If one were to analyse a large number of chess games, which specific piece (not type of piece) would be found to be taken the least number of times? And yes, in light of SomePatzer's comment, besides the kings of course.

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    Probably the king. ;-) – Fytch Aug 14 '14 at 15:49
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    Lyndsey, I imagine that your question is not asking which type of piece is captured least often, but rather which of the 30 non-king pieces is captured least often (so that, for example, someone answering with "a2 pawn" would be giving a different answer than "f7 pawn"). But it isn't clear from your question as written whether my interpretation is right or wrong; could you please clarify? – ETD Aug 14 '14 at 22:28
  • Yes, your interpretation is correct, I would like to know the specific piece, not just the type. – Lyndsey Aug 14 '14 at 23:01
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    So suppose somebody does the analysis and finds that the queen's rook is the least-often captured piece. What does that teach us about chess? – David Richerby Aug 15 '14 at 13:47
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    @DavidRicherby: Before Einstein's use of it in special relativity, Minkowski space was merely an abstract setting. What does that teach us about pragmatism? ;-) – Charles Rockafellor Jun 22 '16 at 13:25

I recently looked into that very thing a couple of weeks ago, and found an excellent breakdown on it (just this one, though):

The short answer is that aside from Kings, h2 & h7 are the least likely to be captured pieces (with survival rates claimed to be 73.92% and 72.29%, respectively).

Regarding individual pieces' survival (from a 2,196,968 game database), http://www.quora.com/What-are-the-chances-of-survival-of-individual-chess-pieces-in-average-games/answer/Oliver-Brennan gives a table (and an accompanying graphic) of each piece's respective chance of survival.

While I was at it, I found some data on square usage. I've included the sources below not because square usage relates to your question directly, but because the nature of the two topics is so close that I figured that they might be of interest to you (or future readers).

Using 509 games selected randomly [and analyzed] out of a 567,000 game database, these two URLs give tables of raw events and normalized through-traffic usage of squares, and heat maps of same:

  1. http://sarcasticresonance.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/chess-territorial-2
  2. http://sarcasticresonance.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/random-chess-conquests/

This URL analyzes the moves of 12 Grandmasters' entire careers (separated by white and black, all normalized [no raw counts]), along with some graphs of average-data counts:

  1. http://en.chessbase.com/post/seth-kadish-visualizing-chess
  2. http://en.chessbase.com/post/study-of-square-utilization-and-occupancy

There are also some excellent analyses (per side) of each type-of-piece's square usage at http://philanalytics.blogspot.com/2014/11/chess-analytics-analyzing-championship.html .

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    It's an interesting argument, and not surprising. Those pawns are often at the base of a pawn chain. Still - in that analysis promotion counts as 'survival' so that also increases their chances (as Queens survive well too!). I wonder how the data is changed if promotion isn't considered 'survival'. – user34445 Feb 8 '17 at 14:06

Probably the rooks. That's why the greatest number of endings are the rook endings.

The knights and bishops fight it out early on and get "killed." Later, the queens are targets because they're so powerful, and they get traded. The rooks are left on the board. Sometimes one or both sets are traded, but often, they remain until one player resigns.

Between the rooks, the queen rook is less exposed, and therefore less likely to be captured.

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The obvious answer is the king. It will be taken 0 times. The most frequent one would be a pawn: there are 16 pawns and you can hardly find a game, where a pawn is not taken. I would bet that the least frequently taken (apart from king) would be a queen.

I do not have statistics to back up my assertion, but you have only 2 queens and 4 rooks, bishops, knights. Also pro players prefer not to exchange queens early, so they will go only after some of the other pieces would be exchanged.

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  • I should have been more specific in my question. I did not mean the type of piece, e.g. pawn, but the actual piece, e.g. a2 pawn. – Lyndsey Aug 14 '14 at 23:08
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    @Lyndsey so please be more specific and edit your question, because I highly doubt someone would read my answer to check for your comment. – Salvador Dali Aug 14 '14 at 23:12

The h2/h7 pawns as confirmed by @Charles Rockafellor seems to be the most likely to me; at least for normal games above Patzer level.

If you look at games there are very few pawnless end positions. And since more people castle short than long, it makes sense to keep those protective f-g-h pawns a bit longer. Also the h pawns being where they are at the rim, it is very hard to get at them and if they'd ever be involved in some exchange action it could only be to one side, towards the g file.

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If by taken, you mean captured, then the least likely to be taken might be the queen, although it's impossible to statistically prove it as there are as many possible chess games as atoms in the universe.

By taken, if you consider an exchange, I would bet on the rooks.

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  • The power of statistics is that you don't have to consider all possible cases (games in this case), just a large random selection. If you were to log all the pieces left on the board at the end of, say, ten thousand games you would be able to identify the piece most likely to avoid capture - probably a rook, as you say. – Lyndsey Aug 16 '14 at 8:42
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    I don't see why you've interpreted the question as being "If we count up all the theoretically possible games of chess, ..." rather than "In games of chess as typically played by humans, ..." And you seem to think that "capture" has some sort of special meaning, more or less equivalent to "I get your piece but you don't get one of mine". That is not what the word means: a capture is any removal of an enemy piece from the board by placing one of your own pieces on the same square. Most captures are part of exchanges; some are not. But they're all captures. – David Richerby Aug 17 '14 at 9:42
  • we clearly have different philosophies of 'capture' in chess. I will stick with mine and I appreciate your input :) "in games of chess as typically played by humans" you mentioned. Well sure, if that was mentioned in the question specifically, I would have considered it. There are engine vs engine games too, to consider and engine vs human games. – RingMaster Aug 17 '14 at 18:18

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