I heard someone saying today that he would beat Garry Kasparov if Garry played without a queen.

Were such handicap games ever played ? Can a Grandmaster give queen odds and win against a 2000 ranked player? Rook odds?

  • 2
    I think you will find this link useful: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chess_handicap – Akavall Aug 25 '13 at 21:35
  • A queen is too much, I always win against chess engines if I handicap them a Queen (and I am not very good at chess, you just need to know how to play a balanced opening and trade pieces) my guess is that it is pretty easy – ajax333221 Sep 3 '13 at 5:12
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's hard to say for sure, but even a grandmaster wouldn't have a very good chance without a queen unless the opposing player made big blunders.

GM Larry Kaufman estimates that Kasparov would "have chances" with giving knight odds to a player rated 2115, and be slightly favored in giving pawn and move odds to a GM rated around 2500.

A knight is about 3 pawns, and a queen is 8.8-9 pawns. So if at levels at 2500 vs 2850, a pawn is roughly a 300 point advantage (according to Kaufman, a pawn would presumably be worth maybe 200 at the 2000-2200 level vs Kasparov), and a knight is around a 700 point advantage at 2115 vs 2850, then a queen, being worth almost 3 times as much as a knight, would be worth much more.

[T]he Elo equivalent of a given handicap degrades as you go down the scale. A knight seems to be worth around a thousand points when the "weak" player is around IM level, but it drops as you go down. For example, I'm about 2400 and I've played tons of knight odds games with students, and I would put the break-even point (for untimed but reasonably quick games) with me at around 1800, so maybe a 600 value at this level. An 1800 can probably give knight odds to a 1400, a 1400 to an 1100, an 1100 to a 900, etc. This is pretty obviously the way it must work, because the weaker the players are, the more likely the weaker one is to blunder a piece or more. When you get down to the level of the average 8 year old player, knight odds is just a slight edge, maybe 50 points or so.


  • +1 for the sliding scale. I believe no player would beat a GM without a Queen, even a future know-it-all super computer. However, a GM without a Queen would have good chances against a 1000 rated player, in particular if you add time pressure to the equation. – Halvard Aug 27 '13 at 16:44
  • I've been told that a 1500 player would be favorite (but not a "lock) against a grandmaster who gave queen odds. The grandmaster would be a favorite at rook odds. – Tom Au Sep 26 '16 at 16:50
  • I've found queen odds is the threshold where you really can't play "normal" chess. Even down a rook, you can maneuver, build up an attack, etc. Down a full queen, all trades become so favorable for your opponent you mostly just have to mill around and hope they blunder. – Nate Mar 17 '17 at 20:52

I have a hard time believing that there's a player on the planet who could beat me with Queen odds. The strategy would be simple: trade off pieces pieces when possible. I'm a USCF B player.

Here are some 'Queen Odds' games. Play by the weak side is sometimes very dicey. Paul Morphy loses his game. None of the games the GMs won went past 15 moves. After that the Queen asserts too much power to overcome.

Here's a rant, lol.

  • Can the strongest computer beat you ? – Ofiris Aug 26 '13 at 11:38
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    That would be 3300 ELO. If a knight is worth 900, then perhaps a queen is worth 2000(?) and so no, I would not expect to lose. It would be depressing if I did, lol. – Tony Ennis Aug 26 '13 at 23:50
  • Engines don't know how to play with material down, so I think beating an engine (even 3300 rated one) is not that hard. However, GMs, are a different story. I am sure I could beat Carlsen with queen odds, but go 10/10, not sure at all about that. – Akavall Aug 27 '13 at 1:01
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    what if the opponent slips ten grand under the table? – prusswan Aug 29 '13 at 2:47
  • There aren't many chess players with $10G... – Tony Ennis Aug 29 '13 at 12:18

I have played against computer engines with material odds for myself.

At queen odds I win easily.

Minor piece odds gave me a lot of good practice. I was losing them to start off but managed to improve my play and start winning them.

I play a relatively closed game in such circumstances. and ensure my kingside cannot come under a major attack.

Exchange odds would be an interesting one to try out.

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