Improve your chess by receiving some brilliant chess strategy tips from a strong grandmaster. Learn about one key strategic factor in every chess game – the decision to exchange queens or not.
The exchange of queens is an interesting and complicated topic. You can find plenty of examples by strong grandmasters who fail to make the correct choice in these situations.
The reason for this is that exchanging queens is a lot more complicated than exchanging any other pair of pieces.
When you face a decision to exchange a pair of pieces, you usually compare your piece with your opponent’s piece. You’ll ask yourself questions like: Is my piece active or can I bring it to an active square within the next moves?
Is my opponent’s piece active or passive and does he have any concrete plans to activate his piece? Based on this evaluation, you either exchange pieces or not.
Exchanging queens, however, is a lot more difficult as there are some additional factors you need to consider in order to evaluate a trade.
- First of all, the concept of activity plays a crucial role as well. If your opponent’s queen is way more active, it is probably a good idea to go for the exchange.
- Secondly, you have to evaluate the resulting endgame. In whose favor is the resulting endgame?
- Thirdly, king safety plays an important role. Whose king is weaker?
Let’s take a look at some chess strategy training positions. Or to put it in Shakespeare’s words: Exchanging, or not exchanging queens: that is the question.
Izmir 2004: Inarkiev, Ernesto (2604) – Schebler, Gerhard (2496)
White just played 19.Qd5 in the position at hand (see the diagram on the right). In the game, Black went for a queen exchange with 19…Qe6. What do you think about this decision? Was it right for Black to exchange queens or should he have kept queen on the board?
19…Qe6 is a strategic mistake because the resulting endgame favors White. After 20.Qxe6 Nxe6 21.Rd7 (see the diagram on the left), for example, White is clearly better.
He controls the open file in the center and already occupied the 7th rank with one of his rooks. On top of that, White’s king is closer to attack Black’s weak pawns on the queenside than Black’s king to defend them.
White’s king is not in danger anymore as it was with queens on the board.
It is important to mention that 19…Qe6 is a risky move due to tactical reasons as well. Black had to calculate what happens after 20.Qxa8 in advance.
The combination actually doesn’t work for White (GM Oleksienko explains why in the video), but 20.Qxa8 is definitely a candidate move which Black had to calculate in advance and White should take into consideration after Black’s move.
In the position in the diagram, Black’s king is a lot safer than White’s which is exposed to checks and forks. Hence, Black should keep queens on the board. 19…Ne6 would have been a good move for Black, planning to play …Rd8 next and exchanging pieces on the d-file.
Chennai 2012: Oleksienko, Mikhailo (2563) – Thejkumar, MS (2455)
This is another example in which White has to decide whether to exchange queens or not. Black just played 18…Qd8 in the position at hand (see the diagram on the right). What would you play here with White?
We’ve already heard some very important chess strategy tips by Grandmaster Oleksienko. Of course, White should not exchange queens here as Black’s king is badly placed on f8 and White’s knight has a nice outpost on d6.
In this position, however, it is not enough to avoid the trade of queens. White also has to be very accurate. In the game, Oleksienko didn’t think for too long and took the pawn on e4 with his queen – 19.Qxe4. At first glance, this seems to be a logical move.
But let’s see what happened: Black played 19…h4 20.Ne2 (the knight already has to move to a bad square) Qg5 (activating the queen) 21.Rad1 g6 22.Rd3 Rd8 23.f4 Qf5 (see the diagram on the left).
White wasn’t able to follow his strategy. The queen blocked the e4-square for the knight to go to d6.
Black’s pieces are very active now and his king will find a safe square on g7. In the game, White decided to trade queens now in order to not be worse.
The correct move in the starting position is 19.Qf4! Psychologically speaking, it is tough to play a move like this. White stops with his queen one square before capturing an unprotected pawn. However, Black can’t protect this pawn and White’s next move is simply Nxe4. White is better.
With queens on the board, it is hard to find a target for White. If queens are exchanged, White has targets on the 7th rank.
Chess Strategy Tips – Conclusion
As we’ve seen in the two examples, even strong chess players often fail to evaluate a potential trade of queens.
GM Oleksienko shows you a lot more instructive examples by Karpov, Kasparov, Fischer, Spassky and many more chess legends in the exclusive free video.
He gives you the chance to figure out the correct solution to each position on your own first and only then provides you with great explanations of the strategic decision which needs to be made.
Do you want to become one of the most feared positional chess players in your league and receive a lot more tips on chess strategy? In this 3-hour video course, GM Oleksienko will teach you the secrets of Grandmaster level position understanding. Click here and get “Grandmaster Level Positional Understanding” with great chess strategy tips by GM Mikhailo Oleksienko.
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