Knight (chess)

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White knight
Black knight

The knight (♘, ♞) is a piece in the game of chess and is represented by a horse's head and neck. Each player starts with two knights, which are located between the rooks and bishops in the standard starting position.[1]

History[edit]

The knight, along with the king and the rook, has the oldest defined movement of any chess piece, its movement being unchanged since the invention of chaturanga in India around the 6th century.[2] Similar pieces are found in almost all games of the chess family. The ma of xiangqi and janggi are slightly more restricted; conceptually, the piece is considered to pass through the adjacent orthogonal square, which must be unoccupied, rather than "jumping". Another related piece is the keima of shogi, which moves like a knight but may only move two squares forward followed by one square sideways, restricting its movement to two possible squares.

Names[edit]

The knight is colloquially sometimes referred to as a "horse", which is also the translation of the piece's name in several languages: Spanish caballo, Italian cavallo, Russian конь, etc. Some languages refer to it as the "jumper", reflecting the knight's ability to move over pieces in its path: Polish skoczek, Danish/Norwegian springer, Swedish springare, German Springer, Luxembourgish Sprénger, Slovene skakač. In Sicilian it is called sceccu, a slang term for a donkey, derived from the Arabic sheikh, who during the Islamic period rode from village to village on donkeys collecting taxes.[3]

Movement[edit]

Compared to other chess pieces, the knight's movement is unique: it may move two squares vertically and one square horizontally, or two squares horizontally and one square vertically (with both forming the shape of an L). This way, a knight can have a maximum of 8 moves. While moving, the knight can jump over pieces to reach its destination.[4][5][6] Knights capture in the same way, replacing the enemy piece on the square and removing it from the board. Knights and pawns are the only pieces that can be moved in the initial position.[6]

abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
b8 black knight
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
g8 black knight
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
e7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
a6 black circle
c6 black circle
f6 black circle
h6 black circle
a3 white circle
c3 white circle
f3 white circle
h3 white circle
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
d2 white pawn
e2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
d1 white queen
e1 white king
f1 white bishop
g1 white knight
h1 white rook
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
The starting position in chess, with dots representing possible knight moves
abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
b8 black knight
d7 black circle
a6 black circle
c6 black circle
e5 white circle
g5 white circle
d4 white circle
h4 white circle
f3 white knight
d2 white circle
h2 white circle
e1 white circle
g1 white circle
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Knights on different squares, with dots representing possible knight moves
abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
d5 three
e5 white circle
f5 one
g5 white circle
h5 three
d4 white circle
e4 one
f4 two
g4 one
h4 white circle
d3 one
e3 two
f3 white knight
g3 two
h3 one
d2 white circle
e2 one
f2 two
g2 one
h2 white circle
d1 three
e1 white circle
f1 one
g1 white circle
h1 three
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Numbers representing the minimum possible moves to attack a square

Value[edit]

Knights and bishops, also known as minor pieces, have a value of about 3 pawns.[7] Bishops utilize a longer range, but can only move to squares of one color. The knight's value increases in closed positions since it can jump over blockades.[8] Knights and bishops are stronger when supported by other pieces (such as pawns) to create outposts and become more powerful when they advance, as long as they remain active.[6] Also, knights are especially strong in the center of the board, where they have up to 8 moves. When at a corner, they have only 2.

abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
f8 black bishop
e7 black circle
g7 black circle
d6 black circle
h6 black circle
c5 black circle
b4 black circle
a3 black circle
f3 white circle
h3 white circle
e2 white circle
g1 white knight
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
A knight and bishop, with dots representing their possible moves. A knight can move to white and black squares, but a bishop is restricted to its initial square color.

Properties[edit]

abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
d8 black rook
g8 black king
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black bishop
h7 black pawn
d6 black pawn
g6 black pawn
d5 white knight
e5 black pawn
e4 white pawn
h4 black queen
a3 white pawn
f3 white pawn
b2 white pawn
d2 white queen
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
b1 white king
d1 white rook
h1 white rook
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
A knight occupying a hole (d5) in the enemy pawn structure

Enemy pawns are very effective at harassing knights because a pawn attacking a knight is not itself attacked by the knight. For this reason, a knight is most effective when placed in a weakness in the opponent's pawn structure, i.e. a square which cannot be attacked by enemy pawns. In the diagram, White's knight on d5 is very powerful – more powerful than Black's bishop on g7.

Whereas two bishops cover each other's weaknesses, two knights tend not to cooperate with each other as efficiently. As such, a pair of bishops is usually considered better than a pair of knights (Flear 2007:135). World Champion José Raúl Capablanca considered that a queen and a knight is usually a better combination than a queen and a bishop. However, Glenn Flear found no game of Capablanca's that supported his statement; statistics do not support the statement, either (Flear 2007:135). In an endgame without other pieces or pawns, two knights generally have a better chance against a queen than two bishops or a bishop and a knight (see Fortress (chess)).

From Mednis
abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 white king
c8 black king
a7 white pawn
e2 white knight
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
White to move cannot win. White wins if Black is to move.

