5 Easy Steps to Evaluate a Chess Position

Posted by Saumil Padhya,

chess evaluate position


Evaluating position is the tricky part of the game of Chess. At a beginner or intermediate level, your mind is not trained to calculate beyond a few moves ahead. But when one moves past that level, it is important to learn how to evaluate chess positions.

The evaluation of a chess position is an assessment of the current situation on the board based on strengths and weaknesses of both players position.

5 Easy Steps to Evaluate a Chess Position

Any chess instructor would tell you the need to evaluate any position accurately to stay ahead in the game of chess. It's all about comparing the progress either side has made to assess strengths, weaknesses, and best applicable chess strategies/tactics necessary. Let's analyze the following example that can help us understand things better.

chess tactics improvement

Black to make the next move. Let's evaluate the above position using each of the following objectives.

1  Material Evaluation

The first step of evaluation is to compare Queens, Rooks, Bishops, Knights, and Pawns of both sides. In the above position, each side has 1 queen, 2 rooks, and 7 pawns. White has a bishop and a knight, whereas black has 2 bishops. For material evaluation, knight is equal to bishop, so overall, white and black have equal materials here. Hence, the material objective does not exert influence over the final evaluation of this position.

While counting number of pieces is the simple way to evaluate a chess position, some positions might require you to calculate points based on piece values. Below is the points chart:

Piece Type Points
Pawn 1 point
Knight 3 points
Bishop 3 points
Rook 5 points
Queen 9 points

For the position above, below are the total points for white and black:

White = (1 pt x 8 pawns) + (3 pts x 1 bishop) + (3 pts x 1 knight) + (5 pts x 2 rooks) + (9 pts x 1 queen) = 33 points

Black = (1 pt x 8 pawns) + (3 pts x 2 bishops) + (5 pts x 2 rooks) + (9 pts x 1 queen) = 33 points

2  Piece Development

The next step is to compare the progress in the development objective. Here, you have to compare the development of all the individual pieces to find out who is enjoying the lead in development. Here's how!

chess queen development strategy
Qc2 vs Qe7

Compare Qc2 with Qe7

Both queens don't have much scope because they are restricted by their own pawns and pieces. White queen on c2 is restricted by pawns on e4-c4-b3 and knight on c3. Black queen on e7 is restricted by pawns on e5-c5 and bishop on c7.

However, by playing Qf2, white queen can coordinate with bishop on e3 to attack the c5 pawn and the black queen cannot be developed because it is tied to the defense of c5 pawn.

White has a stable advantage here.

chess rook development strategy
Ra1 vs Rb8

Compare Ra1 with Rb8

White rook on a1 is restricted as it only controls b1-c1 squares. Black rook on b8 is better because it controls the semi-open b-file. As the game progresses, the b-file will be an important factor because black rook on b8 can obtain counterplay by opening the file with moves like a4.

Black has a clear advantage over white.

chess rook development strategy
Rd1 vs Rd8

Compare Rd1 with Rd8

Both rooks control the open d-file, so they have a similar level of development. However, black rook has a potential outpost on d4 whereas white rook has no equivalent outpost on d5 because black's c6 pawn controls d5.

Black has a small advantage here.

chess bishop development strategy
Be3 vs Bc7

Compare Be3 with Bc7

When comparing bishops, it is important to take a look at the square color of opponent pawns. In above position, we can quickly see that white has pawns on light squares whereas black has pawns on dark squares. Thus, black's dark squared bishop on c7 is restricted by its own pawns on a5-c5-e5, whereas white's bishop on e3 can target the c5 pawn.

White has a clear advantage here.

chess knight bishop development strategy
Nc3 vs Ba6

Compare Nc3 with Ba6

Black's bishop on a6 is restricted by white pawn on c4, which is well defended by the pawn on b3. White knight on c3 controls central square of d5, but more importantly, it can go to a4 to attack black pawn on c5.

White has a clear advantage here.

We can gather the following conclusions from this evaluation:

White's advantage comes from the minor pieces (bishop and knight) and queen that are perfectly placed to attack black's weak c5 pawn. White is at a disadvantage because rook on a1 is not very active, and white rook on d1 does not have an outpost on d5.

Black's advantage comes from its rooks, that control the open b-file and d-file. Black is at a disadvantage because black queen is tied to defense of c5 pawn and bishops are restricted.

3  Center Control

The number of pawns and other pieces that influence the center determines center-control.

chess center control training

In this example, we can highlight the following:

White has 2 pawns on c4-e4 that control the central d5 square. Black has 3 pawns that control central d4 and d5 squares - c6 pawn controls d5 square and c5-e5 pawns control d4 square.

White has 3 pieces that control the center - Nc3, Rd1 and Be3. Black has only 1 piece that controls the central d-file - Rd8. However, black has a central outpost on d4 that can be occupied by rook whereas white's outpost on d5 is controlled by c6 pawn.

This evaluation helps us conclude that the situation in center is very imbalanced and dynamic. Although more white pieces control the central squares, none of the white pieces can actually occupy central squares due to black's 3 central pawns. On the other hand, black rook has a strong outpost on d4 square. So black has an advantage here.

4  King Safety

chess king safety training

The safety of the king is of supreme importance and can be evaluated by checking whether:

Both the players have castled their kings
In above position, white and black have castled their kings.

The pawn-shield and squares in front of the king
White has pawn shield on f3-g2-h2 and no weak squares around the king. Black has pawn shield on f7-g6-h7, but weak squares on f6 and h6 because of the move g6.

The number of attackers vs defenders in the area surrounded by the king
Black has no attackers near white king. White's bishop on e3 controls the weak h6 square near the black king.

To conclude, white's king is slightly safer than black king. Although white cannot immediately take advantage of the weak f6-h6 squares, king safety can be an important factor as position develops.

5  Pawn Structures

To evaluate the structure of pawns, assess the extent to which pawns affect the progress towards achieving your objectives. Identify weak pawns and squares that have a great chance of becoming targets. Identify squares that can become targets by pawns.

chess pawn structure training

In the above position, white has a great pawn structure with pawn chains (or connected pawns) on a2-b3-c4 and g2-f3-e4. Black has a weak pawn structure with isolated pawns on a5-c5-c6, since these pawns cannot be supported by other pawns.

White has a huge advantage here.

Final Evaluation

To summarize our evaluation, white has a stable advantage in terms of great pawn structure with connected pawns whereas black has a dynamic advantage in terms of center control with a great outpost for rook on d4. White has a safer king than black, but whether white can exploit that is not clear. In terms of development, white and black have dynamic equality and lastly, material for both sides is equal.

Considering all factors above, it is my opinion that the position is dynamically equal. White should try to attack the isolated pawns on a5 and c5 with moves like Na4 and Qf2. Black should try to use d4 outpost by playing Rd4 and doubling rooks on d-file, while also trying to break white's pawn chains with pawn breaks like a5-a4 and f7-f5.

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About Author

Saumil Padhya is a National Master with USCF rating of 2355. He grew up playing in the chess circuits of Mumbai, India and currently resides in Chicago, USA.


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