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Minor Pieces in Chess

Minor Pieces in Chess

In chess, bishops and knights are identified as minor pieces. Both pieces are worth three points each. Meaning that their influence on the board is equal.

While that’s the case, chess players are always having a split decision over which piece is better. We will look at the different ways we find knights and bishops in a chess game.

Though the overall answer of which piece is better, “It depends on the stage of the game and the positioning of the pieces“. We will have a deep look at some positions involving these pieces, then explain how a certain minor piece influenced the position.

A knight is generally much better than a bishop in closed positions. This is mainly because it is the only piece on the chessboard that can jump other pieces.

This allows it to jump over pieces and sit on outpost squares. But the bishop is blocked from any major movements due to pieces residing on the colors it uses to maneuver.

Each bishop can only control fifty percent of the squares on the chessboard. The light-squared bishop controls only light squares and the black bishop controls only black squares.

Bishops operate at their peak in open positions or positions where fewer pieces are blockading their path.

Minor Pieces vs Rooks

Is a rook better than a good minor piece? Are the two rooks stronger than a good couple of minor pieces? Look and learn!

Good Knight vs Rook

With a great support structure at hand, a knight can be able to outplay a rook (this depends on how focused and prepared the person playing is).

While playing in the Norwegian league, we see an example of the capabilities of a knight. Magnus went into a Caro-Kann line, then he exchanged his rook for a knight and a pawn.

The exchange was rather logical as it allowed him to control the center with his knight. After 32 moves of playing the position, Black was satisfied with a draw.

Benjamin Notkevich had plans to push for a win against the current World Champion. His analysis of the position was incorrect; this might be because he undermined the power of a knight.

This caused him to misplace the rooks and allow Magnus the opportunity to improve his position to his advantage.

After the knight landed on the b3-square, there was very little that White could do to stop the incoming pawns as the knight was limiting the movement of both the king and rook on the a2-square. 

Bishop and Knight vs 2 Rooks

Minor pieces can compete with major pieces, all they need is space to operate. In the Vezerkepzo GM  tournament Round, 9 games included a pairing between Pap Misa and Srihari SL.

They both opted to go into the Caro-Kann line. Srihari became the aggressor by quickly aligning all his minor pieces and the queen towards Pap Misa’s kingside.

As a retaliation mechanism, Pap Misa elected to sacrifice his 2 rooks for a bishop and knight. This was an excellent plan from the get-go.

He almost let the win slip after he blundered the bishop on move 31. It was because his opponent did not see the blunder.

His conversion was easy as his knight and bishop connected properly with the help of the king to help his passed pawns advance.

Even though both players had an equal amount of points, it’s the position that let Srihari go down with the rooks, not being able to track down all the pawns which were spread out.


Clashes Among Minor Pieces

minor pieces

Good Knight vs Good Bishop

In a match between Parham and Gukesh D., both players show us how to neutralize the strength of a bishop and a knight. The game was a Catalan Opening Closed Variation.

Positional understanding had to be implicated at all times. The game was rather silent from start to finish, but the keynotes came in the final position after 48 moves. This is where we see both players not being able to find something solid for various reasons.

Gukesh couldn’t make something out of his light-squared bishop because all of White’s pawns were sitting on dark squares.

Parham’s knights couldn’t attack black pawns because they were protected by the bishop as they were sitting on light squares.

While Black had pawns on dark squares, on g7 and h6, White would lose valuable tempo by trying to attack them, and also they were easily protected by the king.


Good Bishop vs Bad Knight

When approaching the endgame, it’s always critical to analyze the arsenal you have over your opponent’s arsenal.

On move 31 in the Nimzo-Indian Defense, we see Mamedyarov Shakhriyar play e5 against Vocaturo Daniele.

This move acted as a catalyst in forcing Daniele to either exchange pawns or create an isolated weak pawn on e6.

While the eventual f5 move he played looked solid, it also left all his pawns on the kingside sitting on light squares, which in the long run could be a blunder.

To evade potentially blundering in such a position, his idea should have been to potentially exchange one of his knights for Mamedyarov’s light-squared bishop.

While both players made a few inaccuracies and blunders in the match, White still managed to get hold of the match again, as Black’s isolated e6 and g6 pawns were always vulnerable to the bishop.

The knight wasn’t enough. Ultimately, the thing which decided this match was a single positional misunderstanding concerning Black’s kingside pawns.


Good Knight vs Bad Bishop

In cases where the knight plays off against the bishop, it is always up to the person yielding to the knight to take advantage of the bishop’s weaknesses while improving the knight’s strong points.

In a match between Fabiano Caruana and Chagaev, round 1, we saw both players playing the Sicilian Defense Narjdorf variation.

Fabiano’s intention quickly reflects on move 7, where we are seeing the intent to attack the kingside with pawns on g4 and e7.

Black’s response to the scenario is rather poor, as instead of finding shelter for his king, or even on the queenside, he rather elects to keep it in the center.

After 29 moves, Fabiano had neutralized the threat of the bishop on b7 by blockading it with pawns on e4 and f3.

While the black bishop had control of the long diagonal, it automatically counted as a bad bishop as it posed no threat.

The white knight was the major threat as it controlled all major squares near the black king, those being d6, e7, and g7. This paralyzed all of Blacks’ pieces and, ultimately, gave  White the win.


Find out more about Material Imbalances: https://chess-teacher.com/material-imbalance-rook-pawn-vs-bishop-knight/

Minor Pieces (Bishop and Knight) vs Queen

This is one of the most undermined combinations. While it’s generally speculated that a queen will always win against a knight and a bishop, it’s one of the hardest combinations to do.

Besides there being a single fortress that can hold the queen back, how many actual players know how to approach this combination?

A match between Dragan Kosic and Luka Lenic, who were both rated 2500, delivers a fascinating endgame.

The match involved a modern defense line, with both players opting for aggression as their first resort.

White’s queen is lost after a combination from Black. The compensation for the queen comes in the form of 4 pawns, a bishop and a knight.

After a few moves, we had a case of queen vs knight and bishop. While Stockfish states that the queen will always win, we see a strong fortress from Kosic as he kept both his minor pieces near the king, frustrating Luka Lenic into a draw.

This game highlights that a bishop and knight can handle the queen if the opponent overlooks the endgame. This was the case in this game. Though even with an understanding of the structure and theory on how to execute the endgame, it is still a hard task to complete.


Bishops Pair vs Queen

This is the most famous clash between minor and major pieces. The 2 bishops are almost as strong as a queen in normal games. 

We may think that in the endgame the queen easily represents a theoretical forced win. The win only comes after 70+ moves. The bishops make up for that 70+ moves. But after 50 moves you can claim a draw.

The bishop pair is at its peak in open files. A look back in the history books follows IM Boroljuv Zlatanovic. He recaps in detail how the bishop pair can inflict some major damage.

The bishop pair can pose a positional advantage factor that restricts your opponent’s movement, considering the side they are facing.


Minor pieces are an important element of chess in most games. They have the capabilities to compete with major pieces if the position is suitable.

For knights, if you have a closed position, there is a high possibility that a knight will be able to compete with, or it can outcompete major pieces like rooks.

In open positions, bishops work best and can be able to compete with rooks also, and if there is a double bishops’ position, then even a queen can be in danger.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

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