Have you ever observed how professional chess players aim to win with the White pieces but are fully satisfied if they make a draw with the Black pieces?
While building your opening repertoire, you must have frequently faced this situation – if you are preparing for the White side, you aim to get a slightly better position at the least; but if you are preparing from the Black side, an equalizing variation is more than enough! Why do you think this is so?
The answer to the above questions is in the answer to this highly debated question – Is White better in Chess? Do the White Pieces have an advantage right from the beginning?
Continue reading this article to find out the secret.
So what makes the players believe that the White Pieces have an advantage?
Every firm assumption that is made usually has sound arguments supporting that notion. This situation isn’t much different from that. Following are some of the main reasons why players believe that White is better in chess
1. The ability to play the first move
White has the power to set the tone for the entire game. With just the first move itself, the White side can decide which opening to get into and decide the course of the game.
Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson once famously said, “The advantage of the first move has some similarities with the serve in tennis in that White can score an ‘ace’ (for instance with a powerful opening novelty), he has more control over the pace and direction of the game, and he has a ‘second serve’ in that when things go wrong his position is not usually losing.”
2. Advantage in opening preparation
Before the game, the player with the White pieces does not have to prepare against a plethora of options like the Black side has as well. White has the advantage of preparing the preferred opening in depth before a match which can significantly affect the course of the game.
After all, a thorough opening preparation does save a lot of time on the clock during the game; and time is an important element in chess.
3. More control over the nature of the game
From the first move itself, White can decide whether to enter a tactical and open structure or to play a slow, positional game. This advantage can be used by White especially when the player with the Black pieces does not have a flexible playing style.
4. It is easier for White to secure a draw
Though rarely the intention when playing with the White pieces, the player has the option of choosing variations that deliberately equalize. This can be especially useful during the final rounds of tournaments where a draw could secure the first place for the player.
The above points make it seem like White should almost always win, right? Yet statistically speaking, the percentage of wins with White is far from 100% – it is in fact estimated to be around 55%! So where did the rest 45% go?
Is White Always Better from the Beginning of the Game?
If you had asked this question to any chess player maybe 60 to 100 years ago, the majority would answer a big fat “yes”. Even the legendary World Champion Mikhail Tal had once said, “To play for a draw, at any rate with White, is to some degree a crime against chess.” This statement and many others show the preoccupancy of the “only wins with White and nothing less” thought process.
However, with growth in chess theory and the advent of chess engines, the situation is not the same anymore! It is true that chess engines frequently show a slightly better evaluation for many openings from White. However, when it is a battle between two human brains, that ‘slight’ advantage is often negligible.
Take this position for example.
This position out of the Ruy Lopez opening is slightly better according to chess engines. However, if you check the statistics, the win ratio for White is not more than 50-55%. This is a prime example of the disparity between the engine evaluations and the human ability to convert that advantage into a win.
The fact that we saw how White has some advantages from the beginning does not in any way mean that all is lost for Black.
Advantages of playing with the Black pieces
Here are some plus points of playing with the black pieces.
1. Psychological Pressure on White
Playing with White pieces often creates a subtle pressure on the player to score a win. Whereas if you’re playing with the Black pieces and score a comfortable draw, you will hardly ever face criticism!
2. Advancement in Opening Theory
Though White gets to decide the opening and the nature of the game, if you are well-prepared with the Black pieces, there isn’t much to be afraid of. With the growth in chess theory and the right use of chess engines, you can come up with creative ways to equalize right out of the opening with relative ease.
3. Choose the right positions
White can make the most of his first move advantage in positions that are fairly symmetrical. So with Black pieces, if you cleverly go for an asymmetrical structure, it might get difficult for your opponent to create a tangible advantage.
According to modern experts, the belief that “White is better in Chess” has fizzled out with time. Not just that, but they also believe that the purpose of the Black pieces is not merely to make a draw or equalize anymore. With growth in technology and theory, the situation is more dynamic now.
At the end of the day, the chess pieces are simply pieces until the player behind them brings them to life. Despite the side you are playing on – White or Black – the result of your game will depend on how well-prepared you are and how deep your understanding of chess is.
When you excel in these aspects, maybe then you can make use of the ‘slight advantage’ that the chess engines show for White.
Saloni Sapale is a Woman International Master from India and has won medals at the World, Asian and Commonwealth platforms. Being an avid lover of chess, she wishes to give back to the game in any way possible as she believes the game has given her a lot. Apart from chess, she loves traveling, all art-related stuff and is an aspiring sport psychologist.