Bishop vs. Knight: A complete guide to pieces.

Bishops are better than knights. A bishop can cover a total of 15 squares in the center, while a knight can only cover 8 squares. The Knights are slightly better in the opening since they can jump over pieces. Bishops are better in the middlegame and endgame since they can cover more squares.

The theoretical value is the amount of priority a particular piece is perceived to be depending on a position. Generally, some pieces are better than others inherently taking into consideration a neutral ground without a unique circumstance.

One of the most debated questions is the value of the bishop and the Knight. Both pieces almost have the same role making them harder to distinguish from one another.

This article will be an in-depth answer on which pieces are better. Hopefully it will help you in understanding the relationship between these two pieces.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

What are the theoretical values of chess?

Upon learning Chess, you may have heard that there is a theoretical value among pieces when considering exchanges. Exchange is the act of trading pieces that gives a positional and or psychological advantage.

There’s a general guideline followed by most players when considering a piece’s value. There are many variations but generally are the following:

PieceEstimated Value
KingInfinite value
Queen8
Rook4
Bishop3
Knight3
Pawn1

As you can see, the Knight and the bishop are inherent of the same value. This guideline however is specifically targeted to teach beginners.

Yes, there might be an argument to be made when considering these two pieces as equal. However generally, the only reason why they are treated in the same value is that they cannot be stronger or weaker than the adjoining pieces.

The rook is considered better than these two pieces due to its overall maneuverability, ease of use, and influence. Similarly, it cannot be lesser than a pawn (a unit that can only move forward and capture on two tiles).

So generally the Bishop and Knight are placed in the same category as the other but is actually pretty erroneous. The rivalry that is between these two runs much deeper than that.

And I will provide a complete answer!

My goal in this article would be the proper comprehension of one piece’s edge over the other, as well as understanding the position involving trades that associates these specific pieces.

Does the value of the Knight and Bishop change depending on the position?

Chess piece’s value is not static where it actually ebb and flows. Meaning that one cannot say a piece to be always advised higher than the other.

This is due to the fact that the game is a positional one, meaning principles will change depending on the nature of the position. A pretty good example of this is a pawn, the lowest value unit you could ever be in Chess.

Early in the game, the pawn is considered an easy target with nothing much to offer. Endgame (the phase where there are few pieces left) however offers a huge boost in value through the pawn’s ability to promote.

Promotion is the capability of a pawn to be converted into the preferred piece of the player when reaching the opponent’s last rank. Rank is the vertical section of the board (the last rank of the opponent essentially means the starting horizontal line of the opponent’s pieces).

Another of this would be the smothered mate where a Knight beats the Queen in terms of value due to its power to deliver a checkmate.

This is a Smothered mate!

Generally, the Queen is better than the Knight due to its huge range and influence. However again, there are positions where even a Knight can be more valuable due to its potential to capture the king.

The positional preference, meaning the position dictates the value of the pieces. The answer would be the same here, trading of Bishop to Knight and vice versa depends on the perks a position can offer.

Does the personal preference of the player determine if the knight/bishop is better?

Another thing to consider would be the player’s own preference when it comes to positional places. Closed positions give the Knight more leeway to seize control due to its ability to jump over other pieces.

A blockading structure rarely blocks the Knight from doing this purpose. People who are more comfortable with the Knight and closed structures may prefer the Knight over the Bishop.

On the other hand, the Bishop rides well on open positions. This is due to the fact that the piece has access to both sides of the board.

The long-range nature allows the bishop to perform multi-attack and defense similar to a Rook and a Queen. Even if it is determined that one is better than the other, it doesn’t mean that the player should prioritize it.

After all, it’s all about playing the game comfortably to make the best initiatives that would convert into a victory. If you’re at ease with playing either the Knight or the bishop then do so, even if in an objective sense you would be slightly worse.

Play the game in a way that would improve overall game experience.

What categories to consider when determing whther bishop/knight is better?

There is obviously a positional preference (which piece is better in a particular position) and personal preference (exclusive feeling that influences players in dealing with the piece better).

