Friday, 1 June 2007

The Hitchhikers Guide to Chess

Here's a question for you. Just answer quickly with your gut feeling: Bishop v Knight - which is stronger?

Of course, the standard answer to this question always begins with "It depends on...", but is there really an ultimate answer? There is even a book devoted to just this topic (if anyone has read it, please let me know what you think of it). But has anyone ever surveyed chess players with this question to find out what they think?

Mikhail Chigorin had a distinct preference for knights. Bobby Fischer was a fan of the bishop. What is your preference? What do you feel comfortable with?

I think I've discovered that I'm definitely a fan of the bishop. I recently reached the diagrammed position in a practice game with my Palm Chess Hiarcs (I'm Black, to move). I had just exchanged rooks 25...Rb8xRb3 26. c2xRb3 assuming that I was better in the endgame because I have a bishop against a knight. I proceeded to lose the endgame quite badly!

I would be interested to hear other players thoughts on the position. Would you rather be White or Black and how should the game continue?

If computer software could be designed to analyse all possible chess positions and assign values to the minor pieces, after millions of years of analysis what would it discover? If it produced an answer that bishops are worth 3.51 pawns and knights are worth 3.49 pawns we would have an answer, but would we be any the wiser?

Perhaps you have to understand the question to understand the answer. Like the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy where the answer to the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything was discovered to be 42. You have to know what the real question is to understand the answer.

1 comment:

Chess Thinker said...

I am surely a Bishop person. (since you said 'it depends' doesn't cut it). In this position, I think the Knight is stronger. First, it can take your pawn on the a-file in a move or two. So I would look at ways to counter that. Second, the Bishop has to move around the board freely, so I would probably give check so that it can start moving around the a, b, c file diagonals (that was hard to describe!) to prevent the pawns from queening/promoting. The next thing would be to bring my King over to support the Bishop in preventing the pawns from promoting. I see that White can use the pawn/passed pawn on the Queenside as a decoy. Thus, as you are getting busy trying to prevent the pawns from promoting, his King can attack your Kingside pawns and promote on that side. Tough game.