This question might sound ridiculous, but I think it needs to be discussed.

[fen ""]
1. c4 g6 2. h4!? (2...h5 3. d4 Bg7 4. e4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Bg5 Nh7 (6...O-O) 7. Be3 O-O) (2...e5 3. d4 exd4 4. Qxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Qe3+ Qe7 7. Qxe7+ Kxe7 8. Bg5 {White still maintains pressure}) c5 3. h5 Bg7 (3...gxh5 4. Rxh5 d6 (4...Nc6!? 5. Rxc5 e5 {Looks promising})) (3...Nf6 4. hxg6 fxg6) 

Doesn't really get earlier than this. All of us know this is not good play by White. But engines still think White did nothing wrong. And (in my opinion) White gets too much out of it.

Meeting 2. h4 with 2...h5 seems like a hard decision. On one hand the h-pawn is stopped, but fixing the structure also gives White all the intel he needs to coordinate an attack after opening up the kingside and it is unclear if Black's king can evacuate from the center to any other place than kingside. After ...O-O in the lines given it looks like Black will have to withstand a vicious attack.

Another idea might be to argue that White just wasted a move in the opening and play 2...c5, very pricipled. But then 3. h5 is annoying. If 3...gxh5 4. Rxh5 I think White achieved too much for "free". In some openings, like the Dragon, White gives pawns or pieces to open the h-file. Here it is just there on move 5 and it is not really clear what Black has in return.

Usually, while White is pushing his h-pawn, Black tries to organise a counter attack on the queenside or in the center with his pawns and pieces. But Black has no pawns and pieces on the queenside or in the center this early and thus White can freely exert his pressure.

It seems that the best way to deal with 3. h5 is to play around it and develop as if it was not there, but it is looming there and very unpleasant.

  • 2
    Have you considered 2...Nf6 to prevent White's h5?
    – bof
    Sep 2, 2020 at 5:04
  • 4
    How did we all get to "know" this play is wrong? I don't think it is! It's probably not the most accurate continuation, but that doesn't make it "bad"
    – David
    Sep 2, 2020 at 7:44
  • 4
    I suspect that this is just not wrong. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4!? is another line that has seen play at super-GM level. White will have to develop some pieces soon anyway, and then it will most likely transpose to lines that are already known. Good example of engines making the range of playable openings wider. Sep 2, 2020 at 9:59
  • @bof Yes, this is the move I actually played, it transposed to a weird Grunfeld Exchange: 1. c4 g6 2. h4 Nf6 3. d4 Bg7 4. Nc3 d5 5. h5 O-O 6. cxd5 Nxd5 7. hxg6 hxg6 8. e4 Nxc3 9. bxc3 c5, where the engine thinks the play was quite good, but it felt horrible
    – B.Swan
    Sep 2, 2020 at 14:06
  • Another option for dealing with early h4 against a fianchetto is to play h6 and then g5 on white's g5. Perhaps not in this particular position as f4 could be uncomfortable for black. Sep 3, 2020 at 9:48

4 Answers 4


First off, I think you want to play 2...Bg7. As a general rule of thumb, you should always finish your fianchetto on the next move. It also protects the rook on h8 if the h-file opens. I don't think 2...c5 is a very good move because it locks up the pawn structure and is going to make counterplay in the center more difficult. (2...Nf6 and 2...e5 are probably playable too)

If white continues with h5 then 3...e5. Another rule of thumb: Counter wing attacks in the center. 4.hxg6, hxg6 6. Rxh8, Bxh8 is not a threat.

The h-pawn advance wastes a developing move and does nothing in the center. As long as you're developing and playing in the center you should be able to equalize. I would just say delay castling until the position clarifies itself. Since you're ahead in development you should be able to build an attack which may negate the need to castle. You might also want to castle queenside if white spends too much time on the kingside.


You can punish them all you like, but the players who make these rushes want to mix it up. When they play h2-h4-h5, they're ready and willing to throw the rook on it after ...Nf6xh5.

Players who play incorrect, unsound chess are usually pretty good at tactics, and have lots of practice in positions where the material imbalance favors the other side. See, they don't feel punished. They want you to throw them into the briar patch.

