Relative Piece Values

How much are the individual chess pieces worth?

Pawns are 1, Bishops & Knights are 3, Rooks are 5, and Queens are 9, right? All done? Nope. The value of the pieces change throughout phases of the game and depending on the specific combination of pieces, their evaluation as a whole may change.

We know 3 + 3 is 6.

Bishops thrive in open positions and are usually worth more than 3 points, let’s say, 3.3. However, having BOTH bishops in an open position (while the opponent doesn’t) gives you what we call the “Bishop Pair” which in fact can be worth about 7 points or even more.

3.3 + 3.3 = 7 !?  The specific bishop-bishop combination gives extra firepower.

 

Relativistic Piece Values

During the opening and middlegame, a bishop is superior to 3 pawns.

During the endgame, a bishop is about equal to 3 pawns.

During the opening and middlegame, a knight is equal to 3 pawns.

During the endgame, a knight is usually weaker than 3 pawns!

During the opening and middlegame, a rook is better than 5 pawns.

During the endgame, a rook is roughly equal to 5 pawns.

During the opening and middlegame:

R ≈ B + 2P ≈ N +2P

R + P < B + N

R + 2P ≈ B + N (7=6? – yes)

Q < 3 minor pieces

Q ≈ R + B + P

Q ≈ R + N + 2P

Q < 2R

Q > B + N + 3P

Q ≈ 2B + 3P

Q + P ≈ 2 R

Q + P ≈ 2 N + B

Q + P < 2B + N (10 is less than 9? – Yes sir)

2R ≈ 3 minor pieces

2R ≈ 2B + 3P

2R > N + B + 3P

2R + N ≈ R + 2B + P (The presence of a rook with the bishop pair increases its value)

2R + P < R + B + N

2R + 2P ≈ R + B + N

Most players tend to underestimate the value of the 2 bishops combined! By no means are these values absolute. Remember that the quality of the pieces also play a big role! But in terms of counting material, these ratios are fairly accurate. The ratios change in the endgames though so let’s take a look at that next.

During the Endgame:

R ≈ B + P

R > N + P

R ≈ N + 2P

R + P ≈ B + N

Q ≈ 3 minor pieces

Q ≈ R + B ≈ R + N + P

Q < 2R

Q > B + N + 3P

Q ≈ 2B +3P

Q + P = 2R

Q + P > 2N + B

Q + P = 2B + N

2R ≈ 3 minor pieces

2R ≈ 2B + 3P ≈ N + B + 3P

2R + N ≈ R + 2B + P

2R + P ≈ R + B + N

2R + 2P ≈ R + 2B

Whew! This might be an eye-opener for some readers… like the case where the 9 points on average was stronger than 10 points! That seems amazing until you realize that the original P=1, B=N=3, R=5, and Q=9 are fairly lazy approximations. Knowing these material values on top of piece quality on the board gives you the ability to evaluate positions more accurately.

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