The Bishop Pair in Action: How to Use These Powerful Chess Pieces

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The Bishop Pair is a powerful combination in a game of chess that can give you a positional advantage in most games. In this article, I will show you how to use them in different situations – the Bishop pair is a powerful advantage in most cases. Two bishops can control large areas of the board, and are especially strong in the endgame.

If you are a beginner starting out on your chess journey, read on and learn how to use this powerful asset!

Image showing the power of two bishops in chess
When you have the bishop pair you can flex your dominance.

1. What you need to know about the Bishop Pair

In chess, a general principle is keeping a bishop pair is considered a significant advantage. Bishops are strong long-range pieces controlling large sections of the board in open positions. 2 Bishops are particularly useful in the end game, with an open pawn structure and fewer pieces remaining.

With a bishop pair, it is easier to force checkmate by attacking the opponent’s king from multiple angles. I will cover the 2 Bishop checkmate later in the article.

2. Getting started

Before we go any further, there is something you are going to need when considering everything in this guide, and that, my friends, is a pair of bishops on the board.

Thankfully, we are gifted these in the starting position in chess, all we have to do now is understand the value of a bishop in chess and the added benefit of keeping the pair for as long as possible.

I guarantee, after reading this guide and applying what you learn, you will find yourself considering them far more in your game, giving them, and your opponents, more respect, but also find yourself in more advantageous positions to go on, win games, and improve your chess rating – So, let’s get started.

3. Basic Tips for Using the Bishop Pair

  • Try to keep your bishop pair for as long as possible
  • Be aware of the value of the bishop pair, against say, a Pair of Knights
  • Understand the benefit of a passed pawn with the Bishop pair
  • Trading higher value pieces to maintain the bishop pair is not bad.
  • Checkmate with just two bishops required some strategy to learn.

The Importance of trying to maintain a Bishop pair as part of your chess strategy

There is a debate as to whether a pair of bishops is stronger than a pair of knights. There is no conclusive answer as it will depend upon the position of play at any time. However, the good thing is, that if your strategy includes the Bishop pair, you will have some say as to how the board will look, given you are aiming to create the space required for your bishop pair to be more valuable.

Is it better to have 2 bishops or 2 knights?

An image showing a pair of bishop pieces in chess, against a pair of Knights, where the bishop are generally more valuable.

It is generally agreed that 2 bishops are stronger than 2 knights. This is because bishops are long-range pieces and can cover more ground than knights and control more squares. Additionally, bishops work well in tandem. As a result, 2 bishops are usually seen as a more powerful force than 2 knights.

In contrast, knights are better in closed positions and do not have the same long-range capabilities as bishops.

Bishop Pair Board Coverage

One of the major benefits of the Bishop pair is that when they are positioned centrally, bishops can control as many squares as rooks through two different colored diagonal routes.

A picture of a chess board and pair of bishops, demonstrating the range of movement and control of squares the two pieces have when working together

In open positions, and particularly the endgame where space is more available, it is plain to see how much control the bishop pair can have on the board. This is not the same in closed positions, as we will see.

Open Positions

Here we see a potential endgame position where there is much space, and despite white being a pawn down, having the bishop pair against the rook is an advantage given the control the two bishops provide.

The range of movement afforded a pair of bishops in a chess endgame

The Black rook has limited options and can be trapped with ease, whilst the bishops carry an ongoing threat of check and the two pawns on the flank can be supported to create a passed pawn and almost certain promotion if required.

The white king is now also a considerable attacking option, in further limiting black’s movement by advancing up the board

Closed Positions

Things are somewhat trickier for a bishop pair in a closed position, with the range of safe movement restricted. Although with the pair intact and with support from the knight and pawns, things can still open up.

How a bishop pair is limited in movement in a closed position on the chess board

The Passed Pawn and 2 Bishops can be Deadly

Something to know and consider is that with a Bishop pair and a passed pawn, you have every chance of promotion or capture of your opponent’s material as they try to prevent the inevitable.

When it comes to the endgame, there are certain combinations that can be very powerful. One such combination is the bishop pair and a passed pawn. With this combination, the bishops can work together to control a large portion of the board, while the passed pawn can act as a major threat. This combination can be difficult to deal with for opponents, and it often leads to victory.

How a bishop pair coupled with a passed pawn can make for huge pressure on an opponent in chess, supporting the passed pawn to inevitable promotion or the loss of a major piece of the opponents material

Once again, note the level of coverage and control the bishop pair have in this situation, and so far as to be protecting blacks passed pawn from promotion at the same time.

The two bishops can control a much larger portion of the board than a single bishop, and they can also “eye” each other, defending each other from attacks.

A passed pawn is also a significant advantage. A passed pawn is a pawn that has no enemy pawns standing in front of it, and it can therefore advance more easily towards the opponent’s end of the board. By itself, a bishop pair is not enough to guarantee victory, but it can be a decisive factor in the game.

4. Checkmate with 2 Bishops

When you have two bishops on the board, you have a powerful tool for achieving checkmate. The key is to use your bishops to control the diagonals and block your opponent’s pieces. Here are some tips for making the most of your bishops in a 2-bishop checkmate:

  • Work together with your other pieces. Make sure to coordinate with your other pieces to put maximum pressure on your opponent and land the checkmate in the fewest moves possible.
  • If you only have Two Bishops against the King, force it to a corner. While bishops can do it all on their own you could have a mate in 16 situation and the clock may not be on your side.
  • If you’ve more pieces, then create a passed pawn if possible
forcing an opponents King to the corner of the chessboard resulting in inevitable checkmate

I have a complete guide to checkmate with 2 bishops. Take a look to find out everything you need to know if you have just the 2 bishops and the king remaining on the board against a lone enemy king.

The article takes only around 8 minutes to read in full, which is slightly shorter than this video on the same subject.

How to Defend against the Bishop Pair

There are a few tactics you can use if facing the prospect of an enemy bishop pair. Keep these tips in mind the next time you find yourself at the mercy of someone’s bishop pair looking to get to the endgame and control the majority of the board with thier bishops.

  • Bishops are strongest with open lines – Try to close the position where possible
  • Be aware of relative pins to try to capture at least one of the bishops
  • Try to trade bishops to break the pair
  • Create and occupy outposts for your knights.
  • Consider your own current pawn structure and set to disrupt the enemy bishop range of movement

How Can I Learn More About the Power of the bishop Pair?

Here is a free video course on the power of the Bishop pair.

The course is over 3 hours long in total, There are 11 Sections containing over 90 bite size elements, which makes it easy to digest the instruction and provides real game examples to help you learn and absorb all the information.

The first section and 7 lessons are totally free where you will watch:

  • An Introduction
  • 2 Bishops on clear board
  • Trapping Rooks
  • 2 Bishops vs Knight
  • 2 Bishops vs 2 Knights
  • 2 Bishops vs Queen
  • A Conclusion

These seven lessons take just 12 minutes and set you on your way to becoming a master with 2 bishops on the board.


So there you have it, everything you need to know about the bishop pair in chess. Remember, the bishop pair is a powerful weapon that can give you a big advantage in the game. So make sure to practice using it in a practical situation or online at chess.com. Thanks for reading and good luck!

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