Friday, December 30, 2005

Bishops versus Knights (a general assessment)

While assessed as equals throughout the chess match, there are many situations where a bishop can dominate a knight. The key is placement of either piece. The knight’s principal disadvantage is that at the absolute most it has only 8 squares it can move to (even in the middle of the board). In the worst case scenario (a corner like h8) it has only two! A bishop on the other hand, in the center of the board has 13 squares it can move to; and even in the worst of situations (again h8 for example) it has 7 possible moves. Based on this mobility gap, a bishop can easily render a poorly placed knight worthless. For example, take Diagram 1 (left).

The d8 knight is totally controlled by the bishop. If the knight dares to move to any of the “x-squares” it will be immediately captured.

Thus, as a simple mater, the basic chess rule once again applies – centralize your pieces and try to force your opponent’s pieces away from the center. As shown above, this can prove key in knight versus bishop scenarios.

As another introductory matter, an unusual characteristic of the knight must be noted – it cannot move and guard any of the squares it previously did. For example, imagine a knight on c6 (Diagram 2; left). It guards 8 squares (marked as “x-squares” below). Now imagine that knight moving to d4. Note how none of the new squares guarded by the knight (marked as “dot-squares” below) match the previous squares guarded.

The knight is the only piece that possesses this unique characteristic. The puzzled reader is probably thinking to themselves, why does this matter? Basically, what this phenomenon amounts to is that the knight cannot “lose a turn” or “lose a tempo.” Thus, zugswang positions haunt knights. In knight versus bishop endgames, this theme becomes especially important – since a bishop can very easily lose a tempo.

As a final obvious, but important note. One must note the speed gap between knights and bishops. Imagine a knight on the a-file. For the knight it does not matter where, but let’s assume a8. (Diagram 3; left).

No matter what route it takes, it will take exactly 4 moves to get to the h-file. (I chose two routes in the diagram above, one noted by “x-squares” the other by “dot squares.”). Now compare this with a bishop on a8. It takes just one move to get to the h-file – 1. Bh1!. Even on a less than ideal square, say a4, a bishop can get to the h-file in just two moves. 1. Bd1. 2. Bh6. The basic point is clear – a bishop is much better than a knight when there is action on both sides of the board. This will become key in knight versus bishop situations. If there is strong play on both sides the king and queen sides, a bishop is much better than a knight.

So far we have taken a pretty critical view of the knight – surely it has some advantages over the bishop! Indeed it does. Again, it is important to note the obvious. First, a knight can travel to every single square on the board. It might take it several moves to do so, but a knight can get to any white or black square. This is, of course, not so true of a bishop who is confined to just one set color of squares.

Second, again painfully obvious, the knight has the ability to jump over other pieces. Especially when pawn formations become stagnant bishops can become “bad” and virtually an oversized pawn. This will not be true with knights who can often leap over even the most fortified of pawn entanglements. As an exaggerated example, note Diagram 4 (below/left):

The poor bishop can make absolutely no headway in this position. It is locked out from virtually half the board. A knight in the same position could get through (albeit with time). The knight could get to a4 and attack the base of the white pawn chain or it could get to f8 and simply go around it.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Cheating.... what is it?

We are told to never cheat. Chess is no exception. However, internet chess players often complain loudly about how bad cheating is. The problem seems to be rampant!

However, I have always noted that there does not seem to be any major consensus about what exactly is cheating. Sure, some online chess sites will tell you that given behavior is acceptable or not, but without the internet site overseers making such rules, there does not appear to be any real real uniformity about what exactly is cheating.

And even then, the internet chess sites often seem to have conflicting rules. For example, note the rules for www. (a very reputable site) see

Q21: What is considered cheating? How to report cheaters?

A: It's quite simple -- you can not use anything besides your own brain, and you can not consult anyone besides yourself. That includes chess programs, chess engines or chess computers, your friends, colleagues etc. etc. Chess books and game/move databases are allowed (as they are permitted in correspondence chess too).

