Material refers to the quantity of pieces and pawns on the board.
In games between masters, most players will resign if they are even one piece behind since they understand the value of extra material. They know their chances to beat another master whilst being a piece behind is almost zero.
However, if your opponent isn’t a master you should play on because there is a reasonable chance that they might still make a mistake which you can exploit.
The material objective
Generally, the player with more material can gain control by forcing the opponent’s pieces into defensive positions and then using the extra material to attack new targets.
The first objective: Aim to win material
Bobby Fischer on the “material objective”
The legendary world-champion, Bobby Fischer, strongly believed in the importance of what we will now call the “material objective”:
Focus on winning material because the player with more pieces can gain control by using their extra forces to attack more targets than what the opponent can defend.
It is important to understand the relative value of the pieces.
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The point-values of the pieces
The pieces have point-values which reflect their degree of mobility.
However, the position on the board can affect the mobility and roles of the pieces – therefore the points are only an estimation of their value in average situations.
* In most positions a bishop is actually worth a bit more than a knight
** The king is a powerful piece in the endgame-stage of the game
An advantage refers to any factors in the position that may improve your chances of winning the game.
A material advantage goes to the player who has more and/or stronger pieces. The simplest way to determine which player has a material advantage is to compare the point-values of the remaining pieces on the board.
Material superiority isn’t the only factor that determines who has an advantage, but it is often the most important one.
Next Lesson – How to use a material advantage in chess
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