I was browsing some interesting games, and found this one "Jerzy Lewi vs Jan Adamski" (1969):

[fen "r1b2r1k/1pq3bp/8/3Qp2n/1P1n1pp1/2NP2P1/3BPPBP/1R2NRK1 b - - 0 0"]

1... Qxc3 2. Bxc3 Nxe2+ 3. Kh1 Nxc3 4. Qb3 Nxb1 5. Qxb1 f3 *

(note: the game continued, but I want to focus in this position)

From this position, the white bishop is inevitably going to be taken, so we can say with certainty that the captured material difference is R+B+B vs Q+(possibly a pawn).

To my perspective, black's advantage is notably greater, however chess engines says that white is behind only by about -0.70.

How is that this apparently crushing advantage turns out to be just a small advantage? What am I missing here?

  • I checked out the rest of the actual game. It's inexplicable.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 5:13

3 Answers 3


Here's a variation from Stockfish. What we see is that after the smoke clears, Black's advantage actually is pretty small. Here's why:

  1. If we just 'added up points', which is not a bad way to get an immediate feel for a position, we'd see White is down a single pawn, 13 vs 14.

  2. We also notice White has two pawn islands of two pawns each. Black has two pawn islands but one of his pawns is isolated. This is a slight advantage for White. Further, if Black connects his two-pawn island, his King will be completely exposed. In reality, all of Black's pawns are isolated and will have to be defended by pieces.

  3. Black's King is exposed; with White's Queen on the board any mistake could lead to a perpetual check.

  4. Black's Bishops obviously can't protect each other. Given the exposed Black King, any of Black's pieces could be picked off by a Queen fork. Black will have to be very careful to ensure he doesn't lose material to the rampaging Queen.

Items 3 and 4 will make it hard for Black to go on the offensive.

[fen "r1b2r1k/1pq3bp/8/3Qp2n/1P1n1pp1/2NP2P1/3BPPBP/1R2NRK1 b - - 0 0"]

1... Qxc3 2. Bxc3 Nxe2+ 3. Kh1 Nxc3 4. Qb3 Nxb1 5. Qxb1 f3 6.Qc1 fxg2+ 7.Nxg2 Bf5 8.Rd1 Be6 9.Kg1 Nf6 10.Qc7 Nd5 11.Qxb7 Rab8 12.Qa6 Rb6 13.Qa5 Rxb4 14.Ne3 Nxe3 15.fxe3 Rfb8 16.Qc7 Rb1 17.Rxb1 Rxb1+ 18.Kf2 *

  • I think he asks about the end position. Black has 3 pawn islands, etc. in that one. Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 5:25
  • He's asking why the position is rated so closely when he believes that Black has a crushing advantage. The way to figure that out is by calculating what would happen with the best play. The best play I can find is shown above. By explaining this position, I answer his question.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 5:29
  • I support all of Black's pawns are isolated and will have to be defended and Black will have to be very careful to ensure he doesn't lose material, essentially. (But 3., given the ♝g7 mobility, is quite unlikely.) Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 17:50

So it's about this position, right ? Let's pick Tony's move for White, and see what happpens next :

[fen "r1b2r1k/1p4bp/8/4p2n/1P3pp1/3P2P1/5PBP/1Q2NR1K b - - 1 1"]

1... f3 2. Qc1 fxg2+ 3. Nxg2

Let's count material : with ♕♙ for ♜♝♝ (11-11), much depends on the pieces actual prospects, and neither side is much better on these grounds.

White's case is simpler : the ♘g2 belongs to f4, but it wouldn't be misplaced at e3, attacking a pawn, and being well centralized. White can manoeuver with his queen and rook, essentially on the c file and h6-c1 diagonal, to attack Black's many lone pawns.

The main problem White faces is his lack of pieces, meaning he cannot attack anything more than twice, whereas Black can easily defend anything twice or thrice.

Regarding Black's pieces, it's a bit more of a comedy. The ♟e5 is annoying as hell, blocking the bishop, necessary f4 defender, to be defended or the ♙d6 is passed… The ♞h5 really has nowhere to go in a nearby future, as White's own knight can prevent it from going to d5, and it cannot stay at f6 because of the hanging pawn. But it is to be moved, for ♟h5 to be pushed at some point (and because you don't want to defend it where it stands right now).

Hopefully for Black, the c file is his for the time being, but it won't be long before White defends ♙f2 with his king (and White's knight can chase Black's rook out of f3 anytime). And he has many pieces, but he'll have to defend them all, and soon link his rooks, without dropping the b7 pawn.

I think it all comes down to who will fix his problems fastest, and how White's queen can outmanoeuver Black's many pieces. If Black manages to settle down a strong defense, he should win because of numerous pieces, but that's easier said than done.

  • +1 some some good words and fancy-pants figurine notation.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 14:54

At 26 moves of analysis, stockfish suggests white is behind -1.57.

After the exchange, in this position:

[fen "r1b2r1k/1p4bp/8/4p2n/1P4p1/3P1pP1/5PBP/1Q2NR1K w kq - 0 6"]

at 26 moves of analysis, stockfish suggests white move Qb3 being behind -1.77.

It is important to wait for the chess engines to examine for a few minutes to get an accurate reading of their analysis. Only allowing them to check 15 moves ahead is not reliable. Anything less than 21 should be avoided.

This position only gets worse for white. White to move, -2.06 after 24 moves of analysis.

[fen "r2r3k/1p1b2bp/5n2/4p3/1P4p1/1Q1PN1P1/5P1P/2R4K w kq - 5 10"]

So, I am not sure why you got back a lower advantage for black. There is a clear advantage here, and it only gets stronger as the game progresses.

A note on stockfish: You must let it calculate for a while in order to get accurate analysis. Don't just use its first suggestion.

  • 2
    I am oh so not liking what chess engines are converting this beautiful game into. Please open Arimaa.SE soon, for engines to stop ruling the world.. Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 20:46
  • What a fascinating version!
    – Travis J
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 21:19
  • This was an odd one, for sure. I give Stockfish 3 minutes per move. This is roughly tournament speed, and I believe yields master-level analysis. It is very rare where the first move changes after 3 minutes; the internal moves change, but not the first few, generally.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 2:48

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