I was watching the current Carlsen vs Adhiban game and I saw a move that always puzzles me:

5. h3 Bh5

I'd say Carlsen want to unpin the knight, or kick the bishop away. The bishop retreats, while keeping pressure on the same diagonal

6. Be2

This move I don't get. I can imagine that 6.g4 would cause positional trouble on the kingside, so the bishop is moved to e2 in order to break the pin.

But if this is true, then why did Carlsen play 5.h3 in the first place ?

I don't get what does 5.h3 achieve.

Thanks !

this puzzles me

  • Black never attacks on the kingside with this structure so white just makes room for his king for far future. Also makes possibility to kick away bishop in one move without Bxf3 possibility for black along the way in case d4 and e5 squares participate in some sort of tactics. Little move, nothing special.
    – hoacin
    Jan 27, 2017 at 16:25
  • For the reasons mentioned by others, h3 (or equivalently h6) is a very common move in such situations. Jan 27, 2017 at 19:46
  • If you're showing a position and moves, it would be better if the diagram was the position before the moves. Now as it's the opening, it is quite easy to reconstruct, but in general we wouldn't know e.g. where the black bishop was when white played h3.
    – JiK
    Jan 27, 2017 at 23:27

3 Answers 3


I see at least 3 good points to 5. h3:

  • first and foremost, it puts a question to the Bishop: if Black wants to maintain the pin, he will have to move it to h5, which is more vulnerable and decentralized. Moreover, once the Bishop will be on h5, white squares on the Queenside will become vulnerable, as the Bishop cannot retreat and defend them in one move (just have a look to b7, for example);
  • once the Bishop is on h5, White can kick it away with g4 if he wants, gaining space and advancing a Pawn with tempo;
  • now that h3 is in place, h2 becomes a comfortable flight square for the King if White castles Kingside, thus avoiding first rank weaknesses during the endgame.

I would emphasize and simplify @javatutorial's 1st point: 5 h3 restricts the bishop's mobility.

It used to have freedom to transfer between the kingside and the queenside, but now it cannot reach the queenside during the opening unless it can reach f5 or e4, which is very unusual. This reduction in the bishop's scope makes it less powerful than it was before, and therefore worse.

So, the main point is to make the bishop a worse minor piece, which is a strategic goal for White in this opening.

  • Very well explained. :) Jan 31, 2017 at 10:04

Off the dome:

To support a future g4/h4/h5 push; Protect against Nf6-g4; forces the bishop to a more vulnerable square (h5; make Black make a decision regarding the bishop - exchange it/leave it on the c8-h3 diagonal/move it to h5.

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