How to evaluate a position in chess?

Today, I’d like to share with you a very interesting article on the topic “How to evaluate a position in chess?”. To be more precise, how does one say if a position is equal or a draw? Or are these terms the same? This lesson is prepared by GM Petr Velicka.

Petr VelickaYou can start reading the article now:


To write this lesson, I was inspired by my two games from the summer open tournament in Ikaria. Both games have a common denominator: the position after the opening was equal, or even very near a draw, but the result of the game was a win for the stronger player.


Very often, we hear the lament of chess players of all levels saying: “My position was a draw, but I lost…my opponent was lucky…” and so on.


Some even say: “I really lost because my opponent was lucky… Maybe not, but he played better than me… Was the position a draw? If so, why did I lose this game? Perhaps the position was not as drawn as I thought…” Is this true?


Let’s go to the examples:


Mouroutis, Konstantinos (2157) – Velicka, Petr (2397)

Aegean Open, Ikaria 2015


1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.c3 Qb6!?

chess White to play


This was my preparation. My opponent had played this line within the last year with White, against GM Peter Prohaszka. I chose this line because I thought there was a good chance for Black to play for the win.


6.Qb3 c4 7.Qxb6 (7.Qc2 Bf5 and White has to play 8.Qc1 =+) axb6 8.Na3!

chess Black to play


My opponent played less accurately against Peter Prohaszka: 8.Nbd2 b5 9.Be2 b4 10.0-0 bxc3 11.bxc3 and now Black could play 11…Ra3! =+ My opponent was well prepared for the game against me and he surprised me.


8…e5?! Actually, I played this position many years ago against IM Konopka but with Black and one tempo down: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.Qb3 Qb6 5.c5 Qb3 6.ab3 Bf5 7.Nc3; and in this position, there are some complications after 7…Na6 8.e4! – favorable for White.


But with one more move, the evaluation of this position is different. So better than the move in the game were 8…Bf5!?, 8…Ra5!? or even 8…Na7.


9.Nb5! Of course, not 9.dxe5? Bxa3! 10.bxa3 Ne4 9…Ra5 – now Black must play accurately not to have a losing position. 9…exf4? 10.Nc7+ Kd8 11.Nxa8± and White’s knight will escape. 10.Nc7+!? 


Worse is 10.dxe5 Rxb5 11.exf6 Rxb2 12.e4 Be6!? (12…dxe4?! 13.Nd2 gxf6 (13…Be6 14.Nxe4+=) 14.Nxc4 Rc2 15.Bd2+=) 13.exd5 Bxd5 14.0-0-0 Rb5 15.a4 Ra5 16.Rxd5 Rxd5 17.Bxc4 Rf5 18.Re1+ Kd7 19.Ne5+ Nxe5 20.Bxe5 gxf6 21.Bg3 Ba3+ 22.Kc2 Rf8 with an unclear rate of compensation for the quality of the sacrifice by White.


10…Kd7 11.Nxe5+ (11.dxe5!? Nh5 12.Nxd5 Rxd5 13.Bxc4 +=/=)

Black to play


11…Nxe5 12.Bxe5 Bd6 13.Bxf6!? Not 13.Bxd6? Kxd6 14.Nxd5 Kxd5! 15.f3 b5 16.e4+ Kc6 and White has only two pawns for the piece. 13…gxf6 14.Nxd5! Rxd5 Now we can see the difference in this position played by the two colors.


With one more move, White has the pawn on e3, whereas playing this line with Black, the pawn is on e7. Because of this, White wins three pawns for the piece, instead of two.

chess Position with opposite colours


Position from the game

White to play


(after 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.Qb3 Qb6 5.c5 Qxb3 6.axb3 Bf5 7.Nc3 Na6 8.e4 Nb4 9.Ra4 Nc2+ 10.Kd2 Nxe4+ 11.Nxe4 Bxe4 12.Bd3 Bxf3 13.gxf3 Nxd4 14.Rxd4)


15.Bxc4 Rg5 16.g3 Ke7 17.a3 Bh3 18.Bf1 Bxf1 19.Rxf1 h5 20.h4 Ra5=

chess White to play


Objectively, the position is completely drawn. Black’s rooks can´t penetrate into the opponent’s camp and the sacrifice of the bishop, even for three pawns, is unrealistic due to Black’s poor pawn structure.


Black’s only chance is to penetrate with the king, but White can stop this… 21.Kd2 b5 22.Kd3 f5 23.Rac1 Ke6 24.Ke2 Rg8 25.Rh1 Kd5 26.Kd3!

Black to play


The White king will not allow his rival to go further. 26…Ra6 27.Rc2 Raa8 28.Rcc1 Rae8 I was looking for the best squares for my rooks in case of an eventual sacrifice of the bishop and transposition to the rook endgame. But White can avoid this.


29.Rhf1 Rg4 30.Rcd1 Rge4 31.Rg1 Kc6 32.Rdf1 Kb6 33.Kc2 R4e6 34.Kd3?! 


