Chess piece hierarchy

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Piece hierarchy

You probably know by now that on the chess board there are 6 types of pieces, each one moving and capturing according to different rules. The value of a piece is given by its ability to capture other pieces and by its importance for the game.

A piece's ability to capture other pieces is given by its mobility, or range of action, in other words by the number of squares on which the piece could move on. From this point of view the queen is the most powerful piece on the board because it has the biggest range of action.

But although the queen is the strongest piece it is not the most important. The most post important piece on the chess board is the king because the entire game revolves around checking the opponent's king.

Many beginners make the false assumption that the value of a piece remains constant throughout the game. That is not true. The fact is that the value of the piece depends a lot on the surrounding pieces and their position. The more pieces there are on the board the more limited they are in their movement. Because the number of pieces decreases throughout the game the mobility of most remaining pieces increase and thus, so does their value.

Although a piece's value may change during the game it will always have a potential value, a so called absolute value. This is the main reference that indicates to you whether a piece is normally more valuable than another. The absolute value of a chess piece is estimated by analyzing its range of action if it were alone on the chess board. Here is the piece hierarchy constructed by taking in consideration the absolute value of each piece:

Beside the absolute value, a piece also has a relative value given by its position on the chess board and by the current phase of the game.

There are certain ratios between the relative values of the pieces that change while the game passes from one phase to another.


In the opening and the central game:

In the end game the ratios change :

It is very important that you know the values I've presented earlier. By knowing the value of each individual piece you will be able to evaluate whether you should exchange a piece or whether you should capture a piece. You'll also know wether you have more material resources than your opponent.

The conclusion is that the value of a piece is dictated by its strategic position and by its ability of working together with other pieces. So the fact that a player has less pieces could be compensated by their superior position on the board.

You will see how to apply what you've learned here in your game in the next article.