The following is...disturbing.

[FEN "bbbbkbbb/bbbbbbbb/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

Black is about 15*3-38, say 10 units up (as Black will also grab a pawn and exchange on b2 or g2, to say the least). Stockfish evaluation is even more pessimistic.

[FEN "nnnnknnn/nnnnnnnn/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

Eh...WHAT?!? (Try yourself. I used Lichess Standard.)

You can answer the WHAT?!? by "horizon", and it is kind of true - the nearer the shortlegs come, the more the evaluation goes down. But depth 20 or so should suffice to find out that White is to be trampled over soon.

So I repeat my question, why does the computer underrate the knights so drastically here? (Even if some knights had to be "traded" against pawns, Black is still up materially!)

  • 5
    This seems to be missing a sentence with the evaluation? Feb 23, 2022 at 17:20
  • 1
    What does Leela say about these positions? Feb 23, 2022 at 18:28

2 Answers 2


I believe the position would be more equal if some of the pawns remained to block the bishops initial reach into white's position. Black has some attacks immediately that cannot all be defended.

  1. Bxb2 winning a rook
  2. Bxg2 winning a rook
  3. Bxf2+ sacrifice, followed by potentially Bh4+ g3 Bxg3+ hxg3+ Bxg3+ and the king is almost mated immediately.
  • 2
    After 1.e4, it is #9. I always said I don't like e4 :-) Feb 24, 2022 at 8:54

If a knight on the rim is grim, then 9 nights on the rim is very very grim! Conversely I wonder if there's some "bug" where you get a bonus for having the bishop pair too many times?

You can already see a similar phenomenon happening to a less extreme degree by just looking at the starting position but with 4 knights (+1.0) or 4 bishops (-.4). But in that case there doesn't seem to be a threshold phenomenon.

  • You have a point there, 4k3/nnnnnnnn/nnnnnnnn/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1 is -7... Feb 24, 2022 at 8:57
  • 1
    Just replacing one minor piece by one of the other type is enough to replace White's first-turn advantage into a Black advantage. For example, Bc1->N: 1 d4 -0.26. Replacing more minor pieces gives Black a greater advantage: Bc1, Bf1-> 2 Ns: 1 d4 -0.62. White with 4 Ns v Black with 4 Bs: 1 e4 -2.22. Stockfish 14 64-bmi2.
    – Rosie F
    Feb 24, 2022 at 10:05
  • 1
    That is 105 bishop pairs. Whoa. Feb 25, 2022 at 12:00

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