The ability to accurately evaluate any position is a vital skill you need to develop. Evaluation of a chess position is all about comparing the progress either side has made.
Below is an in-depth example of how the compare the progress en each of the 5 main objectives of a chess game:
- Compare Material
- Compare Development
- Compare Center-control
- Compare King-safety
- Compare the Pawn-structures
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Example: How to Evaluate a Chess Position
The position below is from a game between two grandmasters, V Ivanchuk vs J Polgar, played in Mexico city, 2010. The position was reached on move 24 after white just played 24. a3
Ideally, write down the whole process and compare your answer with the solution given below.
A thorough evaluation of the position requires you to compare the progress that both sides made in each of the 5 objectives.
Step 1: Compare progress in the material objective
Progress in the material objective can be evaluated by comparing the material and finding the differences:
- Queens: Both sides have a queen (no difference)
- Rooks: Both sides have two rooks (no difference)
- Bishops: Neither side have bishop (no difference)
- Knights: Both sides have 2 knights (no difference)
- Pawns: Both sides have 6 pawns (no difference)
The difference: There is no difference here! We can conclude that material is equal in this position – neither side has any advantage with regards to the material objective. Therefore the material objective will not influence our final evaluation of this position.
Step 2: Compare progress in the development objective
Evaluating the progress in development can be done by comparing the development of all the individual pieces:
- Compare Qf2 with Qa5: The white queen doesn’t have a clear role and can be attacked by black’s knights. Black’s queen is better developed than white’s queen.
- Compare Re1 with Rc8: Black’s Rc8 has a slightly better role since it add’s pressure to an important target -> the area around white’s king. Although the difference isn’t huge, the black rook has slightly better prospects than the Re1.
- Compare Rd1 with Rd8: There isn’t much to choose between these two rooks, they appear to have a very similar role and level of development.
- Compare Ne5 with Nd5: Both these knights are well developed. The white knight is possibly slightly better since it is deeper into black’s territory. However, this doesn’t mean much since the Ne5 isn’t really attacking anything.
- Compare Ne2 with Nc5: Nc5 is clearly better developed than its Ne2 counterpart.
Conclusion: Black appears to have an advantage in development mainly due to black’s centralized knights and their potential to make threats on both sides of the board. In our final evaluation we should keep in mind that black has an advantage with regards to development (black’s pieces have better roles than white’s pieces).
Step 3: Compare progress in the center-control objective
Center-control can be evaluated by comparing the amount of pawns and amount of pieces that influence the center.
- Amount of pawns: Both sides have 1 pawn that influence the center
- Amount of pieces: Both sides have 5 pieces that influence the center (however, you could argue black’s 2 centralized knights have more influence than white’s knights)
Conclusion: The situation in the center appear to be rather equal but you can argue that the black knights give black better control of the center. Blacks advantage in the center is related to the better development of her knights.
Step 4: Compare progress in the king-safety objective
The king-safety objective can be evaluated by checking whether both players have castled their king, the condition of the pawn-shield in front of the king and the amount of attackers vs. defenders in the area around the kings.
- Both kings have castled
- The pawn-shields in front of the king’s appear to be quite similar, no significant difference there
- All of black’s pieces are in position to support an attack against black’s king, whereas the white pieces are not an immediate threat to black’s king.
Thus far, the biggest difference in this position seems to be in regard to the objective of king-safety. Black clearly has a significant advantage in this objective since his pieces are all ready to support an attack against the white king. The white defenders don’t seem to be defending very well.
Step 5: Compare progress in the pawn-structure objective
Pawn-structure can be evaluated by checking to which extent the pawns affect the progress towards achieving your other objectives and by identifying weak pawns and squares that can becomes targets.
In this position the pawn-structure doesn’t affect the development of the pieces very much. There also aren’t any weak pawns. However, the absence of central pawns makes the central squares available to the pieces – which obviously favors the side with better development, in this case black.
Step 6: Make your judgement…
A summary of our findings:
- Material objective: Equal
- Development objective: Advantage to black
- Center-control objective: Almost equal, small advantage to black
- King-safety objective: Clear advantage to black
- Pawn-structure objective: Equal
Our comparisons of each side’s progress in the objectives makes it clear that black has an advantage.
How to apply the evaluation process in your practical games
It would seem totally impractical to follow this elaborate evaluation process with every move in your games.
In a real game you don’t need to follow this evaluation-process with every move. Rather, from the first move you will keep track of how the moves affect the evaluation of the position and how it impacts your overall evaluation of the position.
But if you won’t follow this whole process with every move in your game, why is it so important to train evaluation skill?
The value of training evaluation skill
The purpose of doing these exercises is to help you develop a deeper understanding of how every move affects the evaluation of the position.
The skill to quickly and accurately assess the consequences of a move will be a very useful skill that will serve you well in all your future games. The best way to improve your understanding of positions is to do numerous high-quality exercises where you can focus on the evaluation aspect.
Evaluation of a chess position does not tell you everything you need to know
Making the final judgement on a position does not end with your comparison on the progress made in the objectives. Although evaluation is critically important part of your final judgement, it doesn’t tell you everything! A position cannot be judged by simple evaluation alone – you also need to double-check the specific outcomes of the forced variations that can result from that move. In other words, calculation. There are some great resources to help improve your calculation skill to be found in the 10-Day Chess Challenge.
– End Of The Free Chess Course by chessfox.com
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