The Art of Trading Pieces in Chess

Article by GM Gabuzyan Hovhannes
The Art of Trading Pieces in Chess

-Hello, I would like to buy a bottle of water.
- Sure, 500$.
-Ok, I agree.
Before reading the text below, just try to understand how it can be related to chess?

It sounds really crazy to pay 500$ for a bottle of water, but in a chess game very often people are doing the same, and don't even feel it.


Let me illustrate it with a simple example.



White has a super-strong Knight on d5 and Black has a very bad dark square Bishop, limited with his Pawns, which are also on dark squares. Now if you change the d5 Knight with opponent’s Bishop on e7 it would be like buying a bottle of water for $500 smiley


Two Golden Tips


One of the biggest questions in chess is the following:
Which pieces do we need to trade-off and which ones to keep?


How to answer this question? It's very simple. 
Try to understand the price of each piece. 


Just take a look at your position. Let's say you have such a strong Knight on d5, as in the example above, you can clearly be sure it's a very strong and expensive piece. Well, it will never be worth as much as a Queen, but sometimes it can be more expensive than a Rook.


Let’s take a look at this example.



White is missing an exchange but Knight on e4 is just insane. Being placed in the center this piece controls too many squares and it has several outposts like f6 and d6, while Black Rooks are stuck on 8th rank and don’t even have open files to be activated!


Be a Bad Guy


The system in chess works like this: We want to take more and give less. 
While it’s shameful to be a person like this in a real-life, during the chess game it’s a must to be egoistic smiley


Let's say we have a piece that we evaluate 50$ and the opponent has one that is 250$ so it's gonna be an amazing trade.  


Look to the Future

Sometimes we may have a piece that is equal to the strength of the opponent’s one. However, the opponent’s piece has more potential.


Here is an example:



We have a Bishop on f3, not a bad one, but also not a wonderful one. It is partially limited because of Pawns on d3 and c4. The opponent has a Knight on c6. If it goes to d4 it will become a wonderful piece controlling many important squares and being placed in an amazing position. So obviously the best choice will be to play Bc6 and trade this Knight.


How to Evaluate the Price?


Now you will probably have a question, how to evaluate pieces. I have good news. It's even more simple. Pieces are being evaluated by the functions in a particular position. 


We should always think, what function is our particular piece. 


Let’s look at this example. 



You can easily see the difference between White and Black Rooks. While White ones are controlling an open “e” file and are ready to attack Pawns on 7th rank, Black Rooks are too passive and dream about being exchanged.


What about Bishops? 
For Bishops, diagonals or strong outposts are like oxygen.
Look at this example:



White Bishop on d5 is just a monster controlling all the board. Bishop on e7 is just jealous of his competitor smiley  


What about Knight?
For Knights, we need strong outposts or good central squares. 


Just look at this Knight on d5.



It is placed very well in the center, controlling many squares and blocking isolated Pawn, while White Bishop is just very passive and limited by their own Pawns.

Would you change the Knight with opponent’s Bishop? smiley


Final Advice


Understanding when to exchange pieces and which ones - it’s a must-learn skill.
There are different ways to improve.
Soon we are going to launch our course “The art of exchanges” where there will be hundreds of examples, divided into different sections (different purposes of exchanges).


Before that, here are 2 good ways to work by yourself.
1. Analyze games of strong grandmasters.
Better if it’s commented with another Grandmaster or a good coach.


2. Analyze your games with someone experienced.
Whenever you had positions, when you didn’t know whether it’s right to exchange those pieces or not, collect these positions in one place and then ask your coach or your more experienced friend. 


P.S. Don't forget to share your thoughts about this article in our forum.


Article by GM Gabuzyan Hovhannes