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A Rook or Two Minor Pieces?

  • GM Gserper
  • | 30/09/2012
  • | Visto 20570 veces
  • | 44 comentarios

I cannot even tell you how many times I had to discuss the subject of ' A Rook vs. Two Minor Pieces' with my students.  Usually it starts in a position like this:


And I face the same problem again: how do I explain that the trade of a Bishop and a Knight for a Rook and a pawn is not that good in this position? 

I know the arguments that I will face very well:

1) Two minor pieces are worth about 6 pawns and so are a Rook and a pawn, so White doesn't lose any material.

2) Black's King gets exposed, so it gives White additional benefits. 

Indeed, what should I tell my students? There is no 'rule of thumb' to follow and besides I remember very well, how I was attracted to this 'combination' in my childhood until my own experience taught me that it is not such a great idea.

I was looking for help from the great chess players, but all I found was:

" I saw it so many times that after one opponent wins two minor pieces for a Rook and a pawn (usually on the 'f7' square), then he either loses a game or makes a draw with great difficulties in an endgame.  The experience shows that in endgames, especially if a passed pawn exists, the player who has a Rook has a better position.  It is a different situation in the complicated middle game. Here it is much easier to create an attack having two minor pieces."  GM Alexander Zaitsev

" In the endgame a Rook is frequently stronger than two minor pieces. It happens when the Rook penetrates into the opponent's camp and wins some material or when there is an opportunity to create a passed pawn." Famous Russian coach IM Mark Dvoretsky

At first sight, it looks like the case is very simple: In the opening and middle game two minor pieces are better and a Rook can be better in the endgame, especially if we use the classical examples that prove the rule:

Black was completely helpless at the end against a well coordinated attack by the White pieces.  His Rook was practically useless there.

It is funny that nine years later, the same opponents played a game where three minor pieces were fighting two Rooks.  The minor pieces won again:


And here is another game from the same epoch:


So, indeed the two minor pieces are better in the middle game and the Rook   can be better in the endgame.  The case is closed, right?

But this is what the great Mikhail Tal says: "I have to confess that it is my favorite sacrifice to give up two minor pieces for a Rook. If an exchange sacrifice can be treated as an admission that a Rook can be weaker than a minor piece, then in this case we have a statement that a Rook is frequently stronger than two minor pieces. This paradox is valid in an endgame too, especially when the Rook fights against a Bishop and a Knight and they are not cooperating very well in that particular situation. This paradox stays true in a middle game, providing that a Rook has an open file (or better yet, files!)."

 And here is the proof from the Magician:

to be continued...


Comentarios


  • hace 19 meses

    jooe15

    Activity is key, Especialy in the opening.

  • hace 19 meses

    jooe15

    i tend to sac a ton of pawns for tatical advantages..... or just hang them so i dont even count them as anything untill late middle game. Getting black king out is usaly worth it but here you just got to tell everyone.... DON'T trade your active peices for inactive peices.

  • hace 23 meses

    sirrichardburton

    I have always wondered about this myself. I could never understand why the vast majority of times when i did this i rarely won. So finally i just stopped doing it. It's best to know the reasons behind why a certain move is bad but it may be enough sometimes just to know not to do it.

  • hace 2 años

    spanishfly25

    ok so what I get from the article is if you are playing a lower level player and he doesn't use the knight bishop combination too  good, then  is a good idea to trade, or if you are in the end game and plenty of space for rooks to travel, but at the opening and middle game is a mistake to made the trade.   I guess also depends if you have one or two rooks.

  • hace 2 años

    bolshevikhellraiser

    @kapishreshta  I believe so as well. This game defies the rule that a rook is more valuable than a minor piece. First he sacs both rooks for 2 minor pieces, then he's left with a knight vs. rook endgame, sacs his knight for a passed pawn, and wins with 3 passed pawns against a rook. Simply an amazing game.

  • hace 2 años

    StrategicPlay

    This still remains a confusion, especially in most of my games...

  • hace 2 años

    kapishreshta

    @bolshevikhellraiser What a game by Radjabov!

