Knight Vs Bishop: Which Chess Piece Is More Valuable? | (2023)

Working out where you are in a game of chess often comes down to working out how many points you have compared to how many points remain to your opponent. The relative value system is pretty good, but it does have limits and it can make it hard to judge whether you want to sacrifice a knight or a bishop in the early part of the game..

Which chess piece is more valuable: the knight or the bishop? Although bishops and knights have the same relative value (they are both worth 3 points), bishops are generally a little stronger than knights. This is mostly because they can roam freely on their diagonal lines on the chess board, while knights are limited to the L-shape movement.

However, this isn’t always the case. It really does depend on the situation. Let’s find out why today.

Knight Vs Bishop: Which Chess Piece Is More Valuable? | (1)

The Relative Value System And Chess Pieces

The value of a chess piece is hammered into us during our early chess lessons. It’s one of the first things that a chess club or school tutor will teach you about. First you learn the moves and about checkmate and then it’s on to the numbers side of things.

Thankfully, while there are ways to approach chess from a mathematical basis (this is how computers “learn” to play chess, they crunch numbers against each other) there’s not much to the relative value system and almost anyone can learn it in a few minutes.

The smallest unit of currency in chess is a pawn. And thus, the relative value system gives a pawn the value of 1. That means that all other pieces on the board have their utility defined relative to the value of a pawn. So, you can think of the points score for those pieces as “equals to X number of pawns”.

So, we end up with the following scale:

  • A pawn is worth 1
  • A bishop is worth 3 (pawns or points)
  • A knight is worth 3 (pawns or points)
  • A rook is worth 5 (pawns or points)
  • A queen is worth 9 (pawns or points)

The odd thing about the relative point scale is that it was developed long before we had the means to properly statistically analyze many games and thus, it’s a bit of a “rule of thumb” as opposed to an absolute chess truth and that’s important.

Where’s The King In This?

The first thing you ought to notice is that the king is missing completely. This seems pretty strange given that the king is the most valuable piece in chess – if your king cannot move without being captured, you’ve lost the game.

If you program a computer to understand the rating scale, then you have to give the king a value. And indeed, that’s what chess programs do – they tend to rate the king at an arbitrarily high number (around 200 or even 500) to emphasize its absolute importance.

This isn’t a very useful distinction either because the king is clearly not as powerful as 20 or even 50 queens and thus a human player might wish to ask about the utility of the king relative to other pieces rather than the absolute value of the piece. In this case, a more realistic ranking is probably 4 – the king is more powerful than our knights and bishops and less powerful than our rooks particularly in the endgame.

Then the next anomaly is thrown up – the bishops and knights are given the same score. Given that they both have completely different move sets is this likely to be true? Or is a knight worth more than a bishop or vice-versa and if so, why?

Is A Knight More Valuable Than A Bishop?

This is a complicated problem. It’s way more complicated than assigning a value to the king. In fact, many grandmasters refuse to discuss the issue outside of the upper echelons of the game because they feel that unless you have your head firmly grounded in deep chess theory that the discussion would go over your head.

Fortunately, we don’t agree, though it’s not the easiest thing to follow.

About The Knight

Knights move in an L-shape. That is 2 squares in either direction along the vertical or horizontal and then 1 square in either direction along the horizontal or the vertical.

Depending on where it sits on the board a knight may move to up to 8 different squares or as few spaces as two.

It has the power to jump over other pieces and is the only piece (with the exception of the special move of castling which can happen only once per game) to have this power.

You can move the knight to any square on the board though it must always end a move on a square of the opposite color from where it started.

About The Bishop

Bishops, on the other hand, are free to roam the diagonal and they can move as many squares diagonally as they are able to reach.

In the center of the board they can move to up to 13 squares, in the corner just 7. They can’t jump like a knight though and that may mean that they struggle on a corded board.

They can only move from a square of one color to a square of the same color and thus, a bishop may only appear on 32 squares of the board, the other 32 are off limits.

Which is Better Bishop or Knight?

It depends on circumstances but in general:

  • If you have two bishops on the board, they are worth more than 2 knights or a knight plus a bishop – some players argue that this combination once the midgame is reached might be worth as much as 9 points rather than 6
  • If there are no queens left on the board – the power of the bishops goes up, there’s no exact numerical power increase for this but if you have a bishop and a rook going into the endgame they work better than a knight and a rook will.
  • In an open position – that is one where the board is relatively empty and pieces can move freely then a bishop is worth more than a knight, it’s larger potential move set makes it more powerful
  • In a closed position – that is a more defensive game where each player is blocking up the middle of the board then a knight is a more powerful piece than a bishop, the ability to jump over your opponent’s lines is very handy in these situations

In fact, if you can get a grandmaster to open up to you about the value of these pieces they will acknowledge that they raise and lower the value of the bishops and knights depending on where they are in the game and the overall shape of that game.

This makes sense. Knights and bishops may be, theoretically, of the same value when a game begins but, in reality, as the game progresses their values are highly dependent on the circumstances on the board.

As a chess player, early in your playing career these differences won’t make much difference to you because you won’t know enough to exploit these differences but as you get better, it will become a more important distinction and it’s likely that you too will adopt a sliding scale of value for your chess pieces.


Knight vs bishop: which chess piece is more valuable? If you need a “rule of thumb” then in most positions on the board, there’s a good chance that the bishop is going to be worth slightly more than a knight. This is even more likely if there are two bishops present when their relative value in an open endgame is close to 9 rather than 6 but it’s important to note that this is not a universal rule.

In closed positions, the knights can be much more powerful than bishops. The ability to pierce the opponent’s lines and get behind things using the “jump” functionality of knights is priceless in many games like this and here the knight comes into their own and is worth more than a bishop. As your game improves, you will get better at judging when your knights matter more than your bishops and vice-versa.

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