Chess Informant popularized a classification system that is now universally used in chess literature and when discussing positions. Who is better, and by how much?
When I was struggling to learn chess, I didn’t really feel what these meant. Now, I hope others will be a bit less confused!
This is a short post, and I’m not giving any positions here: but use these guidelines the next time you study a chess position — I think you’ll have an “A Ha!” moment.
Of course, I’m only talking about human evaluation during a chess game! I only care about what the computer says in ICCF games.
White/Black has a decisive advantage
An unstoppable attack; too much extra material without compensation; an opponent with hopelessly bad pieces; or an endgame edge so big the win is straightforward.
White/Black has a large advantage
This is the most important category!
I would define it as any of the above, but to a lesser degree — a dangerous attack that isn’t clearly winning; an extra pawn or exchange with the opponent having some form of compensation; awkward but not hopeless pieces; or a solid endgame edge that still requires decent technique.
Two or three of these smaller edges together can be considered a decisive advantage. This is what I believe is meant by the so-called “accumulation of advantages.”
This category is much closer to decisive advantage than to small advantage! When you get your opponent here, your advantage will likely grow if you simply suppress any counterplay.
White/Black has a small advantage
A lead in development, space (more central presence, control of an open file), pawn structure (lack of pawn weaknesses, or less than the opponent has), or piece placement (in the center or near the “action zone”). Two or three of these together can add up to a large advantage.
The position is equal
The chances are balanced, and if both sides play well, a draw is the likely result. Be careful: this doesn’t necessarily mean the position is dry or boring! Usually, you need to play actively. Simply shuffling your pieces around and waiting is usually a recipe for disaster.
The position is unclear
You can think a position is unclear or “I don’t know what’s going on,” but this isn’t helpful. Decide on one of the categories above, and also decide if you will play for a win or a draw.
Good luck in your chess evaluations!