The Black Lion is a line that can be transposed from a Philidor or Pirc defense. I play with White this line.

[FEN ""]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7 6.O-O c6 7.a4 Qc7 8.Re1 h6 9.h3 g5 10.a5 Rg8 11.b4 g4 12.hxg4 Nxg4 13.Bb3 Nf8 14.a6 b5 15.d5 Bd7 16.dxc6 Bxc6 17.Nd5 Qd8 18.c4

As you can notice, all my play relies on opening up the queenside and occupying the d5 square. However, when Black plays 9 ...a5 shutting all my counterplay on the queenside. I really don't know what to do. Black would just maneuver his knight as usual to f8, and then something like Rg8 and g5 with a formidable kingside attack on White. I would really appreciate it if somebody can give me some lines with clear plans.

  • 2
    I know it's already been mentioned by others in their answers, but I would like to stress once again - do NOT play h3 after you have castled, if your opponent has not yet castled themselves. Here, h3 is begging black to play g5-g4 and attack you. And since you never play Be3 here, h3 does not help your position in any way. With your pawn still on h2, the kingside pawn storm is laughable: open the center for your pieces and checkmate him before he can castle queenside. Oct 7, 2020 at 15:42

2 Answers 2


The first thing to note is that 9. h3 is a minor mistake if your intention is to play a queenside attack. It is a diversion from your plan. It would make more sense if your plan were to attack through the center with moves like Qe2, Be3, Rd1, de, etc. In that case it would create a safe spot for the bishop on e3 by denying g4 to the black knight. All h3 is does in the plan you play is to accelerate the black kingside pawnstorm by creating a pawn lever for a later black g4.

Instead in the final position above follow Jonathan Rowson's advice and "talk to your pieces". In particular the bishop still at home on c1. Why are you attacking before you have completed your development? Particularly why are you attacking the opposite side of the board to where the enemy king is? Find a plan which involves completing your development by finding a square for the c1 bishop.

One suggestion would be to follow a plan played by Aron Nimzowitsch 100 years ago which involves fianchettoing the c1 bishop with threats of a knight sacrifice on e5 if black plays Nf8. Here are the moves up to where he has a big advantage:

[title "Nimzowitsch - Marco, Gothenburg 1920"]
[fen ""]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7 6.O-O h6 7.a4 c6 8.b3 Qc7 9. Bb2 Nf8? (9...g5! 10. Re1 Rg8 11. dxe5 dxe5) 10. dxe5 dxe5 11. Nxe5 Qxe5 12. Nd5 Qd6 (12...Qxb2 13. Nc7++) 13. Ba3 (13. e5 Qxe5 14. Re1 Ne4 15. Rxe4 Qxe4 16. Nc7++) cxd5 14. Bxd6 dxc4 15. Bxe7 Kxe7 16. e5 N6d7 17. Qd6+
  • Very interesting line. This line is so unpopular btw. Which is good because many of the players that play this opening have an auto-pilot moves, and these moves are bad in this variation. Thanks for the references too.
    – Guess601
    Oct 7, 2020 at 14:05
  • Can you elaborate on the 9...g5 variation please? I noticed that it's by far not in the top 3 moves that the engine suggests. And I also didn't understand the 10.Ne2 suggestion by the engine.
    – Guess601
    Oct 7, 2020 at 18:04

The engine gives a very strong plan of making ...g5 as unattractive as possible by playing Nh4-f5, where in the end Black's pieces are pathetic and the Black king is still in the center. The way White can force the matters really shows how poor Black's position is.

[FEN ""]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7 6.O-O c6 7.a4 Qc7 8.Re1 h6 9.h3 a5 10. Be3 {Finishing development and enabling a more convenient recapture in case of exd4} Nf8 11. Nh4! {This move makes both ...g5 and ...Ng6 horrible concessions} g5?! 12. Nf5 Bxf5 13. exf5 {Now let us check what if Black insists that there is an attack} Rg8 14. Qe2 g4 15. g3 {Probably the cleanest demonstration of why the attack does not work} gxh3 16. Rad1 {The Black attack fizzled into nothing and White will now pressure the Black king with Rd2+Red1} (16...N8d7 17.Bxh6) (16...O-O-O 17.Bxf7) (16...h5 17.dxe5 dxe5 18.Bf4 N8d7 19.Rxd7 (19...Qxd7 20.Qxe5 Ng4 21.Qc5 {Now Nd5 is possible and wins the bishop due to the threat of cxd5 Bb5, winning the queen}) Nxd7 20.Bxf7+ Kxf7 21.Qxh5+ Kf8 22.Bh6+)
  • There's still ideas of h5-h4 and O-O-O for Black, btw. Thanks for the line.
    – Guess601
    Oct 7, 2020 at 13:51
  • 1
    Check for yourself, immediate ...h5 loses to exd exd Bf4!, while ...O-O-O Bxf7 and the h-pawn finds it hard to move forward and N8d7 Bxh6 loses the h-pawn. None of the plans can materialize, I will add the lines.
    – B.Swan
    Oct 7, 2020 at 14:06
  • yea that's right. Both of you and Brian Tower gave really good lines. It's hard to choose one.
    – Guess601
    Oct 7, 2020 at 14:07

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