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.