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Knights and Holes
In Silman's "The Amateur's Mind," he defines a 'Hole' as: "A square that cannot be defended by pawns. such a square makes an excellent home for enemy pieces (especially Knights)." Why would knights generally be the best piece to occupy a hole?
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I wondered that too some times. I think part of the reason is, that knights can jump over pieces and thus make good blockaders/hole-occupier even if that hole is part of a pawn chain. Even then, they threaten stuff. Also, the knight - unlike the bishop - attacks more squares around (and behind the) pawn.
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A knight in a hole is one thing to deal with...a protected knight in a hole is worse ,..and can be a real headache when its protected by a long range bishop, queen or rook. The reason is that since its a hole, no pawn can make the exchange. That leaves your horses or the same color bishop to do the dirty work of removing it. But here is the problem with that...Trading a bishop for a knight is a mixed bag depending on the peice arrangement on the gameboard, plus to deal with the horse threat, you must also have the same color bishop still on the board and not being used for other objectives. Horses can be difficult to manuver to attack a specific square, because sometimes they require multiple moves around an enemy obstacle course to accomplish attacking the specific square of your target.
Only two other options remaine for getting rid of your problem enemy horse. One is to move more peices into position to attack the square of the offending horse with the goal of an outcome of beneficial exchanges. This concentrates your attacking power on a square that (many times) is close in your own territory- not where you what attacking power, and with your opponent doing the same to support the horse, your opponents position grows in attack on your side with you playing only defense.
The other option is deflection of the horses protector, which , if its a long range peice means a chance of having to over extend oneself. If the enemy horse is protected by another horse and an exchange is made the trouble begins again....with an ill sense of deja vu!
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I'm not sure what universe I'm in right now when a 1000 rated player is answer a 1600 rated player's question of this caliber so well. It seems like you, pagodadapanicdog, could be rated much higher if you transfered your theoretical knowledge into practice in your games.
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So far, so good...
I appreciate the thought you have put into your replies, and I agree with every word of them. But here's the rub!
alberlie, it seems to me that the knight would be capable of influencing or moving to no more than two squares beyond the hole. True, those squares are immediately behind the pawn, as you point out. Nevertheless, a bishop in the hole, depending on which rank it appears, could potentially influence 4 or more squares beyond the hole, and could be just as capable of slipping through a pawn chain on its next move.
pagodapanicdog, you offer an extremely delailed and comprehensive explanation of why a knight in a hole can be vexing to the opponent. I find your answer illuminating, and I appreciate the amount of thought you've obviously given the question. Still, it seems to me that all of your observations would pertain equally to a bishop in a hole.
Silman, of course, is not the only author who endorses a knight as the best piece to occupy a hole. There seems to be a consensus, but all the authors I have discovered so far are equally vague about why a knight is the ideal choice. My question remains, what makes a knight the ideal piece--better than a bishop, for example--to occupy a hole?
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Well, as I said, I guess it's the ability to threaten stuff beyond a pawn chain that makes the little plus. But, as I said also, I wondered about this as well a few times..
I would disagree with pagodan though... To protect that knight with another piece is somewhat counterproductive (of course, needless to say, everything depends on the actual position) since in this case, that piece has one burden already. If it has another task to perform as well (e.g. protecting the king or a fital square to prevent an attack on the king), that piece may very easily become overburdened: Sac a piece for the knight, the bishop (or whatever piece is protecting it) retakes and that vital square is unprotected.
Whenever possible, i'd guard the blockader with a pawn...
And maybe that's another reason for the slight plus of knight: that protecting pawn would limit a bishops mobility while it wouldn't when it's a knight.
A third reason might be that within three squares from the rim of the board, it doesn't matter where you post your knight, it always attacks the same number of squares. Not so with a bishop. So, since holes usually occur near the borders of the board (sixth rank or so), a blockading knight looses none of it's mobility while a bishop does.
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as a matter of fact,
I just tried it with Fritz: In one of my completed games where I had a knight posted as a blockader (opening was a Benko Gambit, knight on c4), I exchanged knights with bishops. Fritz evaluates this different position about half a pawn inferior.
Well, maybe not a perfect example but at least an example :o)
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Re: "And maybe that's another reason for the slight plus of knight: that protecting pawn would limit a bishops mobility while it wouldn't when it's a knight." I really like the point you raise here!
If I could add my own two cents, I think that bishops, rooks, and queens, all things being equal, are capable of moving greater distances than knights, so posting a knight (rather than any other piece) for a prolonged period of time would sacrifice the least mobility. How does that sound?
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holes and knights,..
my first post concerned only the difficulty of removing the enemy horse in the hole, which was pointed out by I-play-slowley, was about equal to trying to remove an enemy bishop from a hole. True, true. And to comment on the obvious, on the original question regarding silman(he said, especialy a horse)-of the excelent home for your peice, we can rule out..a queen, rook, pawn, or king. In a hole (which is most likely close to your side in the hole) those peices are easy to deal with, by making exchange , sacrifce,.. ect. So now we are only talking about pawns, bishops or knights in holes.
A pawn in a hole.. could be useful....who knows , very circumstantial..
The main question is what is the main function of any peice in the hole? I addressed the problem of removal... which seems to leave a horse or bishop even and the main peices to question.
what else besides removal are at issue. Most to be contemplated is where is the hole we are talkining about!!!pawn movement will be most likely in the center. besides what good is any peice in a hole on the opposite side of a castled king.
Silman's horse is not on the sidelines with nothing to do!
The issue is also not attack (no standing post has to do with attack on a specific square,.. otherwise its not a post.. it rules squares, and defends others for usage)
Thinking of just attack on the enemy at such close range, both the bishop and horse have an even amout of squres to assault.
The real bonus of the knight is what is in other circumstance a weakness. Since the "silman horse in a hole" is not on the sidelines doing nothing, it has a lateral control of reinforcement protection for other advancing troops. a bishops range for lateral protection in the center where the hole is likly will extend too far backwards, not so with the horse, a peice can be closer and still get protection. That close range protection is a great plus for almost any peice advaning towards the enemy king.
In short , the lateral protection for already advanced peices, or advancing peices is the plus of "silmans horse". the bishops diagonal supports to far back lateraly for attack on the enemy king, thus requireing a long range peice on the sidelines where the bishop will be suppoting from an advanced middle position.
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I think knights tend to be better suited for holes, becouse;
1) It is easy to get a knight in a such of hole. Imagine that you've developed your knight normally on the 3rd row (or 6th ir you're playing black). Holes often exist on 5th or 6th rank (black), or 4th or 3th row (white). In these cases, your knight could jump in the hole pretty easily, considering the fact that these holes usually exist in the center of the board, just where a well-developed knight are aimed.
2) It's often said that knight on the 6th row is enough to win the game alone. Generally, knights become more and more valuable while they advance. So if I had to choose wether to equip a knight or a bishop for a hole, i'd generally choose a knight, becouse holes, as said, often exist close to enemy base. But sometimes it might be totally wrong, and bishop might be better, position is often the only thing that matters!
3) Many other good reasons are already given here. It seems pretty practical to choose knight since it, while supported by own pawns, can still jump back if required. Of course, a bishop supported by a pawn is extremely strong, too.
Queen could also equip these holes, especialy later in the game, when minor pieces have been exchanged. Surprisingly, I have won some games by putting my queen in a hole early in the game, while my opponent's pieces were not developed.
Best way to get rid of these hole-knights is to counter it by using your own knight, but this might be more easily said than done. And what if the knight is supported by another knight? I try to avoid these holes in my game and keep my pawn structure as healthy as possible. Thos knights can truly ruin your game!