In Praise of the Bishop Pair

I suspect that Fischer himself would consider this position easily winning. He has a strong bishop versus a restricted knight with pawns on both sides of the board. In the meantime, Black is tied to the defence of the weak a6-pawn. In addition, White has much superior activity for his rooks and a passed pawn looms on the queenside. The first two of these advantages alone would probably suffice. It seems to me that this is another example of how strong players aren't thinking in terms of some theoretical preconception (in this case regarding good knights and bad bishops), but using their experience with similar positions and examining specific variations to which they then apply their judgement.

Thus I'm not convinced that Fischer's move, while obviously worthy of praise, is quite so wonderful as has been claimed. It does exhibit freedom from dogmatism, but in a form not atypical of that seen in many modern games. Furthermore, the decision to exchange is certainly the result of assessing the concrete possibilities for Black to free his game. Incidentally, it is often mentioned that some commentators at the time didn't even consider 22 £ixd7+ as they watched the game. But this isn't very meaningful because they weren't sitting at the board looking as intensely as the players at actual variations regarding issues such as the counterplay via ..JLb5 and the specific sequence that follows 22 £ixd7+. Listen to top grandmasters in the press room of any event and you will find that they both miss good moves and suggest horrendous ones quite frequently - the games aren't theirs, after all. At any rate, since many readers have seen this

Moving into the present, this contest from the Women's World Championship illustrates the popular trade-off of a pawn for the bishop-pair.

Zhu Chen - Kosteniuk

Moscow worn Wch (2) 2001

1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 £>c3 c6 4 e4 dxe4 5 £>xe4 ±b4+ 6 &d2 ®xd4 7 Axb4 ®xe4+ 8 Ae2

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