It’s a debate that is always a popular topic in the chess forums. When it comes to bishop or knight, which is stronger?
These two pieces in particular are more evenly matched than you may think.
Bishop or Knight, Which is stronger?
Most choose the bishop over the knight because of its range. However, the knight can be more powerful because of its unique L shaped attacks and ability to jump occupied squares.
This is a question chess grandmasters have debated for years.
One of the reasons both pieces are given equal value (3 points) is because there are seemingly limitless arguments for one piece being more valuable than the other and vice versa.
You can take a look at a chart showing the relative value of chess pieces here.
Let’s examine this objectively and see what we can conclude.
The video above is a really unique take on determining whether the bishop is stronger than the knight.
At first glance, it looks like a normal chess board.
Take a second look and you’ll notice all white’s pieces except for the pawns and king have been replaced by knights.
On the other side, all black’s pieces except for the pawns and king have been replaced by bishops.
It’s actually a really intriguing quick video. I don’t want to spoil it! Check it out for yourself!
Taking a Look at the Bishop
As we all know the bishop moves along the diagonals.
The bishop on the light colored squares can occupy every single one of them, but can never cross over to the dark colored squares.
In the exact same way, the bishop on the dark colored squares can occupy all of those while never being able to cross over to the light colored squares.
The bishop is also a long range attacker, only limited by the spaces on the board itself.
However, the bishop can’t jump over occupied squares to make an attack. Because of this, if there are a lot of pawns on the board, the bishop’s attacks can be limited.
Taking a Look at the Knight
The knight as we all know has a very unique L-shaped movement on the chess board.
If you take the bishop’s diagonal movement and pair it with a rook, you basically get the queen.
However, no other piece even comes lose to the unique L-shaped attack of the knight.
A knight can be hard to defend because of the fact that it can jump over pieces and basically attack any square on the board.
Surrounding your king or even proper castling could thrwart any attack being made by a bishop, not so with the knight.
Your king could be surrounded by pieces and still be put in check or even mate by a well placed knight.
While bishops can attack from long range, knights must attack up close and personal.
This means it can take more moves to get your knight into an attack position.
It’s important to note that a knight on the edges of the board is much, much less of a threat than when it’s closer to the center of the board.
The number of squares a knight can attack from the center can be double what they are on the periphery.
Further, a post knight stuck in the corner can be devastatingly handicapped in its attack.
Knights and Bishops Working in Pairs
If you’re playing an opponent who is good with his or her bishops, they can be very formidable as an attack combo.
Even though a bishop is valued at 3 points, some argue that having both bishops together can be valued as high as 9 points, equaling a queen.
However, in my opinion, the second you capture one of your opponents bishops, their threat is drastically minimized.
Because a solo bishop can only occupy half the squares on the board. You can literally stay away from them fully protected by sticking to the squares where it can’t attack.
If you’re down to one bishop it’s a good strategy to use your pawns to occupy the colored squares that your captured bishop was able to control.
This way you at least maintain some control on those squares that your lone bishop can’t occupy.
While the bishops can be devastating working in pairs, the knight doesn’t gain the same advantage with its pair.
But this also means it not any less of a threat running solo when one is captured.
Paired knights can protect each other well, and you see this often enough.
There are some quite spectacular checkmates that can happen using both knights, but these are very rare to actually witness.
More often than not, one of the knights is sacrificed early to mid-game, usually taking out a bishop, and then the remaining knight attacks on its own.
Bishops and Knights, An Even Trade?
As mentioned at the top of the post, when it comes to “value” of pieces on a board, both the bishop and knight have a value of 3.
So is it truly an even trade if you take out a bishop with your knight and vice versa?
It truly depends on the player.
Some grandmasters play heavily with their bishops. Some prefer their knights and attack furiously with them.
The Grandmaster Bobby Fischer considers the bishop to actually have a value of 3.5.
But it’s important to note that you shouldn’t just take a piece based on point value.
You have to consider the game being played on the board.
- What kind of attack are you making at that point in the game?
- What kind of defense do you have in place?
- What is the placement of the piece your attacking with respect to the one you’re about to trade?
Remember, pieces closer to the center of the board are much more of a threat than pieces on the edge.
You truly have to consider the overall game to that point and how you’re playing offense and defense to determine if your bishop or knight is actually more valuable than your opponent’s bishop or knight.
Never trade pieces purely on point value.
The Chess forums online are pretty much split down the middle when it comes to whether the bishop is stronger than the knight and vice versa.
There are countless examples of end games, mid games, and opens where a player will insist that the knight is the stronger piece.
Inevitably that will be followed by another player giving example after example of bishops annihilating their adversaries and being the stronger piece.
Personally, I’ve always had issues defending the knight.
Early on I would make it my priority to take out my opponent’s knight’s for that exact reason. I’d trade my bishops for their knights and then start out my attack.
To be honest, that’s not a very sound approach to playing, but since they were my weakness, I was determined to get them off the board.
Now, as a more experience player, I take into account what is going on in that singular game. I don’t mindlessly sacrifice my bishops for knights.
While each have unique pros and cons, an argument for the value of one over the other can’t really be made definitively.
So be honest, which is your favorite piece? The bishop or the knight?
Which piece do you feel is stronger? Which do you have more difficulty defending?
Do you prefer one piece over the other when you’re making an attack?
Let me know how you feel in the comments section below! I love reading your questions and comments and I always reply back.