Depending on the situation, some pieces that are ordinarily worth the about same value (say a knight and a bishop, or two of any piece) have different practical values because one piece is stronger than the other.

There's a few "strong" pieces I can think of that are a dream for an opponent to trade away.

  • A centralized knight

  • A fiancetto-ed bishop

  • A rook on the seventh rank

I've heard that sometimes it's in a players best interest to give up a rook for a strong bishop, just to give himself some breathing room.

How do I identify "strong pieces"?

  • 1
    Be careful with taking "principles" too far! A fianchetto-ed bishop can be an awful piece in certain pawn structures (look at some king's indian defense games for reference) Rooks on the seventh rank can be very active and strong, but can also be a target to trap – David Apr 22 '19 at 10:36

How do I identify strong pieces?

  • Read books on pawn structures (Kmoch, Soltis, Baburin etc.) Pieces are strong/weak entirely based on the landscape that gets carved out on the board through hostile negotiations that the purists call the Opening. Treacherous valleys, open plains and rocky crevices ... all of these get created by different pawn structures. Know the structures and you'll automatically see which pieces are going to become strong and weak well before they get to that state.
  • Consider picking up some of the lighter and rudimentary books on strategy like Michael Stean's Simple Chess or Todd Barwick's Chess Strategy Workbook (which has a fantastic section description on what makes a piece strong or weak)

How do I produce (make my pieces strong, my opponent's pieces weak) in my own games?

  • Supplement your reading (see section above) with studying annotated Master Games to find these patterns and learn how the big boys execute on the typical plans associated with these sorts of strong-or-weak pieces. You'll slowly start to subconsciously (or consciously) emulate these ideas.

  • Review your slow time-control games with a stronger player to go over opportunities where you missed opportunities to strengthen or weaken a piece. After tactical safety is established, you should always be looking to improve your pieces (or diminish the usefulness of your opponent's pieces). Sometimes just doing this is more practical (with a clock running) than some fanciful deep strategic idea that is outside most mortal club player's wheelhouses (that the more advanced books notoriously confuse people with)

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Generally speaking strong pieces limit the opponents freedom. Think of the effect of your opponents strong pieces. There are important lines that you cannot challenge. There are squares you would like to occupy but cannot, either because the square is too well controlled or because the route to it is unsafe. You have pawns that are blocked. Your King is hemmed in.

When playing a game, put yourself in your opponents shoes. What would they most like to do? Can you prevent this? Permanently might be really good but if it will take them a long time that is also good. And remember that having an advantage in position often provides an opportunity for tactics. If such a chance comes up, don't miss it.

And of course you should try to prevent the opponent from establishing strong pieces. What do YOU want to do? How will your opponent try to prevent that? Can you stop him from preventing it?

Look at some well-annotated games. Read the notes and try to interpret them in the way that they relate to acquiring strong pieces. Consider if strong pieces are ever enough to compensate for being (a small amount of) material down.

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