Essential Knight Maneuvers for the Club Chess Player
Knight’s way of dancing makes it quite a special ally for the attacker player. Not just is it a fantastic tactical weapon but also a dominating force in the endgame in many cases. The club chess player should grasp the essential knight maneuvers which will assure him a better general understanding of the geometry of the board.
When you started playing chess probably someone taught you that the knight controls eight different squares when in the middle of the board —that’s the reason many dub it the Octopus. Now, did you know that it could reach 26 of the 64 squares of the board in two moves? That’s roughly forty percent. Certainly a lot considering its short-range condition.
But just as the bishop has its Achilles’ heel on the fact that it only controls dark or light squares, the same goes for the knight. Let’s take a look at the following diagram and draw some rules of thumb about the essential knight maneuvers.
Rules of Thumb | Essential Knight Maneuvers
- A knight in the center controls 8 squares (black).
- The centralized knight can reach nearly all —see rule number 4— of the squares of the same colour it lies making just two moves (white).
- Excepting the 8 squares the knight controls directly, it will need three moves to reach any of the squares of the opposite colour it lies in (orange).
- The most time-consuming maneuver for the knight occurs when it needs to reach any of the corners of the imaginary square it controls (4 moves, red).
Closer examination of the diagram shows us that incredibly it will take the knight only two moves to reach the edge of the board while three moves to get on an immediately adjacent square. That’s a lot of time-consuming for the endgame. And imagine whether you must reach any of the red squares in order to save the game. It will take you four moves!
But the overall power of the knight resides on its ability to fork enemy pieces. That’s the ultimate reason I wrote this article. Recently I lost a rapid game at a local chess tournament where a simple knight maneuver could have saved my poor performance.
Arce-Duba, Torneo Mayor 2017 (5), position after 19.Nf4
We had arrived to this position after a failed (for me) KID’s Exchange Variation where my opponent played an early f4. My idea was to maintain the pieces on the board and not to allow the exchange of the bishop for White’s knight. With this in mind I immediately replied 19…Bf8? with the innocent intention of 20…Bc5+ and 21…Nf2+.
I went on to lose. How should I have approached the position? Well, firstly you cannot play without evaluating possibilities. Besides that obvious piece of advice and focusing strictly on the board I should have noted the suspicious situation of the f-rook after 19…Bxf4! 20.Rxf4. Look at the board. If only the black knight could now get e2 then it would be just winning.
From e4 the knight needs two moves to reach almost any square of the same colour it lies in. Should it be the case you could threat something in the first move towards the e2 square then it would be the winning move you’re looking for. 20…Nc3! Voilà! Black wins back the exchange and remains a pawn up.