Thursday, July 17, 2008


by IM Igor Khmelnitsky
You could study the following material either by skipping the test and going directly to the lecture, or start by attempting to figure out on your own what is going on in each of the positions I will be talking about and then proceed to the lecture. If you chose the latter, spend 5-15 minutes on each diagram and record your evaluation and move / plan for the side whose turn it is and sample variations. Then compare your ideas with mine. Let me know how you like the test and the lecture.

Test yourself

All Positions:

1. Check whose move it is.

2. Evaluate position (i.e. White is Better, or Black is Winning, or Equal...)

3. Find the Best move and, if necessary, support it with variations.

4. Answer the question (if there is a specific one)

1. White to Move

IM Igor Khmelnitsky

Igor is a winner of many national and international tournaments in Europe and the United States. At various points during his career, he has won individual encounters with many of the game’s best players - including Lev Alburt, Boris Alterman, Viorel Bologan, Roman Dzindzikhashvili, Vasily Ivanchuk, Alexander Ivanov, Oleg Romanishin, Alexander Shabalov, Evgeniy Sveshnikov, Patrick Wolff, and Alex Yermolinsky. In total, Igor has beaten over 30 different Grandmasters. He has been a participant in the Ukrainian National Championship as well as a three times contestant in the US National Championship.

2. White to Move 3. Black to Move
4. Black to Move 5. Black to Move

Bishop Off-Side

The subject of today’s mini-test is a misplaced bishop. The first two positions should be extremely easy for all, except for true novices.

6. White to Move

STOP - Lecture begins below.

#1. Training position (Khmelnitsky). White is winning the bishop for the pawn after 1.Pf4-f5. The bishop is trapped and attacked by a less valuable piece.

Similar situations often occur in games of novices when the B pins the N (for example Bc8-g4 pinning Nf3) and then is attacked consequently by pawns h and g (or a and b).

1. White to Move

2. White to Move

#2. Training position (Khmelnitsky). White is winning the bishop once again. This time he plays 1.Pb2-b3 cutting the escape route and preparing 2.Kc1-b2. Unlike in the example #1, here Black has a move before his bishop will be attacked. Yet, there is no move that could help.

Similar situations often occur in games of novices when B grabs the pawn on the R file (a or h). Note, that if the black pawn a7 was on a5, Black could play 1...Pa5-a4 2.Kc1-b2 Pa4xb3 3.Pc2xb3. Now the B is protected by the Ra8. Black would have to move the Ra8 to a5, a6 or a7 to free the square for the other rook in anticipation of 4.Rd1-a1.

#3. Training position (Khmelnitsky). Black is able to trap the bishop after 1...Pb6-b5. The direct plan is to run with the king to attack the trapped bishop and win it. The white king can't help the bishop and various attempts to open up the king-side fail as well. Black wins in all lines. Here are some sample variations:

2.Kf4-e3 Ke7-d7 3.Ke3-d3 Kd7-c7 4.Kd3-d4 Kc7-c6, or 2.Pg4-g5 Ph8-h6 freezing the K-side, or 2.Ph5-h6 Pg7xh6 3.Kf4-g3 (3.Kf4-f3 Ke7-d7 4.Kf3-g2 Kd7-c6 5.Kg2-h3 Kc6-b6) 3...Ph6-h5! If interested, please practice with a friend or computer.

3. Black to Move

4. Black to move

#4. This example is from the game Lautier,J - Bauer,C, Championnat de France, 2006. The B on a6 is trapped and is about to be lost. Black is winning. However, you get no points for hasty 1...Rbb6? as after 2.Ba6-c8, the B escapes. Instead, Black played 1....Be8-d7 gaining control over c8. White is losing the bishop for a pawn. For example, 2.Kg1-f2 Rb8-b6 3.Ba6xb5 Rb6xb5 4.Ra3xa7 Rb5xd5.

#5. This training position (Khmelnitsky), is truly amazing in its unexpected simplicity. Looks like White is the one who has the initiative and probably a small advantage. However, after 1...Re8-b8, it is Black who has the winning position. The Ba6 is once again under arrest. White has no good counterplay against Black's plan of sending the king to b6 and then bringing another attacker - the rook on a8, to win the trapped bishop.

Examples 3-5 show you that squares a6, a3, h3, h6 are often not safe for the bishop, when the escape route is (or can be) cut off. The pawn b5 was such a barrier in these examples.

5. Black to Move

#6. Finally, the last position is there to remind you that even on the open board, the bishop may have problems finding a safe spot.

6. White to Move

In this study by Reti (1922), White is winning. He has many moves and your head may start spinning when you try to calculate all possible variations. My suggestions would be - when you don't see a knock-out punch, stop for a moment and ask yourself this questions - what would he do if I did nothing? In this particular position - Black has no useful move. All bishop's moves allow fork with the knight (ex. 1...Bh6-g7 2.Nd4-e6+). Another fork is available after 1...Kc5-d6 - 2.Kd4-f5+. And the remaining king's moves allow the pawn to get through. Hence comes the quiet 1.Kg2-h1 putting Black in zugzwang and winning.

When you don't see a knock-out punch, stop for a moment and ask yourself this question - "what would he do if I did nothing?"


Summary: a bishop is a long ranged piece and needs open space to show its strength in attack. On defense, a bishop is often a solid force as well. Depending on its placement, a bishop's range is anywhere from 7 (ex. from a1, a7) to 13 (ex. from d4 or e5) available squares. When some of these squares become unavailable, the bishop can get into trouble as in the examples shown above. Memorize these typical ideas. Also, remember, that merely trapping the bishop may not be enough to succeed. Two common options - find a way to attack and win the trapped bishop giving you material advantage (examples 1-5) or start actions away from the bishop so it can't participate giving a virtual material advantage (see example in this article).

No comments: