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     Volume 4 Issue 60 |August 26, 2005 |

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Time Out

Minor pieces chess

Players have, for generations, been engaged in the debate over the relative strength of the knight and the bishop. While there is consensus on the power of the two bishops, it is still far from clear whether the bishop is superior to the knight when left alone on the board. If you talk to a master his answer will be a routine one. You will learn that the firepower of a minor piece depends on the nature of the position. In a closed position the knight is superior and the bishop loves open terrain where it can move along the long diagonals. That's true, but there are more things on the chessboard than a cursory glance reveals!

The minor pieces assume an altogether different character when they are operating with the queen or the rooks. The queen and a knight are believed to be superior to the queen and a bishop (again the general features of the position have to be carefully assessed). Very interesting is the fight between a rook and a knight and a rook and a bishop. Even top masters have failed to reach any understanding on this kind of endings. It's still unclear.

The handling of the minor pieces vary significantly according to the players' strength. At the beginners' level, the knight is considered the most lethal weapon because of its ability to uncork very nasty surprises. That happens because beginners often overlook forks that can be fatal. But masters know how to make the most out of the short-legged knight even in quiet positions, particularly closed ones. The bishop, on the other hand, can exploit its full potential in positions where the battlefield is spread all over the board. It can lurk quietly in one corner and then pounce on the enemy all of a sudden. The strength of the two bishops lies in their ability to control squares of both colours. Thus the player in possession of the bishop pair can attack or defend every square on the board.

In the following game, the combination of the queen and a knight proves too much for the defender.

White- Paul Schmidt
Black-Eero Book [D23]
Stockholm ol 1937
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 dxc4 4.Qa4+ Bd7 5.Qxc4 e6 6.Nc3 Na6 7.g3 c5 8.Bg2 Rc8 9.00 b5 10.Nxb5 cxd4 11.Nd6+ Bxd6 12.Qxa6 Bc5 13.Rd1 00 14.Nxd4 e5 15.Nb3 Bb6 16.Bh3 Ne4!! 17.Be3 Bxe3 18.fxe3 Qg5 19.Bxd7 Qxe3+ 20.Kg2 Rc2 21.Bb5 Ng5 22.Nd2 Rxd2 23.Rxd2 Qe4+ 0-1

Position after.12....Qxf3


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