“I keep on fighting as long as my opponent can make a mistake.” - Emanuel Lasker
Are you learning to play chess but still struggling with the pieces on the board? Would you like to know more about how the pieces in the game can be utilised?
Here’s Sueprprof’s guide to the knights in chess.
A Brief History of Chess
Chess originated in India in the 6th century and, according to legend, the game was designed for an Indian king to stave off his boredom.
In the legend, the Indian Brahmin Sissa created the game for the king. Impressed by the game, the king asked Sissa what he would like in return for designing such a wonderful thing. Humbly, Sissa asked for a single grain of wheat on the first square, with the number doubling each with each tile of the chessboard. Surprised by the seemingly humble demand, the king accepted.
If you do the maths, you’ll find out that this eventually adds up to 18 quintillion grains of wheat, which would take a silo 15 miles in length and a mile high. Even today, we don’t produce that much wheat across the globe.
Sissa didn’t actually take this reward and instead taught the king to think carefully about the decisions he made, just like in chess and, more importantly, he taught him not to be duped by those trying to seize his money or power.
Shatranj, as the original game was known, arrived in Persia, travelled across the Arab world, and arrived in Spain and Italy. By the year 800, an Arab lord offered Charlemagne an ivory chess set and Saint Louis was given a crystal and stone set in 1250.
Chess was a game played by the elite, but nowadays, chess sets are commonly made of wood and rosewood, boxwood, and ebony in particular.
In the Middle Ages, there were some major changes to the rules and the addition of the queen, which was initially called the virgin or the lady. Previously, this piece was the vizier or advisor to the king and could only move in a limited capacity. The clear rules we have today haven’t changed much since this period and many of the major changes would take hundreds of years to arrive.
In the 1950s, modern theories on chess came about with great players like the Russian Karpov and the American Fischer. Kasparov added a new dimension to chess, especially when he faced off against a powerful chess computer known as Deep Blue. He would suffer a few defeats at the non-existent hands of this machine before finally defeating it.
The Knight, a Strong Piece
A chessboard includes 64 squares that alternate between black and white.
Each player has the following pieces.
- A king
- A queen
- Two bishops
- Two knights
- Two rooks
- Eight pawns
The knight is the piece on the chessboard that looks like a horse. White starts with their knights on b1 and g1 and black starts with their knights on b8 and g8.
When you first start learning how to play chess, the first thing you have to do is study how the pieces move.
The knight moves in a particular way that looks like an “L”. This “L” and be flipped and rotated as long as it moves in the following ways: 2 squares horizontally and 1 square vertically or 2 squares vertically and 1 square horizontally.
The fact that the knight can attack 8 different squares around him means that he has a good strategic reach, which makes him very powerful in the middle of the board.
Beware of forks, when a piece can attack two or more pieces simultaneously. Another important rule to know about the knight is that they can jump over pieces in the game.
From their starting position, players can move the knights over their pawns to begin the game. The knight can capture opposing pieces by jumping onto occupied squares. It’s a useful piece in closed positions.
In summary, here are the knight’s strengths:
- Powerful in closed positions
- Can control the middle of the board
- Can reach many tiles
After having studied how the knight moves, you can see just how useful it can be. As the game progresses, knights often become less powerful as they face off against strong pieces like the queen. This can allow you to fend off various attacks and open up the game with a single move.
You can learn a lot about chess and how powerful each piece is by analysing your games. The world of chess will surprise you.
Mastering Chess Openings with the Knight
At the start of the game, a knight can be very useful.
It can leave its rank right at the very start and can help novice players to develop strategies by easily capturing opposing pawns and is also a piece that the grandmasters like to use as it offers a lot of strategic possibilities.
It also allows players to put their opponent in check in a few moves and counterattack against overly offensive attacks from your opponent.
Here are some strategies you can use the knight for.
Two Knights Defense
A common strategy amongst novice players, this can teach you about an important fundamental of chess; developing your pieces.
This is a defensive strategy that stops your opponent from developing their bishops.
The Two Knights Defense has several variations.
This is another strategy that uses the knights and takes its name from one of the greatest ever Russian chess players and is commonly used by players seeking a draw.
As a rather complicated strategy, it’s recommended for players ranked over 1500 so you should master the fundamentals before looking at strategies like this one.
The Réti Opening
This opening takes its name from Richard Réti, a Czechoslovakian grandmaster.
Even though he never won a world championship, he did manage to beat the world champion José Raúl Capablanca in 1924.
This opening is also known as the Réti-Zukertort Opening and is an opening that beginners can try as they learn the game.
The Alekhine Defense
This opening gets its name from Alexander Alekhine who used it in 1921.
The fourth chess world champion from 1927 to 1935 and from 1937 until his death, he was the first world champion to regain their title and the only to die while in possession of it.
There are plenty of other openings and defences that make use of the knight:
- Nimzowitsch Defence
- East Indian Defence
- Grünfeld Defence
- Nimzo-Indian Defence
- Bogo-Indian Defence
- Benoni Defense
- Benko Gambit
- Budapest Gambit
- Black Knights' Tango (Mexican Defense)
Keep in mind that a game can be won or lost in the opening so play a few games and you’ll start memorising the openings.
You should also try managing the tempo of the game and will also want to consider castling, learning about the Scholar’s mate, and controlling the critical diagonal.
Don’t forget that the most important piece in the game of chess is the player so start learning how to play chess today. Once you feel the rush of a high-intensity match, you’ll never look back and you’ll never want to stop playing.
Don’t be scared, awaken the grandmaster inside of you!
If you'd like to learn more about chess, get in touch with one of the many talented and experienced chess tutors on the Superprof website. Whether you're a novice looking to learn how to play or an experienced player wanting to improve your game, there are tutors all over the country and around the world who can teach you.
There are different types of tutoring available and each comes with its pros and cons so think carefully about the type of tutoring that will work for you, how you like to learn, and your budget.
Face-to-face tutoring is the most cost-effective since it's just you and your tutor and every minute of every session will be spent focusing on you and your learning. However, these types of tutorials are usually the most expensive since the tutor spends time outside of the lessons adapting each session to you.
Online tutorials are usually cheaper than face-to-face tutoring since the tutor doesn't have to travel and can schedule more lessons each week. While online tutorials aren't ideal for hands-on subjects, for more academic subjects and skills, they work great.
Group tutoring is great for those on a budget as you can share the cost of your tutoring with the other students in the class and you'll also have more people to play chess against!
Don't forget that a lot of the tutors on Superprof offer the first lesson for free so consider trying a few before picking the tutor that's right for you.