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Hot Topic (More than 10 Replies) Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly? (Read 4421 times)
MNb
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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #19 - 07/20/18 at 05:20:45
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Straggler wrote on 07/19/18 at 07:27:32:
Ah, I had forgotten that. So what, I wonder, would be good opening choices for someone who doesn't know, and whose opponents are unlikely to know, how to use the bishop pair?

Ruy Lopez Exchange obviously. Study it carefully; I'll never forget the following by Timman (I paraphraze). "I used to think that White needs to keep this position closed because of Black's pair of bishops - now I understand that WHite must open it because of his lead in development."
  

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Stigma
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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #18 - 07/20/18 at 00:54:33
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The Chigorin Queen's Gambit and the Budapest Gambit are also defences where Black typically gives up the bishop pair. But I hesitate to recommend them: The Chigorin is another one of my least successful openings, and the Budapest seems just dubious.

Both of these defences require Black to be adept at not just playing with knights, but doing it in open positions where momentum and initiative really matter. This has never been my forte. (Now, where did I put that old Alekhine game collection...)
  

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ReneDescartes
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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #17 - 07/19/18 at 23:59:29
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I totally agree about the Nimzo (good for players of all levels) and the Winawer. I too have played the Winawer for many years, over twenty years, in fact, and I agree -- the problem is not that White gets the bishop pair. The problem is that, for example, in the positional main lines Black sets the table for a vampire White bishop on a3, then invites it to dine on d6. Yes, you can get good counterplay, but...anyway, these days I more often play the Clasical for a more sane approach to the dark squares.

But certainly there's no need to avoid or ditch the bishop pair at lower levels--just don't give up too much other stuff for it!
  
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Stigma
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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #16 - 07/19/18 at 23:07:16
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Straggler wrote on 07/19/18 at 07:27:32:
Ah, I had forgotten that. So what, I wonder, would be good opening choices for someone who doesn't know, and whose opponents are unlikely to know, how to use the bishop pair? The Trompowsky? Peter Wells cited "Don't like bishops very much" as one of the worst reasons for playing that; but, as someone else said, a man's got to know his limitations. And maybe that line in the QGD where White answers ...h6 with Bxf6?

Wells also makes the point that the Trompowsky leads to an abundance of different structures. Depending on persepctive, that can be a blessing or a curse for an amateur: On the plus side it can help get familiar with many structures and actually become a stronger player in the process, but on the minus side it's a difficult opening to play well, and some setbacks may be suffered result-wise at the start.

More mainstream openings that feature giving up the bishop-pair for some other compensation should be a good bet, reflecting Alburt's point: The Rossolimo Sicilian for White, The Nimzo-Indian for Black. More offbeat lines where White's advantage is based on the bishop pair, like 1.d4 d6 2.Nf3 Bg4, Pirc/Modern lines with ...Bg4 and the Löwenthal and Haberditz Sicilians, should also be decent tries in practice below master level.

I would hesitate to recommend something like the Winawer French though: It's such a unique structure where both sides take on severe weaknesses. Black can easily face a disaster on the dark squares if he doesn't know what he's doing (I'm speaking from bitter experience here - it's one of my least successful openings).
« Last Edit: 07/20/18 at 00:14:38 by Stigma »  

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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #15 - 07/19/18 at 16:17:11
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kylemeister wrote on 07/18/18 at 20:54:07:
Actually, despite the Exchange Lopez and the Rossolimo (but not the quick Bxc6 stuff), Kaufman wrote in that book that the bishop pair was one of the pervading themes, with many of his lines aimed at obtaining it.


If memory serves, I think that he was mostly concerned with obtaining the Bishop pair as Black. That seems like an interesting method to try to obtain a trump card for the second player, even if you might have to absorb White's initiative for a while (the Moscow Semi-Slav, etc).
  
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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #14 - 07/19/18 at 07:27:32
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Ah, I had forgotten that. So what, I wonder, would be good opening choices for someone who doesn't know, and whose opponents are unlikely to know, how to use the bishop pair? The Trompowsky? Peter Wells cited "Don't like bishops very much" as one of the worst reasons for playing that; but, as someone else said, a man's got to know his limitations. And maybe that line in the QGD where White answers ...h6 with Bxf6?
  
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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #13 - 07/18/18 at 20:54:07
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Actually, despite the Exchange Lopez and the Rossolimo (but not the quick Bxc6 stuff), Kaufman wrote in that book that the bishop pair was one of the pervading themes, with many of his lines aimed at obtaining it.
  
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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #12 - 07/18/18 at 20:24:16
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Perhaps that's why Kaufman's first repertoire book included the Exchange Lopez and the Rossolimo, whereas in the second he often aims for the advantage of the bishop pair. I believe the second one is aimed at a somewhat stronger readership than the first, though I'm not sure he says so.
  
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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #11 - 07/17/18 at 12:53:27
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It seems pretty clear that the bishop pair does indeed constitute an advantage in most cases.

But a word of caution: I recall an article in Chess Life where GM Lev Alburt wrote something like: it is stupid for lower-rated players to choose openings where the advantage sought is based on the bishop pair, because below a certain rating most players simply don't have the skills to make use of that type of advantage; for lower-rated players, those tricky knights are likely to be more useful in a practical game!
  
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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #10 - 07/16/18 at 19:12:04
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To GeneM--The bishop pair, like any advantage in chess, is only valuable if you can exploit it.

It's only valuable if you can exploit it.

