The Bad Bishop:
Part of the Advanced Beginner's Chess Guide (Section 1)

The Bad Bishop


  • Point Count Chess: Bad Bishop [+];
Bad Bishops are related to Weak Squares and Holes.

A Bad Bishop moves on squares of the the same color as those on which most of its pawns are fixed, especially the center pawns. The badness may consist in either or both of two consequences:
  1. The Bishop is blocked or actually locked in by its own pawns.

    In Diagram 1a, no matter where Black's Bishop moves to, it'll either be blocked in by its own pawns, or, effectively, blocked in by the threat of capture, from White's Queen and light-Bishop.
Bad Bishop, Image 1, Advanced Beginners Chess Guide
Diagram 1a: Bad Bishop blocked in.
  1. Too many pawns, plus the bishop on the same color squares leaves the opposite color squares insufficiently guarded.

    In Diagram 1b (below), Black's Bishop isn't blocked in, since it can move to f5, but look at the Black pawns - they're all on the same light-color squares, making Black weak on the dark-squares, in turn making Black's Bishop "Bad", since any enemy pawn or piece is able to sit comfortably on a dark square without fear of capture.
Bad Bishop, Image 2, Advanced Beginners Chess Guide
Diagram 1b: Black's Bad Bishop - too many
pawns on the same color squares.
If such occurrences exist, and the situation is likely to be permanent, deduct a point from the offending army's tally.

A Bishop isn't considered Bad if the obstruction is expected to be temporary, therefore it's down to the Dynamics of the position, which determines the deduction of the point. You must factor this in, while conducting your analysis.

Incidentally, take another look at Diagram 4b ... Notice that Black would initially score a point for "Bishop v. Knight", as explained above; yet, this advantage is, effectively, wiped out, due to Black's Bishop being "Bad".

Another thing worth noting, comes into play when you have a choice of Exchanging Bishops. If you have a Bad Bishop whose weakness is unlikely to be rectified in a few moves, make every effort to keep the Good Bishop! Or, conversely, if you notice your opponent has a Bad Bishop, aim to take his Good Bishop, and leave him with his Bad Bishop. A good example can be seen from the following game ...



Generally, when comparing it to the weakness of a Cramped Position, if the position is cramped because of the Bad Bishop alone, consider deducting just one point. But if the position is also affecting other pieces (Knight, Rook, Queen) and their movement behind their lines, it's probably best to make note of that by giving one minus point for the Bad Bishop, and one for Cramped Position (or give a plus to the opponent for Greater Space, whichever way you want to do that).
Interactive Examples

Point Count Chess (Horowitz & Mott-Smith, 1960)
Further Reading

Point Count Chess (Horowitz & Mott-Smith, 1960)
  • The "Bad" Bishop, (p203)
  • Minor Pieces SUMMARY, (p212)


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