Bishops and their Habits

Last week, we analysed the missing bishop and the resulting weak colour complex. Today, we explore further elements of bishop strategy: creating open diagonals and the power of the bishop pair.

How can black make use of the active bishop pair?

Creating an Open Diagonal

Bishops often need open diagonals to be active and effective. However, these can be difficult to find or manoeuvre to, especially if the central pawn structure is locked. In this case, it’s important to insist on activity for your bishops by creating an open diagonal for them.

Rubinstein showed the power of blasting open a diagonal for the bishop in his victory over Alapin at Karlsbad 1911.

Marshall blasted open the centre in his victory over Schlechter at Barmen 1905, allowing his bishops to dominate the board.

The Bishop Pair

Although bishops and knights are both said to be worth three points, they are very different pieces.

Knights are short-range pieces, and can take a long time to get from one side of the board to the other. Bishops, in contrast, are very fast, zooming around the board at great speed.

However, knights can get to any square on the board, even if it takes a while, while bishops are forever confined to one specific colour.

When one side has both bishops remaining against two knights or a bishop and knight, the bishops keep their advantage of speed, but the disadvantage of being stuck on one colour is reduced, as there is a bishop for both the light and dark squares.

This advantage is known as having the bishop pair.

Maroczy demonstrated the power of the active bishop pair in his victory against von Popiel at Monte Carlo 1902.

The following year at the next edition of the same event, Maroczy produced another example of the strength of the bishop pair on the open board in his game against Mason.

Knowing how and when to blast open diagonals and exploiting the power of the bishop pair are key elements of bishop strategy. Mastering them will make anyone a stronger player.

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