8 The value of the chess pieces

8.1 Tutorial

Pawn units

In attacking, defending, exchanging and sacrificing pieces you need to know what they are worth. Any player who lets himself be tricked when exchanging will soon lose the game. The more squares  of the board which a piece can control, the greater its value. The 'currency' for the material value of pieces is the pawn unit.

piece   Value (number of pawns)
queen 9
rook 5
bishop 3
knight 3
pawn 1

A little theory

The queen and rook are called major pieces and the bishop and knight minor pieces.

So a knight is worth three pawns. If you exchange a knight for three pawns the material situation remains level. In practice it also depends on the position. In the endgame the three pawns become more valuable. In the middlegame a piece which is attacking can be stronger than three pawns.

Two bishops coordinate very well as the bishop pair because they can operate on all the squares on the board In an open position (one with few blocked pawns) the bishop pair is stronger thana bishop and a knight. So the bishop is worth a tad more than the knight. In a closed position in which the bishops are restricted by blocked pawn chains the knight, on the other hand, is more mobile.

A rook is worth two pawns more than a minor piece. This material difference is known as the exchange.

8.2 Exercises

Move directly on the board to input a solution. Either click first on the start square and then on the target square. Or click on the piece, hold on to it, move it tot he target square and let go of it. The button ‘Left arrow’ takes back the move.
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Uneven distribution of material

An uneven distribution of material occurs when the total number of pawn units on both sides may be equal, but White and Black have different pieces.

Pieces Approximate equivalent

The sacrifice

Whenever a player accepts a loss of material in order to bring about an attack or a positional advantage we call that a sacrifice.

Sacrifices are often made when attacking the king.  Pawn sacrifices allow you to rip open the opponent's king position or open up files for the attack. With piece sacrifices you can destroy the defensive wall of pawns.

When sacrificing major pieces the attacking player generally calculates the resulting variations all the way to the end. Here the end means the checkmate of the opposing king or recovering the material with an advantage.

The exchange of a rook for a bishop or a rook for a knight is called an exchange sacrifice. Exchange sacrifices and pawn sacrifices are often purely positional sacrifices. They are used to obtain a positional advantage, which may not be able to be calculated in concrete variations but which promises the player making the sacrifice a superior position for his pieces, attacking chances or a clear initiative.


Chess is a game which involves material.  So you have to know the value of the pieces. Otherwise you will be tricked in exchanges and lose valuable material. The player who has more material can swap off everything, finish by promoting a pawn to queen and then easily deliver checkmate.