Swapping pieces

Technical questions regarding Openings, Middlegames, Endings etc.
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Nick Ivell
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Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:33 pm

Swapping pieces

Post by Nick Ivell » Sun Dec 30, 2018 10:39 am

A spin-off from the QGD thread. I hope this one will be better tempered!

I'm interested in the positional ideas behind swapping pieces. There are very few books about this - I think I have one by Shaun Taulbut, but that's about it.

The QGD thread was all about offending the general principle of exchanging a bad bishop for a good one.

Anyone care to comment on the general principles, and when we should go against these?

Javier Gil
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Re: Swapping pieces

Post by Javier Gil » Sun Dec 30, 2018 11:18 am

Apart from Taulbut's book, here are some more:

"Exchanging to win the endgame" + "Tactical chess exchanging", by Nesis (he's obvious done a lot of thinking on the subject!).
"The art of exchanges" by Greek GM Grivas.
"The power of exchange" (A DVD by GM Mikhalchishin).

It is often said that in order to win an endgame with a pawn up you should exchange pieces, not pawns, but this is not a principle which we can follow blindly. For example, Rook endings with a pawn up are often drawn.
Exchanging passive pieces for active pieces is obviously something we all try to do and our opponents try to avoid.
Avoiding exchanging pieces when your opponent has less space is also an old principle which stands today.
Retreating minor pieces avoiding exchanges so as to kick away enemy pieces using pawns is seen a lot more often nowdays in some openings.
Exchanging pieces to get bishops of opposite colour and improve our drawing chances in the endgame or attacking chances in the middlegame.
Exchanging Queens to limit your opponent's attacking chances.

And so many others...

You're gonna have to be more concrete!

Nick Ivell
Posts: 249
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:33 pm

Re: Swapping pieces

Post by Nick Ivell » Sun Dec 30, 2018 11:27 am

Ok, how about this. Say you are fighting against a queen but with rough material equality. Rook, bishop and pawn will do. All 4 rooks are on the board.

My positional principle would be to avoid an exchange of one pair of rooks. Why? To avoid accidents. A pair of rooks can defend each other, making accidents less likely.

Queens have a talent for forking undefended pieces. I seem to recall Karpov falling prey to just such a fork, with bishop and knight undefended (v Christiansen?)

I don't think many people will argue with the general principle, but is it just the tactical weakness of humans which is the factor here? Engines don't drop pieces, because they calculate properly.

Javier Gil
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Re: Swapping pieces

Post by Javier Gil » Sun Dec 30, 2018 11:43 am

er... if 4 rooks are on the board, how can you have Rook + Bishop + Pawn for the Queen?

Normally, we don't play to avoid accidents. You kind of have a sixth sense on what is the right move and have worked out a strategy, so fears don't play a role in decision making. At least not very often.
If fears did play a role, you'd have a lot more enemies than just your opponent!

Nick Ivell
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Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:33 pm

Re: Swapping pieces

Post by Nick Ivell » Sun Dec 30, 2018 12:15 pm

Q v 3 minor pieces would have been a better example. Not a common scenario, but it does happen. When facing a queen, I like to have my pieces defending each other!

Of course, this may be just exaggerated respect for her majesty. I've noticed that the top players nowadays don't care much for material. They will give up the exchange for compensation not visible to the naked eye.

Javier Gil
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Re: Swapping pieces

Post by Javier Gil » Sun Dec 30, 2018 12:45 pm

If you have Q vs 3 minor pieces, I guess you're talking about exchanging rooks then?
It'll depend on the position really, no general rule can be applied. In fact, that's nearly always the case...

Nick Ivell
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Re: Swapping pieces

Post by Nick Ivell » Sun Dec 30, 2018 12:58 pm

If you have the queen, try to exchange one pair of rooks. Tactics are more likely to work if the opponent's pieces can't easily defend each other.

The point of general principles is that we can discuss them without reference to a particular position, though of course it's always better if we have a specific example in mind.

What are general principles, but a crutch to lean on because engines have shown us how badly we calculate?

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