In this position, which seems very similar on both sides (with even a bit more center control from white because the pawns are higher up), the engine thinks black is up a whole point (-1.1 according to SF 14 NNUE Depth 22) and I was wondering if there was anything I was missing explaining that? enter image description here FEN: r1bqk2r/ppp1nppp/1b1p1n2/3Pp3/2B1P3/2P2N2/PP1N1PPP/R1BQK2R b KQkq - 2 8

EDIT: it's -0.78 for Stockfish 16 at Depth 35 EDIT2: The sequence of moves to get there was:

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 d6 6. d4 Bb6 7. d5 Ne7 8. Nbd2
  • On a side note, you mention White controls the center, but do they? White controls the d5 square with the e4 pawn, Black the e5 square with the d6 pawn. Both sides control d4 and neither side e4. So from that point of view, both sides have similar center control. (though White has more space of course) However, with the pawn still on d4, both d4 and e5 would be contested and d5 would still be contested by White. So White would have more center control with the pawn on d4.
    – koedem
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 8:27
  • Why do neither control e4? Both Black and White knights target e4 right? You were right though, I think I meant White has more space rather than more center control (which is different I understand) Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 10:35
  • That is a valid way to look at things. I counted controlling squares as attacked by pawns in this case, because pawns truly prevent any pieces from moving onto that square.
    – koedem
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 13:14
  • Oh I understand! Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 13:39
  • White's bishops are kinda blocked in
    – qwr
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 17:43

1 Answer 1


You don't say who has the move, but after trying to reconstruct the early moves I think it is White. I would certainly rather have Black, although I am not quite sure by how much, and I'm not just going to quote any engine moves, but I will attempt to reason things out. Whites "space advantage" does not mean much. The White pieces are not well placed to develop the typical Q-side initiative with c4, b4 and c5, whereas Black is well placed to develop the typical K-side initiative with ..0-0,..N-g6,..N-h5,..f5,..Q-f6, and their pieces are not cramped. As Black I would know what I wanted to do, and would not find it hard. As White I would probably start with Nf1, because I don't see what else to do with it, and then play Be3 to exchange off the strong Black Bishop. I would be playing to equalize. The position is not in fact "similar for both sides". There are many asymmetries, and they mostly favor Black.

ADDED My reconstruction went 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 d6 5.d4 Bb6 6.d5 Ne7 7.Nbd2 Nf6 with White to move. If Black has the move, my inner caveman calls out for 8..Ng4 9.0-0 f5 and is very happy. However, this is a matter of style and 8..c6, forcing 9.dxc6 bxc6 is also extremely good for Black. Counting the square controlled by pawns is of limited value if no pieces actually want to go there. In either sequence I would question d5. It opens the line of Blacks Bishop, releases the pressure against e5, drives Black Knight where it wants to go, and has no serious cramping effect.

  • 1
    The biggest asymmetry is that pawn on d5. Nett result bad white squared bishop for white while both Black's bishops are working well. Hence advantage black. Positionally It's rarely a good idea to push d5 with a bishop on c4.
    – Ian Bush
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 7:16
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    Interestingly, the engine will play c6 in all variants, not f5 (factually it's a bad Kings Indian for White, so I rather expect the latter). Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 8:14
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    Based on the highlighted move (Nbd2) and the letter "b" in the FEN notation, it seems it's blacks turn to move. In any case it could be mentioned in the question, as well as the moves that take into this position. And even more, being an advantageous position for black, it'd be goo to check whether Nbd2 is the best move for white (before arriving to the posted position).
    – emdio
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 10:00
  • @HaukeReddmann I guess playing c6 is to force an exchange and Black would then get a stronger center? Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 10:33
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    @FluidMechanicsPotentialFlows: Yes, obviously, especially since White isn't even in a good position to block a following d5 (as soon as e5 is protected). Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 8:07

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