The Chess Bishop – Clerical Chaos on the Chessboard!

The chess bishop only moves on a diagonal but can move backward and forward. A chess bishop can move across any number of unoccupied squares. In chess, bishops are restricted to moving only on either the light or dark squares. If you have both bishops, it is an advantage.

chess pieces the bishop

In chess, the bishop can create a lot of chaos. It can place immense pressure on your opponent’s position.

The potential to create chaos can make a fianchettoed chess bishop stronger than a rook!

Although the chess bishop is called a minor piece, but that is no reason to take it lightly.

Your minor piece can have a major impact on the outcome of the game. Especially if you have the bishop pair.

The chess bishop can be a crucial defender and devastating attacker.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Where the Bishop Starts in Chess

The two chess bishops start the game to the right of the king and the left of the queen.

For white, the light-squared chess bishop stands next to the king (on the f1 square). The dark-squared chess bishop stands next to the queen (on the c1 square).

The reverse is true for black. The dark-squared chess bishop stands next to the king (on the f8 square). The light-squared chess bishop stands next to the queen (on the c8 square).

starting position of a chess game
Starting position of a chess game

How the Chess Bishop Moves

How the chess bishop moves
How the chess bishop moves

In chess, bishops are restricted to squares of their starting color. They only move on a diagonal, but they can move backward and forward.

A chess bishop can move across any number of unoccupied squares.

Bishops are restricted to moving only on either the light or dark squares. If you have both chess bishops or the bishop pair it is an advantage.

The Fianchettoed Bishop

When white develops a bishop to b2 or g2, it is fianchettoed. For black, the fianchettoed chess bishop gets developed on the b7 or g7 square.

double fianchetto sipke ernst
Here white is playing a double-fianchetto with his bishops

This places the chess bishop on the longest diagonals on the chessboard, the a1-h8 diagonal or h1-a8 diagonal.

The fianchettoed chess bishop is both an attacking piece and a key defender. 

Your bishop protects the squares in front of the king. When you fianchetto a chess bishop, be careful about these weak squares.

Sicilian Dragon: Latest Trends In The Yugoslav Attack
Sicilian Dragon: the bishop on g7 is a crucial piece in many of Black’s attacking plans.

Often capturing the rook on a8 is not worth the material gain, especially if black has a light-squared bishop.

In the Sicilian Defense Dragon, black can meet Bh6 with Bh8. Saving the bishop is preferable even at the cost of the exchange.

The black fianchettoed chess bishop can be extremely dangerous if white castled queenside.

Good and Bad Chess Bishops

A chess bishop restricted by its own pawns is a bad bishop.

For example, in the French Defense, black places pawns on e6 and d5. They block the light-squared bishop and make it a bad chess bishop.

The pawns on e6 and d5 do not imprison the dark square chess bishop. This bishop is known as a good bishop.

french defense marin advance
The pawns on e6 and d5 block Black’s light-squared bishop.

One strategy to use against a bad bishop is to exchange the other minor pieces. This leaves you with an active chess piece against the imprisoned bishop.

Whenever you find yourself stuck with a bad bishop, in general, it is a good idea to exchange it. Especially if you do not have any pawn breaks to open the position.

In the French Defense, black relies on the c5 and f6 pawn-breaks to free his light-squared bishop.

french defense advance variation
Black has played the c5 pawn break. Later he will play the f6 break to challenge the pawn on e5.

The move f6 gives black the option of developing his bad bishop. He can play …Bd7, …Be8, and …Bg6 or ..Bh5.

Bishop in Chess Openings

Knights before bishops in chess openings is some typical opening advice.

Because the knight can jump over a piece, it can get developed on the first move. You cannot develop your bishop without moving a pawn first.

Another reason for developing knights first is to keep your options open. Instead of playing …Bf5 black might want to pin the knight on f3 with …Bg4.

White can choose between two openings after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6. This depends on where the light-square chess bishop gets developed.

1.e4 opening position
In this position the opening played depends on how White develops the bishop from f1.

If white plays 3.Bc4, the chess opening is the Italian Game. When white chooses 3.Bb5, it is the Ruy Lopez chess opening.

