Chess Strategy: Knight VS Bishop

Hello! Let’s see an amazing Mikhail Botvinnik game that he played against Alexander Konstantinopolsky in Sverdlovsk (today’s Yekaterinburg) in 1943). Caro-Kann was played..Panov variation. Botvinnik was a great specialist in that opening, in that line. And after Nf3, Be7, Bg5, 0-0, Rc1. A bit strange move but idea of that move is to delay the activation of the f1-bishop. Black, actually waits for Be2 or Bd3 to play dxc4 right in that moment when White bishop already moves. Nc6 – normal move and White didn’t want to go for Be2 or Bd3. In that game, he chose c5 – gaining space on the queenside. Black answered with Ne4 – a bit risky but
still playable solution. White, of course exchanges bishops which is in his favor. There is a presence of a fixed d4-pawn on dark square and fixed d5-pawn on light square. And potentially, f1-bishop will be better than c8-bishop. Be2, preparing castling and Bd7, a3. Idea is to support the c5-pawn with b4, advancing in case Black plays b6. Black played f5. Supporting e4-knight and planning attack on kingside but making e5-square desperately weak. White’s reaction is very logical – exchanging
defender of e5, the c6-knight. So f5 is very risky. I think that cannot bring so much to Black and White’s reaction is perfect – Bb5! Black also answers Ng5. Idea is after Bxc6 which actually happened, to do intermediate check, Nxf3+, Qxf3 and bxc6. Of course, Bxc6 will not be so solid because simply, bishop is not working there. And b4-a4-b5 will come with tempo later. With bxc6, Black can easily fight for preventing b4-b5. Also bishop will may be placed on a6 after Bc8 controlling very solid diagonal. Let’s discuss the position. Almost all Black pawns are on light squares and he has light square bishop. It will be very good for White if he places his knight on e5. Or let’s say, queen or rook. But, basically White wants to prevent Black’s e5 – improving pawn structure. Qf4 – idea is clear.. preventing e5. Rae8 and now not Qe5. That will be bad because Black can answer f4 and there is Rf5, e5 or even f3 with some initiative. So White decided to castle. Black plays e5. White takes, of course, with queen and queens are exchanged. Let’s discuss the position a bit. Black somehow improved his pawn structure but still d7-bishop is very weak. Mostly, Black pawns are on light squares and most of White pawns are on dark squares. And White has very perfect places for his pieces. d4 and d5 squares. White, actually would like to transfer the knight there. And let’s see what happened. First of all, f4! That’s perfect move. Why so? Well, it is fixing pawn on f5 and taking control over the weak square e5 and prevents Black’s f4 which will allow Black to play Bf5 – activating bishop. Rook must move somewhere. Not Re3 – that will not bring too much for Black because simple Kf2 attacks the rook. Re7, Rfe1….Kf2 and Kf7. Well, Black controls the only open file (e-file). But now White is, for a moment, safe. Black cannot enter that file. Black rook cannot penetrate White’s camp and that could happen if Black has 2 rooks on the e-file. White exchanged the pair of rooks at the right time! And now he has prevented Black’s play on the e-file. Definitely, White is better because White
knight, in future, can be better than Black’s bishop. Bishop can be move, of course, to some better place. For instance, a6 but if White knight goes to d4 or e5, White will be so close to win. Now, all White should do is to make a good
plan. What is the good plan? Well, White’s good plan contains a few stages. First of all, White must prevent Black’s d4. So first is preventing Black’s d4 move. The second phase of the plan is transferring the rook to e-file in order to remove Black’s rook from there or to force exchange of rooks which will be in White’s favor. Simply, you can see that without the rooks on the board, White will set the knight on e5, king on d4. Or king on e5 and knight on d4 preparing b4-a4-b5 with decisive advantage. Black will be unable to prevent that White’s plan. After preventing Black’s d4 and after setting rook on e-file, White must occupy d4 with king or with knight. Probably, it’s better with king and transfer knight to e5. And finally after maintaining control over d4 and e5, White can think about organization of pawn march – b4-b5. After that, d5-pawn will be weakened, c6-pawn will disappear and White will have unstoppable pawn on c5. First, Rd1 stopping d4. Re1, of course, will be a serious mistake because after d4, Black king goes to e6 and d5, targeting the weak pawn on c5 or threatening Ke4. So Kf7, Rd1, Re8 and Rd2 – perfect move! Well, Re1 was bad as we saw that. But Rd2 followed by Re2 will work because after Black plays Rxd2, White will take with knight, immediately transferring that knight to d4. Also, Rd2 is good there because after h6 Re2 happened in the game. Rb8 and b2-pawn is already protected. First and second stages of the plan are
already done, and White can now realize the third stage of his plan. Well, occupying d4 – setting king or knight there. Ke3 as it is always good to centralize the king. Three parts of White’s plan are solved. How to mange the fourth plan? Well, the fourth is b2-b4-b5 marching with pawns. Simply, attacking b3-rook with knight. How to do that? Nd1 is useless. Nb1 is useless because Nd2 is impossible as Black will take the b2-pawn. But Na2 is working! Knight from a2, goes to c1. After that, White plays b4 and then, knight will have 2 perfect routes – Nb3-Na5 or of course, the better one, Nd3-Ne5. Step by step, Black pieces becomes passive and White pieces are better and better. Rb8, b4, g5. Well, Black looks to find some counterplay on the kingside but White simply plays g3 keeping all pawns on dark squares. gxf4, gxf4 and a6 – temporarily preventing White’s b5. Instead of a6, Rg8 can be played but Black, probably was afraid of White immediately playing b5. Now, Nc1, of course, was an option to transfer the knight to Nd3-Ne5 or Nb3-Na5 or Nb3-Nd4. White has 3 perfect places for his knight but Botvinnik simply went for Nc3. He just solved 3 parts of his plan and now he just goes straightforward to mange the fourth part of his plan. Rg8, a4, Rg4, Rf2, Be6 and everything is ready. White is going for b5 – b6 is the threat. Black must take and of course, not taking on d5. Because, White’s knight is much better than Black’s bishop. d5-pawn will fall soon. Rg1 and Nc3 – perfect move! Not only attacking d5, not only preventing Rd1+ but also closing the c-file. So now Rc1 will not stop White’s pawn going to c6-c7. It will be a dangerous threat. Kf7 – no idea of that move. Only idea could be stopping Nxd5 with check. Now Nxd5 isn’t working because Rd1+. But White just plays Rb2. The idea is playing Rb7 or Rb6 with dangerous pins and supporting pawn. Rf1, but now Ne2. Now knight from e2, prevents checks. King on e5 is safe, attacking pawns. Kd6 is the idea with Nd4, of course. Also, knight on e2 prevents Rc1 which will stop White’s passed pawn. So Black played d4 – desparately going for some counterplay. But there is no counterplay. White simple takes the pawn, and once again, brings knight to c3. Everything is very well protected. Black can play Rf1 but then Ke5-Kd6 is winning, Kh5 and after Re2, game is over. Black must exchange the rooks. Rest is very simple. Even if Black goes for Kh3, White will play Nxf5 and White will be much faster because c5-pawn and f4-pawn cannot be stopped by Black’s bishop. Now knight’s trick, if Black takes, h3+ and White is much faster – c6-c7 with a win. Black didn’t take. Bd7 and simply Ng7 – one of many winning options. Now c and f pawns goes closer to eighth rank. After Ne6+, Black resigned. So in the game, you could see very important principles. Everything started with Black’s move of f5 – very inaccurate move. Black intends, in that moment, to support knight, that’s okay but also, Black probably intended to organize an attack on kingside. Black is not better in centre. Centre is not so fixed. Centre is not closed so Black shouldn’t go for that risky attack. Also that weakens e5-square. With Black bishop on c7 and for instance, White bishop on e3, that move will be okay but now, it’s very bad. Later, White organized control on e-5 after f4, you remember that point. And finally, after exchanging the pair of rooks, in that moment, White started to do 4 parts of his plan. 1. Preventing Black’s d4 move. 2. Controlling e-file 3. Transferring king to d4 and 4. Organizing b4-b5. Black was hopeless against that plan with no counterplay. You could see how knight is much better than bishop in such blocked positions. Once again, I hope you enjoyed the video and see you soon with new material. Bye-bye to all 🙂

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