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bishop pair

  • FM kevin9512
  • | Jun 14, 2013

I would like to apologize for the organization of the text/board. I tried for hours to fix this and I was not able. If someone knows how to fix this please send me a message so my future articles are better organized

Before we start this very complicated subject I want to explain something Capablanca said ( it is not exact, but the idea is there): When there is a battle between pieces (for example knight vs bad bishop or bad bishop vs good bishop) the best way to exploit it is by removing the "extra" pieces. What this means is that we have to change all the pieces that are not relevant to the battle. Many times we like the idea of aiming the bishop pair at the enemy's king and win with an attack (just like Carlsen in the last game), but sometimes that is not possible. Changing the pieces that are not relevant to the fight make the plans easier for the one that wants to exploit the advantage, and it also reduces the possibilities for the defensive side to find counter play. Just look at it this way: Usually when we trade a bishop, we try to make our other pieces make up for the missing bishop ( usually the queen covers the square of the missing bishop), without this "extra" pieces, the defensive side is vulnerable.

Although the bishop pair topic can be really difficult to beginners, I will try to explain the subject thoroughly so everyone understands.

So let's start breaking everything down. Why is the bishop pair better than two knights or bishop and knight?

1. Range: Bishops can play in both sides. One bishop is worth 3.5, but the bishop pair is worth 8 points.

2. Time: One big advantage that bishops have over knights is the fact that they can lose tempos. A bishop can move to the same square in a odd number of moves, while a knight can't. 

3. Outposts: A bishop does not really need an outpost to work. A knight is almost always protected by a pawn ( it actually needs to be protected with a pawn to be able to work well), but a bishop is rarely protected by a pawn.

4. Mate abilities: the bishop pair can mate while the knight pair can't.

5. Pawns: A knight does not work well with pawns, while a bishop is really good.

1. Now I think this Alekhine- fine game is a good way to start with our topic. 

2.This position is relevant to us already. White is better due to black's interesting but not completely sound idea. Now we can see that black can't play e5 (which would help him free his bishop), so he would probably have to settle for b6. Now b6 would leave the knight on c6 without a pawn to protect him right? (idea number 3). White also has tremendous pressure on the weak points c7 and d6, and a rook on c1 could be really strong because it would threaten to go to c7. 

What should white play then?

3. Now we can see that black has a lot of weaknesses in the dark diagonals a3-f8 and b8-h2. Fine tries to get the dark squared bishop in the next moves, but white avoids this. The game continued:

4. Now black is threatening to play ne3 and win the f1 bishop. What is the best way to stop this? 

5.This move not only stops nd3, but it also intends to go to d3 after playing e4. The knight on d3 will control the important c4 square (which would be a good square for the bishop).

6. I discussed previously the idea that knights need pawns (outposts) to be good pieces. The only good square for the knights would be d4 and f4, but there is no way for them to get there. Now, before white destroys black with this bishop pair, he plays a very fine and crushing move.

7. Now white is already crashing through. Let's see how Alekhine finishes off his opponent.

It is important to make conclusions of this game to see what we learned:

1. Trading pieces help the battle concentrate and stop counter play from the enemy.

2. Even though it is usually considered bad to advance the pawns in the endgame (because it weakens them) in positions when one is superior, it is okay and sometimes necessary to win. White recklessly advances the a and b pawns, and because he was the attacking side, he did not lose because of a weakness he made in that part of the board.

3. Do not give up your bishop pair unless you get concrete compensation; avoid exchanges at all cost. White avoided exchanges until he knew giving up the bishop was good.

I will continue talking about this topic in the next article. Meanwhile,  I would love to hear from the beginners and I would like to know what topics they want me to cover and if they understood this well (or if I should explain better).

FM Kevin Trujillo


  • 15 months ago


    Grande estudo.

  • 16 months ago


    sera sera

  • 16 months ago



  • 16 months ago


    Very nice!

  • 16 months ago


    It depends on the game I think, although a bishop pair is very powerful so is a pair of Knights. IN a game I played I crushed someone with a pair of knights!

  • 16 months ago


    I like the clarity of the article but it is hard for me to be sure if I understood it properly, until I apply the concepts. Are there other games that follow similar strategy? If I could solve more puzzles on the bishop pair, I would know that I could apply the lesson well with more certainty.

  • 16 months ago



  • 16 months ago


    Very good article thanks .. and yes, quite easy to understand

  • 16 months ago


    In point #5 of the discussion I think you meant e3 instead of d3.

  • 16 months ago


    Thank you Kevin. 

    I try to keep a bishop pair most times, but ocassionally I come across 'those' players who insist on targeting say my fianchettoed bishops on either g2 or g7. Giving up their own bishop also, but it's one thing that currently bothers me and I'm looking at preventing these for now on. 


  • 16 months ago


    Excellent article Kevin. It clearly demonstrates the idea of the bishop pair which beginners like me need to know

  • 16 months ago


    great article and White's ideas are very clearly presented step-by-step. My only request is that at the end of the article please post the entire game so that we can work through the whole thing on 1 board again.

    My only question is with regards to Bc7 as "the only way to save the bishop". What is wrong Be5 or especially Bf4? Bf4 seems a more natural move that I would play in this situation so I'm interested in what happens. 

  • 16 months ago


    Thank you very much for this wonderful article. What I would appreciate a series on though would be how I'm supposed to see these patterns that people keep on bringing up. I've played through a lot of master games, but I still don't seem to be able to see the patterns that supposedly exist in them. What I suppose would be helpful would be an article pointing out different patterns, and which elements of the game make them patterns. This article was very well written though.

  • 16 months ago


    Thanks Kevin, very helpful article for this beginner.  More like this please!

  • 16 months ago


    Really interesting and well expained Smile

  • 16 months ago


    A bishop pair is traditionally valued at 6.5-7 points.

  • 16 months ago


    I've never heard two Bishops valued at 8 points before.

  • 16 months ago


    Great article. Thank you for all the help.

    As a beginner, I never knew the bishop pair was so powerful.

  • 16 months ago


    Your explanations are logican and quite clear, and I'm sure the article is instructive for average players as well as beginners.

  • 16 months ago


    excellent indeed thx

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