Bishop Chess Piece: Moves & Rules

A Bishop is a powerful chess piece. It allows players to control the board from afar. By controlling the board diagonally, it serves as a sniper. Strong players prefer having a Bishop during the game due to its superpowers. It is one of the leading choices of supergrandmasters. Bishop plays a crucial role in a chess game. To remunerate its real power, players must understand the basic principles behind this piece.

bishop - initial position

Starting position of the game

Both players possess two Bishops in the starting position of a chess game. They are located at c1- and f1-squares (Highlighted in blue) for White. Similarly, they reside at c8- and f8-squares (Highlighted in yellow) for Black.

As shown in the image above, a pair of Bishops for one player stand in different colors. This unique identity is crucial to recognize because they can only stay in that color for the rest of the game.
We refer to them as the color of the square they start from. This means that the c1- and f8-Bishops are ‘dark-squared’ Bishops, and c8- and the f1-Bishops are ‘light-squared’ Bishops.

Bishop chess moves and captures

Using a Bishop often requires a fundamental understanding of the game. Its movement, however, is quite easy.

Now, let’s see the Bishop chess rules.

Unlike a Knight, it cannot move in the initial position because it cannot jump over pieces.

bishop cannot jump over pieces

Bishop cannot move on the first move.

Its movement is quite basic, diagonally!

bishop moves diagonally

c1-Bishop can move because there is no White piece blocking it.

A Bishop can move anywhere available on that diagonal. As shown above, the c1-Bishop can move to b2- and a3-squares because White pieces do not occupy those squares.

bishop moves diagonally -1

The squares highlighted in yellow demonstrate the available squares for the d4-Bishop.

As highlighted above, the Bishop can scope almost the whole board once there is no piece in front of it. This means that we want to use it and snipe pieces diagonally.

b2-Bishop is on the same diagonal as the f6-Queen

b2-Bishop is on the same diagonal as the f6-Queen.

Like other pieces, it captures the piece once it moves to a square where the enemy piece resides. In the above position, the b2-Bishop can move to the f6-square and capture the enemy Queen.

Bishop captured the opponent’s Queen

The dark-squared Bishop captured the opponent’s Queen.

Once it captures the enemy piece, it stands at the square where the enemy piece was. Both dark and light-squared Bishops move the same. Since they can only move diagonally, they must stay in that color forever. However, we need to assess them differently and should not value them the same because the colors matter as the game progresses!

Bishop’s role in chess

A dark-squared Bishop protects and attacks the dark squares and keeps the tactics alive in the dark squares. Similarly, light-squared Bishops operate in light-squares. Players need to think of the board as two separate boards when it comes to this piece.


The construction of the g2-Bishop is called the ‘Fianchetto.’

Bishops can protect the King by sticking close to him. This often occurs by ‘fianchettoing’ the Bishop and controlling the same colors nearby. As shown above, the g2-Bishop is covering the nearby light squares. It also scopes at the long ‘a8-h1’ diagonal. The long diagonals are often preferable for Bishops to stay, as they hit multiple targets and secure many squares. Bishops can also attack the enemy further down the board. Unlike other pieces with the same value, it serves a vast purpose once any square in the same color needs to be controlled remotely.

g2-Bishop has an open ‘a8-h1’ diagonal

The g2-Bishop has an open ‘a8-h1’ diagonal.

The above image illustrates a g2-Bishop, which serves both defensively and offensively. It protects the f3- and h3-squares and also scopes the ‘a8-h1’ diagonal. Using a Bishop like this often requires precision. Even though it controls the light squares, its absence can hurt White’s position immensely because it plays a vital role in White King’s protection.

The g2-Bishop captured the c6-Knight

The g2-Bishop captured the c6-Knight

In these cases, the threat is much more important than the execution. The above illustration shows an example where the g2-Bishop captures the c6-Knight and doubles Black’s c-pawns. This is often a bad idea because White heavily relies on the Bishop’s presence and its active duty as a guardian angel. The light squares around the White King are now compromised. Many devilish plans (Some of them highlighted in arrows) can be put into action in both the short and long term.

The b2-Bishop can capture the f6-Knight.

The b2-Bishop can capture the f6-Knight.

The above illustration shows where this trade can be made. The b2-Bishop can capture the f6-Knight because it does not protect the King. Before making such trades, players have to ask themselves the pros and cons. The upside would be to double Black’s f-pawns once the enemy captures the Bishop with the g-pawn. This would leave vulnerable squares around the enemy King. The downside would be to weaken White’s dark squares due to the absence of the dark-squared Bishop.

The value of the Bishop piece in chess

According to conventional principles, a Bishop is worth three points. This is considered equal to a Knight. However, we have seen several examples where the numeric values can change due to the dynamic of the position. Every position is unique, and each Bishop must be assessed separately.

