Bishops: good, bad and both.

good bishops: active bishop used for attack

Euwe - Thomas, 1934

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e3 O-O 6. Nf3 Nbd7 7. Rc1 c6 8. Bd3 dxc4 9. Bxc4 Nd5 10. Bxe7 Qxe7 11. O-O Nxc3 12. Rxc3



This was the main continuation from this opening, although it is now considered pretty played out. Black has a bad bishop on c8, so...

12... e5 13. dxe5 Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Qxe5 15. f4

Black has a choice of several queen moves. In the first game we examine what happened after 15...Qe7 [next diagram]



White has the better bishop, currently pointed at Black''s King's side, but this is only a temporary advantage. Left alone, Black can play ...Be6 or move the b-pawn and play ...Bb7. White's only hope of a win is to keep Black on the hop.

16. f5

  Stops ...Be6 well enough, but Euwe has further plans for this pawn - namely, to run it to f6, disrupting the K-side and using the good bishop for attack.

16...b5 17. Bb3 b4 18. f6! gxf6 19. Rxc6 Qxe3+ 20. Kh1



20...Bb7 Euwe and Kramer give the alternatives:

[20... Be6 21. Bxe6 fxe6 22. Qg4+ Qg5 [22... Kh8 23. Rc7] 23. Qxe6+ Kh8 24. Rxf6 Rg8 [24... Rfe8 25. Qf7] 25. Rf2 winning a pawn]

[20... f5 21. Qh5 with strong attack]

21. Rcxf6 Qe4 22. Qd2 Kh8

[Or 22... Rad8 23. Qg5+ Kh8 24. Rxf7]

23. Bxf7 Rac8

[Much better was 23... Rad8 with good drawing chances, despite White's pressure e.g. 24. Qg5 [Rg8 25. Bxg8 Rxg8 26. Rf8 Qxg2+ =, or 24. Qf2 Qe7 25. Bb3 Rxf6 26. Qxf6+ Qxf6 27. Rxf6 Bd5 = ]

24. R6f2 Rcd8 [24... Qg4]




25... Rd6

[Not 25... Qd4 26. Bd5 Qg7 [or 26... Rxf2 27. Qxd8+ Kg7 28. Qg5+ Kf8 29. Qg8+ Ke7 30. Re1+ Kd6 31. Bxb7] 27. Rxf8+ Rxf8 28. Rxf8+ Qxf8 29. Qe5+ Qg7 30. Qe8+]

26. Bd5! 1-0

26... Rxf2 27. Qg8#

  The QGD is not a win for White; here Black solves the problem of the Bc8.

Stahlberg-Trifunovich, 1951

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e3 O-O 6. Nf3 Nbd7 7. Rc1 c6 8. Bd3 dxc4 9. Bxc4 Nd5 10. Bxe7 Qxe7 11. O-O Nxc3 12. Rxc3 e5 13. dxe5 Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Qxe5 15. f4

  Here Black tried an alternative Q move 15... Qf6, stopping the f5-f6 rush.



16. f5 a5 17. a4

[17. a3 b5 18. Ba2 b4 19. Rc5 Ba6 20. Re1 Bb5, with the Black bishop having good play]

17... Rb8 18. Qc2 Bd7

[Not 18... b5 19. axb5 cxb5 20. Bxb5 Rxb5 21. Rxc8]

19. Rd3 Rbd8 20. Qd2 b5

[Not 20... Bc8 21. Qxa5 Rxd3 22. Bxd3 Qxb2 23. f6]

21. axb5 Alternatives are no better:

[21. Rd6 Bc8]

[21. Bxb5 cxb5 22. Rxd7 Rxd7 23. Qxd7 Qxb2 24. Qxb5 Qxb5 25. axb5 Rb8 "with meagre chances for White" - Euwe]

21... cxb5 22. Bd5 Bc6



With the full entry of this piece into the game, Black has at least equal chances

23. e4

[23. Bxc6 Rxd3 24. Qxd3 Qxc6 may even be better for Black, since Black's Queen-side majority look like the most important feature of the game]

23... Bxd5 24. exd5 Qb6+ 25. Qf2 Qxf2+ 26. Kxf2 draw agreed


Bad bishops

Bs move on squares of only one colour. A bishop hemmed in by its own pawns on the same colour squares is called a bad bishop. It is sometimes tempting to put pawns on the same colour squares as the bishop, particularly in the ending, with the hope that the bishop will defend them. Well, unfortunately, the bishop will probably be so blocked by the pawns that it can hardly defend itself. Depending on what other pieces there are on the board, the opponent's king will probably be able to slip in between the pawns, and the bishop won't be able to stop it. You want your pawns on one colour square, and the bishop on the other, in the middle game and in the ending. (And if you've got two bishops in the middle game, you generally want your pawns right out of the way.) So be careful where you put your pawns, and don't get your bishops stuck one side or the other of a chain of pawns.