Both Bishop and Knight are obviously superior than the other in specific circumstances. However in an objective sense, there is a way to identify which is actually the better piece likely to win the game.

This occurs when players are of the same skill level where mistakes are rare to come by. It all just comes down to which has better piece value to properly deliver a positional advantage.

Factors

But first, we need to learn the conditions that actually makes a piece powerful. The conditions below provide the category to decide which piece is actually the best, here they are:

  • Double attack/ defense- The ability of the piece to influence double or multiple sections of the board by attacking and defending in one place.
  • Range- Tendency to control much larger section of the board.
  • Mobility- Capacity to travel in variety of squares in a short period of time.
  • Trickyness- Level of complexity when discerning potential moves by the player or opponent.
  • Pairs- How will the piece deal with pairs of its own.
  • Game Peak- Stages of the game where the piece’s power gets highlighted and its relevance to converting a victory.
  • Mate- Likelihood to deliver checkmate when paired with specific pieces in the endgame.

We would go over each of these factors and determine who wins in their respective category. This is the quest to crown the best piece in the objective sense.

Double attack/ Defense

All pieces in chess has the qualification to perform a double attack. This is due to all of the piece’s capability to influence multiple tiles in one place.

Even the pawn can cause a double attack at a right square during the right time. A more powerful piece of course will have more likelihood to execute the said condition.

The bishop and the Knight in particular even has their own names when being able to double attack! I mean all pieces can double attack, but having your own name for it must mean that it happens quite often.

Let’s see these two:

Forking Knight

The Knight has the ability to threaten multiple pieces in one square. This is known as the “fork” as it is similar in shape to the utensil fork.

Just imagine it lol, I won’t go my way to demonstrate that, it’s not the point of the article. Refer to the diagram below to see an example of a fork.

As you can see the Knight attack the king and Rook at the same time. This means that the rook will fall without being able to be defended by the king (since the King can only move one square and can’t defend the rook).

Consequently, the Knight is not only limited to forking two pieces. Refer to the diagram below:

The Knight forked three!

At the center of the board, the Knight can access a total of 8 squares. This means that there are multiple squares the a Knight can control at the same time.

Consequently, any piece that resides in those tiles would be attacked consecutively. Forking doesn’t necessarily have to be between the King and another piece.

It could be between two higher valued pieces than that of the Knight at the same time. You get the point, it can influence several tiles from one position.

Forking has the following perks:

Advantage:
● A tricky move to spot; likely to fall on beginners.
● Likely to occur in endgames where there’s time pressure.
● Can fork large number of pieces in just one turn.

Disadvantages:
● Easy to stop when spotted.
● Is a little bit harder to spot than a skewer
● Unlikely to occur between games of advanced players , unless intentional.

Pins of Skewering Bishop

I’ve talked about how the Knight can attack multiple pieces at the same time. The bishop of course would not back down!

And although it may not work several on pieces, the bishop can skewer and pin pieces to each other. Skewer is a condition in Chess where the Bishop attacks a highly valuable piece along with a less valuable one.

The purpose of skewer would be to force the higher value one to move allowing the capture of the one that’s behind. The Queen in this case for example would have to move allowing the bishop to capture the rook.

On the other hand, pins are the opposite. It is a double attack where the less valuable one is in front of the higher.

The diagram below demonstrate how a pin occurs:

The pinned Knight cannot move as the queen would hang. It is a unique double attack that restricts the movement as a purpose rather than capturing any pieces.

The bishop can of course double defend at the same time as it can double attack. The following are the perks of the bishop:

Advantages:
● Pins and skewers materialize more frequently in advanced games than forks.
● It is easier to spot a skewer and pin than forks.
● It serve multi purpose agenda of disabling movement rather than just capturing pieces.

Disadvantages:
● Can only attack a limited number of pieces.
● Less likely to win material in comparison to forks
● Easier to prevent than forks.

Overall, I can say that the Knight and Bishop are considered DRAWN in this category, Score 0.5- 0.5.

Range

This is the ability of the piece to affect parts of the board from the tile it resides from.

