Compensation (chess)

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In chess, compensation refers to various (typically positional) advantages a player has in exchange for a (typically material) disadvantage. The term normally refers to medium to long-term advantages as opposed to short-term advantages. The terms "initiative" and "attack" are generally used to describe a short-term advantage.

Compensation can take many forms:

  • Better pawn structure
  • The "two bishops", which refers to having bishops of both colors while your opponent does not. Almost all modern players consider having both bishops as an advantage, though historically there has been great debate as to how much of an advantage they constitute. The two bishops are most likely to show their power in the endgame.
  • Better piece activity and/or better development (common in gambits)
  • Having the enemy king open to future attack, either due to a loss of pawn cover or being trapped in the center of the board is often excellent compensation.
  • Passed pawns are often decisive in the endgame
  • Connected and/or protected passed pawns are even more deadly.
  • Control over key squares, diagonals, files, or ranks

Examples[edit]

Polugaevsky versus Evans[edit]

Polugaevsky-Evans, 1970
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
g8 black king
b7 black pawn
d7 white rook
g7 black pawn
a6 black pawn
c6 black pawn
a5 white pawn
f5 black pawn
b4 black rook
e3 white pawn
f2 white king
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to move, draws

A rook on the seventh rank (the opponent's second rank) is usually very powerful, as it threatens the opponent's unadvanced pawns and hems in the enemy king. A rook on the seventh rank is sufficient compensation for a pawn (Fine & Benko 2003:586). In this position from a game between Lev Polugaevsky and Larry Evans,[1] the rook on the seventh rank enables White to draw, despite being a pawn down (Griffiths 1992:102–3).

Spassky versus Fischer[edit]

Spassky-Fischer, 1960
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
b8 black knight
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
g8 black knight
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
e5 white knight
e4 white pawn
f4 black pawn
g4 black pawn
h4 white pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
d2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
d1 white queen
e1 white king
f1 white bishop
h1 white rook
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 5. Ne5
Spassky-Fischer, 1960
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
b8 black knight
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
g8 black knight
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
h7 black rook
d6 black pawn
h6 black bishop
h5 black pawn
c4 white bishop
d4 white pawn
e4 white pawn
f4 white pawn
g4 black pawn
c3 white knight
d3 white knight
e3 white bishop
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
d2 white king
a1 white rook
d1 white queen
h1 white rook
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Analysis position after 13. Nc3

A famous 1960 game between future World Champions Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer began with a King's Gambit opening.[2] White sacrifices a pawn on his second move:

1. e4 e5
2. f4 exf4
3. Nf3 g5
4. h4 g4
5. Ne5

reaching the first position shown. Fischer examines an alternate fifth move for Black:

5... h5
6. Bc4 Rh7
7. d4 d6
8. Nd3 f3
9. gxf3 Be7
10. Be3 Bxh4+
11. Kd2 Bg5
12. f4 Bh6
13. Nc3

reaching the second position, where Fischer explains "White has more than enough compensation for the pawn." (Fischer 2008:123)

Notes[edit]

References[edit]