Two-Bishop Advantage

  • WGM Natalia_Pogonina
  • | Mar 8, 2011

Chess authors often use the term “two-bishop advantage” in their annotations. Today I would like to elaborate on this evergreen concept in more detail.

The two-bishop advantage occurs when one side has two bishops, and the other – B+K or two knights. First of all, let’s talk about the bishop in general. As you probably know, a bishop is stronger than a knight in open positions, especially when playing on both sides of the board. This is connected with the knight’s limited mobility and the bishop’s ability to move swiftly and control the whole board (as opposed to a small section). Of course, this rule has its own exceptions, but it holds for most positions.

The main shortcoming of a bishop is that it can move only along squares of its own color, thus half the board is not available to it. On the contrary, two bishops are extremely powerful since together they can control the whole board. The two-bishop advantage is especially efficient when facing two knights. For example, check out the classical ending of a Botvinnik-Bronshtein game, 1951, Moscow.

To operate efficiently, bishops need open files. Thus one of the rules of thumb for a player who has two bishops is to open up the position. When central pawns are absent, bishops start controlling more diagonals simultaneously. Sometimes to clear up a diagonal we have to sacrifice material, e.g. a pawn or an exchange. The two-bishop advantage is often a sufficient compensation for the sacrificed material in these cases.

Here are the main techniques associated with exploiting the two-bishop advantage:

1) Attack on both sides

Knights are rather clumsy: they can participate in the fight only on one side of the board. If there is action all over the board, they have no time to come to the rescue. Therefore, it is a good idea to attack on both sides of an open board, thus obtaining an advantage in forces on one side of the board.

2) Exchanging the bishop

There was an old chess joke saying that “the best thing about having a two-bishop advantage is that you can exchange one of them.” This is indeed a useful technique of converting one type of advantage into another (i.e. giving the two-bishop advantage up for a material advantage or a more promising position).

Now, let us say we are on the wrong side of the equation: what can we do about the opponent’s mighty bishops?

1)      Limit their mobility

Pawns are indispensable in this respect. Bishops detest long pawn chains which limit their mobility. Keep in mind that you can use either your own pawns, or force the opponent to arrange his pawns in an inferior way and hinder his own bishops. Another nice blocker is a knight that has a strong outpost, especially in the center.

2)      Exchange one of the bishops

Sometimes it is possible to give up a knight/bishop or even a rook (positional exchange) for one of the opponent’s bishop brothers in order to defend successfully.

Let’s review a game I played at the Aeroflot Open-2011 against the reigning champion of Belorussia GM Andrey Zhigalko.

The game was full of interesting tactical shots. White had a two-bishop advantage, but it was not so easy to exploit it due to the central pawns which were limiting the bishops’ activity. By playing d4 White decided to open up the position. However, with careful defense by Black this should not have been enough for a win due to the weakness of White’s queenside pawns and Black’s ability to locate knights at powerful outposts. After Black’s mistake (Qe4) White could have obtained some advantage, but blundered in return. Nonetheless, the game ended in a draw.


  • 11 months ago


    Great! Thank you.

  • 3 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    Let’s stay in touch on social networks! Here are my official accounts:

    Account 1, Account 2, Account 3

  • 6 years ago


    Thanks for the lesson; I've always hated playing against the bishop pair...

  • 6 years ago


    Thanks for the tip!

  • 6 years ago


    Strange case of Bishop:17...Bb7!!,18....Bc8!!-Bishop goes from School to Academy!But academy is too much for him-he afraid ,and back to the school-24. ...Bb7?(and he dreams about a8).

  • 6 years ago


    Natalia...My wishes are that you can achiecv#ve EVERYTHING you aiming for, ion an easier way than expected, and with much highjer results than those aimed for/expected...

    You do deserve them !!

    It is a pleasure being able to say that you are one of those "HUMBLE" top chess stars, for real !!

    And once again, thanks foryour articles here, and your insight about all these specific themes/subjects !

    RASpect allways !

  • 6 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    Thanks for the Happy Birthday & Women's Day congrats, everyone! :)

    @biggya294  Yes, that variation leads to an equal endgame (see the annotation).

    @CSR Both! :)

    @rich Standard: 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, 50 minutes for the next 20 moves and 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move, starting from the first.

  • 6 years ago


    Natalia You are very nice women and beautiful serious chessMASTER,but you are very young and dark side of chess is "dark" for you.Please look at the games of young M.TAL and you will find HYPNOSIS in chess. All Champions of the World-had this strange dark side....(in the game both players was in hypnotic trance after very strange REPETITION Qe4 -Qe8 -Qe4).

  • 6 years ago


    nice game clearly you are ahead zhigalko find only a draw, my inspiration using the B+N endgame is levon aronian he is great using this in endgame, birthday u pala maam e' pahipon ka naman at pakantonSmile

  • 6 years ago


    Great article by the GORGEOUS Natalia

  • 6 years ago


    Nice game Natalia! Too bad it ended in a draw, well taught:-) Happy B-Day

  • 6 years ago


    Nice article!!!

    Wish you a very Happy Birthday Natalia!!!!



  • 6 years ago


    Wow - what an exciting gamel! Thank you for your wonderful articles - would love to see more of these!

    Having good grasp of basic tactical concepts is essential and I just love the "back-to-basics" type articles like this. Very refreshing and enjoyable to read. 


  • 6 years ago


    After 27. ... Kf8 can't you play NxQ???

  • 6 years ago


    cool position. i like bacon btw

  • 6 years ago


    Thanks. I'm pretty much a chess novice. Every so often, I beat someone whose pretty good. Always looking for different tactics to strengthen my game.

  • 6 years ago


    Nice game well annotated (as usual).

    Happy birthday to you as well Natalia!

  • 6 years ago


    I wonder if anyone's ever had a three bishop advantage?  I.e. promote a pawn to a bishop.  That'd be something to see!

  • 6 years ago


    The two-bishop advantage occurs when one side has two bishops, and the other – B+K  (or B+N) or two knights.

  • 6 years ago


    I love Bishops. They do such a great job of tying up an opponent. A pair is so cool, it hurts.

    Lets all hope for great bishop action in the future.

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