Try Loving Your Knights More Than Your Bishops

The imbalance between the Knight and the Bishop, which traditionally are taught as having material values of 3 each, is one of the most fascinating in the game of chess. There are times when the Bishop is stronger, especially when you have the Bishop pair against a Bishop and Knight or against the Knight pair, but there are also times when the Knight is stronger, or even the Knight pair against a Bishop pair.

In my more recent style of play, I have often chosen to try to make the most use of my Bishops, but I believe that it is fun, and beneficial to long-term chess improvement, to try out loving your Knights more than your Bishops. I have had phases in my chess life in which I was particularly fond of my Knights. I always learned quite a lot about chess when trying my best to make my Knights happy. I thought I’d share three games of mine from 30-31 years ago, when I was a young 13-14 year old. At that time in my life, I so disliked the task of memorizing mysterious mainstream opening theory that I sought refuge in side lines where I could simply get a reasonable middlegame with clear strategic ideas. For example, as White against the Sicilian Defense, I liked exchanging my Bishops for Knights in return for quick development and good central control and maneuvering possibilities. These youthful games were not very high-level games (I was rated around USCF 1900 at the time), but show how effective it can be to simply play chess with a clear theme in mind (in this case, loving my Knights).

Three examples of Knight play

The first game features White exchanging both Bishops for Knights and achieving a dominating position.

The second game features Black’s Bishops being poorly placed during a White buildup on the King side.

The third game features a slow, positional struggle in which Black was OK until the mistake of forcing White to give up his remaining Bishop for Black’s remaining Knight: the two Knights eventually proved better than the two Bishops, given the structure of the position.

The complete games

Franklin Chen

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About Franklin Chen

Franklin Chen is a United States Chess Federation National Master. Outside his work as a software developer, he also teaches chess and is a member of the Pittsburgh Chess Club in Pennsylvania, USA. He began playing in chess tournaments at age 10 when his father started playing in them himself but retired after five years, taking two decades off until returning to chess as an adult at age 35 in order to continue improving where he left off. He won his first adult chess tournaments including the 2006 PA State Game/29 and Action Chess Championships, and finally achieved the US National Master title at age 45. He is dedicated to the process of continual improvement, and is fascinated by the practical psychology and philosophy of human competition and personal self-mastery. Franklin has a blog about software development, The Conscientious Programmer and a personal blog where he writes about everything else, including his recent journey as an adult improver in playing music.