[Event "bad bishops"][Site "-"][Date "1956.??.??"][Round "?"]
[White "barden"][Black "rossolimo"][Result "1-0"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.f4 e6 7.Be2 Qc7 8.O-O Nc6 9.Be3 Bd7 10.g4 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc6 12.Bf3 e5 13.Be3 Be7 14.f5 {?!}



14...h6 15.Qd2 b5 16.Rad1 Rc8 17.a3 Qb7 18.Qd3 Nd7 {!} 19.b4 Nb6 20.Bc1 Nc4 21.Nd5 Bxd5 22.exd5 Bg5 (exchanging the off White's best minor piece)

23.Rfe1 Qe7 24.Be4 Bxc1 25.Rxc1 h5 26.Qg3 hxg4 27.Qxg4 Qf6 28.Bd3 Rh4 29.Qg3 Nb6 30.Re4

(30.Be4 Rc4)>



30...Rh5 31.Rg4 Nxd5 32.Rxg7 Nf4 33.Rg8+ Kd7 34.Rxc8 Kxc8 35.Qg8+ Kb7 {!} 36.Kh1 Qh6 37.Qg1 Nxd3 38.cxd3 Rxh2+ 1-0

(38...Rxh2+ 39.Qxh2 Qxc1+ 40.Kg2 Qd2+ 41.Kg1 Qxh2+ 42.Kxh2 Kc6)


Please don't interpret this too rigidly: a bishop is bad only if it lacks scope.

bad bishop?

Botvinnik-Kann, 1939

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Qa5 7. Bd2 Ne4 8. Qc2 Nxd2 9. Nxd2 d6 10. e3 e5 11. dxe5 dxe5 12. Bd3 h6 13. O-O O-O 14. f4 Nd7 15. f5 Nf6 16. Ne4 Qd8 17. Nxf6+ Qxf6 18. Be4 Rb8 19. Rad1 b6 20. h3 Ba6 21. Bd5 b5 22. cxb5 Rxb5 23. c4 Rb6 24. Rb1 Rd8 25. Rxb6 axb6 26. e4 Bc8



White's theoretically 'bad' bishop dominates the board and gives White a winning game. It is Black's bishop that is stuck behind White's pawns on white squares!

27. Qa4 Bd7 28. Qa7 Be8 29. Rb1 Rd6 30. a4 Kh7 31. a5 bxa5 32. Qxa5 Ra6 33. Qxc5 Ra2 34. Qe3 Qa6 35. Rb8 Qa4 36. Kh2 Ra3 37. Qc5 Ra2 38. Ra8 Qxa8 39. Bxa8 Rxa8 40. Qxe5 Bc6 41. Qc7 1-0


The two bishops

"Deux fous gagnent toujours, mais trois fous, non!"
-- Alexander Alekhin, on the advantage of the Two Bishops at amateur level

  The bishop is a longer-range piece than the knight. This advantage is sometimes called the minor exchange, for, all else being equal, the bishop will be a better piece than the knight. Two bishops, provided they can make use of their better range and aren't blocked by pawns, are rather better than two knights or a knight and a bishop, particularly in fully open positions. (Think how easy it is to mate with the two bishops. Have you ever tried to mate with two knights?)


Capablanca advised rehearsing the mate with the two Bishops, not because it was particularly likely to occur in practice, but to experience directly the power of two Bishops cooperating in an open position.

  So in OPEN positions, the two bishops are boss.

  In CLOSED positions, the knights may be better.

  In SEMI-OPEN positions. well...

  The side with the two bishops must not let the knight(s) settle on any outposts, and can create trouble on both sides of the board at once when the poor knights will be hard-put to keep up. It's generally though that the two bishops are good enought to win. Paulsen made use of this in the middle 1800s, but the technique was perfected and publicised by Steinitz.

  Let's have a look at these in turn.

bishops: two bishops in ending

This was my introduction to the power of the two bishops.

