Bishop Pair: When Are Bishops Better than Knights?


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How powerful are two bishops? In what positions it is good to have a bishop pair? How to make use of the advantage of two bishops? Are two bishops better than two knights? Or, is a bishop better than a knight? How to understand their difference in value in various positions? This is exactly what our new guest coach FM Coto Mederos will teach you today.

When Are Bishops Better than Knights?

The bishops are better than knights in open positions, where there are long diagonals, so that they can cross the board in just one move, and also control long distances and many squares. Let me illustrate this with an example.
bishops vs knights - open position

Diagram – 1: This is an OPEN POSITION

In the above position, the bishops have long diagonals and the pawns have mobility. Also, the fact that there are pawns on both sides of the board (kingside and queenside) is very good White. Additionally, the a-pawn has the potential to advance and become passed, which is great for White.
bishops vs knights - closed position

Diagram – 2: This is a CLOSED POSITION

As you can see, this is a closed position, and the bishops do not have long diagonals (they are hitting the White pawns), and there is a great outpost for the Black knights on d4. The knights can also enter into White’s camp via h4, as they are very easy to maneuver.

Bishop vs Knight – which is better?

  • A knight can control any square on the board, no matter what color it is. A bishop can just control a half of the total number of squares, but it can move much faster.
  • When you have a bishop pair, the fact that there are pawns on both sides of the board will help a lot, as in diagram-1 above.
  • The potential to create passed pawns is another factor that definitely will help bishops, as in diagram-1 above.
  • A knight works better than a bishop when the opponent has some weak pawns (some people forget this, and get into bad endings and lose games without not even knowing why they lost).
  • In “General Treatise on Chess”, Roberto Grau said something I’ve never forgotten. In other words, he stated, that in open positions the two bishops are worth 7 points. This means, that in general, even if you are down a pawn, you will still have compensation.
Suggested: You may also like our lesson3 Ideas to Play Better in Open Center Positions

Illustrations of the Power of a Bishop Pair

Now, let’s see this game, where Artur Yusupov used his two bishops to get a great victory in a nice endgame:

About the author – FM Coto Mederos

FM Michel Coto MederosMichel Coto Mederos is a FIDE Master from Cuba and is rated more than 2350 currently. His peak rating is 2404, and he has a blitz rating of 2427. He also has 2 IM norms. He was placed first in his Province Championship 2018. He also played the famous Capablanca and Carlos Torre Memorials. One of his biggest achievements is winning the International Navidad in Margarita Island, Venezuela 2016.

P.S. Now RCA is on Instagram – follow us there for interesting puzzles, videos, funny memes, chess quotes, chess news, etc. Check out our blog-post about it for more details.

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