An example of a mistake

An example of a mistake

One common mistake is misevaluating the position and sacrificing the Bishop for two pawns to launch an attack. In the above position, the f5-Bishop is worth three points. Many amateurs would be tempted to capture the h6-pawn and try to checkmate their opponent.

White is worse

White is worse.

However, if an immediate checkmate does not occur, White is worse. In the above position, White gave up three points (the dark-squared Bishop) in exchange for two points (two pawns). Since there is no sudden checkmate, the sacrifice was a wrong decision.

An example of a favorable exchange

An example of a favorable exchange

The above position shows a favorable exchange of a Bishop for a Rook. The f8-Rook is worth five points. Since the h6-Bishop is worth three points, White can capture the f8-Rook and be better. This is also called ‘exchange up’. Bishops and Knights are minor pieces, and Rooks are usually more valuable than them. Queens, of course, are much more valuable, with an estimated nine points.

What are the Bishop’s weaknesses and strengths?

Bishops are great pieces in open positions. However, they are not as good as in closed positions. Because they cannot target any piece once the pawns are locked down.

Example of a Bishop Pair for Black

Example of a Bishop Pair for Black

The above example illustrates how powerful the Bishops are in open positions. They control many squares and prevent enemy pieces from jumping around.

An example of a bad Bishop

An example of a bad Bishop

The above position shows how Bishop chess pieces can be trapped behind the pawns. If we count the material, it turns out to be equal. However, the game is dead-lost for Black due to the g7-Bishops inability to participate.

It is important not to trap the Bishops behind the pawns.

Example of a trapped Bishop

Example of a trapped Bishop

Bishops can also be an easy target for the enemy pawns. This often occurs once a pawn storm is launched against it. The above example shows the b3-Bishop trapped by the enemy pawns on the Queenside.

Example of a passive a2-Bishop

Example of a passive a2-Bishop

The above position shows a passive Bishop on a2-square. It is held hostage by the opponent’s pawn chain.

Idea for activating a passive Bishop

In cases like these, the Bishop must be activated using another diagonal. The move c3 is an excellent attempt to use the ‘b1-h7’ diagonal.

The b7-Bishop, on the other hand, is located well. It’s attacking the isolated d5-pawn. If a White pawns were protecting the d5-pawn, that Bishop would not be as effective.

Closed positions are Bishop’s nightmares.

Closed positions are Bishop’s nightmares.

If the position is closed, the Knights become more favorable than the Bishops. The above position is an example of the c3- and f3-Knights being better than the enemy Bishops. The Knights can jump around and land on critical squares. The Bishops, on the other hand, are restricted and have no target.

Strategies and Techniques with Bishop

Bishops are often used in long diagonals, eyeing the enemy King.

A well-placed Bishop on c4-square

The c4-square for the f1-Bishop is one of the ideal squares because it controls a long diagonal.

A poorly placed Bishop on the d3-square

A poorly placed Bishop on the d3-square

The above example shows how a Bishop should not be used. The d3-Bishop would prevent the d-pawn from moving forward. Also, it would not have any scope and be looking at his own pawn. The best way to utilize a Bishop is often to create a safe room to prevent any attack against it.

The c4-Bishop can be attacked with Na5 next move

To avoid giving up the Bishop so early, players often play moves like a3 or a4 to create a safe room on the a2-square.

What is better than one Bishop? A Bishop pair! Bishops work in harmony because they cover two different colors.

A Bishop pair is all a chess master needs

A Bishop pair is all a chess master needs.

Bishops work greatly together because both of them have a distinct job. By uniting, they can reach every square on the board from a far distance. They often create a solid wall once they stand adjacent. This is often useful in endgames when players try to take every possible square from the opponent.

My thoughts on Bishop

I value a Bishop a little higher than a Knight. Knights are easier to navigate and often tricky in fast-time control. Time is a decisive factor in deciding on multiple occasions. Bishops are very influential in endgames. A Bishop pair versus a Knight pair in an endgame is difficult to hold for the player with the Knights. I recommend players play as many endgames as possible and feel the real strength of the Bishops.

Written by
Emre Sancakli, Сhess Coach
has a rating of 2400+ on and, making him one of the top 5000 players in the world. He teaches many chess enthusiasts and even creates educational courses. As a writer, he keeps bringing his 'A game' to the content you will face on this website.
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What does the Bishop do in chess?

A Bishop does great things. It often controls the diagonals from a far distance and puts fear in the opponent’s heart. It is also very useful in endgames, mostly outplaying Knights.

Why is a Bishop called a Bishop in chess?

The Bishop was initially called the ‘elephant’ in the eastern countries. Once it spread to the West, the piece was associated with a Bishop’s mitre due to its process at the top. Hence, it was renamed to the ‘Bishop’. - Your One Stop Chess Resource
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