  • Disagree. Tactical abilities and overall chess comprehension are positively correlated
    – David
    Sep 2, 2020 at 7:45
  • I agree with that, so I must've said something backward. Sep 2, 2020 at 8:04
  • 4
    @David, I think that depends on how you look at it. If you are facing a player of your strength, who plays reckless unsound chess, they must have some other strength that allows them to be at your level, and that quite likely can be tactical strength.
    – Akavall
    Sep 2, 2020 at 18:18
  • Perhaps a more positive way to phrase "incorrect unsound chess" is "dangerous, but theoretically unsound chess". The point of the theoretically wrong moves is to get into positions where the opponent will have to be very careful to convert the theoretical advantage into an actual one. Be sure to make no mistake... And even if the opponent does find the superior line, they may turn out to be victim of a daring positional sacrifice to remove 10 minutes of their clock! Sep 3, 2020 at 16:28
  • Whatever you want to call it, groovy. My chess teacher says he doesn't teach students to "play good chess", but to "play bad chess well". It's amazing how many chessplayers don't get that those are two different things. Sep 4, 2020 at 4:36

Some points:

  1. First forget the engine evaluations. We are humans (hopefully) and are only interested in practical play

  2. In practical play, yes an early h4 as in this case is something to think about (but not scared). This is the reason why people usually delay fianchetto at least till the second move in almost all decent openings (like KID or hyper-accelerated accelerated dragon). Even in KID, one could further delay the fianchettoing by going via the old-Indian move order, so that any early h4, black need not fianchetto and instead play in the center with ...e5 or ...c5 or ...d5 accordingly.

  3. The idea to counter early h4 is to preferably stay away from fianchettoing and play in the center for black and castle appropriately (i.e., one could castle queenside or king side or just have the king put in the center and also delay the castling a bit)

  4. In general have flexibility while playing. Do not be determined that you are always going to fianchetto irrespective of what your opponent does.

  • Agree with the general point but I don't think the reason people play 1...Nf6 rather than 1...g6 in the King's Indian is fear of 2.h4 but rather fear of 2.e4!
    – David
    Sep 4, 2020 at 8:24
  • 1
    @David Yes, concur. Let me put it in another way then :-). The side consequence of Nf6 is it gives you time to decide whether you want to fianchetto or not.
    – Adhvaitha
    Sep 4, 2020 at 9:44

White, indeed, has done nothing wrong. Because Black is not developing their centre, White can simply ignore it too. Their play in this game is considering that Black are continuing this passive approach with defensive positioning. Rook has high value, so freeing it would be a huge bonus, so in this play when White are not pressured to develop middle, that works. The whole point of fianchetto is to pressure middle of the map, so with refusing standart early Nf3 or d4, White can still develop its Nf3 and e4 which lets them keep tempo even after spending time at h-line. Best answer to this h-line is to not take that exchange in a rush.

I think this is kind of standart line to continue. When White choose a moment to have an exchange, I would just not let them open h-line fully, because for Black side lines are very important, but C and F lines not so.

[FEN "r1bqk1nr/pp4bp/2np2p1/2p1p3/2P5/2N1PN2/PP1P1PP1/R1BQKB1R w KQkq - 0 8"] 
1. c4 g6 2. h4 c5 3. h5 Bg7 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. e3 e5 6. Nc3 d6 7. hxg6 fxg6 {taking with F pawn is also possible}

PS. Do not understand why you even consider 2..h5 move at all. Surely you are not losing a game, Black is advancing a pawn to make a chain, but that chain has no development. So it is kind of "a wasted move". Your Nf6 or Nh6 are not protected squares. And if you make a sequently Bg7, it will be a lot weaker, because F7 is unprotected square with very unreliable defenders as K/Q.

About "trade of rooks" continuation 7.hxg6 hxg6 8.Rxh8 Bxh8 9.d3 Bg4 10.Qa4, engines show that Black wins by that idea, making the play more even, but I don't see how Black are going to abuse it clearly. White are free to continue attacks on Queen side and Black have less clutches they could exploit with less pieces.

  • I consider 2...h5 because it is very often played and seems very logical to stop the pawn advance.
    – B.Swan
    Sep 2, 2020 at 13:56

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