The bishop is one of the most interesting pieces on the chessboard, because it’s the only piece that can’t access all the squares on the board. Moreover, it’s a very long range piece that can excel in open positions, but can also feel completely useless in closed positions.
Learning how the bishop moves is the first step of mastering this tricky piece.
In this article, I’ll go over all the rules about how the bishop moves, and I’ll answer the most frequently asked questions.
Bishop moves in chess
The bishop in chess can move diagonally as far as it wants. If there are no pieces in the way, the bishop can move from one side of the board all the way to the opposite side.
The diagram below shows you how a bishop can move on the chessboard.
You might notice that the bishop can only move to squares of the same color. So no matter how many moves you make with your bishop, it can only cover half of the squares on the board.
This is one of the major weaknesses of the bishop. Fortunately, you start the game with two bishops: one light-squared bishops and one black-squared bishop. Together they are referred to as the “bishop pair”.
Two bishops working together are more than twice as strong as a single bishop, because together they can control the entire board.
Can bishops move backwards in chess?
Yes, the bishop can move forwards and backwards in chess. Moving your bishop backwards is often a good idea if you want to place it on a better square or if you want to reroute it to the other side of the board.
In the position below, you can see that the white bishop on b2 is blocked by the enemy’s pawn chain. It’s basically looking at a concrete wall. So by moving it backwards to c1, you’ll be able to move it to the other side of the board on your next turn, where it will be much more impactful during the rest of the game.
For more information and examples, you can read my article on chess pieces that can move backwards.
Can bishops jump in chess?
Bishops are not allowed to move over pieces, regardless if those pieces belong to your opponent or to yourself. The knight is the only piece in chess that can jump over other pieces.
If you want to know more about knights, you can check out my article on how knights move in chess.
If a piece of the opponent is in the way, you can capture it by moving your bishop to that square. When you capture a piece, you can’t move past it.
However, you can’t capture your own pieces in chess. So if one of your own pieces is in the way, the bishop has to stop one square before your other piece. Two pieces can’t be placed on the same square.
In the position below, you can see that the bishop can’t move to e5, f6, g7, or g8 because the white pawn on e5 is blocking the bishop.
How many spaces can a bishop move in chess?
The bishop can move as many spaces in one direction as it wants to, as long as no other pieces are in the way. Since the chessboard is 8×8 squares in size, that means the maximum number of spaces that a bishop can move at once is 7 squares.
In the position below, the bishop can move 7 squares all the way from a1 to h8.
Of course, you can only move your bishop 7 square if it is placed in a corner and there are no other pieces on the same diagonal. This is not very likely to happen in most games.
Although moving your bishop across the entire board in a single swoop is fun to do, in most positions moving the bishop just 1 or 2 squares might be a better move.
Which bishop is stronger in chess?
You start every new game of chess with a light-squared bishop and a black-squared bishop. Neither one is inherently stronger than the other. The strength of a bishop is completely determined by where the other pieces are on the board.
So in certain positions your light-squared bishop might be stronger, but in other positions your black-squared bishops might be better.
Being able to determine which of your bishops is stronger in a certain position and all the surrounding nuances will take a lot of time and practice. But to make a quick assessment of the strength of each bishop, you can use the concept of “good bishops” and “bad bishops”.
What is a bad bishop in chess?
A bad bishop is a bishop that is blocked by its own pawns, which limits the number of squares it can move to and its impact on the game. Having a bad bishop can be a big disadvantage for the rest of the game.
On the flip side, a good bishop is not blocked by its own pawns and can move more freely.
In the position below, you can see that white’s light-squared bishop on f1 is a bad bishop because the pawns on d3 and e4 are blocking it. However, the bishop on c1 is a good bishop because it’s not blocked by either of the center pawns.
However, if white’s f1 bishop was outside the pawn chain it would no longer be considered bad, because it can attack the opponent’s pieces without being blocked by the d3 and e4 pawns, as shown in the diagram below.
The pawns in the center of the board are often blocked by enemy pieces and can’t move. As a result, it’s very difficult to improve a bad bishop, and you might be stuck with it until the endgame. Try to develop your bishops to good squares before solidifying the pawn structure.
Can a bishop be promoted in chess?
No, a bishop can not promote to a different piece when it reaches the other side of the board. The only piece that can promote in chess is the pawn. When a pawn reaches the end of the board, it can choose to promote to a bishop, knight, rook, or queen.
What happens when a bishop reaches the other side?
Nothing happens when the bishop reaches the other side of the board because pawns are the only pieces that can promote when they reach the last rank.
So there is no reason to move your bishop to the other side of the board as quickly as possible. However, in many endgames it’s a good idea to move your bishops to the opposite side of the board, because you will be able to attack the enemy pawns from behind.
In the position below, the best move for white is to move the bishop to c8. The bishop won’t promote when reaching this side of the board, but it will be able to attack the enemy’s pawns, which black can’t defend.
Can a bishop turn into a queen?
No, bishops do not promote when they reach the 8th rank and therefore can never turn into a queen. The only piece that can turn into a queen upon reaching the last row is the pawn.
How many points is a bishop worth in chess?
The chess bishop is worth 3 points, which is equal to the value of the knight. However, it’s worth less than a rook, because the rook can move to every square on the board, whereas a bishop is restricted to only squares of the same color.
Which is stronger: bishop or knight?
As a general rule of thumb, in open positions with few pawns left on the board the bishop is stronger. But in closed positions with lots of pawns remaining, the knight is better.
In closed positions, the knight can jump over pieces to reach the important squares, while the bishop’s movement is limited by the other pieces on the board.
In the position shown below, white’s bishop is much stronger than the black knight because it can attack two pawns on opposite sides of the board, while the black knight can only protect one of them simultaneously.
However, in this second position the black knight is much stronger than the white bishop. From its central square, the knight can easily jump over pieces to attack pawns on either side of the board.
While the white bishop is blocked by all the pawns on the board. And even worse, white’s bishop can’t even defend its own pawns on a4 and e4 because they are on a different color!
For more information, you can also read my detailed article on the knight vs bishop imbalance.