For quite some time I have been interested in determining whether material or mobility is more influential in determining the outcome of a game in chess, and I recently did a statistical analysis on a large database of expert-level games to try and answer that question.
The results are rather surprising, and I have written a brief technical summary of the methodology as well as the results. The R code used to perform the analysis is included.
I will be writing up a research article on this and submitting it to a journal for publication, as I believe it represents an original contribution to the understanding of chess.
Read long the article: Chess Material vs. Mobility: a Statistical Analysis in R
Below is the conclusion:
These results, while both interesting and surprising, are certainly not definitive. The tests above were performed drawing samples from only one dataset of expert games. Also, I have my doubts that the same results will hold for non-expert games, and I am hoping to obtain a large database of such game data to do a comparison.
Further, the results presented here should be confirmed by others performing their own independent analyses. For this reason I am making my code freely available on Github, not only so others can perform their own tests, but also so others can discover if I have made errors in either my code or my analysis. If so, I welcome the feedback so these errors can be corrected and the tests rerun. [Note: I have not yet put this code on Github, but will update this document with a link when I do.]
However, if my analysis was done correctly, then the test data in Tables 5-8 leads to a fascinating answer to our question, “Which is a more important factor in determining the winner of a chess game - material or mobility?” The answer seems to be, It depends whether you are black or white!!