The Single squared Knight

The Knight’s range are the following:

There are total of eight square paths that the Knight can jump into from the center of the board.

These is a fairly limited control than other pieces. The center is where the Knight can be the most powerful.

And even so, it doesn’t bring anything special that could make it more significant than other
pieces. In fact it is one of the worst when it comes to range besides the pawn.

But what about the edge? The Knight is even more useless at the corner of the board!

A Knight on the rim is dim

Siegbert Tarrach

There are cases where the Knight’s movement options are cut by 80%!

See this sample:

The Knight only have a total of two from the eight possible movements compared to when it is most powerful.

The Long Bishop

The bishop has an enormous potential reach when residing at the center of the board. It cuts the board in four sections! Look.

The Bishop’s range makes it look like there’s four parts!

This enormous reach which easily make it overpowered enough to beat the Knight. Even at the corner the bishop is still powerful. Being able to cut through the board from side to side.

Compared to the miserable two tile reach the Knight has (It essentially becomes a pawn). After all, the pawn can only capture from two tiles.

This means that the bishop has more influence over than that of the Knight. For that reason, I give this one to the BISHOP, Score 1 – 0.5.

Mobility

This refers to how quickly the piece is able to position itself by the whims of the player.

The Sad Knight

The Knight can move in an L square shaped pattern (a three tile shift). This means that it cannot control tiles literally about its side threatening a capture!

Look at the diagram where the Knight cannot capture the pawn and the Bishop that is literally one tile away from it.

This is even more apparent in the endgame where it becomes trickier to maneuver the Knight in the right square. On the other hand however, the Knight can jump over other pieces.

The Knight can jump over anywhere, almost out of the game!

Wegochess

This allows the Knight to be much more mobile early in the game.

The fast Bishop

The Bishop can easily travel in any desired square along its range. There isn’t any complication involved and the desired tile can usually be achieved by one two or three turns.

This is due to the fact that the Bishop can travel from one side to the other due to its range. Also unlike the Knight, it can capture any piece that directly threatens the bishop as it can
capture on its sides.

The color limit

The Bishop would definitely outvalue the Knight, if it wasn’t for the limit of the colors.

The Bishop is limited from the innate color that originates at the start of the game. This means that the Bishop cannot influence any other area of the board opposite of its color.

This is a huge chunk of loss when it comes to mobility. Since it means that the piece cannot position itself no matter what in the opposite color.

Due to this limitation, the Knight and Bishop are EQUAL on this one, score 1.5 – 1.0.

Trickyness

This is the piece’s unpredictability when it comes to understanding potential moves and double
attacks.

Double edged Knight

The Knight is one of the most complicated piece in chess. This is due to the fact that its movement option (L shape) is not recognized by human patterns.

This is the reason why beginners are likely to fall for forks even though it can be prevented
easily. I personally took a long time in getting used to this piece’s shifts when I was just getting started.

The Knight is so confusing due to its weird movements.

Even in advanced levels where forks can be spotted easily, the Knight is the most likely to be
misused by the player. This was a double-edged factor in a way that the complication applies to both the user and the opponent.

The user is less likely to make the best move while the opponent is less likely to spot the threat.

Simple Bishop

The bishop is actually one of the simplest in movement distances along with the pawn. Even though limited movements (can only move on tiles of the same color) skewer and pins are
usually easier to spot and play.

The thing can only move in one line, hence the pattern to its movement is much more
recognizable. The Knight absolutely got this one, score 1.5-2.0.

Pairs

This is how the pieces deal with the same kind of its own. Basically which is better Knight pair or the Bishop pair?

Bad Knights

The complication is an advantage when the Knight is on its own. However, a pair of Knights is absolutely difficult to maneuver!

This is due to the fact of one, their complexity and two their limited movement choices. Remember the diagram earlier showing how little the Knight’s reach even at the center of the board?

Here is a diagram for two Knights:

This feature although looks impressive, as a pair pieces should have more control than what is shown. The only thing that could possibly be argued to say that the Knight pair is better will be its capability to defend each other.