Notice white develops his light-squared bishop before playing d3. Playing d3 first would make it a bad bishop.

In both these openings, white will advance either the c-pawn or the a-pawn. Sometimes he advances both.

This creates a safe square for the bishop. Black can attack the bishop on c4 with …Na5 or …a6 and …b5.

Both bishops are worth the same material value. In many openings, one bishop is more valuable than the other.

Bishops Thrive On Long Diagonals

The Nimzovitch Larsen Attack begins 1.b3. The dark-squared bishop gets fianchettoed on b2.

only a good bishop can be sacrificed

White continues with e3, and if black develops a knight to c6, white will play Bb5. White does not mind exchanging his light-squared bishop. 

He wants to keep the dark-squared bishop on b2. This bishop aims at the black king after it castles on the kingside. 

The bishop also supports the center.

nimzovitch larsen opening
Nimzovitch Larsen Opening

Knowing the roles your pieces play is a crucial part of studying the opening. Learning a chess opening is a lot more than memorizing variations.

One of the most well-known chess opening where the bishop plays a starring role is the Ruy Lopez. Learn more about this classical opening in our complete guide.

The Bishop in Chess Middlegames

The fianchetto is a popular way to develop the bishop in the opening and can be a powerful middlegame piece.

However, you need to know how to get the best out of your minor pieces and understand how to use them.

The following video shows how a good knight can dominate a bad bishop:

However, it is important not to block the long diagonal. Especially not with your pawns.

There are exceptions to this rule, but you make sure you know how to play this structure.

Black often has a pawn on e5 in Kings Indian Defense. Freeing up his bishop on g7 is vital.

Black is prepared to sacrifice the e-pawn. He does this playing …Nh5 and …Nf4. White often has a bishop and a queen controlling the f4-square. 

This allows white to capture twice and win the pawn.

the future belongs to he who has the bishops - Siegbert Tarrasch

The compensation black gets in opening the long diagonal is worth a lot more than the pawn he sacrificed.

kid samisch pawn sac f4
Black doesn’t mind if white captures twice on f4 and wins a pawn. Opening the long diagonal is worth sacrificing a pawn because the bishop on g7 will become a powerful piece.

Playing Re1 and meeting …Bh3 with Bh1 stops black from forcing the exchange of your bishop on g2. Despite how odd it looks, the bishop remains a powerful piece on h1.

Here is an excellent example of how to play with the white pieces.

GM Le Quang Liem shows us how to keep our strong bishop using the above maneuver. He also demonstrates how to take advantage of weak squares.

The dark squares around the black king became weak after the exchange of bishops.

The Bishop in Chess Endgames

Bishops can only move and attack pieces on squares of the same color. This means endgames with opposite-colored bishops are likely to end in a draw.

If your opponent has a light-squared bishop, you will place your pawns on dark squares. Now they cannot get attacked by the bishop.

Placing his pawns on light squares will stop your dark-squared bishop from attacking them.

Another crucial element in bishop endgames is the king and bishop cannot deliver checkmate. You need a king and two bishops.

 In the following position, white takes advantage of this to save the endgame.

bishops opposite color drawn endgame
White can draw the game by playing Bc3 and meet …d4 with Bxd4. After …exd4 Kxd4 the game is a draw because Black doesn’t have enough material to checkmate White.

Despite the connected passed pawns, the opposite-colored bishops mean a draw. White saves the game by playing Bc3, inviting the fork after d4 check!

White will play Bxd4. After …exd4 Kxd4 black has insufficient material to checkmate.

When there are bishops of the same color, pawn placement is also crucial.

In this video, IM Anna Rudolf demonstrates how vital it is. You can learn a lot more about endgame play from Anna’s Essential Endgame Course

In Conclusion

Your bishops can unleash considerable confusion in your opponent’s position.

The chess bishop can paralyze an opponent by controlling crucial diagonals and restricting the enemy king’s escape options.

Taking the time to gain an in-depth understanding of how to get the most from your bishops is certain to serve you well.

When you understand how your pieces work together you can create considerable chaos on the chessboard. Creating chaos is always a lot of fun!

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