Black to play


This is the first inaccuracy by White. White’s king should stay on c2, make some waiting moves and, after Ka5, reply with Kb3. 34…Ka5 35.Rd1 Ka4 36.b4?! After 36.Kc2, still nothing would happen. 36…Rc8 


White to play


The Black king on a4 looks imprisoned, but if the position opens and a pair of rooks is exchanged, it will become a crucial figure in the attack. Of course, not 36…Kxa3?? 37.Ra1+ Kb2 38.Rgb1#; 36…Kb3?? 37.a4!+– 37.Rc1 Be7 38.Rc2 Bf6 39.Rb1 Rc4 


Black prepares to open the position and is seeking the best position for his pieces. 40.Rh1 Re8 41.Rhc1 Rd8 42.Rg1 Rdc8 43.Rgc1 R8c7 44.Kd2


Black to play

44…f4!? The decisive breakthrough! The question is – was it better to do it with the rook on c8


After 44…R7c6!? 45.Kd3 Rc8 46.Kd2 f4! 47.Kd3 fxg3 48.fxg3 Be7 (48…Rg8 49.Rf2 Bd8 50.Rxf7) 49.Rf2 f6 50.Rf5 Bd6 51.Rxf6 Bxg3

A similar position as in the game: the only difference is the White pawn situated on e3 instead on e4. But is this good for White or Black? That is the question.


45.Kd3? After this error, White will have real problems. Correct was 45.exf4!? …45…Bxd4This is not the way to Black’s victory:46.cxd4 Rxd4+ 47.Ke3 Rdc4 (after 47…Rcd7? 48.Rc5 Rd3+ 49.Ke4 R7d4+ 50.Ke5 Rd8 51.R1c3±can only be a win for White48.Kd3


Black to play


and now black cannot go to the pawn endgame 48…Rxc2 49.Rxc2 Rxc2?? 50.Kxc2 f5 (50…Kxa3 51.g4+–  and White win or 51.Kb2 b6 52.g4!! hxg4 53.Kc3+– and White win again.


Black has to try his luck in the rook endgame after 49…Rd7+!? 50.Ke4 Kxa3,  but it should be a draw:  51.g4!? (51.Rc5 Kxb4 52.Rxh5 Kc4 53.Rh8 Re7+ 54.Kf5 b4

White to play


55.Rc8+ Kd3 56.Rd8+ Kc2 57.Rc8+ Kd3= /57…Kb1? 58.h5 b3 59.Kf6 Rd7 60.h6 b2 61.h7 Ka2 62.Rc5!+–/ )


51…hxg4 52.h5 Kxb4 53.Kf5 Rd8 54.Rc7 Rh8 55.Kxg4 Rh7 56.f5 Ka3 57.Rxb7 b4

White to play


58.f6 b3 59.Rb8 b2 60.Ra8+ Kb3 61.Rb8+ Kc2 62.Rc8+=


45…fxg3 46.fxg3 Be7 47.e4? Another inaccuracy! 47.Rf2!? Bd6 48.Rf5 Bxg3 49.Rxh5=+ and this position should still be a draw. 47…f6 48.Rf2 Rc8 49.Rf5 


Black to play


The bishop begins to show its strength. 49…Bd6 50.Rxf6 Bxg3 51.Rf5 Bxh4 52.Rxh5 Bf2 53.Rc5? A decisive mistake!


Black to play


After 53.Rd5!?, how can Black force the position? For example: 53…Kxa3 54.e5 Kb3 55.Rb1+ Ka2 56.Rc1 Bg3 57.Rxb5 Kb2 58.Rc2+ Kb3 59.Rc5= etc.


53…R8xc5 54.dxc5 (54.bxc5 Bxd4–+) 54…Bg3 White will now lose all his pawns. 55.Rg1 Be5


56.Rg5 Rxc3+ 57.Ke2 Bf4 58.Rg7 Kxa3 59.Rxb7 Kxb4 60.c6 Re3+ 61.Kf2 Rxe4



So what do you think? Was White’s defeat coincidence or bad luck? The position after the opening was completely even. But then White played some inaccurate moves. The position was still even, but chances began to appear for Black to play for a win.


Then White had to play precisely and he made the last mistake.


So, what’s the conclusion – White didn´t lose because of bad luck or coincidence. He lost because of his mistakes!


Note: you can watch the complete game with full analysis here.

P.S. Did you like this article by GM Petr Velicka? Feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

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  • john sugden

    interesting line in the London – think I prefer to end up with my Queen on c1 in the opening in this line rather than trading queens and then Na3 – however it does seem much more active than the passive Queen to c1 and will give an opponent much to think about – hmm maybe will try afterall as at my low level could induce mistakes from my opponent as they probably wont expect it or deal with it too accurately – Black believed he could win and played for the win, and White tried for something too – it came down to mistakes but at least both players tried for something – would have been to easy to agree a draw – interesting thank you

  • AoxomoxoA

    After reading thisr interesting article i have one quastion:

    How to evaluate a position in chess?

  • ayush

    dear igor happy diwali in advance and god bless you.sir could you please make a video lecture on the above article ??it will be easy to understand.thanks in advance.

  • Thanks for the greetings! Happy Diwali to you too! But please be careful with the crackers 🙂

    I’m engaging different authors. You are welcome to let me know which ones do you like more. I’ll keep engaging them for the future lessons.
    Of course I’ll keep making new lessons myself, but will be publishing the lessons from other coaches as well.

    • ayush

      thankyu igor but due to my engineering exams i am not gona celebrate diwali so happily.Gm damain lemos and alexander ipatov are extremely good coaches they have launched thier 2 dvds on website called you please request them to make a new course.”How WORLD CHESS CHAMPIONS THINKS”

  • bibleexpert

    Using a different-coloured board for analyzing variations is a great idea! Thanks

    • RCA_moderator

      Thanks for the positive feedback. We will make a note for the future.

      Prasaadh | Student Support Officer

  • Outstanding! Thank you!!

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