Rechest #1: from Alex – “How to exercise playing with your knights?”

Hi all,

I got the following rechest from Alex:

My question is whether the topic of chessercises can be covered, such as games to play with knights to increase knight strength, etc. […]

I’m assuming that Alex is not looking for exercises such as how to jump around a chess board in 64 moves etc, even though that could be a good exercise in seeing knight patterns more quickly. No, I’m assuming that Alex is interested in the chess rules that govern the ways of how to handle knights from a strategic point of view. Exercising in this case means:

  1. breaking down the position into its characteristics
  2. naming the pros and cons that each side has, i.e. the ways in which the positions differ
  3. applying the rules that have to do with these differences
  4. formulating a plan from these findings for both sites
  5. finding out concrete ways to reach your goal and frustrate the other guy’s goal

…rather then just playing positions (that have knights). No, the exercise is in waiting with playing and first thinking and only then playing in accordance with your thinking!

OK, all nice and well, but what are the rules that apply to knights? To answer that question let me refer to one of Jeremy Silman’s classics: “How to reasses your chess”. In this book Silman proposes a way of thinking similar to the one described above and also gives rules for all the pieces. Let’s look at the rules for the knights:

Knight Classifications
1. Knights on the first and second ranks are purely defensive and are usually on their way to greener pastures.
2. A knight on the third rank is useful for defense and is ready to take a more aggressive stance by jumping to the fifth.
3. A knight on the fourth rank is as good as a bishop and is well poised for both attack and defense.
4. A knight on the fifth rank is often superior to a bishop and constitutes a powerful attacking unit.
5. A knight on the sixth rank is often a winning advantage. It spreads disharmony in the enemy camp.

First Rule of Knights
Knights need advanced support points to be effective!

Second Rule of Knights:
Knights are very useful pieces in closed positions.

Third Rule of Knights:
Knights are the best blockaders of passed pawns.

Fourth Rule of Knights:
Knights are usually superior to bishops in endings with pawns on only one side of the board.

Wilhelm Steinitz’s Anti-Knight Technique:
If you take away all their advanced support points the knights will be ineffective and the Bishops will have an excellent chance of winning out.

Questions to ask yourself before trading off into a Bishop v. Knight imbalance:
1. Is the position open or closed? If it’s closed I may prefer to own the Knights. If it’s open the Bishops may be a good bet.
2. Will there be support points available for his knights? If there are,
a) Can they get to them?
b) If they do, does it matter?
c) Can the bishops reach similar or superior squares?

There is a lot more that can be said about knights, but these are really the basic rules.

OK, that’s it for starters. I will think of a way to train these rules. Maybe I will do a video or a quiz or so, or post a position with some analysis. In the mean time it is useful to study these rules.

Happy “ruling”!

1 Comment

  1. Waldemar August 2, 2008

    Hi Alex,

    Another resource for you is Loomis’ article:
    http://blog.chess.com/Loomis/the-better-minor-piece

    It is a great and clear cut example of a strong knight!

    Good luck!

    Waldemar

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