Lund, Esben: The Secret life of Bad Bishops(QUA)
The Bad Bishop is a notorious villain in chess, but often a perfectly respectable bishop is falsely accused. The Secret Life of Bad Bishops takes an in-depth look at the bishop - not just dealing with good and bad bishops but also more nuanced cases where a “double-edged bishop” could turn out to be a game-winning hero or a fatal liability. All phases of chess are covered, from opening to middlegame to endgame. The final two chapters test the reader’s newly enhanced understanding with carefully chosen exercises and instructive solutions.
Esben Lund, an International Master from Denmark, is a respected author and coach. His first book for Quality Chess, Rook vs. Two Minor Pieces, earned excellent reviews.
You hold in your hands a book that has been long in coming to fruition. It took me years to collect material for the early chapters as well as for the exercise section, and it demanded further time testing it on several chess players of different strengths. When I finally concluded some chapters, I realized from the feedback I received that some of them needed restructuring. In the end I excluded several exercises and also one chapter.
My ambition with the book is to introduce the subject of good and bad bishops in a proper way, and that’s why the introductory chapter has become slightly longer than usual compared to other chess books. I find existing views of good and bad bishops slightly simplified and misleading. Because the way I am dealing with them is quite a delicate subject, I simply decided not to let the size of the introduction be the main issue, but rather to focus on communicating my view in a proper and understandable way.
Both IM Andreas Hagen and FM Sebastian Nilsson told me that, while reading through the introduction, they thought at the beginning: “Now the bishop MUST be bad”, while I kept calling it a double-edged bishop (DEB). And the more they read of the introduction, the more they became accustomed to my way of thinking. Danish IM Nikolaj Mikkelsen made a nice comment that in many ways grasps and confirms my idea with this project: he said that he is now less afraid that his potentially bad bishop will in fact become bad.
The structure of the book is similar to that of Rook vs. Two Minor Pieces - my first book for Quality Chess: I am dealing with a general subject - this time good and bad bishops - and each of the chapters represents a phase in the game.
The introductory Chapter 1 is followed by Chapter 2 on exchange sacrifices. This is a quite natural follow-up, since this sacrifice can be a way to exchange the right pieces and isolate the potentially bad bishop further. As we shall see throughout the book, the presence of additional pieces on the board is crucial in determining whether the double-edged bishop will in fact end up as a bad bishop.
Chapter 3 deals with the transformation from opening to early middlegame. For that purpose I have chosen to look deeper into a certain variation of the Advance French (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5), as this opening line leaves both White and Black with double-edged bishops. I realize that not everyone plays this line, but this should not be the main point: the material is specifically chosen beyond just the opening theory such that an understanding of the early middlegame is achieved. And by following the good advice from Andreas Hagen to pose questions to the reader throughout the chapter (Dvoretsky likes to do this as well), this chapter can be seen as a test as to whether the reader has captured the essence of the first part of the book. Please answer each question, and check the solution before you move on, as sometimes the next question follows on from the previous question’s solution.
Chapter 4 is devoted to the endgame. Here I have analysed in depth the pure endgames rook vs. bishop and bishop vs. knight. It makes a lot of sense to consider what happens if the additional pieces go off the board and thereby ask the question: “What is the bishop able to do on its own?&rdquo
This led to some surprising and very useful conclusions. Rook vs. bishop endgames are the sharpest I have ever come across. By entering a pure rook vs. bishop ending, the side with the bishop cannot allow the position to come to a standstill, where only the rook side can improve his position (on the colour inaccessible to the bishop). If he allows the position to come to a standstill, he should be absolutely positive that it is a fortress. I present and discuss the possible fortresses for comparison. If the fortress-like position (FLP) is not a fortress, then the position is simply lost for the bishop side.
It was also beneficial to see in just how many positions it is better to place the pawns on the same colour as the bishop - contrary to the simplified rule of thumb that you should place the pawns on the opposite colour of the bishop. On the same colour the pawns can better be protected by the bishop and this comes in useful if, for instance, your activity is taking place on the kingside, whereas you only wish to defend the queenside from a distance.
The concluding Chapters 5 and 6 are devoted to exercises and their solutions, where the reader is able to test if he or she has grasped the essence of all aspects of the double-edged bishop. The exercises are given a level and a recommended time for solving, and the solutions are discussed thoroughly.
Thus the middlegame is given special attention in both the introductory Chapters 2 & 3 as well as in the exercise section.
The material presented in this book is on a high level, and I believe that players rated 1900 and above will benefit the most from it. Players eager to improve their play and understanding of the game will of course get a lot from the book as well. As an author and trainer it was important for me to test the material on players who are aspiring for titles (2 IMs and an FM). I can say with confidence that IMs will benefit a lot from the book on their way to the GM title, and I also believe that grandmasters can learn a thing or two.
I would like to thank all the people involved in this project, especially Andreas Hagen, Nikolaj Mikkelsen and Sebastian Nilsson for giving useful and critical feedback on the whole book from an early stage. This really shaped the book into what it has become. And a special thank-you goes to Jacob Aagaard for making this book possible. For me it was crucial to get an additional good and relevant critique from a grandmaster.
In any case, I hope you will find the book beneficial.
A note on my name: In 2009 I took a second first name (Silas) that I use in my everyday life, but for reasons of continuity I decided to keep Esben Lund on the front cover.
Silas Esben Lund
Copenhagen, July 2014