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In this position I thought I was winning with white, like +2 or +2.5. But Lichess Analysis shows evaluation as -1.4.

[Title "Black to move after Ne5"]
[fen "rn3rk1/1p1b3p/p2n1qp1/3PNp2/P7/1B5P/1PP2PP1/R2QR1K1 w - - 1 0"]

The bishop is beautifully placed. The knight will infiltrate. There is a discovered check for me. My rook controls the semi-open file. Black has two undeveloped pieces. There is no immediate pressure on the f-file/f2-pawn.

Why am I worse here? And I would like some general tips for analysing positions as a 1050 chess.com rapid player.

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6 Answers 6

14

The bishop is beautifully placed.

No, it isn't!

It is semi-bad. There is a chess expression - "Biting on granite". If Black had pawns on f7, e6 and d5 your bishop would be "biting on granite". Your bishop is worse than that. It is biting on something harder than granite, namely your own blockaded pawn.

Now if you had a dark-squared bishop that would be excellent. Just look at all those juicy weak dark squares round the black king. Add to that no black dark squared bishop and if you had one it would be a monster.

The knight will infiltrate

Really? Where? It is OK where it is. It can be supported by f4 when it will be very difficult to shift.

There is a discovered check for me

No, there isn't. A competent black is going to keep that useful white pawn on d5 as long as possible, maybe try and win it in the endgame but defintely keep it where it is for the middlegame.

My rook controls the semi-open file

Again, not true. The "open" refers to pawns not pieces. Controlling a semi-open file means having a rook on a file where you don't have a pawn but your opponent does. It does not mean a rook which is supporting one of your minor pieces on an otherwise completely open file.

Black has two undeveloped pieces.

And so? What is your practical plan for taking advantage of that? What are you calculations? You don't have any. Black is going to unravel and win unless they are the same standard as you.

Why am I worse here?

Because you are a piece for two pawns down.

You've just played the mistake Ne5. Why are you moving a piece twice before completing your development? Oh, and Nd4 would have been much better. There your knight really can infiltrate to say e6.

As you say, Black is marginally behind in development. So, you need to complete your development first by moving your queen to connect your rooks, centralize the a1 rook without losing the b2 pawn and only then launch your attack.

And I would like some general tips for analysing positions as a 1050 chess.com rapid player.

Do two things:

  1. Complete your own development before going on the attack
  2. Try and work out what your opponent's plans are (or should be) and try and stop them.

One other thing. Sacrificing a piece for two pawns and a check is a very common way of losing games at lower levels. At your level just don't sacrifice until your tactical awareness is much better and you have a reasonable chance of calculating what is going to happen next.

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  • 7
    I agree with part of what you've said, but some properties of White's position are true merits. E.g., the bishop on b3 is a good piece, as it can soon be opened if the d5-pawn advances, which could be done if the c-pawn runs to c5. The knight on e5 is also a nicely placed piece, it is centralized in Black's territory and on one of Black's weak dark squares. Black's bad development, and the king being on the b3-g8 diagonal, means he will have to spend a few tempi remedying this, which is worth something. Black is still of course better, but White's not outright losing. Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 3:39
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    I wonder if you would have had such a reaction if your answer is not the one being criticised. I also wonder in which world a comment which objectively points out errors with your analysis can be classified as abusive. The strong language was directed at the flawed analysis, which deserves all of the criticism to not mislead others, and not at you personally.
    – YiFan
    Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 13:08
  • 1
    Wait. What happened here @YiFan? Was there an exchange that I missed? Did InertialIgnorance’s comment get flagged? Commented Oct 31, 2022 at 18:41
  • 4
    @insipidintegrator No, I agree with InertialIgnorance's comment, I have no quarrel with them. I left a critical comment explaining why Brian Towers' answer was incorrect and misleading, and he (ab)used his moderator powers to delete my comment, claiming they were rude and abusive. He also subsequently deleted his response to my comment, and indeed the entire exchange, to try to pretend like nothing happened.
    – YiFan
    Commented Oct 31, 2022 at 19:45
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    See: chess.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1127/20688
    – YiFan
    Commented Oct 31, 2022 at 19:46
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Most of what you said is true, but at the same time Black is up a knight for two pawns. This is a significant material advantage, and White's compensation isn't enough to balance the scales. He has active pieces yes, but his activity is nowhere near decisive. Black should manage to untangle and develop his queenside before White can muster enough of an attack.

