Material is the chess term for how much “stuff” you have. Count up your Pawns and Pieces, add it all together, and that’s how much “material” you have.

The usual arithmetic for material is as follows:

  • Pawns: 1 Pawn each
  • Knights: 3 Pawns each
  • Bishop: 3 Pawns each (plus a little bit more, maybe a quarter pawn)
  • Rook: 5 Pawns each
  • Queen: 8 Pawns each
  • King: infinite (usually not counted)

So if you use this to add up the material for both players, you can see who is ahead on material. Large advantages of material are almost always enough to win. A large material advantage will often be used as a reason for an adjudicator to award a win.

Sometimes you might intentionally give away from “material” in return for another advantage like checkmate (mating sacrifices) or the gain of some time to develop your pieces (e.g. gambit openings).

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess strategies: