In chess, bishops move fast and have significant strategic value, mainly thanks to their diagonal orientation. If you’re still learning how to play the game, this overview will explain all the ways in which bishops are allowed to move.
According to the rules of chess, the bishop may move any number of unoccupied squares in any diagonal direction. The bishop always moves in straight diagonal lines across a chessboard.
Bishops do not have any special chess moves or deviations from their normal movement. This makes it a relatively easy chess piece to learn, since it is so straightforward, or should I say diagonal-forward?
The Bishop Moves Diagonally
Admittedly, the majority of chess pieces can move diagonally in some capacity. However, the bishop is the piece that has mastered this ability. It is the only chess piece that can exclusively move in this manner.
Since every player starts out with two bishops, the entirety of the board can theoretically be reached with the two of them. That is because one bishop always starts on a white square, while the other always starts on a black square.
To visualize the possible movement options of the bishop, have a look at the diagram below:
A bishop starting on a white square will always stay on white squares throughout an entire chess game. A similar thing can be said for the bishop starting on the black squares. There are no unique bishop moves that could change this.
Attacking With A Bishop
When it comes to attacking, the bishop is a force to be reckoned with. Bishops can swoop from one side of the board to the other, always moving in a diagonal direction. Exactly like its movement options, any diagonal line can be chosen for an attack.
Bishops attack in the same way they are allowed to move across a chessboard. After an attack, the bishop takes the square of the piece it just captured. To visualize a basic bishop attack, refer to the diagram below:
Bishops can only attack pieces of the other color. However, a bishop can’t ‘move past’ or ‘jump over’ an opponent’s piece in order to attack another piece. For example, if a bishop wants to take the rook in the situation below, it can’t move through a knight of the same color:
Similarly, a bishop does not have the ability to ‘jump over’ its own pieces to attack. Bishops cannot move past their own color to take an opponent’s piece. That’s why the rook is defended from a bishop’s attack in the situation below, thanks to a knight standing in the way:
The only thing the bishop can do in the situation above is move. It cannot attack and capture the rook, because that knight is blocking its path. The best course of action would be to move the knight somewhere safe, so the diagonal attack line between the bishop and rook is exposed.
In other situations, it can make sense to attack a stronger (or equally strong) chess piece when it’s being defended. A protected piece is not invincible to the bishop’s attack when it’s standing on one of the attack lines of the bishop:
Attacking a defended piece is almost certainly a ‘kamikaze’ attack. In other words, the bishop will immediately be attacked and taken itself. The attack is still worthwhile, since the rook is of greater value (5 points) than the bishop (3 points). In chess, this is called ‘making a favorable trade’.
Bishop Can’t Jump Over Other Chess Pieces
Moving across the board, the bishop has a lot of freedom. However, the bishop is not allowed to jump over other chess pieces. If the diagonal lines of movement are blocked off by your own pieces, it becomes harder to get around.
The diagram below shows how your own pieces have the ability to limit the range of movement for the bishop:
Remember that chess pieces are not allowed to share a square under any circumstance. However, if a similar situation involves pieces of the opponent’s color, the movement range is increased slightly. The rook can attack and take pieces and capture their square in the process.
Again, it is never possible to move past your opponent’s chess pieces under any circumstance. The only thing it a bishop allowed to do is to capture them and move onto their position:
Bishops Do Not Have A Special Chess Move
It might sound a bit sad, but the bishop doesn’t have any special moves. Compared to other pieces, there aren’t many complicated movements to keep in mind. Poor bishop!
The only special thing to memorize, is the fact that a pawn has the ability to promote into a bishop. This basically means that pawns reaching the other side of the board have the ability to transform into an extra bishop.
In most cases, pawn promotion results in a second (or third) queen. In rare cases, it makes sense to choose ‘lesser’ chess pieces, such as a bishop. This is called ‘underpromotion’. However, it is unlikely to encounter a player with a third bishop in an average game of chess.
Bishop Movement FAQ
If you’re just learning how to play chess, you might have a lot of specific questions about how the bishop moves. Some might seem a bit silly, but I’d like to cover the most frequently asked ones below. If your question is missing, feel free to share it in the discussion section below.
Can A Bishop Move Backwards?
The rules of chess allow the bishop to move backwards any number of unoccupied squares in a diagonal line, both in the left and right direction. The bishop is allowed to attack and capture pieces backwards as well.
Can A Bishop Move Sideways?
Different from a queen or rook, the rules of chess do not allow a bishop to move sideways in a horizontal direction. The bishop can only move sideways any number of unoccupied squares in a diagonal line.
Can A Bishop Move Up?
Chess rules do not allow a bishop to move up in a vertical line, but only in a diagonal line. The bishop is allowed to move up diagonally for any number of unoccupied squares on a chessboard.
Can A Bishop Move Over Other Pieces?
The only chess piece that is allowed to move over other pieces is a knight. Chess rules do not allow a bishop to move over other chess pieces under any circumstance. Bishops cannot move over pieces of the opponent, but they can take their square while attacking.