Ditmas,H - Regis,D (March, 1979)

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. Ngf3 cxd4 6. Bc4 Qd6 7. O-O Nc6 8. Nb3 Nf6 9. Nbxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 a6 11. b3 Qc7 12. Bb2 Bd6 13. h3 O-O 14. Bd3 e5 15. Nf5 e4 16. Nxd6

  White sensibly takes the two bishops.

16...Qxd6 17. Be2 Qe7 18. c4 Rd8 19. Qc1 Bf5 20. Qf4



Black must make a concession - in the event, I buried the bishop on g6. White's two bishops and queen's side majority win the game.

20... Bg6 21. Rfd1 Rxd1+ 22. Rxd1 Rd8 23. Qe5 Re8 24. Qxe7 Rxe7 25. b4 Rd7 26. Rxd7 Nxd7 27. c5 Kf8 28. c6 bxc6 29. Bxa6 f6 30. Bd4 Bf7 31. a4 Bb3 32. a5





  It's worth dwelling on this for a moment. Material is equal, and Black can think about getting his own majority moving, but its all too late. The two bishops cover all the key squares, and Black can hardly stop the advance of the a-pawn.


bishops: two bishops in open middlegame

This is the other easy case: the bishops usually chop up the opposition.

Nunn - Tal (Wijk Ann Zee, 1982)

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 a6 6. g3 Qc7 7. Bg2 Nf6 8. O-O h6 9. Nb3 Be7 10. a4 d6 11. f4 O-O 12. g4 Bd7 13. h4 b5 14. g5 Nh7 15. Be3 b4 16. Ne2 d5 17. exd5 exd5 18. Qxd5 Rac8 19. a5 Nb8 20. Ned4 Bg4 21. Rae1 Rfd8 22. Qe4 Re8 23. Bf2 Bd7 24. Qd5 Qd6



Here is an instructive moment from the Nunn/Griffiths book. White has many advantages, including an extra pawn.

25. Nf5!

"White is still in no hurry to exchange queens: he permits his opponent the option of 25...Bxf5 26 Qxf5 instead of the game continuation. EITHER WAY HIS BISHOP-PAIR WILL DOMINATE THE BOARD. But he is also returning the extra pawn: possibly as instructive a piece of Grandmaster thinking as anything that has gone previously. The point is not that the variations are difficult to calculate, but that Nunn is thinking boldly; dynamically. Time and again we see how his thinking is the reverse of a weaker player. It is not, 'If I play Nf5 I shall lose a pawn; I will only do that as a last resort'; but rather, 'I can simplify the position by Nf5 and continue to generate powerful threats; it would be a miracle if Black could get away with ...Rxc2"

25...Qxd5 26. Nxe7+ Rxe7 27. Bxd5 Rxe1 28. Rxe1 Rxc2 29. Re7

  It's all starting to clear up nicely.

29...Bc6 30. Bxf7+ Kf8 31. Rc7 hxg5 32. Bc5+ 1-0


bishops: two bishops in a semi-open or closed middlegame

This is not so easy. The side with the two bishops must open lines, but if it were easily possible, the Nimzo-Indian would not be a viable defence..

  Here are two fine examples where the Bishops win, one more open, one more closed.

Bronstein D - Golombek H (Moscow) [E43] 1956

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 b6 5. e3 Bb7 6. Bd3 Ne4 7. O-O Bxc3 8. bxc3 O-O 9. Ne1 f5 10. f3 Nf6 11. a4 Nc6 12. e4 fxe4 13. fxe4 e5 14. Bg5 Qe7 15. Nc2 Qd6



Black is doing his best to get White to play d4-d5, when as well gaining the square c5, Black would expect the blocked pawn formation to favour the Knights. White finds an interesting way of resisting the encouragement.

16. Bh4 Rae8 17. Bg3 Qe7 18. Ne3 d6 [18... exd4 19. Nf5] 19. Bh4 Nd8 20. Nd5



This leap into the (still) empty d5 point provokes Black into giving up the remaining Bishop. It should not be supposed that Golombek was unaware of the dangers in this, but considered it relatively best, given the pressure on f6. 20... Bxd5 21. cxd5 c6 22. Qb3 Kh8 23. Rae1 h6 24. Qa3 g5 25. Bg3 Nd7 26. dxc6 Nxc6 27. Bb5



After the pins on the King's-side have finally been disposed of, White starts up in the same trade on the Queen's-side!

