Chess lessons will often express that one side has an advantage over the other in a particular position. But knowing that you or your opponent is “better” is not very useful if you cannot identify WHY.
To identify why someone is better, you’ll need to know the various advantages that you can obtain in a chess game. Chess advantages come in the forms of material advantages, positional advantages, tactical advantages, time advantages, space advantages, and development advantages.
What is Material advantage in Chess?
Material Advantages are the easiest to recognize and quantify. Having a material advantage means that you have captured more material or more valuable material from your opponent. If white trades a knight for a rook, then white is considered to have a material advantage.
However, having a material advantage (or any other advantage) does not necessarily qualify you as being “better”. You can be down considerable amounts of material and be positionally winning with a forced checkmate sequence.
What is Positional Advantage in Chess?
Positional Advantages are a little more difficult to recognize and quantify. Positional Advantage generally refers to having your pieces on the most optimal squares, but it may also refer to your opponent’s pieces being placed on bad squares…
This may come in the form of having a firm grip on the center, creating an outpost square in your opponent’s camp, controlling open files, diagonals, other critical squares (like the squares around your king and your opponent’s king), poor opponent pawn structure. The power of a piece is based upon the number of squares it controls and the options that it has (flexibility) to change the parts of the board it controls.
What is Tactical Advantage in Chess?
Tactical advantages are even harder to identify. A tactical advantage usually refers to a small window of opportunity in which you can take advantage of how your opponent’s places are pieces are placed. More often than not this comes in the form of forcing the win of material.
For example, being able to fork the king in check and threatening to capture another piece simultaneously. Your opponent is forced to deal with his king in check, allowing you to pick up extra material.
What is Time Advantage in Chess?
Time advantage is easy to recognize. When you have more time than your opponent, you are able to evaluate moves longer and find the best move more often.
You can also win if your opponent runs out of time, so under time pressure, it’s common for someone to blunder, even if they are familiar with endgame principles.
What is Space Advantage in Chess?
Space is also easy to recognize. Having a space advantage means you have more squares to place your pieces. This is obtained by having pawns extended forward and controlling squares in your opponent’s camp, and preventing them from doing the same to you.
A space advantage does not mean you have a positional advantage, as you need to actually use the space you have to optimize the power of your pieces.
What is Developmental Advantage in Chess?
Developmental Advantage refers to having your pieces off the back rank and on more active squares. This advantage can be obtained in the opening, but slowly diminishes as the game continues and all pieces are developed or captured.
Advantages are gained by players performing the correct moves, and they are often transformed into other advantages or lead into other advantages. For example, advantages in development and space will lead to a positional advantage. A positional advantage may turn into a material advantage if your opponent trades a knight on an outpost square for a rook to rid themselves of the cumbersome piece in their camp.
So, how can knowing what advantages exist improve your game? Before you move a piece, you should ALWAYS consider, “Does this move give me an advantage?” If it doesn’t, look for another move that will. Learning how to study chess requires you to make the most of every move you are given. If a move gains multiple advantages, it’s more than likely a better move than a move that gives you only one advantage. To find a winning edge, you must be looking for it.