As part of a demo for a rules engine I'm dreaming up, I'd like to do an evaluation of a chess board that communicates each side's general strength at that point in time. Advanced things like predicting moves or establishing mate patterns are way beyond the scope of this idea; I only need to think about what's in front of me for now!

I also do not need to establish precisely how to reduce board strength to a number; that will be a lot of tinkering, this way and that, to find something that seems reasonable. For now I just need to figure out the top, say, 3 elements to deciding how strong or weak someone's position is on the board.

My current thought is, in general order of importance:

  • Material (in pawns, so rook = 5, knight = 3 etc)
  • Open attack paths on the center of the board (critical area, goes to development)
  • Total attackable squares (development)

Am I missing a particularly important element in this evaluation? Am I attempting to measure it wrong?

  • @ajax333221 Done.
    – tmesser
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 20:06
  • There is one particularly important element missing: King safety. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 13:59

1 Answer 1


It depends on how much accuracy you want to put in, but to have a precise strength, it needs to be able to build a tree of possibilities and look for moves ahead.

Just imagine a hypothetical case where one have tons of material, already developed everything, castled, some pawns close to be promoted BUT without being able to do anything to prevent getting mated. There is no way to give a correct read no matter how much elements you take into account without some alpha-beta searches.

More information can be found in this article.

But I suppose that is too difficult to implement, some easier starting points to do are:

  • Some things that chess engines do is to recognize end/middle game patterns and also get help from opening databases.
  • You can also look for poorly placed pieces like bishops trapped by own pieces or the king being too exposed.
  • Check for castling ability and how easy is to perform that (e.g pieces in the way or attacked squares)
  • At the very endgame, be familiar with the terms "wrong bishop", "opposition" and "rook pawn", etc. (those are often decisive and should be easy to determine wins, loses and draws)
  • 2
    What's a rock-pawn? :) I want one of those.
    – Jeff Davis
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 14:26
  • @JeffDavis basically, when the king is in front of his pawn from either in A or H and the opposite king is near enough to never let him get out. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chess_endgame#King_and_pawn_versus_king
    – ajax333221
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 14:50
  • 2
    I believe you mean rook-pawn :) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rook_pawn#Rook_pawn
    – Jeff Davis
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 15:02
  • @JeffDavis a fun typo :P
    – ajax333221
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 15:08
  • I was able to pull out a draw recently against a stronger player because I remembered reading this post and pushed his king in front of his rook pawn. I only read it because of the typo, because I wanted to make sure I had it right. So thanks for linking the article ;)
    – Jeff Davis
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 19:55

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