Bishops vs Knights

Jan 16, 2012, 8:37 PM |

Here's a nice chess essay I wrote...


“I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position,” said Marcel Duchamp, a French artist, who later devoted the rest of his life to chess. This quote demonstrates how powerful chess and its pieces are. The two chess pieces, the bishop and knight, are often furiously debated over which one is the greater piece. The extending power radiating from a bishop is as awe-inspiring as a knight dominating the crucial center. Both, the bishop’s and the knight’s skills are much needed in the game of chess. The bishop and knight have a profound effect on a chess game, despite their differences, and can be compared.

In the history of chess, chess pieces have often changed. The bishop’s predecessor in medieval chess was the war elephant. The modern bishop and knight appeared around 1200 CE. After hundreds of years, the people of the Indus River Valley invented the game that eventually became the foundation of chess, Chaturanga. The bishop still meant armed retinues on elephants. These attendants, who weren’t just pragmatists, rode on genteel elephants into battle.  The bishop moved diagonally, covering a large area. On the contrary, armed cavalry who pruned enemy soldiers became knights. The knight’s “L” shape movement shows that it does not charge ahead of the enemy but instead tries to outflank its opponent by veering and attacking off to one side. Both pieces’ abilities altered over time. But, after much changing, the knight and bishop became the pieces they are today.

            Each piece has advantages, both positional and general. The loyal bishop controls the criss-cross diagonal it is on. Bishops dominate at open positions. Knights excel at closed positions where as bishops are trapped and unable to move to advanced positions. The knight controls a small area of squares efficiently. Both are minor pieces and are worth three points. Two bishops are generally better than two knights, although the position will decide which pair will have a decisive advantage. Both are minor pieces and are worth three points. They decide the game’s outcome indirectly. Bishops are commonly used to pin pieces to a major item while on the contrary, knights are known for attacking multiple objects simultaneously. Both minor pieces have their advantages and disadvantages.

            Despite having their fixed bonuses, many of their gains are from their current position. A bishop can trap a knight depending on its location. The bishop can serve as a defensive and offensive unit at the same time! The only thing that limits the bishop is its range of control or “scope.” The knight’s effectiveness depends on how deep it is in the enemy’s territory. A knight has more qualities that compensate for its disadvantages.  Both minor pieces depend on the position for their advantages to come into play. A bishop is commonly used as a defending unit in the famous “fiancetto” hard-to-breach defensive position, and yet, the knight does not achieve as much as a defensive unit. A bishop has better mobility than a knight. On the other hand, a knight controls small areas more effectively than a bishop. As always, a favorable or inferior position will almost always decide the fate of the minor pieces.

            Thus, the bishop and the knight are unique pieces. Their perfected skills are what make them solely exceptional. It’s no wonder why bishops and knights are debated regularly. Even if they are minor pieces, they do control what goes on in a game. They form the basis of brilliant tactics, the strategy of an end game, and the bulk of chess. Although the bishop and knight don’t seem to have anything in common, in actuality, they’re both pieces that are respected in the wide world of chess.