Where the Knights and Bishops Begin

I have mentioned that there are 6 possible starting arrangements for the R, N, and B in Chess, and that the arrangement RNB is stronger than any of the other 5 (RBN, NRB, NBR, BRN, BNR).


Suppose that White's Bishops and Knights are exchanged, so that his starting position is RBNQKNBR. This might be the second-best arrangement of the pieces, and is almost as good as the normal.

Now the Knight on f1 may be developed to d2 (where it does not block a Bishop), to e3 (where it has contact with only one central square instead of the two squares it would touch from f3), to g3, or to h2. It has more choices than it would have from g1, but they seem to be not quite as good.

The Bishop on g1 can be fianchettoed to h2, or developed centrally via f2 (which requires moving the f-Pawn and creating a weakness, but attacks/defends d4 without needing to move the Bishop).

If you try to follow a traditional opening plan, the Bishop seems to lose time requiring either the f-Pawn or the h-Pawn to move; but perhaps there are other opening plans available, perhaps one could leave the central Pawns back for a while.

1. d4 d5 2. c3 Nf6 3. f3 Nc6!? 4. e4 e5!? shows one possible plan by White, and also shows its weakness. This mode of development defends e4 and d4 well enough, but does not put any pressure on e5/d5. The game might continue 5. Nb3 e:d4 6. c:d4 Bb4+ 7. Nf1-d2 d:e4 8. f:e4 O-O and now if 9. Bg1-e3, Nf6-g4! looks strong; or 9. a3 B:d2+ 10. Q:d2 Re8 can get exciting. In general, this simple and direct mode of play has left White with an isolated phalanx which will be less of an advantage than an object of attack, and this disadvantage will follow from White's inferior development.

We haven't even looked at the problems for White that can be caused by the undefended g2/b2 Pawns, and must already conclude that this opening setup is not quite as good as the standard one.


Exchanging the Rooks and Knights gives what is probably the worst arrangement, although those who like to start games with 1. g4 might be pleased.


Although this is not a good starting position, the possibility of opening with 1. c4 and 2. f4 deserves some attention.


The second-worst arrangement. The Rooks are really in the way of development, and it will be hard to save the game.


This may not be bad. An opening like 1. c4 2. f4 3. b3 4. g3 5. Nc3 6. Nf3 would be a fast way to develop, but once you have done this the King is still stuck in the center!

However, 1. f4 2. Nf3 3. Rf2 4. O-O (Yes, you can Castle with the Bishop if it starts the game on h1), and 4...Ng4 wins the Exchange because the Rook has no moves.

And In Closing, May I Say

Yes, but this is just one of the many possible Chess armies.

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