchange just to see what the enemy mettle is made of.

Chess exchange of pieces may be the "bluff" counterpart of poker. And as poker bluffs are used for odds, chess exchange is also for calculating our odds of winning in chess.

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