What is a sharp line for White against the Philidor Lion:

[FEN ""] 
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7

with 4...e5

The majority of games seem to be slow positional battles where Black is quite solid. 4.g4 looks interesting, but are there other aggressive ideas?

  • 1
    There are several other move orders for black to try to reach the Philidor, e.g. 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7 and 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nd7. Are you looking for a sharp line against all of them or only the specific move order you mention?
    – Maxwell86
    Oct 25, 2017 at 8:42
  • 1
    Good question; I think (maybe wrongly), that White has a slight pull in: 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.de5 de5 5.Qd8 line. While, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nd7 4.Bc4 Be7 5.de5 de5 6.Ng5 is supposed to be better for White (6...Bg5 7.Qh5).
    – Ywapom
    Oct 25, 2017 at 17:33

2 Answers 2


As Hoacin gives in his answer, after 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7, both 4.f4 and 4.g4 are strong moves. They are not only aggressive, but also objectively speaking one of the best options in the position.

Another way to spice up the game is the Shirov Gambit: 4.Nf3 e5 5.g4. If I'm not mistaken, he was the very first one to play this remarkable pawn sacrifice: against GM Azmaiparashvili in 2003. Later, GM Shirov used it again, winning some nice miniatures against IM Klinova and GM Cyborowski.

According to the Game Database of ChessTempo, 5.g4 is the second most popular move, after 5.Bc4. There is analysis material on the gambit available, for example an article written by GM Gormally. One of the advantages of the Shirov Gambit is that you can play it against two popular move orders that lead to the Philidor: 3....Nbd7, 4....e5 and 3....e5, 4....Nbd7.

      [StartPly "5"]

      [FEN ""]
      1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 (3...e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7) 4.Nf3 (4.f4)(4.g4) e5 5.g4 (5.Bc4) Nxg4 6.Rg1 Ngf6 7.Bc4 h6 8.Be3


As you mentioned, 4.g4 is interesting and not as stupid as it may look. If you don't like the positional maneuvering game, I think 4.f4 could be try for you.

There is one suicidal line that really isn't my taste, but for sure it is aggressive, at least till you get mated. It's

[FEN ""] 
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7 6.Ng5 O-O 7.Bxf7+ Rxf7 8.Ne6

even some correspondence player advocated it for white, but I'm not sure I would prefer white's position here. Anyway, good to know such a line exists and is probably not complete nonsense.

  • Actually, 4... c6 is a move to consider (after 4. Nf3), allowing the queen room to escape. Oct 25, 2017 at 3:37
  • @JossieCalderon Isn't it just dropping pawn on e5?
    – hoacin
    Oct 25, 2017 at 7:31
  • I think JossieCalderon has the move order 3....Nbd7 in mind, just like the OP.
    – Maxwell86
    Oct 25, 2017 at 8:43
  • @hoacin Oops! 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. Bc4 c6 is the line that I meant. Oct 25, 2017 at 9:45
  • @JossieCalderon Probably you still mean another one as it loses the pawn again due to dxe5 dxe5 Ng5... :-) Don't you mean the line without Nf6, with bishop on e7, where white can hop to g5 and after Bxg5 play Qh5?
    – hoacin
    Oct 25, 2017 at 11:13

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