As the title above, why aren't 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bh6, and 1.e4 b6 2.d4 Ba6 (or eventually beginning with 1.d4) for Black not even considered by theory? Isn't the eventual early trade-off of White's strong Bc1 and Bf1 for Black's Bishop an asset for Black? What is the best reply for White vs such irregular defences? Should he trade the Bishops or avoid that? (i.e. with f2-f4 and c2-c4)?

  • 2
    Opening theory is mostly about the fight for the center, if black lets white get the ideal center d4/e4 then he should have a concrete way to fight against it. ...Ba6 and ...Bh6 don't. May 14, 2019 at 20:40
  • Then what is the Bishop on a6 doing in the Queen's Indian? May 14, 2019 at 20:56
  • 3
    There white has a c4/d4 center, and Ba6 attacks the undefended c4 pawn at a moment when all ways to defend it have slight disadvantages. That's fighting against a pawn center. May 14, 2019 at 21:39

5 Answers 5


White should trade bishops and use the unprotected knight to gain some extra tempo and gain a massive lead in development, e.g.

[FEN ""]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bh6 3. Bxh6 Nxh6 4. Qd2 Ng8 5. Nc3

4... Ng4 is best met by 5. h3 Nf6 (forced) 6. e5 Nd5 7. c4 Nb6 8. Qh6 and Black has problems completing his development, though there is no forced win at the moment.

I haven't analyzed the b6/Ba6 lines but I guess a similar concept holds.

  • Surely there is no equivalent to 4.Qd2 in the Ba6 line!? May 14, 2019 at 19:54
  • There is: 4. Qe2 (4. Qd3 loses a tempo to Nb4). The difference is that Black may defend the knight with the semi-useful 4... Qc8 (that move prepares a later c5).
    – Glorfindel
    May 14, 2019 at 19:56
  • I like the advice, but I'll quibble over "massive," which overstates. It's a lead of two pieces to none; I'd wait for four to none before I called a lead "massive." Consider some common Sicilian lines in which Black happily gives up a developmental lead of, say, five to three pieces in exchange for a more promising pawn structure.
    – rolando2
    Jun 22, 2019 at 21:29

I would argue that both of these lines are incorrect on principle. g6 weakens the dark squares on the kingside. In such positions, typically one wants to keep the dark squared bishop on the board to help defend the dark squares. Playing Bh6 lets white trade the dark squared bishops for nothing.

Moreover, the reason for playing a move like g6 is usually to put the bishop on the long diagonal where it can be very strong. If you just trade it off instead, black has gained nothing by the tempo that was lost when g6 was played.

The same applies to the other line.

  • On these grounds Black should never trade his f8 Bishop even after ...e6, or his c8 Bishop in the Queen's Indian. May 14, 2019 at 20:11
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    @A.N.Other Black can of course trade the bishop in some cases, but he should make sure that he is getting something in return and should definitely be concerned about weakening the dark squares.
    – Qudit
    May 14, 2019 at 20:13

Opening moves that don't have remotely reasonable ideas don't have a place in theory.

Your only assertion seems to be that Black is eliminating "strong Bishops". Why are they strong? They haven't even left home yet.

A) White trades bishops: Black ends up with a silly looking undefended knight on the rim coupled with weakened squares.

B) White doesn't trade bishops: White can just keep developing, it doesn't really matter how.

Either way White ends up with a large development lead and the center.

  • 2
    On what grounds you define "reasonable"? As far as I know, in chess, if something works, it works. The problem is: "does it work or not?" Why should then Black aim at eliminating White's Queen in the opening sequence 1.e4 d6 2.d4 e5, if it hasn't even left home yet? I am not saying that the ...Ba6 and ...Bh6 lines are good, I was just asking for a concrete refutation. May 14, 2019 at 20:31
  • We are talking about opening theory. The hypothesis that Black is making gains in trading Whites Bishop doesn't pass as valid as there is no evidence of the claim, and there is direct evidence that the variation violates several opening principals; therefore it is unreasonable. If one side is several tempos up in the early opening it is considered to be a large if not decisive advantage; there is no need to enumerate variations from there. As for the opening you quote: Black is fighting in the center and opening avenues to develop his pieces -- sound opening principals.
    – Ywapom
    May 14, 2019 at 20:41
  • If Black castles on the opposite side of the weakening, for example, that weakening would not be that terrible, I strongly feel. But then it's just a matter of personal evaluation. And look at all those early b6 and Ba6 in the Queen's Indian, for example. If the move was so weak, nobody would play it. May 14, 2019 at 20:49
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    It is just clearly weak in the line you propose, but maybe 1.e4 g6 2.d4 d6 3.Nc3 Nd7 4.Be3 Bh6 would be different. Probably the bottom line to why things are in theory or not is one thing: Did a GM play it.
    – Ywapom
    May 14, 2019 at 20:57

The assumption that White's bishops are much stronger than Black's is faulty. After 1...g6, Black has weakened his dark squares and requires a bishop to "fill in the gap". Playing 2...Bh6 betrays this duty, and to make it worse Black's knight will have to go to the unattractive h6-square to recapture. The same logic is applied to 1...b6, 2...Ba6.

Against the finachetto White often spends a few moves to actually initiate a bishop exchange (e.g., Be3, Qd2, Bh6).

  • Sure, but it’s not the end of the world if the fianchettoed Bishop gets traded, as it often happens. May 15, 2019 at 15:14
  • 1
    A. N. Other, Yes but typically it favors White (or else why would White spend 2-3 moves arranging the exchange). May 15, 2019 at 16:30

They were considered and rejected as so bad as to not be worth more effort.

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