Canberra Times, August 19

One of the first pieces of information a person is taught when learning the game of chess is the value of the pieces: 9 for queen, 5 for rook, 3 for bishop and knight, 1 for pawn and infinity for the king. 

Yet at higher levels, debate has raged over how accurate these numbers are, with modern statistical analysis tending to confirm the feeling of many GMs that certain pieces are seriously undervalued. 

Most remarkably, a US study of a million game database gave the queen a value of 9.75, almost a pawn higher than its traditional value. 

GM opinion is now moving towards 9.5 as a reasonable value for the queen. 

The same study also confirmed the long held opinion that both bishop and knight are worth more than three pawns. 

The value of a bishop is now considered to be roughly three and a half pawns, with a knight 3.5 or 3.25, depending on personal preference. 

(Many GMs, going as far back as Bobby Fischer, value a bishop slightly higher than a knight but for amateurs a knight is certainly trickier to control.) 

The value of a king is also a matter for varied opinions. 

Since a king cannot be exchanged, no statistical analysis is possible. 

Given the mobility of the king and its ability to control squares of both colours on any given move, one would expect it to be slightly more valuable than a bishop or knight. 

However, while this writer has long accepted a value of 4, a respected teacher such as US GM Lev Alburt rates the king as low as 2, presumably because of its constant need for protection, even in some endgames. 

Of course all piece values in chess vary according to the position; the number of times a knight triumphs over a rook are legion. 

One might expect that two bishops always beat a rook but the following game provides a counterexample. 

Materialism may be important but king safety takes priority. 

Brunei Asean Open 2001 
White: E.Senador 
Black: I.Rogers 
Opening: Reti 

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2 Bg4 4.d3 Nd7 5.Nbd2 Ngf6 6.0-0 e5 7.e4 dxe4 8.dxe4 Bc5 The central symmetry makes a draw probable, a tendency emphasised by the ensuing liquidation of pawns. 9.Qe1 0-0 10.Nc4 Re8 11.b4 Bf8 12.Bb2 Qc7 13.a3 b5 14.Ne3 Bxf3 15.Bxf3 a5 16.c4 axb4 17.axb4 Rxa1 18.Bxa1 bxc4 19.Nxc4 Rb8 20.Bc3 c5 21.bxc5 Bxc5 22.Ne3 Rb3 23.Bd2 Bd4 24.Bg2 g6 Now, with care White should be fine. However... 25.Nd5!? Nxd5 26.exd5 Nf6 27.Bg5? After 27.Be3 Bxe3 28.fxe3 White is safe because 28...Qb6 fails to 29.Kh1! Rxe3? 30.Qf2 Kg7 31.d6!. 27...Ng4! 28.Qd1 Rb4! 29.Bd2 

 

29...Nxf2!! 30.Rxf2 Rb2 31.Kf1 The pin must be broken; if 31.Be1 Qb6 32.Qf3 f5 leaves White helpless against the coming 33...e4 34.Qf4 Be3. 31...Bxf2 32.Kxf2 Qc5+ 33.Ke2 Qb5+ 34.Ke3 Qc5+ 35.Ke2 Qc4+ 36.Ke1 Qd3! 37.Qe2 Qd4! 38.Kd1?! Immediately fatal but 38.Qd1 Qg1+ would lose eventually. 38...Ra2! 39.Qe1 39... Qd3! 0-1 Mate in two beats win of a queen every time. 

A last round draw between Michael Whitely and Jeff Wood gave Khoi Hoang the chance to win the Brindabella Snows tournament on tie-break. 

Leading final scores: 1eq. K.Hoang, M.Whitely 5.5; 3.J.Wood 5; 4.M.Wicklander 4.5. 

The ACT Championship begins on Friday at the Belconnen Chess Club. Those wishing to compete less ferociously may try their luck in the concurrent Chandler Cup. Details from Ian Rout 62766379 (W).