Winning the Exchange

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, March 20, 2022

 

Winning a Rook for a minor piece can set one on a path to victory in  chess games. In correspondence games, against the best defensive play, this seems true less often. In 3 recent cc games, despite being the exchange up, I have had to settle for the draw. In the latest of these, as White, I have King on g4, a pawn on g5 and Rook on b3. Black to move has King on g8, Bishop on e7 and pawn on g6. My material and space advantages count for nothing. Black has an accurate, saving resource.

I usually play my engine’s top choice move. In a current game, in which I am the exchange up, I have decided against this. The top line was forcing, but led to exchanging off Queens and a pair of rooks. Playing down this line appeared to lead to a Rook v Bishop ending with minimal winning chances. I played a waiting move, which kept pieces on the board. This has worked out pleasantly for me. The pieces on the board are asserting their power. 

I’ve learnt that if I am the exchange up, hastening to an ending may not be the smartest of plans. In future, too, I might even be less likely to jump at a chance to win the exchange. I’ve just viewed an Alpha-Zero v Stockfish 8 game in which Alpha-Zero passes on an offer of winning an exchange. It had deeper, winning plans.

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