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This slightly confuses me. If I have one bishop left - let's say it is the light-squared bishop - ss it better for my pawns to be on the light squares or dark squares? Let's assume also that my opponent has a dark-squared bishop. The way I look at it it is like this (which is probably wrong). If my pawns are on the light squares, I can protect them with my bishop, but they block my bishop. If my pawns are on the dark squares, they don't block my bishop, but I can't protect them.

Does it make a difference if the opponent has a bishop left that is the same color as yours, or has no bishop left?

3 Answers 3

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The rule of thumb is that the stronger side (the side trying to win) should put the pawns on the opposite color of his or her bishop (so that they don't get in the way), and the weaker side should put pawns on the same color as their bishop in order to defend them an extra time (defended with the bishop and the king, the opponent can never win a pawn).

There are obviously exceptions to this, though. Each position really has to be judged independently.

One key idea, however, is that it is usually a good idea to block your opponent's pawns on the same color as the bishops (assuming that the two bishops are both light squared bishops or both dark squared bishops). This gives you the chance to try and win the pawn later and it will restrict the movement of your opponent's bishop.

If you have the only bishop on the board (your opponent has a knight, for example) it is almost always correct to put the pawns on the opposite colored squares of the bishop. This is usually the only way to play for a win. This touches on the good bishop/bad bishop question, but if your bishop is bad, then the knight will many times have the edge. If your bishop is good, however, you can try to make use of the bishop's superior range.

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With a light squared bishop, you (usually) want your pawns to be on opposite colored squares, i.e. the dark squares. This is particularly true because the opposing bishop is dark squared.

The pawns are supposed to protect each other (on dark squares). In doing so, they block the opposing bishop. Your bishop is supposed to "cover" those (light) squares not protected by your pawns.

If both your bishop and pawns are on light squares, the opposing king (and bishop) will be able to run all over the dark squares. Meanwhile, the pawns are in the way of your own bishop. This will put you at a severe disadvantage.

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Well, it may be irrelevant to answer an 11-year-old question, but there's still a thing not mentioned in previous answers.

In an opposite-colored bishop endgame (i.e. when both you and your opponent have only a king, a single bishop and pawns (no knights, rooks etc.), and your bishops travel on opposite colors), it depends on whether you are attacking or defending side.

When you are the attacking side (i.e. having chances to win), it's still better to place your pawns on opposite color of your bishop (i.e. the same color as your opponent's bishop), since otherwise your pawns can be blockaded and cannot cross a diagonal which is firmly controlled by your opponent (usually by both his king and bishop). (For example, white pawns on the light squares g6, f5 and e4 can be blocked with the black dark-squared bishop along the a1-h8 diagonal.)

But, if you have to defend, it's often better to go the other way round, namely placing your pawns on the same color as your bishop. That's because your remaining pawns are easier to be protected (with your bishop), and they are invulnerable to both the opponent's bishop (traveling on opposite color) and his king (since he cannot capture protected pieces).

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule of thumb, but it holds in many positions.

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  • Maybe I'm daft, but how is this different than the answer given by Andrew? May 1, 2023 at 21:00
  • @NoseKnowsAll well, to be honest, he did not mention that this principle is suitable only for "pure" opposite-colored bishop endgame. If we add another piece (a rook or a knight for example) to each side, this may easily turn wrong.
    – trolley813
    May 1, 2023 at 21:03
  • The thing I don't get with this advice is that if you are playing for a win, presumably you are trying to queen at least one of those pawns. So you can't just park it on a certain colour? May 2, 2023 at 10:41
  • @SteveBennett as usual, you should push the pawns in a way that they cannot be blockaded. So, for example, if you (as White) have a dark-squared bishop and pawns on c4 and d4 (your opponent has a light-squared bishop), you usually have to play d4-d5 (and then c4-c5-c6). If you play c4-c5 first, your pawns will end up on dark squares, and Black will be able to hold them by placing his bishop along the a8-h1 diagonal.
    – trolley813
    May 4, 2023 at 19:35

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