Bishop and Pawns Game

This mini-game shows the relative strengths of the bishop and the pawns. The pieces move as in chess. The bishop moves any number of squares diagonally. The pawns move one square forwards (except for the first move when they can move two squares) and capture diagonally one square. Players move alternately. Pawns go first.

Starting Position

The pawns win if one reaches the other end safely i.e. is not immediately captured. The bishop wins by capturing all the pawns. For the pawns to win, some may have to be jettisoned in order to gain time for the further advance of their colleagues.

In the diagram above, Black to play cannot do anything to avoid having all the pawns captured. The white bishop controls the approach diagonal a4-d1.

In the diagram above, Black to play wins by advancing the c-pawn to c2 and then advancing the a-pawn to a2 after the bishop captures the c-pawn. The bishop cannot control the a1 square because it is the opposite colour. This breakthrough is possible because the bishop is overloaded in defending the a- and c- pawns.

Exploration: Try the game moving the bishop or the pawns moving first – is there a difference in outcome?