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Should You Sacrifice A Bishop For A Knight? (Explained!)

During the trading of pieces, you have to take decisions very carefully. Even the slightest mistake can lead to major consequences. Among all the exchanges, most often you might get confused about is, should you sacrifice a bishop for a knight?

It is favorable to sacrifice a bishop for a knight in closed positions because knights can jump over the other pieces. However, it is good to sacrifice a knight for a bishop in open positions, because a bishop is a long-range piece, so it works well in open positions as well as in endgames.

Apart from these, there are many things you need to consider while trading the pieces. According to the chess pieces relative value, a bishop and a knight are of roughly the same worth – 3 points and this is the fact that creates all sorts of confusion.

When exchanges are imbalanced, it is easier to make decisions. But when both the pieces that are to be exchanged are, nearly of equal points like here, we are forced to think, right?

But don’t worry! Because in this article I will discuss with you, each and every aspect of whether to exchange knight or bishop, when, in which circumstances along with giving you the tips in the end.

So keep scrolling till the end! Let’s start!

Why Should You Sacrifice A Bishop For A Knight?

Chess players prefer to sacrifice bishop and keep knights because of the following reasons:

  • The movement of the bishop is confined to a single colored square.
  • If the diagonals of the bishop are blocked then it becomes inactive.
  • It becomes vulnerable by the opponent’s pawns during openings.
  • Also, the movement of bishops is very predictable.

So, these are some of the reasons why chess players prefer to keep the knight and exchange their bishops.

But one thing you need to make sure that there are no hard and fast rules for exchanging pieces.

Depending upon the situation you will have to act accordingly. In some cases, it is good to exchange bishops and in other, knights.

Further, I’m going to discuss with you some of the situations that will give you an idea about this exchanging and trading of pieces. Rest depends on practice and how you apply the knowledge. So without further ado, let’s begin!

When Should You Sacrifice A Bishop For A Knight?

You should sacrifice a bishop for a knight in the following circumstances:

In closed positions

A closed position simply means when the movement of pieces is blocked by the pawns especially in the center of the board.

In that case, you can imagine how difficult and threatening it would be for the bishop to move, right? But for knights, no problem!

It could just hop around over the other pieces and target the desired square.

Also Read: How Does The Bishop Move In Chess?

So if you think that the game is in a closed position then it is better to exchange your bishop and keep your knights and be ready to attack the opponent.

For forking the opponent

A knight can fork and that is by attacking multiple pieces simultaneously. Right?

Now, if you prefer to attack your opponent by forking the opponent’s pieces then it would be good for you to keep the knight and sacrifice the bishop.

Although bishops can also fork, they are not so effective as knights and occurs less often than knights forking the other pieces in chess.

To use it with the queen

A bishop is more preferred if you already have a queen. Steven Mayer, the author of the bookBishop Versus Knight“, highlights this point that knights and queen work well and give more threats to your opponent compared to the queen with bishops.

To take the benefit of Knight’s unique movement

A knight is different from the rest of the pieces of the chessboard. This is because the knight moves in a typical L-shape movement. It can jump over the other pieces which no other pieces can and this makes the knight so unique.

If placed in the center it can control eight squares in all directions. It is a very good short-range piece. Because of this property of knights, it is preferred to develop knights before bishops during the openings.

Due to this unique property of knights, sometimes your opponent might not see the threat from your knight and it will give you a great advantage.

When You Should Not Sacrifice A Bishop For A Knight?

In open positions

Open position means when there is enough space in the center portion of the board. Not many pawns are clustering in the center. So, in this situation, a bishop is very useful because of its capability of attacking long-range.

You can surprise your opponent by controlling a square from a very long distance. If you are able to place the bishop on the right square then you can get major tactical advantage.

For pinning the opponent

Pinning in chess is of many types and out of all the chess pieces only queens, rooks, and bishops have the ability to pin a certain piece.

In simple words, a pin means you threaten your opponent’s piece in such a way that if the opponent moves that piece then it will expose a more valuable piece.

Also Read: Can A Pinned Piece Give Check?

And since a more valuable piece gets exposed so you cannot move the pinned piece. Therefore it is easier to attack and pressurize your opponent by pinning using your bishop.

Considering the endgame benefit of Bishop

Note that during the endgames when most of the pieces are exchanged it is easier for the bishop to move on the chessboard and attack your opponent’s pieces.

Just think for reaching from one end of the board to the other, knight would need to hop around over multiple squares.

While a bishop can do the same thing in just one or two moves because it is a long range piece.

Moreover, do you know that two bishops can deliver checkmate against a lone king while two knights can’t! And this is the reason you should prefer to keep your bishop safe till the endgame.

Tips To Consider While Trading knights and bishops

Consider you playing style

If you are more comfortable using knights to attack your opponent by forking or surprising attack then don’t exchange it.

On the other hand, If you are more comfortable with bishops, using its capability as a long-range layer, and also want to utilize its power during the endgames then don’t exchange it.

Evaluate the position

As discussed earlier, in some situations it is worth sacrificing bishops while in other it is worth sacrificing knights.

The key takeaway is to evaluate the positions of the board and ask yourself whether exchanging any piece will give you some advantage over your opponent.

Think deeply, you might find even the slightest one.

I know it is hard to do that. And it is therefore it is easy to learn chess but to master it takes time.

But don’t get demotivated, just play and gain experience from your mistakes. This way eventually you will be able to make better decisions while trading and exchanging pieces.

Good Bishop, Bad Bishop And Bishop Pair

Whenever you do exchange the major thing you see is how much benefit or advantage you get by exchanging that piece, even the slightest, right?

Supporting this point, you should also think about good bishop, bad bishop and bishop pair.

When most of your centre pawns are on light or dark coloured squares then the bishop on that respective coloured square is known as bad bishop.

So if your pawns are on light coloured square then your bishop on light coloured square is known as a bad bishop. While the bishop on dark coloured squares is known as a good bishop.

Now from the motive of gaining advantage, it is good to sacrifice a bad bishop for your opponent’s good one or even in place of your opponent’s knight.

Simply because the bad bishop is almost inactive unless you move away your pawns.

Now another thing is about the bishop pair. A bishop pair advantage means you having both the bishops while your opponent having only one.

Thus you attack those squares of your opponent’s for which it doesn’t have the bishop.

Summing Up

So ultimately It depends on the style you play, what suits you and the position of the pieces on the board!

Now here is a quick summary of everything we discussed so far about trading a bishop for a knight:

  • Firstly, yes, you should sacrifice a bishop for a knight but that depends on the situation.
  • We discussed the reason why chess players prefer to sacrifice the bishop instead of the knight and in which circumstances
  • Then we discussed when it is not favorable to trade bishops and the situations.
  • Finally, we talked about some tips that will help you in this kind of trading and exchange of pieces.

Note that still if directly skipped and came here, then I request you to go through the article because you will get a lot of valuable knowledge and many of your doubts will be cleared. 

So, that’s it! Hope you like reading this article. Please do share if this was helpful. Till then, Thanks!

Suggested Read: 9 Best Chess Books That Every Beginner Should Read!

Related Questions

Which is more powerful knight or bishop?

The power of a chess piece majorly depends on the board position and particular situation. The bishops are more powerful than knights in open positions and during endgames. However, the knights are more powerful in closed positions and during the openings.

Is bishop more valuable than knights?

Generally, both bishops and knights are assigned 3 points each but their real value depends on the situation of the game.

Which bishop is more valuable?

A good bishop is more valuable than a bad bishop because a bad bishop is restricted by its own pawns while a good bishop has more mobility.


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