I just don't see much distinction about using a computer and a chess book. (Both seem to be incorporating ideas, themes, and stategies that are not yours). Do you agree?

I have published a brief survey below of disputable behavior I have noticed in my brief chess career. THE SURVEY IS NOW CLOSED. Here are the official results:

The question is whether the following behavior is unfair or cheating:

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tis the Season . . . .

Ho, Ho, Ho!!!! Merry Christmas!

The holidays are only a few days away. I was especially moved by this game I found today on Not only was a person asking for help, but the requester's name was no other than "Santa Drummer." See This was too good to pass up. Since it is the season for giving, I thought I would lend my analysis.

The key move comes at black's 45th move. (See Below)

griffy vs. Santa Drummer
( 12/17/2005)
(Black to move and win)

Santa Drummer plays the dubious 45... e3+? leading to a fairly easy draw. White can merely play 46. e2 and effectively prevent the e-pawn from promoting. If the Black king decides to aid its blocked h-pawn, the White king has plenty of time to snatch up the menacing e-pawn and still mosey onto h1 where White can effectively force a draw.

The far superior and game-winning move was 45... Kg4! going after the white pawn at h5 -- of course which the white king can protect. White's only logical move than is to try to take the Black e4 pawn (failure to keep an "eye on it" will result in it promoting). But this is to no avail. After the e4 pawn falls, Black will have a cleared h-pawn and a king in excellent position to keep the White king away. For example: 46.Ke3 Kxh5. 47.Kxe4 Kg4. (See below).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Endgame Observations

(Red Hot Pawn, Correspondence Game, 12/19/2005) (Black to Move)

Here is a fascinating position I came across in a correspondence game just yesterday. With black to move, all eyes are on the c3 pawn. It is two ranks away from promoting, but, alas, the white king is fast on its tracks. Still, this diversion should be enough. As the white king chases the black pawn down the c-file, the black king can ease on over to the king side and munch up white's pawns.

So here's the key issue? Should black continue to lead the white king astray (1... c2) (red below) or should black put his king in motion towards the king-side pawns (1... Ke6) (blue below)?

Believe it or not, this is a crucial decision for black. One wins the game, the other loses it!

The right move is 1... Ke6!. This is best examined by the situation of the pieces after the white king captures the c-pawn (this is a guaranteed move--without such a move black's pawn would queen and white would easily be lost).

The two diagrams above tell the whole story. In both, white's king has just captured black's c-pawn (albeit at two totally different locations). The key is to notice how quickly the black king in each can get to g4 the key square to attack the g3 pawn (the key of white's king-side pawn chain).

In the first diagram, the black king is three spaces away from reaching g4. In the second, black's king is just two spaces away. And this is why only 1... Ke6 wins. In both diagrams immediately above, white is three moves away from f3 or f2 (the squares the black king must get to to guard the key g3 pawn). Thus, with 1... c2 the black king will reach its key square in the same amount of moves it takes the white king to get to its key square. The g3 pawn cannot be taken. With 1... Ke6 black reaches its key square one important tempo early. Thus, the g3 pawn can be taken by black. (See below).

AFTER THOUGHTS: dg, publisher of one of my absolute favorite chess blogs (, has noted that 1... Kd5 also leads to a pretty smooth victory for black. The concept is generally the same accept instead of racing the white king to the g3 pawn, black will now simply shoulder the white king away and seize up all of white's pawns. Excellent observation! I am embarassed I missed it!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

New Lap Top!