27... Rxf1+ 28. Rxf1 Ncb8

  this decentralising move doesn't look right

29. Bc4 Rf8



Black's position now falls apart

30. Rxf8+ Qxf8 31. dxe5 Nc5 32. exd6 Nxe4

[Have the Knights finally secured a defence?]

33. d7 ! 33... Nc5

[33... Qxa3 34. d8=Q+ Kg7 35. Qg8+ Kf6 36. Qf7#]

34. Be5+ Kh7 35. Bd3+



Golombek comments that these weren't mere Bishops, but Archbishops! 1-0


Rubinstein - Nimzovitch (Berlin, 1928)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d6 5. e3 c5 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. Nge2 e5 8. d5 Bxc3+

  Normally in the Nimzo-Indian Defence, Black hopes to double the c-pawns to give a target for attack in the event that White disappears off to the King's side. Not here, so Black can only hope to gum up the game for his knights.

9. Qxc3 Ne7 10. Qc2 O-O 11. O-O Ng6 12. Ng3 Re8 13. f3 Bd7 14. Bd2 a6 15. h3 b5 16. b3 Qb6 17. Kh2 a5 18. Rab1 b4



White's bishops are well-placed for attack and defence. The knights don't seem to know where to go next to be useful.

  White' s next move forces open line for the bishops.

19. f4 exf4 20. exf4 Nf8 21. Bc1 Qd8 22. Qf2 a4 23. Bb2 Ng6 24. Rbd1 axb3 25. axb3 Ra7 26. Rde1 Rxe1 27. Rxe1 Nf8




White's next move may look odd, but the Nf6 is Black's best defensive piece. White can take it off, then bring his knoght into play on e4. Black will be forced to make entry points for White.

28. Bxf6 Qxf6 29. Ne4 Qh6 30. f5 Ra3 31. Rb1 Ra6 32. g4 f6 33. Kg3 Bc8 34. Re1 Bb7 35. Qe2 Nd7




White's forces are ideally placed, and Black's are scattered. The following combinational finish should come as no surprise.

36. Nxd6 Rxd6 37. Qe8+ Nf8 38. Re7 g6 39. Qf7+ Kh8 40. Re8 Rd8 41. Qxf6+ Kg8 42. Qe6+ Kg7 43. f6+ 1-0


the two bishops in a semi-open endgame

And this is the hardest case, which Paulsen and Steinitz perfected. The side with the two bishops must deny the knights any stable outposts while advancing on both sides of the board.

[Event "Two Bishops?"][Site ""][Date "1873.??.??"][Round "?"]
[White "Rosenthal"][Black "Steinitz "][Result "0-1"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 g6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nge7 7.Bc4 d6 8.O-O O-O 9.f4 Na5 10.Bd3 d5 11.exd5 Nxd5 12.Nxd5 Qxd5 13.c3 Rd8 14.Qc2 Nc4 15.Bxc4 Qxc4 16.Qf2 c5 17.Nf3 b6 18.Ne5 Qe6 19.Qf3 Ba6 20.Rfe1 f6 21.Ng4 h5 22.Nf2 Qf7

  The poor knight isn't really sparkling.



23.f5 g5 24.Rad1 Bb7 25.Qg3 Rd5 26.Rxd5 Qxd5 27.Rd1 Qxf5 28.Qc7 Bd5 29.b3 Re8 30.c4 Bf7 31.Bc1 Re2 32.Rf1 Qc2 33.Qg3 Qxa2 0-1



1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 O-O 8.O-O Ne7 9.Qd2 d5 10.exd5 Nexd5 11.Nxd5 Qxd5 12.Be2 Ng4 13.Bxg4 Bxg4 14.Nb3 Qxd2 15.Nxd2 Rad8 16.c3 Rfe8 17.Nb3 b6 18.h3 Be6 19.Rfd1 c5

  (squashing White's knight out of the game)



20.Bg5 f6 21.Bf4 Kf7 22.f3 g5 23.Rxd8 Rxd8 24.Be3 h6 25.Re1 f5 26.f4 Bf6 27.g3 a5 28.Nc1 a4 29.a3 Bc4 30.Kf2 gxf4 31.Bxf4 Bg5 32.Bxg5 hxg5 33.Ke3 Kf6 34.h4 gxh4 35.gxh4 Re8+ 36.Kf2 Rxe1 37.Kxe1 Ke5 38.Ne2 Bxe2 39.Kxe2 Kf4 40.c4 Kg4 41.Ke3 f4+ {!} 42.Ke4 f3 43.Ke3 Kg3 {0-1 }