Chess: Values are only relative

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The Independent Culture
ANYONE who still believes that a pawn is worth one point, a knight and bishop three each, while rooks and queens trade at five and nine respectively, does not understand the chess equivalent of the theory of relativity. While the 1,3,5,9 system gives a first approximation, the true value of each piece depends on the nature and positions of every other piece on the board.

Today's game from Amsterdam features confusingly changing balances of material. Ivanchuk's 7. e4]? led almost by force to a position at move 18 in which he had rook, knight and pawn for his queen. Numerically, it sounds equal (1+3+5=9), but in reality Black's game is precarious. If he plays 18 . . . c5 (attacking the knight on e4), then 19. d5] gives White a powerful passed pawn, and minor pieces are especially good at shepherding passed pawns forward.

By guarding d5, 18 . . . Nb4 made the threat of c5 real, but 19. Bd6 created new problems. After 19 . . . Bxd6 20. Nxd6 Qe7 21. c5, White's knights will dominate the game from d6 and e5. So Timman gave up rook for knight, and Ivanchuk promptly returned it. After 23. Rac1? Nxd4, Black stands better thanks to the co-ordination between queen and knight. 25. Re1 bxc5 26. Be5 Qxc4 27. a3 leaves White impregnable, despite having 'only' rook and bishop for the queen.

White: Ivanchuk

Black: Timman

1 d4 Nf6 14 Ne4 Be7

2 c4 e6 15 Rd1 Na6

3 Nf3 b6 16 Bxc6 dxc6

4 g3 Ba6 17 Bf4 Qb7

5 Nbd2 Bb7 18 Nxg4 Nb4

6 Bg2 Be7 19 Bd6 c5

7 e4 Nxe4 20 Bxe7 Qxe4

8 Ne5 Bb4 21 Bxf8 Qxg4

9 Qg4 0-0 22 Bd6 Nc2

10 Bxe4 f5 23 dxc5 Nxa1

11 Bxb7 fxg4 24 Rxa1 Qd4

12 Bxa8 c6 Draw agreed

13 0-0 Qc7

The London Chess Centre, 369 Euston Road, London NW1, has an open day of free events, lectures and simultaneous displays on Saturday 21 May. 071-388 2404 for details.

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