I usually get into this position, where I just recently moved the bishop to g5 (or b5), and his response is moving h6 (or a6):

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Usually here, I only consider two possibilities:

  • Take the knight
  • Retreat my bishop*
  • Do anything else (rarely profitable)

* either to h4 (or a4), or back in the long diagonal where it came from

I know this position strongly depends on how the other pieces are in the board, but I am sure there are standard responses, with their pros and cons.

I would like to study this position in-depth, possibly read some books that talk about it, anyone can point me in the right direction?

Also, in case of moving it to h4 (or a4), is it considered a mistake for black to attack again moving the other pawn two squares?


4 Answers 4


Usually the bishop doesn't end up by chance on this square, so why did you move it there in the first place? I can think of three reasons:

  • pin the knight in order demobilize it (e.g. an indirect attack on a pawn)
  • pin the knight in order to take it (e.g. to give the opponent a doubled pawn)
  • provoke a weakness in the opponent's pawn structure

Be clear which of these motives apply in your case before you move, then you know what to do afterwards. Obviously "development" isn't a motive, but just an excuse here.

By the way, if your bishop is on b5 and the bishop on c8 isn't developed, sometimes Qa4 is an option (axb5 Qxa8).


I would say that typically black WOULD NOT want to further chase the bishop after h6 Bh4, because typically black has castled kingside. I would also say that typically black WOULD want to further chase the bishop after a6 Ba4 (for the same reason). Getting space on the queenside when you have castled kingside is often desirable; "getting space" on the kingside when you have castled there is much more likely to be "creating weaknesses" and not getting space.

Of course there are tons of exceptions, and it all depends on the position. One example:

In a closed position (such as in the King's Indian Classical), black will often advance his kingside pawns. The rule of thumb in closed positions is to advance pawns on the side where you have the space advantage.


DISCLAIMER: I'm unrated USCF, but lost most of the games at the last tourney I went to.

It depends entirely on the board.

1) If you can make something happen tactically when the knight is swiped, obviously do it.

2) If your opponent has to recapture with the g7 pawn, I'm biased towards doing it. That's a long term weakness, and doubled pawns aren't pretty after the king's castled. But then, I tend to undervalue doubled middle pawns in the opening anyway.

3) If your opponent has a lot of weak squares of the color of your attacking bishop, keep the bishop.

There's no one-size-fits-all answer.


In some cases, the WHOLE POINT of moving the bishop is to provoke h6, which often seriously weakens the king side.

One move worth considering is the sacrifice Bxh6 (after the opponent has castled). If the g-pawn retakes, the king may be exposed to a devastating check by say, Qg4. (Of course, you have to be sure of your followup moves before sacrificing the B.)

In most other situations, retreating the B to h4, or elsewhere, is good enough, since it has done its job.

You need to be more careful about moving the B to b5 on the queen side. A6 often gains time for Black. Even so, it is the key move of the Ruy Lopez opening.

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