I want to thank you beforehand for taking your time to read and (hopefully) answer this. My question is a bit ambiguous, so I'll give an example. Let's say I'm playing white, the enemy has castled king-side so his king is on g8, with his rook on f8, and his knight is on f6. Also, he's got his three castle pawns at their original positions. My dark-square bishop is fianchettoed and I can thus trade it for his f6 knight. If he can only take the bishop with the g7 pawn, opening up his king, when is it a good idea to trade (i. e. what other factors affect if it is a good idea or not)?

[FEN "5rk1/5ppp/5n2/8/8/8/1B3PPP/5RK1 w - - 0 1"]

3 Answers 3


As always with such questions, the correct answer is "It depends on the position!".

For example if your opponent doesn't have an e-pawn, you will create isolated doubled pawns, which are generally quite weak. But in a 4 vs 3 rook endgame, with all pawns on the kingside this structure is actually better for black than f7-g7-h7 because it is harder for white to create a passed pawn.

Taking gxf6 will often weaken the black king, but only if you are actually able to attack him. If you have all your pieces on the queenside he might just play Kh8, Rg8 and start an attack on your king!

So, this is a weakening of his structure, but you have to be able to take advantage of it. Otherwise a bishop might just be more useful than a knight.

  • Thanks, I hadn't thought about the passed pawn aspect. Isn't it really slow and cumbersome to play Kh8 then Rg8 though?
    – David Cian
    Nov 18, 2015 at 0:43
  • Yes but if White has no way to attack, especially if ...f5 shuts down the b1/h7 diagonal, then it is as good a plan as any.
    – aschultz
    Apr 17, 2017 at 21:00

It's "usually" a good idea to capture a knight in this situation. If possible, you might consider using a rook on f1 to make this capture. The reason is that you have a second rook to control the open file, but only one dark-squared bishop to control the diagonal a1-h8,

It's always a good idea to capture the knight if you can see a way to a winning combination. (This will often be the case.) Then finish the combination and win.

Another poster pointed out that capturing might cause endgame problems for you. That is if the game lasts till the endgame. If you capture, it's your job to see that it doesn't.


There are a lot of factors which gets counted in situations like this .

  1. If you see that there can be a Kingside attack after you break the castle and you have a lot of initiative with the pieces forcing a strong attack on the King .
  2. According to the diagram above it might be that you will be closing the centre soon with your pawns and your pawns will belong to the dark squares so you part with your dark square Bishop.
  3. A situation in End game can arise where your & your enemy Pawns are all on one flank and you do not have any other pawns in other flank . You can trade your Bishop for a knight because Knight is generally worse if you need to control both flanks .
  4. If it is a Middle game and your Knights are on good central squares like d5 or f5 , h6 somewhere then it is surely a good choice (Weak Squares around the King).

There can be other factors also but the above is the most common .

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