As black, I like to return my dark square Bishop to the King after castling short. I want to develop my skills in defending that position. In what openings does it occur?

And how should one in general search for such a nameless(?) concept or strategy? Is there for example a database where one can search for Bf8 in the ten first moves?

3 Answers 3


There are a lot of openings where Black fianchettos his king's bishop, and it ends up on g7. Versus 1. d4 you have the King's Indian Defense and the Grünfeld Defense; if White opens 1. e4 you can respond with the Pirc Defense. The Modern Defense is usable against both.

Without playing g6, Black has to move his rook on f8 (after castling short) and retreat the bishop to f8. That's far less common, though there are some (side)lines in the Sicilian and the Ruy Lopez where this happens.

  • g6 frees up f8, but the pawn structure gets broken up by white playing f5 or h5.
    – LocalFluff
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 18:57
  • @LocalFluff yes, but how else would you like to get a bishop on g7?
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 18:58
  • And yet it is the more popular of the two variants. I suppose that means that freeing up f8 and having the Bishop on the long diagonal compensate. Also one tempus advantage for advancing the King in the end game.
    – LocalFluff
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 19:05
  • I think so. The bishop is more active on g7, and (assuming you're moving the e-pawn anyway) getting it there costs two moves, and Bf8-somewhere, moving the Rf8 and moving the bishop back costs three.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 19:07
  • 1
    @LocalFluff Fianchettoed bishops on g7 are quite common and strong if played well. Pushing h5 can often stop a pawn attack from white's h pawn, and the f pawn isn't much of a threat -- just let them capture g6 then recapture with h7. It breaks up your pawn structure a little but it's such a slow attack that in most lines you'll encounter it black will launch a crushing attack before that matters. Just keep your g7 bishop and don't trade it for anything other than a significant advantage, it's the lynchpin in the defense of your king and also exerts strong control along the central diagonal.
    – Dennis
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 15:14

The Ruy Lopez and the Philidor have variations with this move so the rook can put pressure on the e pawn. Since the plan is to restrain and attack the e pawn, these maneuvers often become a fianchetto.

Chessbase does allow a search like this. It also has a search for just some of the pieces, that is, you can place a king of g8 and a bishop on f8, and the program will search all games which has at least that configuration. I'm sure that various free databases, such as SCID, chesspad, x/winboard, and arena, have this pattern search.


Good defenses?

Against e4, well there are lines such as the sicilian hyperaccelerated dragon, the accelerated dragon, and the traditional dragon. There is also the modern 1...g6 which is usually okay, and also the pirc which is suboptimal. As for systems where the bishop retreats, you can commonly find that in the Breyer System (a line in the Ruy Lopez). In the breyer as well as other lines in the Ruy Lopez, Black plays Re8 followed by Bf8, g6, and Bg7.

If you want a solid defending position, then you should try the Breyer system. Look it up )). Just know that you may not reach it too often, but the way that Black plays into it is always 'good', if that makes sense. Otherwise try the pirc or the traditional dragon maybe, both are actually quite fun to defend. But objectively the Breyer is one of the best systems for black; it is extremely theoretically healthy.

Against d4, both the Grunfeld and King's Indian setups are good for what you're looking for. I play the Grunfeld by the way.

By the way, there is a line in the English (and also the larsens! 1. b3) where Black retreats the bishop to f8, but doesn't fianchetto via g6.

It goes 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Bg2 Nb6 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. 0-0 Be7 8. d3 0-0 9. a3 Re8! (preparing to guard e5) 10. b4 Bf8. I enjoy this position for Black too.

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