  • hace 2 años

    bolshevikhellraiser

    From past experience I found that the f7-f2 trade off to be more well compensated for the rook and pawn . It unbalances the material, but like Gserper mentioned  statistics show that the one who loses the knight and bishop tend to have a hard time drawing or loses. I am sure there is a small percentage that wins, but I think the trade off is far from worth it. 

  • hace 2 años

    bolshevikhellraiser

    My favorite game where the minor peices faces the rooks is by Radjabov. This is actually the game that won me over. Here is the link.http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1501664

  • hace 2 años

    madhacker

    I like pianoman's game because white gets what he deserves: all the exchange on f7 achieves is that the g-file gets opened and suddenly it's white's king not black's that's under attack.

    @hrobert5, I understand where you are coming from but I don't think you can really say "never". The Tal game being a good counterexample. Although in general I think you are correct that the exchange isn't good, there will be some situations where it is. You've got to just look at the position as it is in front of you. Pre-conceived ideas of what is "right" and "wrong" are the source of a lot of bad moves in chess Tongue Out

  • hace 2 años

    bpavan

    thanks

  • hace 2 años

    bankoscarpa

    I love this article! Thank you GM Gserper for your opinion. :)

  • hace 2 años

    Robbie960

    Just my preference, but I would NEVER make this trade unless I saw a pretty clear path to mate out of it. That's just me though...I love my Knights!

  • hace 2 años

    Wahotaho

    OK, I know you are a Grandmaster and I'm just a kid but thats not always true.



  • hace 2 años

    ishamael13

    My impression so far is that the two minor pieces are only relevant when they are well coordinated. If they are, in either phase of the game, then they might be worth their weight in gold, otheriwise the rook shows its power.

    My experience is limited to playing mostly people of my own level, and so far, in a comparable case of queen vs two rooks I always had better results with the queen because it was very hard to coordinate the two rooks together against an equal opponent. So I tend to believe in lesser amount of pieces preferable to a more wide spread army(both in middle game and the ending) but that is probably only true on my level, I have seen A levels better able to navigate their minor pieces than I am and of course GMs are a whole different level beyond my imagination. LOL.

    So, I am very curious to see if the continuation gives me different options to consider since the first part did not seemingly refute my idea outright.

  • hace 2 años

    MajorGiggles

    Tal is a legend but his opponent's defence in the given game is a bit suspect which lessens it as an example to support the sacrifice.

    But what Tal says goes. He may not be the absolute "best", but he is the player I would most desire to play like. And so it must be correct! ;-)

  • hace 2 años

    onlysalltimebest

    Very good article...

  • hace 2 años

    Borislaurent

    Following Heisman I use slightly refined values regarding the strength of material: Queen 9,75 points; rook 5 points; minor piece 3,25 points; pawn 1 point; sole possession of the bishops 0,5 points; doubled isolated pawn -0,5 points. Following these values the exchange from the example given above would be bad: white loses 6,5 points (bishop and knight); black loses 6 points (rook and pawn), but gains 0,5 points for the bishops. So black´s up one point, which makes the trade inattractive, unless special conditions on the board indicate otherwise.

  • hace 2 años

    madhacker

    We played the Tal-Johannessen position recently at my club in a Tal-themed 10-min tournament, and white won almost every game (I had black and was crushed by a player rated 300 points lower than me). It's very difficult to defend in practice.

    I think the conclusion that can be drawn from this is that it can be a good idea to make this sacrifice on f7 if white can get an initiative or attack as a result, but if the black king can just calmly retreat back to g8 unthreatened then the position is likely to favour black, because rooks don't do an awful lot in crowded middlegame positions, so the two pieces are likely to overrun white if they can be co-ordinated.

    All general stuff, I'm sure there will be some exceptions as always.

  • hace 2 años

    JPDuarte

    By the way, the final position of the second Capablanca-Alekhine game (Nottingham 1936) deserves some comment. At first sight it's not obvious why Alekhine resigned - material is about equal. The point is that Black has no counterplay whatsoever. He can do nothing while White maneuvers his pieces to ideal squares. One method for White is to move h4, then h5; white B to g2 then h3, black B to c3. At this point, both black Rs have to defend the P on f5. White can then maneuver the N via f1 and e3 to d5. Black's K will still be on g8 or h7 because of the rooks having to defend f5, so he can't defend the Pb6 with a R because of a N check on f6.

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