Monday, March 05, 2007

Range: another aspect of piece activity?

Update 3/6/07: Maybe I won't include range as another factor. While it is important, it can really be subsumed under mobility, in particular, the important proviso in mobility that you should aim for mobility in important parts of the board. The ability to gain such mobility can depend on piece range, but perhaps range doesn't deserve its own category...

Reading through Soltis' book Rethinking the chess pieces, I learned another aspect of piece activity that I didn't include in my previous list: range, or the distance a piece can travel on the board. This is different from mobility. A bishop. knight, and king might be able to move to eight squares in a given position (mobility), but the range of the bishop is much greater. Perhaps that's why they call the bishop a long-range piece :)

Soltis points out that in certain types of positions you should favor one type of piece over the other. For instance, in endgames where there is pawn action on both wings, the bishop should often be favored over the knight. If all the action is on one side of the board, then the knight should often be favored because it is not limited to one color.

Now my analysis of piece activity yields four different subdimensions:
1) Mobility (number of squares the piece can move to, especially important squares where threats are possible).
2) Freedom (number of squares to which a piece can move while carrying out its essential defensive roles).
3) Range (distance a piece can move across the board).
4) Coordination (multiple pieces working together toward a common goal).

Have I missed anything?

If only I were good enough with tactics to be able to really focus on all these cool positional ideas. Unfortunately, my biggest problem is still losing material. Since an inactive bishop is usually better than being down a bishop, I still need to focus on tactics!


Blogger Calvin said...

interesting definition of piece activity. i'm curious though, do you find this actually helps your play? not trying to be rude, but i have never personally found such definitions to be very helpful. obviously, this varies from person to person, so i'm curious what you think.

3/05/2007 11:46:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

So far it has enhanced my understanding of the game, helped me grok what people are talking about when thay discuss piece activity (and they rarely define it so explicitly).

That alone justifies it, but since I just formulated it we'll have to see if it helps me in games. I have a feeling it will, as I am building it into my thought process (piece activity is replacing 'space' as one of my evaluation factors).

3/06/2007 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger phorku said...

Perhaps you should put loose pieces drop off on top of your list.

Piece activity may not be so great if you can easily be chased away or have a bunch of un or weakly protected pieces.

Check out Heisman's seeds of tactical destruction.

3/06/2007 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...


The four evaluation factors I use are:
1. Material
2. Piece activity
3. King safety
4. Pawn structure

The present post lists the elements of piece activity, the second factor.

Material is the priority, of course, as I mentioned in the last paragraph of my original post.

3/06/2007 02:27:00 PM  

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