Knight on the rim...


Ok, I know the old saying "A Knight on the rim is dim", and for the most part I totally avoid putting my knights along an edge whenever possible. But I encountered an interesting situation when playing OTB chess with a friend of mine. He isn't as strong as me and I win almost every time and today he played an interesting opening that involved a "knight on the rim". He was white and he often plays pawn on d4 and pawn on e3 as an opening. Then he moved his knight to h3. I silently chuckled and thought I would have an easy time gaining a good position. But next move he played Nf4. I paused and checked out the situation, which looked something like this:


















After looking at it, I don't believe it's a bad strategy. It offers interesting possibilities and a more aggressive position than the traditional knight on f3. But a problem I see with it is that it is realatively easy to force the knight to be traded away. Any thoughts?


If you play through master games of chess, you'll find that they have no problem at all putting the knight on the rim. It's one of the first maxims that I ever heard. Maybe in the endgame it's more dangerous to put a knight on the rim if it's knight against bishop, since it could find itself trapped. But in the early stages of the game it is very difficult to take advantage of it, in my view.Smile


in the posted position, I don't understand what is that knight doing on f4. I say it would be better placed on f3, where it points at d4 and e5 - and it would have saved a tempo going to this better square.


Then of course you never "chuckle" and expect to win only because your opponent does an inaccuracy.


Shouldn't it be black to move in the given position ?  It appears white has made 5 moves and is about to make white's 6th move where black has apparently played only 4 moves... 


Currently playing a game where my opponents knight is on the rim and hasn't had a safe square to move to for the last 10 moves, still doesn't. That's dim, would be hard to achieve the same if the knight was in the centre of the board.

Reb wrote:

Shouldn't it be black to move in the given position ?  It appears white has made 5 moves and is about to make white's 6th move where black has apparently played only 4 moves... 

He's only showing the board position, white to move is default in creating diagrams.


Only put a knight on the rim if it does something really good that is hard to stop. The problem with rim pieces is their flexibility: When you play Nh3, your main option is to go to f4, although Ng5 might happen sometimes -- in order to do that, you are already telling your opponent you will spend 2 moves on this knight before it does anything. f4 is an ok square, although it's hard to argue that it's better than f3 in most cases. Here, d5 is pretty solid, and the knight on f4 might be kicked away some day -- the knight on f3 has a more secure feel.

So, white's Nh3-f4, especially since he's white, won't lose him the game, but it's not quite as productive as playing Nf3 and developing another piece.

Now, if d5 was a more critical, static weakness, Nh3-f4 might be more relevant -- depending on how weak d5 is, you would have to decide if it's worth spending two tempi on the knight; a lot of times it isn't, though once in a while it can be justified.

And if we were to compare a hypothetical white knight on d4 to a knight on h4 for example: a knight on h4 may eye the f5 square, but the lack of flexibility can be a problem: if f5 somehow gets covered, the knight might look rather silly. On the other hand, a knight on d4 also controls f5, but if f5 gets covered by the opponent, white still has other back up options -- for example, it might jump to b5 instead, or stay on d4 to block up the d file.

If on the other hand Nh4 wins your opponent's queen, then of course the lack of flexibility doesn't matter, as it achieves something clear and hard to prevent.

Another example in favor of a rim knight would be if black had doubled pawns on the kingside, f6 and f7, a pawn on h7, without a g pawn, and black's e pawn is either off the board or not controlling f5. In that case Nh4-f5 is probably a fine maneuver; although white's only option after playing Nh4 is to play Nf5, that's not a big deal, because white knows he will get it to f5 for sure.