Not much chess news, but on a personal note that will have serious ramifications for this blog, my parents presented me my Christmas present early this year: a brand new laptop! I am so excited it's unbelievable. I am looking forward to hitting some of the cafes in the city and taking advantage of the city's incredible web access.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Missed Opening Opportunity

One of my colleagues (what is the "correct" word that I am searching for?) on presented a game of his for discussion. I found the opening moves especially interesting. The opening moves are 1.d4 f6 2. e4 Nh6 leaving this position:

NN vs. Hypermodernprodige (Black to Move)

The bad news is that Hypermodernprodige finds himself on the wrong end of this opening -- danger is seriously looming. The good news is that white misses the initiative and plays 3. Qh5+?. This is a fairly serious blunder. 3. Bxh6 is decisive. Black cannot retake the poisoned bishop. 3... gxh6 is met with 4. Qh6## checkmate! (See below). Thus, as of move three white should have been a full piece ahead.

New Record!

Well, I finally broke my record on FICS!

After a long (and unsual!) winning spell, I finally broke my FICs blitz record over the weekend. It was a startling game against a player a good 100 points my senior. I was playing as black and managed to gain a good, solid three-pawn lead only to lose that advantage going into the endgame. (I am still a bit peeved with myself for dropping three pawns like that). With the material equal, we were both down to a lone knight and a handful of pawns. Knight endgames can be brutal. Especially as in here when there was heavy pawn action on both sides of the board (knights are not designed for cross-board conflicts).

In the end, my opponent ended up resigning when a series of my pawns grew ever closer to promoting. I don't think it was the best of decisions on his/her part. I thought the game was pretty much drawn, but . . . a win is a win! And more importantly a new record is a new record!

(Of course, in true BlueEyedRook style, after this milestone win, I played another game against an opponent 150 points my junion only to lose because my clock ran out!)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Poll: Accept the King's Gambit?

The King's Gambit is one of the oldest, and most analyzed openings in all of chess. Despite the amount of study devoted to it, the questions remains: should it be accepted or declined?

You decide!

RESULTS: Poll close 12/26/2005

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Subtle Advantages

One of the key problems with tactics programs and tactics books is that they focus on extraordinary situations/positions. For example, the unseen bishop fork you are supposed to find attacks two rooks, or the "correct" queen sacrifice you are looking for leads to checkmate. Very rarely do such books or problems deal with much more simple and subtle maneuvers. As a point, I can't recall any such problem where the solution to a given tactics exercise was the gain of a pawn. However, such subtle moves are how games are won!

Diagram 1 (left) is an example of a position I came across the other day in one of my FICs games. It is black to move.

The key move is 1... Qc7. Notice how the Black queen is forking the unprotected c3 knight and also the h2 pawn (more specifically the queen is reinforcing black's own d6 bishop's attack on the h2 pawn). See Diagram 2 (below) with the threatened pieces in red.

One of those pieces must now fall. The logical choice is, of course, saving the knight, with 2. Bb2 probably being the best move. But after 2... Bxb2, black has a not only a solid pawn advantage, but white's king-side is seriously weakened.

In the current game, I was actually able to fully exploit this advantage to victory. The position in Diagram 3 (left) was reached about 5 or 6 moves later. It is mate in two (black to move). 1... Qh6+. 2. Kg1 Qh2#.

Now I was able to see the original fork (Diagram 1), but I remember being rather surprised that I did so. I truly believe such subtle moves are intrinsically harder to see because all my tactics exercises focus on more substantial tactics (i.e., where the award is greater than just capturing a pawn).

Monday, December 05, 2005

Chess Movie: Knights of South Bronx

Kudos for for announcing the upcoming chess movie starring Ted Danson (Cheers fame). See

The chess community will always have Searching for Bobby Fischer as the greatest movie regarding chess, but it is nice to see other directors/producers trying to incorporate the chess theme. We'll see how it works out. (The theme sounds goods, using chess to help under-privileged children, but it might be a little too "cutesy, wutesy" for my taste).

On a other chess note, one of the Biography channels is airing an episode regarding Bobby Fischer in the next couple days. I have it TIVOed, but if I get more information, I'll be sure to share it. I am curious to see if he is generally portrayed in a positive or negative light.