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Yes, a bishop can move diagonally backwards or forwards, as long as there is no other piece blocking its path. The bishop is equal to the strength of around three pawns, and always moves in a straight line diagonally. 

Each side of the checkerboard has two bishops, one to the left of the queen and one to the right of the queen. 

In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about the fast-moving, smooth-sailing bishop. From a bit of history on this piece, to how it moves and captures, it’s time to check in why you should be making the most of the piece with the pointy hat. 

Let’s check it out, shall we! 

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bishop 

In the humble yet challenging game of chess, each and every piece has a crucial role to play. I learned this the hard way, playing (and often losing) games in which I was only focused on developing powerful pieces like the queen. 

We’ve, for example, spoken about how the pawn is a slow-moving fella that really doesn’t do much. Then, there’s the rook. Sure, it can move in a straight line for miles but boy does it take a long time to develop! 

However, the bishop has always been on my favorite-pieces-to-play list from the very beginning. I mean, have you seen this bishop in action? It lurks around corners, sneaks up on its opponents, and has the ability to trap a king like that (*snaps fingers*). Plus, when a bishop starts moving, it’s clearly on a warpath; straight and narrow with only one goal in mind: to defeat the opponent. 

With two beyond brilliant bishops on your side, paired with a mighty queen and the noble knights, defeating your opponent is but a good set of moves away. 

That is, of course, if you’re using the bishop to the best of its abilities. Make a wrong move and you can kiss that bishop bye bye, which is a mighty shame. 

As we’ll discuss further in this piece, this bishop moves only diagonally, and on a specific color. You can imagine my horror as a six-year-old during a church service, when the actual bishop didn’t even bother to look where he was going while walking on black and white checkered tiles. It was at this moment that I realized that not everything in life reflects our favorite games. 

Now, let me introduce you to the battle-ready bishop. Which gets me thinking, are bishops supposed to be battling? Doesn’t that go against the whole love thy neighbor thing? But anyway, that’s an existential crisis for another day. 

Let’s get bishoping. 

Meet the Bishop 

Right, let’s get started. Each side of the checkered board has two bishops. One flanks the king, while the other flanks the queen. 

Related: Can the Queen Move Like a Knight?

As the queen always stands on her color, the bishop to her right will stand on the opposite color. The bishop to the king’s left, on the other hand, will stand on the opposite color of the king’s square.

Along with the pawn, the bishop is one of the oldest chess pieces on the board. Dating from 6th century Chaturanga, the way in which the bishop moves has remained the same. As previously mentioned, the bishop is equal to three pawns. However, unlike the puny pawn, which is only worth one point each, the fast-paced bishop has a few more tricks up its royal sleeve than the one-square-at-a-time pawn.

But more on that in a sec. 

As you can see, like any other piece on the board, the bishop is not to be underestimated. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: make the most of each piece that you have to your availability.

Now, let’s look at how that boisterous bishop moves!

How Does the Bishop Move? 

As you know, each bishop stands on a specific color, this is important to remember as it will influence how the bishop moves. The next thing to keep in mind, is that the bishop moves diagonally. The bishop can do so indefinitely, as long as no piece is in its way. 

Alma Cebrian, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Now, as we previously mentioned, the color on which the bishop stands influences how it moves. If a bishop starts on a white square on its home soil, it may only move diagonally on the color white. Whereas if a bishop calls the black square home, that’s the only square on which you’ll find it. 

This may seem complicated, but once you get knack of it you’ll know the path of the bishop like the palm of your hand.

Now, as you can imagine, the bishop is a mighty piece to have in your war arsenal. Just as with the queen, little can stand in a bishop’s way once it’s set on the warpath. Plus, each player has two bishops on a side, which sure makes facing your opponent much easier.

As you know, the bishop moves diagonally but can it do so backwards? Let’s see, shall we. 

Can the Bishop Move Backwards?

One step forward and one step back, in either direction the bishop can attack. Poetics aside, the bishop can move forward and back as it likes, as long as it is diagonally. 

As previously mentioned, the bishop is similar to a pawn, of which the latter can capture diagonally. However, as you know, the slow-moving pawn can only do so one square at a time. Plus, it only moves diagonally when capturing a piece the bishop, however, always moves diagonally. It can also do so for multiple squares at a time.

Related: Can the Knight Move Backwards?

The only time a bishop can not move continuously is when there is either an opponent’s piece in its way, or when it is capturing a piece.

Let’s discuss that in more detail below.

How does the bishop capture?

The bishop captures in the same way that it moves; diagonally. Just as the bishop moves, it can also capture to the front, or back, as long as it is diagonally. 

When a bishop captures a piece, it is done so within one move. The bishop attacks its opponent by replacing it on the square within the bishop’s path. 

Related: Can the King Capture Other Pieces?

How Can I Develop My Bishops? 

As you may have noticed, we feel quite strongly about the power of a bishop. It moves like lightning (unless there’s something in its way) and it can sneak up on an opposing piece from little nooks and crooks.

For this reason, it is so important to develop your bishops as quickly as possible. This may be difficult at first, as both the queenside and kingside bishop are protected behind a row of ready-to-fight pawns. 

So, what’s a player to do? 

A popular bishop development is a fianchetto. No, it’s not a really-difficult-to-master ballet move, but rather a development tactic popular with bishop fanatics. 

To undertake this development, a chess player pushes the b- or g-file pawn one or two squares forward. Once the paw has opened a path for the bishop behind it, the bishop can be developed to the second rank. 

Quite nifty, right? 

In fact, you may have seen that many players develop their bishops from this rank to a position that places the opponent’s king in check within minutes of the game’s start. This may sound like lots of fun, but this check generally doesn’t last very long. As the opponent will still have plenty of pieces to their disposal, they will be able to protect their king by placing the queen or another piece in the bishop’s way. 

For this reason, it’s important to always back your pieces. Like in football? Yes! A piece always needs some extra layer of protection, which you can get by creating a pawn chain behind the bishop, or developing your knights to flank the bishop. 

Can my pawn become a bishop? 

Now, we’ve told you that the bishop and the pawn have a few common factors in common, but what if I told you that your pawn can actually become a bishop?

Wait, what? 

Seriously, no lies! You may have heard of pawn promotion, which is the process during which a pawn reaches the last row of the chess board (or the first row on an opponent’s home soil). To reward the hard-working pawn for this feat, the little guy (or gal) gets a promotion. 

Pawn promotion

Once a pawn lands on the last square, it can be promoted to a higher-ranking piece of its choice. This includes the pawn becoming a bishop, which is just about the greatest thing ever. Imagine having three bishops on your side while facing the opposition? Now that is something we can get used to. 

Wrapping things up

In this article, we confirmed that a bishop can move forward and backward diagonally, but only on its designated color. The bishop can capture in the same way, and can move continuously as long as no other piece is in its path. 

The bishop is a great piece to have on your side, which is why you should try to develop it quickly and protect it at all cost (just as with any other piece). 

Go bishops, go! 


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