To do it well, you have to be good at calculating in open positions (e.g. treating as targets empty squares that could merely be occupied by opponents' pieces), at capitalizing on  weakened complexes on the color of the unopposed bishop both in attacking the king and elsewhere, corralling the enemy knights with bishops and the enemy king with two bishops, mating with two bishops, using the bishop pair to run a passed pawn to run down the board faster than it might appear was possible, and executing the Steinitz restriction method (See Steinitz-Englisch--basically it's an open-board squeeze executed by dominating knights with bishops and, when needed, using growing pawn advances to cover squares the knight might escape to).

You have to resist becoming emotionally attached to the bishop pair and be willing to give up a bishop to smash up the opposing pawn structure as a bee gives up its life when it stings. You have to know how to evaluate and take advantage of the resulting smashed structures, etc., etc.

And that's only once the position is open. In addition, you have to know how to force the position open and how much it's worth, and not worth, to do that.

Otherwise, who cares that a bishop can cover b7 (say, to push a passed pawn onto it) from nine squares, whereas a knight can only cover b7 from four? Or that bishops can constantly threaten to exchange themselves for knights while remaining out of range  so that the reverse is impossible?

In contrast to something like a big pawn-structure advantage, the bishop pair requires you to be pretty well-rounded to make full use of it. It's no accident that the major bishop-pair-based repertoire out there, Avrukh's White GM Rep repertoire, is advanced and requires facility with a large variety of positions. That's also why it's better to learn by experience in this case, as Dink said.

There are some books on it, though. I have the aforementioned book Mastering the Bishop Pair, but it's just ok, not great--nothing like Mastering the King's Indian (different idea,  different publisher--there are no chapters and no order to these games, just an index in front stating which games address which themes). Shereshevsky and Mueller/Pajekin in their endgame strategy books each have a chapter on using the bishop pair in the endgame, but the notes in the latter are at a pretty high-level--long stretches of the variations, quite often including moves that appear weird to me, go unannotated.

If you have Chessbase Megabase, I think it might be useful to pick a player who is known for his handling of the bishop pair --for example, Gligoric or Kramnik--and study his games with it
« Last Edit: 07/17/18 at 01:59:54 by ReneDescartes »  
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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #9 - 07/06/18 at 20:43:03
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My personal take:

The side with an advantage often needs to execute a pawn break to realise their advantage. In so doing, the position opens somewhat, increasing the mobility of the two bishops.

So it doesn't matter if you are pressing or defending; if you have the two bishops, there are good chances that better times are coming.
  
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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #8 - 07/05/18 at 15:58:14
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Stigma wrote on 07/05/18 at 14:02:54:
Lots of good answers here already.


Another observation is that with two Bishops against a Bishop and Knight and otherwise level material, you shouldn't ever be worse. The point being that once all the other pieces are off, you can retain some degree of control by threatening to play Bishop takes Knight, either reaching an opposite Bishop ending or a level same colour one. You can even safely lose a pawn if it creates opposite Bishops.

Bad Bishops can be the glue that holds a pawn structure together, as in the Fisher - Petrosian example quoted where Fischer gave up his Bishop pair.
  
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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #7 - 07/05/18 at 14:02:54
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Lots of good answers here already. Playing with (and against) the bishop pair is actually an area I have marked as needing urgent work in my own play.

One concept that hasn't been mentioned yet is the "Steinitzian restriction method". I first picked this up in Reassess Your Chess by Silman. The idea is that knights need stable posts in or near the centre to be better than or equal to bishops. So in some positions the side with the bishop pair can gradually take away the knights' advanced squares, chasing them back if they were already posted there, making them less effective in the process.

This works mainly in positions that are open, semi-open or fluid. But there's an assymmetry here in that closed positions can open up, while open positions don't get closed again. So longer games tend to favor the bishops unless everything gets blocked. The main takeaway is that knights can get into trouble long-term even if they look temprorarily active and strong.

That's why in many modern openings where one side gives up the bishop pair, that's done only when s/he gets an initiative and/or lead in development as compensation (or structural weaknesses of course, but that's a different topic). But this development/initiative usually comes with a "use it or lose it" warning. In his excellent book Bishop v Knight: the verdict, Steve Mayer writes about "Increasing the Speed of Your Knights" when giving up the bishop pair by opening up the position and using the initiative before the side with the bishops is fully developed. He quotes John Watson's old book on the Chigorin there, and Watson has also taken up the idea again in his strategy books iirc.
  

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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #6 - 07/05/18 at 12:57:39
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Some solid reasons given, but I think broadly, this is one of those concepts that's difficult to intellectualise, and is better experienced. If you're cavalier about the bishop pair, you will often times find yourself suffering unnecessarily, and over time, the penny will drop. Not a satisfactory answer, I know...
  

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Re: Bishop-pair valuable because...why exactly?
Reply #5 - 07/04/18 at 19:11:20
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A long time ago one of my club mates questioned the superiority of the bishop pair: “If the bishop pair is really an advantage, why does every book and article use the same few examples?” Nowadays with databases it is quite easy to fill a bucket with examples. Or, you can let someone else do the work.

Currently available from the USCF for $2.00, 220 pages, 199 GM examples:
Srokovsky, Borulia, Braslawski (1999) Mastering the Bishop Pair
https://www.uscfsales.com/mastering-the-bishop-pair.html
I would have learned more from this book if I had read it when I was younger. These days not much is retained.
  
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