We discuss here one of the most controversial topics of the game: Trading.

"Trade him!!!" I hear strong players tell their partners this all the time. But what does this really mean? And why is he telling me this?

There are 2 situations when making even trades with your opponent is favorable:

  1. If your opponent is much better than you
  2. If your partner has a favorable match-up (much better than his opponent). In this case your partner can very often assist you by crossing, resulting in a double team and decimating your opponent's weakened army.

In Chess there's a saying: Trade pieces while ahead, and avoid trades while behind. The reason is because the position becomes less complicated the less pieces on the board, and the material advantage will prevail.

In FFW, trading while winning has merit as well, but you have to be careful. If you manage to get up a piece vs a much better player, don't throw away your advantage trying desparately to trade. If you play smart and keep your extra material, he will be much less likely to attack you now. I'll show you in the next section how to make good trades.

Trading while fighting better players

So you're playing a black (2000+ rated) player (we'll call him hitmonle, one of the best players on the game) and you're rated only yellow (1200). It's pretty easy to get frustrated after he kills you with his queen + bishop for the 4th time in a row. But fear not! He may be much better than you, but you have options to counter him. Keep in mind that playing better players is THE best way to improve.

The most logical option is to aim to trade pieces. It's a lot less scary to defend against hitmonle's Rook and knight than it is to defend against his entire army. Besides, even if you do die your partner at least has a fighting chance to win the game now. Now how do you go about doing this? The key is to look for smart trades, not just any trade.

Good vs bad trades

When deciding whether to make a trade you should always determine how likely my opponent is to be aware of your plan. If the move has been looming and he's moving other pieces around that's a good indication he's not baiting you and you can safely go for it. If he's sitting pat, he's likely looking to dodge.

Look at the following position. The white and red queen are taunting each other, but taking is not a good idea for either side! They're a very short distance apart (4 squares) so it's not likely to be dodged all that often. Neither player should feel threatened by it. My opponent is better than me, I want to simplify the position and trade, so why wouldn't I go for it, you ask?

The trade is a bad idea for both sides due to Risk-Reward. The idea is simple: Look at what you are risking, and compare it to what you are trying to gain. You are risking a whole queen, and the reward is just to trade queens. I don't know about you but I like to be at least winning a piece or something to take this kind of risk.

If you notice your opponent making moves like this against you, take advantage of it by trying to dodge his attacks!

These moves aren't ALWAYS a terrible idea. If you have a plan behind it, or it's part of a combo it could be okay. But never make such moves just "to trade" unless you are getting something out it.

Lets look at another example

In this position all 4 players have the option to exchange bishops! White and red's bishop are opposing eachother and green and black's are as well.

2 of these exchanges are bad and 2 of them are OK. Which ones are safe to play?

Red exchanges bishops - Bad for same reasons as previous example

White exchanges bishops - okay here because Red's bishop currently has no squares to dodge to. As a bonus White has a chance to sweep one of red's pieces if he goes for this exchange. This is why it's important for Red to be developed and castled early to avoid situations like this.

Green exchanges bishops - Bad - see above

Black captures bishop - This one is a bit different:

Black's risk - Bishop

Black's reward - Bishop!

The key difference is that green's bishop is undefended. Knowing who you are up against is key. Is he a player who tries to bait you a lot or not? If he's dodging less than half the time, then mathematically it's a good idea to go for it.

Should red go for the white queen?

Absolutely it is smart in this situation, even if you're pretty sure white's going to dodge. That's the important factor here, White can not dodge anywhere that would allow him to recapture the rook as black's pieces beautifully cover all of those squares with his rook and light squared bishop! The only try for white would be to move to the light square his pawn is protecting. Black can then save his rook by trading queens. Trades like this where you are risking nothing are a dream come true.

Risk- Nothing

Reward - Queen

Should white go for black's queen in this position?

Yes. even though it's a long snipe, Black is clearly distracted (he has two other pieces hanging) It is important to note that white can back up his rook with the other rook in case the snipe fails, possibly saving his rook.

Risk- Rook

Reward - Queen

Here's a simple 2 move combo illustrating another very favorable trade. Even if the queen moves white can be satisfied that he isn't going to lose much material since his pawn will defend his rook.

Note: red actually has one move that avoids this, blocking the g-pawn with Qg4 before white moves his pawn up.

In conclusion, even trades where your opponent has the potential to dodge just aren't worth it. If you're going to go for a trade make sure you're getting something out of it.

How do I play vs good players then if I can't trade?

Good question. I'll give you a secret: A great player's biggest weakness is overaggression. You MUST use it against him. Sure he's blazingly fast and just beat you 10 times in a row (and in under 20 seconds each time, no less). However, after the 10th time you realize "Hey, I could've just taken that rook that killed me, and maybe won the game".

He wouldn't win all of his games so fast if he didn't take risks. Some of his combinations are probably unsound, and actually lose material if combated correctly. Fighting fire with fire will get you killed every time. Your best bet is to play SAFE and DEFEND. Bait and dodge him if you can. Wait for him to initiate. Look at where he's attacking you from and keep your mouse hovered around that area. Place your pieces in position to defend those entry points. If you're experienced, plan counters to his combinations. Trade off his pieces when he goes in for the attack (While they're on cooldown!). He likely can't attack you without allowing at least a few trades. It will be a challenge and you'll be in for some very tough games, but you'll become a much better player because of it (and hopefully you even win a few!)

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