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Marc Cressac; Chess Fact-Checked by Marc Cressac | Updated 2022-06-06
Founder of Chessily.com

Is a Queen Better Than a Rook and Bishop?

Assessing and comparing the value of multiple chess pieces can be a tricky undertaking. So it comes to no surprise that beginners often ask, whether the queen is better than a rook and bishop combined. In this article we’ll try to answer that question in an easy-to-understand manner. Let’s go!

Queen vs. Rook and Bishop – Their Value

In chess, we traditionally value each piece by the amount of pawns it is worth. In other words, we ask ourselves: “How many pawns do I need to offset the loss of a certain piece?”. These values are well-known and studied, and look something like this for the three pieces we are interested in:

  • A queen is worth 9 pawns.
  • A rook is worth 5 pawns.
  • A bishop is worth 3 points.

So, when looking strictly at the value of each piece defined by conventional wisdom, we’d have to conclude that the Queen is better than rook and bishop together, since: 9 > 5+3.

However, the answer is not that straight forward. The value of each piece changes drastically with the position of the game and, especially, the way the piece is being used at that time. For instance, a very well-placed bishop might be worth as much as rook in certain positions. On the other hand, a misplaced queen can be of very little use in the game, lowering her relative value. So, when judging a piece’s worth, we always have to look at what it can do in a certain position, rather than relying on material value.

With the complexity of the question made clear, we can take a closer look at when (and why) exactly the queen is better than the rook and bishop combined.

The Queen is More Mobile and Easier to Play

It is well-known that the queen essentially combines to movement-patterns of the rook and bishop together: She can move any number of unoccupied squares in any horizontal, vertical or diagonal direction. So, why should the queen be worth more than bishop and rook together?

While the rook and bishop can also cover the same amount of squares by combining their movements, the queen has the advantage of only requiring a single move for repositioning. In turn, the queen is much more mobile and can quickly change positions to attack or defend pieces. That gives her a unique advantage compared to the rook and bishop, which is especially strong in more open positions.

Additionally, having two pieces always requires delicate coordination of both pieces, which is not an easy thing to master. When dealing with the rook and bishop, you want them to attack together and defend each other.  Have a look at this position:

the queen vs. bishop and rook - queen is better
The Queen is More Mobile and Easier To Play

In this case, White has very little coordination between their pieces. Black, on the other hand, controls the whole a-file with a perfectly aligned attack with queen and rook. Even though White is only down one pawn in value, the position looks a lot worse, with Stockfish giving Black an advantage of roughly 4 pawns.

Another strength of the queen is her ability to easily attack multiple pieces at once. Especially in the endgame, a queen can be a deadly weapon if your opponent isn’t careful. A queen is much better at forking and pinning other pieces, than rook and bishop together. Especially in time trouble, the raw attacking power of the queen can be overwhelming for an unexperienced opponents

When Is a Rook and Bishop More Valuable Than a Queen?

With that, we have established that the queen is generally a better piece, and more valuable than the bishop and rook together. However, as alluded to, there are certain positions, where bishop and rook can work together to form a better attack (or defense) than a lone queen, making them more valuable. Let’s look at such a situation in detail:

queen vs rook and bishop
Queen vs. Rook and Bishop in an Endgame – White to Move

Even though White has a material disadvantage (being down one pawn in value), the game is essentially won for them. With the bishop and rook coordinating perfectly, White can start attacking black’s pawns by moving the bishop to d8. Black has no way to resist the attack for long, with the white rook being able to join for support on c7 at all times, being protected by his bishop.

In general, the rook and bishop together can be a great attacking (or defending) force. However, since the queen combines both movements into one piece, she is usually easier to manage and use effectively.

Queen vs. Bishop and Rook: Conclusion

So, summing up, should you trade a queen for a rook and bishop? Probably not. As explained above, there are certain positions in which the combination of bishop and rook can be stronger than a queen, but those situations are not common. Especially if you’re a beginner, trading your queen for a bishop and rook is not a great deal. Rather, use the mobility and easy-of-use of the queen to outplay your opponent.

Read More About The Queen

Read More About The Rook

Read More About The Bishop

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