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    This is the actual answer. All other things being equal, Stockfish (used by Lichess) would normally rate "two pawns for a piece" as more negative than -1.4. That means it thinks White has a positional advantage, but not enough to make up for the material. Commented Oct 31, 2022 at 7:26
  • @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft Agreed - if everything else is equal, a piece for two pawns should be a clearly winning advantage, so Stockfish would evaluate it accordingly. -1.4 is good for Black, but still in the range where it could plausibly be a draw or win if SF played against itself. Commented Oct 31, 2022 at 7:41
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  1. Include the positional strengths of you opponent in your evaluation. For example Knight on d6 is nicely blockading your d-pawn.
  2. How will you take advantage of your well placed pieces? What is the plan? A good looking piece with nothing to do is not much advantage.
  3. Is your Bishop beautifully placed? It has limited action and is blocked by your d-pawn. How will you unblock it? c2-c4-c5?
  4. Unless you are a computer I suggest not using number evaluations.
  5. Include dynamic evaluation as well as static evaluation. What are the plans for each side?
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  • 3. c2-c4-c5 is exactly how I did it. I lost btw Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 13:50
  • I mean, the bishop stares at the king, isn’t that beautiful? Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 13:58
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    @insipidintegrator the bishop is "biting on granite" as Brian Towers mentions in his answer. Your d-pawn is protecting your opponents king. Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 14:23
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  1. First and foremost, white is down material with no immediate prospects of attack.

  2. The black knight perfectly and eternally blockades the pawn, leaving the white bishop to hopelessly eye a king that it will never influence. How will white remove the knight? c4-c5 may be stopped with b6. (Though there is admittedly a prophylactic a5 by white to stop b6.) Trading white's last remaining knight for the knight is fruitless -- particularly since black may replace it with another piece such as... the other knight! If it ever seems truly necessary, black may simply oppose the light-squared diagonal via Bf7. Or even just play Kh8.

  3. Black also lacks accessible weaknesses and targets. It is not sufficient to have "well-placed" pieces if they do not fulfill any concrete roles in exploiting weaknesses.

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I agree with your evaluation that positionally, white is better. In fact, when I looked at the position, my instinct told me within 1 second that White has a beautiful position. But why is Black better? On closer inspection, I realised that you are down a piece.

In any position where you are down material but the position is unclear, to arrive at an evaluation, you should ask yourself whether you have sufficient compensation for the material. You clearly have some compensation --- you would be much better if black were not up a piece, but is this enough? Well, after Ne5, Black is not immediately getting mated by any means, so it is very natural to move the bishop and then play Nd7 to trade off your powerful knight. You get nothing concrete, and if that's the case, you're just down a piece and losing.

On the other hand, consider the position before Ne5:

[Title "White to move"]
[fen "rn3rk1/1p1b3p/p2n1qp1/3P1p2/P7/1B3N1P/1PP2PP1/R2QR1K1 w - - 0 1"]

In this position, you have to play more forcefully and concretely in order to justify an advantage, given that you are down material. Ne5 is bad for this reason, because it is too slow and allows black to untangle. Instead, it is important to activate your bishop on b3 through the idea of c4-c5.

Concretely, the best move accoridng to Stockfish 15 NNUE is 1.a5. How in the world would you come up with such a move? Actually, it's easy. Let's calculate some concrete lines: if 1.c4, the threat is c5, so black's most natural response is 1...b6. Starting with 1.a5 first at least prevents this idea. Although, things are not quite so simple because black also has Ne4 and some complications... it is, honestly, not easy to evaluate this position without given a lot of time on the clock. The best takeaway here, I think, is simply the idea that you must play forcefully and concretely to recover compensation for the piece. Ne5 is too slow for this reason. 1.a5 might seem slow, but it has the concrete threat of c4 c5 if black doesn't find Ne4, for example, not to mention in the long term it positionally restricts black (e.g. in all endgames b7 is weak).

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It has been well said that chess games are not won by creating good positions but by making good moves. Every comment by the OP about the position is true in a way. It describes the potential in the position but does not consider the moves needed to realise that potential. For the reasons given by Yifan, this position is entirely about the battle to play c5, although this is not immediately obvious. But that move is so strong that it is worth considering even such a slow move as Ba2, to enable b4 after first playing a5. I am not saying that Ba2 is good, just that there are good reasons to consider it. If it should turn out to be good, an annotator would be justified in calling it "deep". Generously, let us suppose that the missing White Knight was a deliberate sacrifice. Could it have been made by a strong aggressive player? I think it could, but only if that player had not only seen the potential in the position, but had felt confidence that they would be able to find enough resources to unlock that potential. Can the good position be made even better?Tal might perhaps have felt that confidence. Lacking his genius, I must call the position unclear.

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