I've noticed a common theme in games where a bishop placed on the fifth rank winds up retreating to the third rank as it's threatened by pawns. (as the black player this would be a bishop on the fourth rank pushed back to the sixth). A common example would be white's light-squared bishop in the Ruy Lopez: Morphy Defense, Caro Variation.

[Title "Ruy Lopez: Morphy Defense, Caro Variation"]
[FEN ""]
[StartPly "8"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5

However, this could happen at any point in the game, with any bishop of any color. I notice it often when a bishop is placed pinning a knight to a king, then attacked by an a or h pawn at a time when trading for the knight is not advantageous. Is there a name for this zig-zagging bishop retreat pattern?

  • I don't think there is a specific name beside "unpinning", "chasing the bishop" ; in the specific case where the bishop is further trapped by c5-c4 we call it "Noah's Ark".
    – Evargalo
    Dec 11, 2023 at 13:05

1 Answer 1


The first move (...a6) is known as "putting the question to the bishop". It asks the bishop to clarify its intentions - does it want to trade itself for the knight, or would it rather back off?

I'm not aware of a name for ...b5, however.

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