FT Baseline Interactive: excluding kings, which chess pieces survive the longest?

By John Burn-Murdoch and Gavin Jackson

The 2014 World Chess Championship is under way between Norway’s Magnus Carlsen and his challenger, Indian former world champion Viswanathan Anand.

The two play with markedly different styles, but despite the plethora of strategies available in chess, the survival rates of different pieces tend to follow a similar pattern at the top level.

Programmer and chess enthusiast Oliver Brennan analysed 2.2 million master level chess games, and we used his results to visualise the likelihood of different pieces making it through 50 rounds*.

Which pieces are the most likely to be captured in the early rounds? What about the longest survivors? Which remain fringe actors early on before being thrown into the action as the stakes rise?

You can find the answers to these questions and more in our interactive graphic

*On average, a top level chess game currently lasts just more than 40 rounds. Each round represents two moves, one for white and one for black