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Two Criminals, Part Three

  • GM Gserper
  • | Oct 6, 2013

The typical idea of trading the fianchettoed bishop by playing Be3,Qd2 and Bh6 is so common that many chess players execute it almost automatically. Indeed, how can you argue with a game like this:

It is the games like this firmly engraved into people's mind the idea that a trade of the fianchettoed bishop equals to a checkmate. Indeed, in many positions you must keep your bishop even if it will cost you some material. (We discussed such cases here.)

Yet, in the situations where the immediate attack against your opponent's king is not possible, you might want to reconsider the Bh6 trade since it can easily backfire like in the next game:

Notice how White suffered throughout the whole game due to the permanent weakness of his dark squares which was caused by the trade of his own dark squared bishop. These days it is a very common technical idea to trade your own fianchettoed bishop to weaken your opponent's position, but about 50 years ago even the world's top chess players were not aware of it. Look how helpless was Romanian GM Gheorghiu (who was definetely in the top 20 in the world at that time) in the following game:

This time Black weakened all his light squares by the unsound Bh3 trade.

As a matter of fact, some opening lines are based on the idea of trading your own fianchettoed bishop! Such a trade makes your opponent's position vulnerable on the squares of the same color as the bishops which were swapped:

And sometimes you can see a paradoxical situation where one player offers to trade his own fianchettoed bishop and his opponent avoids the trade!

But before you rush to part with your own fianchettoed bishop, please remember that after all, this bishop is the main defender of your king and just one spark can cause some serious fire! Black definitely forgot about it in the next game:

Now let me briefly sum up the subject that we discussed in this series of articles. Some 60-70 years ago a trade of the fianchettoed bishop was considered a big taboo. Today people are more open minded and frequently don't mind to trade their fianchettoed bishop if it brings certain positional benefits. But no matter what advantages you achieve by such a trade, never forget that you always pay a price: you king gets vulnerable!



  • 17 months ago


    the first game, Karpov-Korchnoi, 1974, ... they were friends,

    Karpov remembered this game in his book. 

  • 17 months ago


    just give me ur best shot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 18 months ago


    Well, I didn't finish reading the whole article. Diagrams 1 and 2 have different result because of White's king-rook placement. In diagram 1 Karpov managed to open the h-file where his Rh1 has uncontested view of the open h-files. Whereas, in diagram 2 White has managed to rook-lift his rook to h-file but at this time black is guarding the half-open h-file by his Rh8. In diagram 2, the major pieces have fierce battle on the kingside. And it'll be very difficult for White to achieve a winning attack on the right flank.

  • 18 months ago


    @ sogcelack I think he panicked it was a 30min game he thought for about 9min about gxf3 Qxf3 or Bxe7 Qxe7 Qxf3 cxd4 My idea was to get my knt to d5 which is an outpost for it.

  • 18 months ago


    @ Marcokin Thanks for highlighting that point. I really appreciate it yes true the game above are posistional games. I'm a tactical player at best. The idea behind (Bxf3) if {Qxf3 Bh4} was to create more space for myself in the game and an outpost for my Knight on d5 by playing  (b5 cxb5 Kntd5)  

  • 18 months ago


    Thanks for the great examples!

  • 18 months ago


    @fwhoberg, thanks for the game but I think you miss the point of the article. Its a positional/strategic argument not a tactical one. Your game was a tactical gift from your opponent. This has nothing to do with the ideas being presented. The Fianchettoed bishop may be worth less (and so tradeable) than the opponents Bishop if:

    1. The opponents Bishop controls more squares than the fianchettoed bishop.

    2. The opponents Bishop potentially controls more squares than the fianchettoed bishop.

    3. The opponents Queen is inactive in the short term, your queen is active in the short term.

    4. No dangerous knights that can take advantage of the weak f6 or h6 squares.

    The risks of doing this are mainly weakening of the Kings position, so the trade has to offset any of those defensive weakening risks. In the last game Grishuk vs. Serper the fianchettoed bishop was a good bishop and should not have been traded.

    C'mon you a 1600 player?

  • 18 months ago


    nice article

  • 18 months ago


    Nice article!Surprised

  • 18 months ago


     Very intresting point. I prefer to keep my fianchettoed bishop I if I have castle Kingside but if I had castle Kingside and have the Queen fianchettoed bishop I will trade off my fianchettoed bishop as this game shows. Good article Enjoy the game. 


  • 18 months ago


    I know it's not good to make generalisations in chess, but it seems that the trade can be good for the attacker if the queens are still on the board.



  • 18 months ago


    Thanks GM Gserper for an insightful and interesting article.  Enjoyed reviewing games on various sicilians and white's counter to them. Very useful.

  • 18 months ago

    NM Petrosianic

    I would not have minded a few more thoughts on the Grischuk-Serper game. ;-)  But interesting subject matter that deserves more attention!

  • 18 months ago


    The last example seems buggy.

    After 21. ... Qd4! (instead of 21. ... Ne5?) White is forced to give perpetual check, since 22. Re3 Qg7 is unclear.
    Discovered with Stockfish 2.3.1, check it out.

  • 18 months ago

    NM FrederickRhine

    Very interesting article on a subject that has gotten less attention than it deserves.

  • 18 months ago


    I like this.

  • 18 months ago


    Superb examples...enjoyed picking apart the difference placement of pieces in the positions that influenced whether the trade was good or bad. Thank you very much, an outstanding end to my Sunday chess activities.Laughing

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