Compared to a bishop, a knight is often not as good in an endgame. A knight can only exert control over one part of the board at a time and often takes multiple moves to reposition to a new location, which often makes it less suitable in endgames with pawns on both sides of the board. This limitation is less important, however, in endgames with pawns on only one side of the board. Knights are superior to bishops in an endgame if all the pawns are on one side of the board. Furthermore, knights have the advantage of being able to control squares of either color, unlike a lone bishop. Nonetheless, a disadvantage of the knight (compared to the other pieces) is that by itself it cannot lose a move to put the opponent in zugzwang (see triangulation and tempo), while a bishop can. In the position pictured on the right, if the knight is on a white square and it is White's turn to move, White cannot win. Similarly, if the knight were on a black square and it were Black's turn to move, White cannot win. In the other two cases, White would win. If instead of the knight, White had a bishop on either color of square, White would win with either side to move (Mednis 1993:7–8).

abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
c4 white bishop
g2 white king
c1 black knight
h1 black knight
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Knight trapped by an enemy bishop; knight trapped by a king

In an endgame where one side has only a king and a knight while the other side has only a king, the game is a draw since a checkmate is impossible. When a bare king faces a king and two knights, a checkmate can never be forced; checkmate can occur only if the opponent commits a blunder by moving their king to a square where it can be checkmated on the next move. Checkmate can be forced with a bishop and knight, however, or with two bishops, even though the bishop and knight are in general about equal in value. Paradoxically, checkmate with two knights sometimes can be forced if the weaker side has a single extra pawn, but this is a curiosity of little practical value (see two knights endgame). Pawnless endings are a rarity, and if the stronger side has even a single pawn, an extra knight should give them an easy win. A bishop can trap (although it cannot then capture) a knight on the rim (see diagram), especially in the endgame.

Stamma's mate[edit]

In a few rare endgame positions where the opposing king is trapped in a corner in front of its own pawn, it is possible to force mate with only a king and knight in a pattern known as Stamma's mate, which has occasionally been seen in practice. In the position below, from Nogueiras–Gongora, Cuban championship 2001,[9] Black played 75...Nxf6??, incorrectly assuming that the ending would be drawn following the capture of the last white pawn on a2. (Correct was 75...Ne3! 76.Kg6 Ng4 77.Kg7 and now 77...Nxf6! may be safely played, the king being sufficiently distant). Play continued 76.Nxf6 Ke5 77.Nd7+ Kd4 78.Kf4 Kc3 79.Ke3 Kb2 80.Kd2 Kxa2 81.Kc2 Ka1 82.Nc5 Ka2 83.Nd3 Ka1 84.Nc1 and Black resigned, as 84...a2 85.Nb3 is mate.

abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
e6 black king
f6 white pawn
d5 black knight
g5 white king
e4 white knight
a3 black pawn
a2 white pawn
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Position after 75.Kg5
abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
a3 black pawn
c2 white king
a1 black king
c1 white knight
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Black resigns due to 84...a2 85.Nb3#.

Notation[edit]

In algebraic notation, the usual modern way of recording chess games, the letter N stands for the knight (K is reserved for the king); in descriptive chess notation, Kt is sometimes used instead, mainly in older literature. In chess problems and endgame studies, the letter S, standing for Springer, the German name for the piece, is often used (and in some variants of fairy chess, N is used for the nightrider, a popular fairy chess piece).

Knight variations[edit]

Even among sets of the standard Staunton pattern, the style of the pieces varies. The knights vary considerably. Here are some examples.

Unicode[edit]

Unicode defines two codepoints for knight:

U+2658 White Chess Knight (HTML ♘)

U+265E Black Chess Knight (HTML ♞)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What Are the Rules of Chess? - A Step-By-Step Guide to Learning the Chess Rules". iChess.net. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  2. ^ Piecelopedia - Knight, chessvariants.com
  3. ^ Agricola, Sebastian (Summer 2013–14). "Did you know? Sceccu" (PDF). The Sicilian Association of Australia Newsletter. No. 13.
  4. ^ Because of this, the move can also be described in other ways, such as one square diagonally and one square orthogonally "outward" (not ending adjacent to its starting square), or one square orthogonally followed by one square diagonally outward. The latter describes the move of the horse in xiangqi, which cannot jump.
  5. ^ The FIDE Laws of Chess use a different but equivalent definition where the knight moves to one of the eight nearest squares that are not on its starting rank, file, or diagonal.
  6. ^ a b c "The Knight in Chess". MasterClass. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  7. ^ Lawrence, Al (2016). Chess and the Art of War. New York, USA: Chartwell Books. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-7858-3281-2.
  8. ^ Silman, Jeremy (1998). The Complete Book of Chess Strategy (1st ed.). Los Angeles, USA: Siles Press. pp. 215–219. ISBN 978-1-890085-01-8. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Jesus Nogueiras vs. Maikel Gongora Reyes, ch-CUB (2001)". Chessgames.com.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]