# When a game is cut short and the winner is determined by material, do points still count if they're from promoted pawns?

At my school, we play with a time limit, and the winner is decided based on points (for example, a pawn is 1, a rook 5, a knight 3).

Let's say my queen is taken by my opponent, scoring 9 points. If I get my pawn to the other end and exchange it for a queen, do they lose those points?

• While not a hard and fast rule, if one player was able to get a pawn to the back rank and promote it to a queen, that player is probably in a position to win, since they have a queen and probably another major piece to escort it down the board. Expect a checkmate in a few moves from there. – corsiKa Jan 18 '20 at 4:43
• Note: On stack exchange, we prefer to avoid edits which invalidate the answers. It makes it hard to determine which answers were good and bad without diving into the history to see which version of the question was being answered. If all of the answers miss the point you were seeking to have answered, its better to start a new question. – Cort Ammon Jan 19 '20 at 22:30

Points in chess mean nothing with respect to the actual play of the game with regards to the rules. They are only a reference to give players a general sense of what value each piece has relative to the next piece.

In essence, if you lose your queen, 9 points, but promote a pawn, you gain 9 points minus one for the pawn, so you would still be down one in material, but again, that is just a relative reference to give you an idea where you stand.

These relative point values are estimates, and depending on who you talk to, they may vary. Here is a list of various values that strong players have assigned over the years here. Bobby Fischer said that the bishop was worth 3.25 because he loved bishops.

• we play with a time limit at school, and the winner is decided based on points (ex. pawn 1, rook 5, knight 3). – Colin Ladd Jan 16 '20 at 19:59
• @Colin Ladd: Ah - if that's the case, probably the only person who can answer the underlying question is your chess coach or teacher at school. The actual rules of chess don't say anything about point values of pieces, and the FIDE rules (or USCF rules, if you're in the United States) provide that if a player runs out of time, that player simply loses the game (with a few exception cases), regardless of the material on the board. – patbarron Jan 16 '20 at 20:04
• Hi Colin, then to be frank, that is not really chess, but it would qualify as a chess variant. A chess variant is a game that is similar, and played on a board with normal pieces, but varies from the traditional rules. In your described variant, I would not count what a player takes off the board, but rather what the players have on the board at any given time. So again, in the case that you described, the player who lost a queen but gains one back regains 8 points (9 minus the exchanged pawn). Of course, you can play however you like in such a setting. – PhishMaster Jan 16 '20 at 20:05
• @patbarron In that case I suspect the only points that matter are captured points, but that would mean points can't be lost. Perhaps it's about the difference in points, in which case a queen for a queen would end up as 0 difference. You're absolutely correct that since this is a variant the only one who can tell is the teacher at school (whoever thought up the tournament and its rules). – Mast Jan 17 '20 at 6:50
• @ColinLadd I would suspect, then, that you're counting points on the board, not points captured (points captured would make no sense at all in that context). That was a common way to adjudicate unfinished club games years ago, not done so much now. The process varied from club to club, but was most often simply "Is there a forced win on the board for one side? No? Then who has the most material?" – Arlen Jan 17 '20 at 17:59

As has been said, in ordinary chess the points do not count, and the only person who can definitively tell you your school's rules is your chess coach.

But that said, the purpose of looking at the points is to be a quick way to answer the question, "who is winning this game?" So if you promote, it makes sense to take away those points (and give him a point for a pawn instead, since that pawn is now off the board.)

Let's say you have a pawn and your opponent has a rook. Your opponent is winning the game, because a rook is stronger than a pawn. But if you promote the pawn to a queen, now you are winning the game, not your opponent; you have a queen and they have a rook, and a queen is stronger than a rook. It wouldn't make sense to declare them the winner just because your queen is a promoted one. You shouldn't have to think back the whole game to remember what was taken at the time; you should be able to just look at what's on the board at the end.

Material, aka “points,” is just one factor in deciding who is ahead. There is time, space, material, position, tactics, zugzwang and other things that will determine who is doing better.

Your school needs to stop counting points as it is, by itself, meaningless.

If you have a time limit, then limit the game time so that it finishes before the limit. Otherwise, some player will gain a pawn and then just sit to win by one point. So get clocks and use them to limit the time each player can take so the game ends by the time of your period that you have to play.

• That would be ideal, but not all school clubs have the budget to pay for enough chess clocks for everyone. – D M Jan 16 '20 at 22:12
• @DM In higher grades it’s rather likely at least one in two students wil have a smartphone that can run a free chess clock app. This kind of clock will be slightly unorthodox but considering the rules they are using now I don’t think they would mind. – 11684 Jan 16 '20 at 22:42
• @11684 That would work, so long as the school allows phones. – D M Jan 16 '20 at 22:43
• Have someone use a timer to ring in ten seconds. Reset it every ring. You must move only on the ring. Or have a person hit a bell every ten seconds. whatever but money is not a real factor. – edwina oliver Jan 17 '20 at 2:15
• I think it's more useful to teach beginners to take their time to think and choose the winner in a suboptimal way if there's no time, than to teach beginners to move quickly just to get a proper winner. – JiK Jan 17 '20 at 17:05

As others have pointed out, the points values themselves are merely an initial value to get you started. Over many many years, people have found that generally trading three pawns for a bishop is a fair trade.

The point values are just a tool to get you started. They're a way for you to not make mistakes by trading valuable pieces for less valuable pieces. But really, its the entire position that matters.

Consider this hypothetical. Your opponent has a pawn on the 7th rank. On the next turn, they can promote it to a queen. You have the potential to trade a rook for that pawn. Is it a good trade? The "5 points for a rook" versus "1 point for a pawn" fails to account for the position. In this intentionally extreme example, trading a rook for a pawn may be a great trade, because it puts you in a better position.

Indeed, it can be even more extreme. You can construct some clever back-rank mate problems where a pawn promoting to a queen or a rook is checkmate. If you can't get out of it otherwise, it would be worth sacrificing three, four, or even five whole pieces just to prevent that pawn from promoting. Checkmate trumps any and all point calculations, always.

• What relevance has this got to the question? The rules of the competition are that points decide the outcome if time expires. The OP wants to know whether a promoted piece counts as that piece value or as its original pawn value. This response provides nothing to assist with that determination. – Nij Jan 19 '20 at 21:29
• @Nij Looks like the OP edited the question to invalidate all of the existing answers. My answer was based on when the question was simply about the point value of pieces. – Cort Ammon Jan 19 '20 at 22:28
• The OP hasn't edited their question. Other people have done, based on either comments or chat. But that's irrelevant - this response doesn't even answer the original question at all. – Nij Jan 19 '20 at 23:23