Bishops vs Knights in Chess – Which is better?

Bishops and knights are two minor pieces in the chess game. Most beginners have common doubts about knights and bishops; which one is better?

In general, Bishops are more powerful than knights in open positions and the endgames whereas knights are more powerful than bishops in closed and semi-closed positions. Both bishops and knights are very much important in the opening.

bishop vs knight

When playing the chess opening, it is advised to develop bishops and knights before Queen and Rooks. In Italian Opening, white developed the knight to f3 and Bishop to c4. Black develops his knight to f6 and bishop to c5 square in the 2nd and 3rd move.

Knight

The knight moves two steps forward and one step sideways in any direction. The knight has a value of 3 points in a chess game.

Knight at the centre of the board has possible 8 moves. In the image shown above knight at d4 can move to all squares marked as red. If the knight is placed in dark squares, it can only jump towards light coloured squares. Similarly, if Knight is placed in light coloured squares, it only moves to dark coloured squares.

Bishop

Bishops are chess pieces that can only move diagonally. The Bishop has a value of 3 points.

There are two bishops for white and black on the chessboard, in which one of the bishops is placed in a dark coloured square, and another bishop is placed in a light coloured square. A bishop placed at the centre of the board has 13 possible moves.

Knight vs Bishop

Both knights and Bishops on the chessboard are very much important. They play a different roles in a chess game. Knight and Bishop in the chess game have the same value (3 points). Let’s look at table representation to understand their major difference.

KnightBishop
MoveMove two steps forward and one step sideways in any directionMove diagonally on the chessboard
Value3 points3 points
Squares covered in placed in the centre of the board.8 squares13 squares
Role in Open PositionsLess PowerfulMore Powerful
Role in Closed PositionsMore PowerfulLess Powerful
Role in EndgameLess powerful since knights cannot control both wingsMore powerful since Bishop can control both wings

Knights also have the ability to jump on the chessboard, but they cannot capture any pieces on its path. It can only capture any pieces placed in the final square after jumping.

Is it better to have two bishops or two knights?

It is better to have two bishops than two knights. Two bishops placed at the centre of squares cover 26 squares, whereas 2 knights placed at the centre of the chessboard only cover 16 squares. Both bishops are placed in different colours, so they never occupy the same square, but knights have the scope of controlling the same squares on the chessboard.

If the position is closed, the knights play a much better role than the bishops. In closed positions, bishops won’t be able to move freely, and the squares for bishops are limited. Since knights have the ability to jump over pieces, they can move much more freely than bishops in closed positions

The advantage for bishops over knights are:

  • Bishops are better in open positions
  • While playing both wings (side) endgames, bishops have more advantages than knights
  • The Bishop pair is better than the knight pair in open positions

It’s not always the bishop that is powerful on the chessboard. Knights are also powerful in many instances.

The advantage for knights over bishops are:

  • Knights are better in closed positions
  • If playing one wing(side) endgame, knights are better than the bishop
  • Bishop can only control the same coloured squares, whereas knights can jump to different squares

Checkmate

Checkmate with double bishops or double knights is possible. With a double knight, the player cannot force the opponent to create a checkmate. Double knight checkmates rarely happen, whereas double bishop checkmates are very common.

It is possible to create a checkmate with a bishop and knight. Both knights and bishops should be well coordinated to corner the opponent king to create a checkmate. It is impossible to create a checkmate with these pieces in the middle of the chessboard.

Should you exchange a bishop for a knight?

Bishops for knights can be exchanged if the position is closed or if knights are much more active than bishops. Exchange of bishops for knights is not advised since each exchange reduces the chance to create an attack on the opponent and in many cases, the game may divert to the drawish line.

Newbies in chess have the tendency to exchange the chess pieces, bishops and knights at the start of the game. Also, they have the tendency to exchange pawns in the game. It’s seen that beginner player like to open the positions as soon as possible, and in open positions, bishops play much better than the knight.

Professional players try to avoid unnecessary piece trades. Without many pieces on the chessboard, it will be difficult to create an attack plan towards the opponent’s side. Both bishops and knights play a very important role in creating attacks and occupying squares.

An outpost Knight is very powerful. It will get control the opponent’s territory and is capable of creating tactics and forks. The bishop has the ability to control long diagonals and can easily be brought towards the other side of the chessboard much faster.

During the Kingside attacks, the coordination of bishops and knights is too important. Fork of knights and pin of bishops is always nightmares for the opponent.

Conclusion

Both bishops and knights are very much important in a chess game. Here are the main points to be noted.

  • Bishops are powerful in open positions
  • Knights are powerful in closed positions
  • Mostly double bishops are better than double knights.

Harikrishnan A

I am an International Fide Rated player with 10+ years of experience.

Recent Posts