The Power of the Two Bishops

One important strategic element is the two bishops. A player has the two bishops when you have both bishops on the board and your opponent only has one (or none). Of course, understanding when and how the two bishops can be an benefit depends on the specific position.

The bishop pair thrives in the following types of positions:

  1. In open positions, where there are either few central pawns or they are not locked.
  2. When there are pawns on both sides of the board.
  3. When the bishops have targets – typically in the form of pawns.

The two bishops struggle in the following types of positions:

  1. In closed positions, where the central pawns are locked.
  2. When the opposing knight has strong central outposts, where the main strength of the bishop over the knight – its range – is negated.
  3. When pawns are on one side of the board, where an opposing knight may be able to protect them.

Why are the two bishops often an positional advantage?

  1. The bishops can often dominate an opposing knight, particularly a misplaced one – “knights on the rim are dim.”
  2. The unopposed bishop (the one for which doesn’t have an opposite number) can attack squares and targets that cannot be easily defended since the opponent doesn’t have a bishop of the same color.
  3. The bishops can coordinate and cover large zones of squares on both sides of the board. This is particularly true in the endgame, where there are fewer pieces and pawns on the board.

The following video is a game that I commented on where Black – Greek GM Efstratios Grivas – expertly handles the two bishops.

Bryan Castro