It gets really tricky when assessing the value of multiple pieces to one, especially if the one we are talking about is the almighty queen. There can be many questions as to how much value a single queen has on multiple pieces.
In this article we will be talking about a single queen against a rook and bishop, how does the queen fare against this particular combination?
It’s definitely an interesting question, and here is my answer:
The queen is worth more than a rook and bishop, one move from the queen cover multiple squares at the same time which the rook+bishop cannot do. The queen is a better organized piece, it will outplay a rook and bishop since it can double attack and double defend.
I think a lot of beginners ask this question since the difference in value is not that much between the two sides, I can imagine that some people will take one over the other. However I want you to get the absolute best deal!
With all of that in mind, let’s get started.
A queen is better than a rook and bishop because it is more efficient
Some people think that this trade is equal since the queen is basically a rook and a bishop combined, however, this is not true since a single queen can double attack much more easily than the two pieces.
One move can easily have the queen double attack (or double defend) multiple squares at the same time, this is a greater power to have in complicated positions. There are too many available moves for the queen, it can be complicated to identify these double attacks.
Even if theoretically their value should be the same (since a queen is just a combination of a rook and bishop), in practical situations the queen will be easier to play and more unpredictable. One move from a rook and bishop would not cover the same range the queen can.
A well-centralized queen will also be better at attacking and defending (since a player can cover many squares by a single move), this is a multi-purpose quality that the queen can give.
Achieving it is not hard either, because let’s be honest, it is rare to have a very inactive queen unless you purposely tuck it on the corner of the board. In most cases a single queen will just be better than a rook and bishop.
A queen is better than a rook and bishop because it is easier to play
Generally the queen is considered of more value than a rook and bishop because it is easier to play, we have to remember that people prefer going into positions that they are confident to convert.
This is one of those theoretical vs. practical scenarios, there might be positions where a rook and bishop could “theoretically” beat a single queen, but it doesn’t mean that people can achieve the same thing.
Most positions that the engine would consider to be winning (because they can play accurate moves) are not so winning when played by humans, for us playing a single piece rather than two is just easier. The only exception of course is if the difference in value is too great.
But in this instance such concept does not apply, the difference between a single queen and rook+bishop is not that great, in fact the queen is slightly better.
In this sense a single queen is worth more than a rook and bishop even though the edge is not that much in reality.
A queen is better than a rook and bishop because of its double attack
This is just something that I have to press on, the double attack of the queen is just so powerful that it can easily gobble up some uncoordinated pawn/pieces. If the player controlling the multiple pieces could not coordinate their pieces well, the game will surely end badly for them.
I had this exact position in one of my games earlier this week, I am up a single queen and my opponent has a rook and a bishop coupled with two pawns. You might think that they are completely winning in this position, and in fact they actually are.
But they didn’t actually convert it into a victory, for some reason I was able to win the two pawns using double attacks when I only have a king and queen on my own! The game ended up being a struggle and it lasted some 60+ moves.
I was able to double attack his king and rook using my own queen, and it is a quick delivery after that point. I won the game with a queen while it is obvious that I am completely losing at the beginning of the endgame.
This just demonstrate the power of double attacks that the queen can deliver on open positions, it can be deadly if the opponent does not know how to play around it.
Does this mean that a single queen can just outplay any combination of pieces? Of course not, my opponent just didn’t know how to counter my position appropriately.
If it were in better hands I will of course be losing, but we cannot deny the power of double attacks since it is really powerful.
The greatest asset of the queen is it can attack many squares at the same time, this means that a double attack is easy to do in most positions. This is further amplified in endgames where the king is wide open, a rook and a bishop wouldn’t deliver the same key checks that the queen can.
A rook and bishop can be better than a queen if they are more active
Piece activity is probably the most important factor when comparing material value, the value of the piece can shift greatly depending on activity. Even though the queen is worth slightly more, a rook and a bishop can be better if they are on better squares.
As mentioned earlier in this article it is very unlikely for a queen to be inactive for long, however it is possible for a rook and bishop to be MORE active than the queen (especially if they are in key squares).
Given that there are positions where a bishop pair can outcomplete a queen, it is not unimaginable.
The rook and bishop can cover most squares of the chessboard if they are along the center, even if they cannot have more range in a single move together they can be powerful.
As long as they keep a close eye on each other a double attack shouldn’t be much of an issue.
They can escort the passed pawn separately and protect the king at the same time, although inherently a single queen is still better. If they are more active they can be better than a single queen although I would say that this isn’t the case most of the time.
In the most positions a single queen is better than a rook and bishop, it can cover more squares by a single move and have the asset of double attacks in its arsenal. Keeping away the queen’s double attack feature is difficult once the position opens up, for this reason the queen is better.
The only exception in this rule is if the rook and bishop is more active than the queen (which is rare by itself, but it can happen).
As a rule of thumb you should consider the queen to be better since this value comparison is likely to apply in your own games. Thank you for reading.