Piece-development: How to give useful roles to your pieces

The stages (or levels) of piece-development refers to the extent to which a piece has achieved its potential. The stages of development of a piece can be broken down into 4 levels:

The different roles a piece can play

A piece can only demonstrate its potential when it fulfills a useful role. There are different roles a piece can perform – some roles are very useful and others not so much. You can determine the quality of a piece by evaluating the usefulness of its role.

The usefulness of a piece can also be broken down into different levels:

  1. No role – An undeveloped piece add almost nothing to your position and the value of such a piece is very limited until you improve its role.
  2. Defensive role – Your opponent will probably attack some areas in your position and you will be forced to allocate pieces to defend the attacked squares and/or pieces. Such piece will then have defensive roles.
  3. Limitation role – If your piece restricts the movement of an opponent’s piece, that piece fulfills a limitation role. Limiting or restricting the roles of enemy pieces are just as useful as increasing the role of your own pieces.
  4. Attacking role – A piece that attacks enemy targets and forces enemy pieces into defensive roles has an attacking role and contributes to increasing your control.
  5. Multiple roles – When a piece attack and defend at the same time it performs multiple roles. This is the ideal and you want as many as possible of your pieces performing multiple roles.

The example below illustrates the differences in roles a piece can have:

Compare the role of Bd5 to Bd7. Clearly the white bishop is doing better.
Compare the role of Bd5 to Bd7. Clearly the white bishop is doing better. Aim to give your pieces the best possible roles.

The white bishop on d5 attacks the black Nc6 (and subjects the Bd7 to a defensive role) and at the same time helps to defend the e4-pawn. The Bd5 is a good example of a high-quality piece that performs multiple roles.

In this specific situation the bishop is more valuable than the black Ra8 even though the rook is supposed to be worth 5 points vs. the bishop’s 3 point. Development increases the fire-power and value of your pieces which is why it is one of the 5 main objectives.

Next Lesson – Chess Openings: Which pieces should be developed first?

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