Basic bishop strategy
Basic bishop strategy

"Most of the time, bishops are not quite that bad, but the principle remains important: Do not fix pawns on the same color as your bishop"

Basic bishop strategy


Don't fix pawns on the color of your bishop:


We have already seen the difference between a good rook (on an open file) and a bad rook; and the difference between a good knight (in the middle of the board where the pawns cannot attack it) and a bad knight.


Now we will distinguish between a good bishop and a bad bishop.


In the following diagram, the White bishop simply has no moves because the two white pawns are completely fixed on the same color as the bishop. We can immediately see that, while the bishop is still on the board, it will have no meaningful effect upon the rest of the game.



Most of the time, bishops are not quite that bad, but the principle remains important: Do not fix pawns on the same color as your bishop. In the following diagram, the two pawns are fixed. Black's bishop is relatively good because it is attacking the White pawn. By contrast, the white bishop is being forced to play a defensive role in defense of its pawn.



Bishops can dominate knights:


One reason that the bishop is worth slightly more than the knight is that the bishop can dominate the knight in an open board. In the following diagram, you can see that the white Bishop controls every square that the black knight can reach.



To improve, players should gain experience in several ways. These lessons are fine, but you should play against others and review the games of the great players. As you play through master games, again and again, you will see bishops three squares away from enemy knights, dominating them as in the diagram above.


Bishop skewers:


As you can see in the following diagram, bishops can have enormous power on the diagonal. Here, the White Bishop has placed the Back King in check. As soon as the Black king moves, the bishop will be able to capture and win and the Black Queen! We call this a skewer, an bit like a shish kabob.



Let's now take a look at a different kind of bishop skewer in operation. We reach the position in the next diagram from the Queen's Gambit Declined after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.cxd5 exd5


Note that the White Bishop on g5 is "pinning" the knight on f6. If the Nf6 were to move, White would be able to capture the Black queen with Bxd8.



White therefore decides to play 6.Nxd5, an interesting mistake that even some masters have made! It looks like white is just winning a pawn, but Black has a VERY strong reply.



As you can see, the Black knight on f6 was pinned, but it could still move! Is Black crazy? Surely white will take the Black queen.



Sure enough, White must take the queen. Otherwise, Black just won a piece on d5.



Here, a very strong reply. It's check from the black bishop. The white King is in check and cannot move! And, white cannot capture the Black Bb4!



So white has no choice but to play Qd2, walking straight into a different kind of bishop skewer. Set up the board and see that black will emerge a piece ahead after all of the exchanges.




In the example we just reviewed on skewers, you saw that it's sometimes to your advantage to break a pin. When a knight is pinned, but it can still legally move, we say that it's a "RELATIVE PIN."



In the example just above, Black has just played Bg4. This is a relative pin, and white has a special idea. White played 5.Nxe5 Bxd1 (if 5...dxe5 6.Qxg4) 6.Bxf7+ Ke7 7.Nd5 checkmate!


In the second example just below, the knight is pinned to the king. These are called ABSOLUTE PINS" because the knight absolutely may not move.



When your knight is pinned, you will almost always want to find a way to "UNPIN" your knight. Often, you will develop a bishop behind the pinned knight. Sometimes, you will "challenge" the bishop by attacking it immediately with a pawn. In the diagram just above, white will soon play a2-a3 to challenge the Black Bb4.


Bishops can dominate rooks!


In almost all situations, rooks are stronger than bishops. Perhaps you will be able to use a bishop to skewer a rook, or to pin a rook to a queen or the king.


Here's another way for a bishop to dominate a rook. The following position occurred in game 13 of the World Championship match between Bobby Fischer (playing black) and Boris Spassky (playing white).


White has just played Bf6-e7 with the threat of Be7-f8. If the Bishop reaches f8, the Black Ra8 will not be able to capture the white g-pawn when it queens.



To prevent Spaasky from queening the pawn, Fischer played Ra8-g8, and Spassky then sealed in the rook with Be7-f8. As you can see, the White bishop (with a lot of help from the advanced g-pawn), is completely dominating the black rook!