Sunday, March 1, 2015

Position Evaluation Criteria

A while back, I started compiling categories of position evaluation criteria as expressed by various authors. Here is the list based on the books in my library. I am curious as to what other authors (and readers of this blog) have to say on the subject.

Aleksander Kostyev, 40 Lessons for the Club Player
    Evaluation Principles:
  1. Material Balance
  2. Threats
  3. King Safety
  4. The Center
  5. Open Lines
  6. Active Pieces
  7. Pawn Structure Defects

Samuel Reshevsky, The Art of Positional Play
  1. Weak Pawns
  2. Passed Pawns
  3. King Position
  4. Space
  5. Open Lines
  6. Tactics
  7. Good and Bad Pieces

Max Euwe, The Development of Chess Style
    Steinitz Theory, Characteristics:
  1. Lead in Development
  2. Superior Mobility
  3. Occupation of the Center
  4. Unsafe King Position
  5. Weak Squares
  6. Pawn Structure
  7. The Queenside Majority
  8. Open Files
  9. The Advantagbe of the Two Bishops
  10. Material Preponderance

Jeremy Silman, How to Reassess Your Chess
  1. Superior Minor Piece
  2. Pawn Structure
  3. Space
  4. Material
  5. Control of Key Squares
  6. Lead in Development
  7. Initiative

Gary Kasparov, Interview with Brian Readhead, Kasparov's Winning Chess Moves
  1. Material
  2. Time
  3. Quality

Johathan Rowson, Chess for Zebras
  1. Material
  2. Opportunity
  3. Time
  4. Quality

Dan Heisman, Elements of Positional Evaluation
  1. Mobility
  2. Flexibility
  3. Vulnerability
  4. Center Control
  5. Piece Coordination
  6. Time
  7. Speed

  1. Material
  2. Space
  3. King Safety
  4. Development

Aron Nimzowitsch, My System
  1. The Center and Development
  2. Open Files
  3. The Seventh and Eighth Ranks
  4. The Passed Pawn
  5. Exchanging
  6. Elements of Endgames
  7. The Pin
  8. Discovered Check
  9. The Pawn Chain

Ludek Pachman, Modern Chess Strategy
    Factors: (that determine the character of a position)
  1. Material Relationship
  2. Power of the individual pieces
  3. Quality of the individual pawns
  4. Position of the Pawns, Pawn Structure
  5. The Position of the Kings
  6. Co-operation amongst the Pieces and Pawns

CJS Purdy, paraphrased by Ralph J. Tykodi, CJS Purdy's Fine Art of Chess Annotation and Other Thoughts
    Key Features:
  1. Material
  2. King Position
  3. Weaknesses

    • Weak Pawns / squares
    • Pawn moved in front of the castled king
    • Confined pieces
    • cramped game
    • backward development

  4. Strengths

    • Well Posted Pieces
    • More Space
    • Greater elasticity, mobility, freedom
    • Control of Center

  5. Development
  6. Breakthrough Points

Larry Evans, New Ideas in Chess

  1. Space
  2. Time
  3. Force
  4. Pawn Structure


After giving this some thought, I have concluded that these ideas fall into 3 different groups:

  1. Categories of Evaluation

    • Material - includes minor piece imbalances
    • King Safety
    • Pawn Structure - includes the center, and any weak pawns or weak squares
    • Piece Activity - includes mobility and development
    • Threats

  2. Units of Measurement

    • Relative Piece Value
    • Force
    • Space
    • Time

  3. Basis for Evaluation

    • Activity - Which I define as useful mobility that can generate threats
    • Vulnerability - Something (piece, pawn, square) that has value, can be attacked and is underdefended.
    • Flexibility - Multiple options for improving the position or responding to threats.

Extreme Example: Checkmate. The winning player has superior activity aimed at the enemy king. The losing player has a vulnerable king, and lacks flexibily to respond to the threats.

When I evaluate pawn structure, I may notice an isolated pawn. By itself, I cannot say if the isolated pawn is good or bad. It can only be evaluated in terms of:

  • Activity: Do the pieces gain activity due to the open files on either side of the isolated pawn?
  • Vulnerability: Can the pawn be attacked? Can it be defended?
  • Flexibility: Can the pawn be advanced? Blockaded?

What do you think about these ideas?

1 comment:

  1. I have decided I need to add a 4th basis for evaluation: Coordination.