Why is the Knight Important in Chess? (Explained)

The chess piece that we will examine is the knight. The knight is a very unique piece in chess, and all its strengths and weaknesses are not easily apparent.  

The strength of knight vs bishop in chess 

The knight is often misused and traded early by beginners, and even intermediate-level players admit they’d prefer bishops over knights. While bishops do have the potential to control more squares than a knight, the knight has its own unique abilities to compensate for its poor square control possibilities.

The Knights: Strengths and weaknesses

Strengths:

1. Has the unique ability to jump over both allied and enemy pieces

2. A knight’s attack can never be blocked

3. Can be a monster in an outpost square in your opponents camp

4. Moves and attacks indirectly

Weaknesses:

1. Medium ranged piece

2. Is dependent upon being centralized to control all its potential squares

3. Can only control 1 color square at a time

4. The full potential of the knight is reached with the support of other pieces

Let’s break down each point. 

The Knight Movement

-Has the unique ability to jump over an enemy and allied pieces. This allows knights the flexibility to do many things other pieces cannot. Knights can be quickly developed in the opening and can maneuver behind enemy lines to access squares other pieces would not be able to move to. 

-A knight’s attack can never be blocked. This is another powerful ability the knight possesses. If the knight checks the king, the king must move or the knight must be captured, limiting your opponent’s ability to deal with the attack. Heavier pieces must also move away from the knight’s attack if they can not be captured. This brings me to point 

-A knight can be a nightmare in an outpost square. When combined with the backing of a pawn, a knight in your enemy’s territory will become obtrusive and cause your heavy pieces to avoid its attack and develop awkwardly. The outpost square gives the knight an extra threat of immediately creating a passed pawn even if you trade the knight off of the square.  

-Moves and attacks indirectly. The indirect attacking pattern from the knight allows the piece to attack other pieces without putting itself in harm’s way, particularly the queen. All other pieces must put themselves in a queen’s line of attack to threaten the queen except for the knight. This gives the knight the potential for harassment of other heavier pieces without friendly supporting pieces.

chess knight

All the unique movement of the knight also comes with its inherent drawbacks. 

-The knight is a medium ranged piece. This is an obvious weakness, cause the knight to need several moves to venture across the board that other pieces could make in 1 move. In endgames, if action is happening on opposite sides of the board, the knight tends to be a poor teammate and even worse solo. 

-The knight is dependent upon being centralized to control all its potential squares. A knight can control up to 8 squares, but only if it’s not around the edge of the board. In the corner, the knight controls a pitiful 2 squares, making it no stronger than a pawn. The knight can also become trapped in the corner or around the edge of your opponent controls its only escape squares. Both the edge of the board and the 2nd rank around the edge limit the knight’s attacking power. 

-The knight can only control 1 color at a time. The knight controls either light or dark squares, making it limited in some situations. 

-The full potential of the knight is reached with other pieces. The knight is a tricky piece, but it can easily be dominated by heavier pieces that can control moves squares at a time. The knight works best when he has teammates, but when he gets isolated he can become very ineffectual, trapped, or useless.

Conlusion

The knight is a unique piece that requires deeper understanding to use to its fullest potential. Its weaknesses can be crippling, making the piece useless around the edge of the board.

However, when the knight enters into favorable situations in outpost squares with coordinated support from other allied pieces it can be a nightmare to deal with.

The knight favors “closed” positions where there are many pieces cluttering the board. This makes long ranged pieces less effective and allows the knight ability to jump over other pieces invaluable. Knights are awkward pieces, but if used correctly, can become deadly assassins.

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