The pair of Bishop resides in opposite colors and therefore cannot guard each other. The Knights on the other hand can.

Getting the two Knights close to each other though is extremely dangerous. As it only takes one move to dislodge the Knight and capture the other.

So it’s kind of a double-edged feature.

Monster Bishop Pair

In contrast with the Knight , the Bishop has the following reach.

This is absolutely insane! The Bishops almost cover the entire board from the center. Together the bishop pair can even compete with the queen look at the diagram.

I mean the Queen is still powerful, they could compete though just not going to beat it.

This demonstrates how the pair of Bishop even matches the greatest piece in chess! The pair of knights doesn’t stand a chance.

Remember earlier, that I said the bishops cannot protect each other? Yes, that is a weakness but the Bishop’s potential to influence almost all tiles of the board together will compensates this limitation.

Therefore the bishop WIN this one, Score 2.5 -2.0.

Game peak

Earlier in the article, I’ve talked about how positional nuances affects the capability of a piece. This is because the position offers different advantages compatible to features of specific
pieces.

And what directly and consistently affect the position? Game Stages! The chess game involves the opening, the middlegame, and the endgame.

Each of these phases have their own unique positional differences that offer advantages for the
pieces.

Opening and Middle Master Knight

Opening is the stage of a game where pawn structures are being created. Usually in a closed structure, the Knight has a lot of power to be of more use than the bishop.

The diagram below demonstrates well-placed Knights that dominates the badly placed Bishops.

Those are horrible Bishops!

This is overriding the fact that the Knight can jump over pieces. Adding to this fact, the opening is a stage of the game where there are many pieces.

Such position blocks the bishop and other similar piece from becoming powerful.

Middle and Endgame Exploding Bishop

As demonstrated by the diagram above, the Bishop is usually not a very good piece in the opening. However it can become a monster in the endgame! and even in the middle game.

Look at this picture

Since there are less pawns on the board , there is little chance for the Bishop to get shutted down unlike in the opening. The pawn at Black’s side of the board are within the reach of the Bishop.

The opponent’s Knight stand no chance in being able to defend both of those pawns (especially if it was the same color). Yes opposite color would cause a draw, but that it is, a draw.

The Bishop is still clearly more powerful than the Knight. This is due to the fact that the bishop can attack those two from one tile.

There are middle games too where this same principle applies. And since the endgame and the middle game is the phase that identifies the winners.

It is much more important than the opening. Therefore the bishop GOT this one, Score 3.5 -2.0.

Mate

Knight mates

This table below contains common endgame Knight combinations and its mating possibilities (whether checkmate is possible).

Piece CombinationMate
King+Queen+KnightPossible
King+Rook+KnightPossible
King+Bishop+KnightPossible
King+Knight+KnightNot possible

There are of course many combinations but this is the most common. I showed the Knight mates and it’s possibilities but what about the bishop?

Bishop mates

Refer to the table for Bishop’s lists of mates! This is very interesting.

Piece CombinationMate
King+Queen+BishopPossible
King+Rook+BishopPossible
King+Bishop+KnightPossible
King+Bishop+BishopPossible

See the difference? The bishop definitely outclasses the Knight in terms of possible checkmate combinations.

The Bishop pair after all can mate on its own. There is a situation where the Knight pair can mate if, the opponent has at least a pawn.

But the process is really difficult and time consuming, plus the Knight pair on its own cannot mate if the opponent doesn’t have a pawn

So the bishop again WIN this one. And as for the final score, we got 4.5 – 2.0! Bishop wins

Final Thoughts

Knights are generally considered better in the early phase of the game where pawns usually create blockades that prevent the bishop from being activated.

Bishops are better in endings due to their range, mobility, and likelihood to deliver a checkmate that Knights are unable to perform when paired with specific pieces.

There are of course many factors to consider in considering the Knight or bishop to be more powerful. Objectively, the Bishop is more powerful in most cases.

But I mean, if you really enjoyed the Knight then do so! Just play what’s comfortable for you as that’s what will bring fun and enjoyment anyway.

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