Bishop vs. Knight: A Peaceful Encounter.

Bishop vs. Knight: A Peaceful Encounter.

WIM energia
Sep 17, 2010, 12:00 AM |
18 | Endgames

What do we know about bishop vs. knight endgames? The bishop is a long range piece, thus it requires an open space on the board. On the other hand, the knight does not need much space for maneuvering, since it is a more flexible piece – able to move on both light and dark squares. In an endgame the common knowledge is: if you have pawns on different sides of the board then you are better off having a bishop instead of a knight. This is so because the bishop can attack pawns on one side of the board and with the next move already attack the pawns on the other side of the board. A knight will not have the ability to move from one side of the board to the other so quickly. Thus it is better to keep the pawns on one side of the board only if you have a knight.

IM David Pruess supplied today’s position. White has a bishop while black has a knight. There are pawns all over the board. Moreover, many of the black pawns are located on the light squares which gives white the possibility to attack them sometimes. It is very hard to break through with the king, since all the central squares are under black’s control. Thus, white’s only chance is to push through with the pawns on the kingside, maybe sacrifice a bishop there just to get a passed pawn. Black should keep the knight ready to either defend the f7 pawn ( the key link of the position) or attack the white pawns.

Let's see how these ideas were realized in the games against my Ukrainian coach.


The following ideas can be extracted from the game:

-          Black's knight has to maneuver on the queenside, so in the right moment he must be at d8, to protect the f7 pawn.

-          Black is fine if he gets h5 push early on: this will exchange some pawns, making white’s attack less powerful.

-          The pawn endgames are usually drawn, unless black decides to deflect his own king to the edge of the board by trading a-pawns.

Knowing the above ideas we played the next game better. I had to defend with black and it was not an easy task. Theoretically, this might be a drawn endgame but practically it is not so easy to play for black.


The key ideas that were demonstrated in the game are as follows:

-          White can put significant pressure on black by not allowing him to play h5.

-          The idea of the bishop sacrifice on g6 works in some lines.

-          Black can exchange the f7 pawn for the b4 pawn, thus creating a passed pawn but he must be very careful in doing so, as the game becomes very sharp.

-          The h8 square is of a dark color, meaning that black can sacrifice a knight in some variations to enter the king vs. king, bishop and h-pawn, which will be a draw.

The position’s evaluation is probably a draw. We have not managed to demonstrate the decisive path for white in our games. White can try and trick black with maneuvering play, especially in time trouble. In a practical game, white definitely should try to play such a position for a win. As the last game showed trying too hard can turn the tables around and give black chances for a win too.

For the next week we will continue with the bishop vs. the knight endgames and play out the following position. White to move.

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