GM Swapnil Dhopade & FM Ankit Gajwa
Headcoach - Chess Pathshala
Exchanges – Bishop vs Knight Part-1
Hello Chess Readers,
One of the most common questions a chess player comes across during a game is – to exchange or not?
In this article, we will focus on exchanges between a Bishop and a Knight. Exchanging is indeed a critical decision that can change the evaluation of the position. Therefore, one must do it with thought and care.
The reason is simple: You cannot undo this decision. Just like pawns don’t move backward (and hence one must be careful while moving them!), similarly, exchanges cannot be reversed, and therefore, one must be careful while exchanging.
Although in numbers, we assign the same value to bishops and knights, we must understand that this value is dynamic – it changes with the position.
What that means is – the value of a bishop may sometimes be more than a knight, and vice-versa, depending on the activity and utility these individual minor pieces provide to one’s position.
A bishop locked under its own pawn chain is certainly not of the same value as a knight which can be maneuvered to a nice outpost.
In order to understand exchanges, it’s important to understand the kind of positions these minor pieces prefer.
The bishop is a long-ranging piece.
Bishops prefer positions of an open nature, where they have a lot of activity and range since there are less pawns to obstruct their range.
Bishops need active diagonals to operate, where they have a good range and a target.
Bishops are also preferable over knights in positions where the pawns are separated, i.e. positions where there are pawns on both the flanks.
If you compare it with a knight, the bishop can easily control squares on different flanks, whereas the Knight has a hard time controlling squares on the flank opposite to where it currently is, as it has a short-range and needs to be maneuvered.
Let’s see a few examples of it-
When deciding where to place bishops, it’s important to emphasize on the diagonal, as opposed to the square – More important than individual squares are the diagonals where we place the bishop. A White bishop placed on c3 is as nicely placed as it would be on a1 if Black’s position consists of targets (or weaknesses) along the a1-h8 diagonal. We must search for active diagonals for our bishops, which is more important than individual squares.
Pawn structure is an important factor in determining whether a bishop is “good” or “bad”– In general, a bishop is bad if the pawns (especially the central ones) are placed on the same color as the bishop. In that case, however, it’s a good idea to put your bishop outside the pawn chain (like black’s light-squared bishop in openings such as Caro – Kann, Slav, etc.)
Though the knight is a short ranging piece, it is not color specific.
Unlike the bishop, it can control squares of either color.
Another advantage the knight has over a bishop is that it can jump over pawns – which means that it is not affected as much by the placement of one’s own pawns.
It is not hindered by pawns in the same way the bishop is, and it can be maneuvered easily in closed positions.
Therefore, closed positions are more suitable for knights as compared to bishops.
Knights like outposts (a stronghold which you control but your opponent cannot defend by a pawn) and hence, we should look for outposts whenever we think about placing our Knights. The closer this outpost is to the center, the better it is.
Look for potential outposts or “dream squares” for knights when deciding where to develop your knight – It’s a good idea to search for potential squares where your knight would be well placed. We must search for weaknesses in our opponent’s camp or potential outposts, and once it is determined, we can try to find a way to maneuver our Knight to that square.
Another interesting thing to note is that knights are usually preferable in positions where there are pawns on the same flank (as opposed to bishops, which are preferable in positions with pawns on both the flanks or pawns separated far away from each other)
To be continued with the Part-II of the Article!-
See you in the Next Article!
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