We've all heard about the concepts of 'good' bishop and 'bad' bishop.

[FEN "r1bqk1nr/ppp2ppp/2np4/2b1p3/2B1P3/5N2/PPPP1PPP/RNBQ1RK1 w kq - 0 5"]

In the position above, the white knight at f3 does not have access to either of the centre squares d4 or e5. Can this knight be considered a 'bad' knight? Is it best to have developed it to f3 or would e2 be a better square for this knight?


I'll answer this in three parts: the literal question, the concept of badly-placed pieces, and the particular example you give.

  1. Bishops are the only piece for which the nomenclature "good" and "bad" is idiomatic. That is because the set of squares a bishop can theoretically travel to is inherent to it; a dark-squared bishop can never ever go to a light square, so if the position is such that you'd like to have a bishop on light squares, you're out of luck and your bishop is "bad". On the other hand, if you have a badly-placed knight (or queen, or rook), there's almost never something preventing you from theoretically eventually repositioning it on a good square. So people generally don't use the term "bad knights". (People sometimes speak of endgames with a "good knight versus a bad bishop", but this is more a figure of speech meant to call attention to the fact that the bishop is bad and the knight cannot be.)

  2. Pieces can of course be badly placed, but except in the case of a bishop of the wrong color, they are just referred to as badly-placed pieces. In fact an excellent strategical rule of thumb is to always consider improving the position of your worst-placed piece.

  3. However, in the position you present, the knight is doing just fine on f3. It supports an eventual d4 (probably with the support of a pawn on c3), which if played at the right time could be very powerful, opening up the center. It puts pressure on Black's pawn on e5, dissuading him from playing the analogous move ...d5. And in some circumstances it could jump to g5, putting pressure on f7 or h7 (especially after Black has castled).

  • 1
    +1 Completely agree with this. The fact that bishops can be "bad" is because of their inherent limitation of moving on the same colored squares throughout the game. If the side's own pawns are fixed on those squares, then the mobility of the bishop is severely affected, making it bad. The same thing doesn't hold for a knight most of the time.
    – Wes
    May 1 '14 at 20:17

Well, generally a knight on the

1st or 2nd rank is defensive

3rd rank or 4th rank is theoretically "normal", and can be used defensively & aggresively.

5th rank is considered superior to a bishop

6th rank is the most devastating and might force your opponent to sacrifice an exchange to get rid of it.

7th rank is not as good as those on the 6th

8th rank basically needs to get out of the rank :D


The "goodness" or badness" of a knight is measured by how many squares it can reach, whether or not the opposition controls it. If you somehow put Black's queen on d4, the knight on f3 can capture it.

The knight on f3 is "good." It can move its theoretical maximum of eight squares. A knight on one of the corner squares, h1, is "bad." It can move only two squares. A knight on e2 would have only six theoretical moves, not as good as being on f3, unless there were some other, strategic reason (e.g., supporting a knight under attack on c3.

  • -1 I disagree with this. There are positions where knights can be placed even in corners and yet considered to be good because they fulfill a specific purpose and have the potential to improve. Thus, we also do not have a concept of "good rook vs bad rook" or "good queen vs bad queen" or "good king vs bad king". Bad bishops are bad because they generally do not have the potential to improve because the pawn structure is locked.
    – Wes
    May 3 '14 at 3:54
  • Of course the value of any piece's position depends on context. But generally a knight at the edge of the board is less mobile than a knight in the centre 16 squares. A knight in the centre is more effective, and still attacks the same 2 squares as that a knight in the corner. If I saw a knight in a corner, I would hope that it had been moved there to capture a piece. May 8 '14 at 10:42

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