The Bishop-1

Part 1 of 6

I.    Basic Moving and Capturing.The Bishop is one of the two linear pieces, however it neither moves right or left horizontally in ranks, nor forward or backward vertically in files. A Bishop always moves diagonally along and onto squares of its own color. A Bishop may move forward or backward along an available diagonal line to any available open square (one not occupied by a piece or pawn of the same player), and through open squares to a square occupied by an opposing piece (except the King) or pawn thereby capturing that opposing piece or pawn. Simplified: A Bishop attacks, captures, defends, checks, and checkmates, only along the diagonal lines on squares of its own color throughout the game. The following diagram shows the basic principles of moving the Bishops.


II.    Basic Principles.Here is a practice exercise in “visualizing” and applying many of the principles from earlier tutorials. Examine the chessboard above closely. Try to identify ten basic principles that apply to the Bishops. Some should be fairly easy to identify, others likely will take some considerable thought. Try to visualize where other pieces and pawns can be located on the board and how they may affect or be affected by the Bishops. This practice exercise presumes prior review of the individual tutorials on The King, The Queen, The Rook, and The pawns, or familiarity with basic principles, rules, and concepts regarding those pieces and the pawns. The ten principles are provided below.

10 Basic Principles for Bishops:

  • Opposite colored Bishops may never capture each other.
  • Like colored Bishops can interact upon a maximum of only two squares on the board when not in the same diagonal line.
  • A Bishop has the most potential mobility when on one of the four central squares (d4, d5, e4, and e5) on the chessboard.
  • A Bishop located on a square other than a1, h1, a8 & h8, may potentially move, or move and capture, along two intersecting diagonal lines, with one of the diagonal lines shortening in length (i.e., reducing in the number of squares available for Bishop to control, defend, and attack) as the Bishop moves toward the sides and corners of the board.
  • A Bishop located in either the a or h file in either rank 1 or 8 (squares: a1, a8, h1, and h8) is always restricted to moving, or moving and capturing, along only one diagonal line. However, these long diagonals (from a1 to h8, and a8 to h1) are generally powerful lines for a Bishop to be located in as it provides the Bishop the ability to provide protection and defense for central pawns, and can provide a crushing battering ram threat pointed at a castled King. However, Bishops located on the squares a1, a8, h1, & h8, also are in the most restricted positions for the Bishop’s potential mobility. You should note the word “potential” because during a game, a Bishop may become so blocked in that it’s “actual” mobility is even less than its most restricted potential mobility.
  • Bishops located in the same diagonal line can create a Bishop standoff (or face-off) of dueling Bishops when there are empty squares between them and thus they are attacking each other.
  • A Bishop can never attack or capture an opposing piece or pawn which is on a square of a different color, and thus also can never check the opposing King so long as it is on a square of a different color.
  • A Bishop’s control of a diagonal line or diagonal lines can bear down during play to:
  • Prevent a King from castling to the Kingside.
  • Threaten the capture or engage in actual capture of pieces and pawns if they land on squares in the diagonal line(s) controlled by the Bishop.
  • Restrict or assist in restricting the movement and advancement and/or engage in capturing of opposing pieces and pawns, especially an outside (remote) isolated pawn or an advanced passed pawn threatening to do pawn promotion on a square with the same color as the Bishop which has control over the diagonal line at the end of which is the square to which the pawn must advance to promote. The corollary to this principle is that if a passed pawn will promote on a square of a different color than the Bishop, it is usually very difficult and impossible under some circumstances to stop the promotion.
  • Assist in entrapping and entombing opposing pieces and/or pawns to immobilize them.
  • Working together and/or other pieces and/or pawns to assist in creating mating patterns and mating nets for checkmating the opposing King.
  • Two opposite colored Bishops working together (and if the opposing player has only a Bishop or no Bishops on the board, this is called a Bishop Pair) significantly increase their powers when combined and can work well together to entrap and entomb opposing pieces, for effectuating the capture of opposing pieces and pawns, and when working with their King against a lone opposing King in an endgame can checkmate the opposing King through their combined powers.
  • Instead of, or in addition to, a Bishop Pair…a player might have Doubled Bishops (two Bishops on the same color squares) as a result of pawn promotion. Doubled Bishops without being coupled with an opposite colored Bishop are generally much weaker in an endgame than a Bishop Pair, and it is highly unusual to see Doubled Bishops for that good reason.

The below diagrams of Bishop Pairs are adapted from the board above. The first diagram shows Black’s Bishops as a Bishop Pair with their King against White’s lone King. The second diagram then shows White’s Bishop Pair without Black’s Bishops on the board, with their King against Black’s lone King. I have left circles on the board as an aid. In examining the boards, determine which position is preferable at this point in a game…playing either Black’s or White’s with it being the opposing King’s turn to move. [hint: try to work out checkmates for both in the fewest number of moves].

The above diagrams evidence the power of a Bishop Pair, especially working with their King in an endgame against a lone King. The Bishop Pair works extremely well with their King against a lone King. Each Bishop’s power to control its diagonal lines, and to restrict the movement of the opposing King, work hand-in-hand with the King and each other augmenting their individual relative powers. The combination of these pieces with the Bishops being highly mobile and complimentary in their powers, easily can begin wrapping an entrapment around the opposing King and to create a matting pattern and mating net for checkmating the opposing King. The Bishop Pair is considered the optimal combination of minor pieces to have with a King in an endgame.Challenge Question 1: Is it possible that a Bishop may be completely blocked in by other pieces and/or pawns on the chessboard so that it cannot move, or move and capture?


III.    Additional Principles & Concepts.The primary lines for a player to develop his or her Bishops usually is through the central diagonal lines flowing through the squares in front of the Queens and Kings (d2, ed, d7, and e7). Opening these squares by pawn advances so as to be able to develop the Bishops centrally is usually one of the primary goals in openings. Generally, it is best to avoid moves and pawn advances and/or captures that provide block vertical advancing of the pawns through these diagonals negating early development of Bishops toward the center of the board. However, some openings are designed to result in an early blockade of a Bishop because the player seeks to develop possible attacking lines on a side of the board while also providing early concentrated attacking on the opposing player’s central pawns. The French Defense is an example of this type of opening.

Knights are often developed in most openings to c3 and/or f3 squares for White and c6 and/or f6 for Black (e.g. the Four Knights opening and its variations, and the Two Knights opening and its variations). However if pawns have been advanced from corresponding squares in front of the Queen and King (d2 and e2 for White, and d7 and 37 for Black), this opens the possibility of pins by opposing Bishops on a player’s Knights located on these squares (pins as to the Queen and King), and also provides significant blocks against developing the Bishops along the central diagonals through the squares in front of the Queen and King. There is usually adequate early compensation that may be developed for blockading in of Bishops in these types of openings.

Bishops can be used to block an opposing King from castling by being positioned in an open diagonal leading to a square on the back rank of the opposing player through which the opposing King must move in order to castle. This can be done for either a Kingside castle or a Queenside castle, although more frequently utilized to prevent a Kingside castle. The blockade against castling in this situation is due to one of the castling rules: the prohibition that a King cannot castle by moving through a square upon which it would be in check if the King moved to that square.