Monday, May 27, 2024

Black Lion Defense: A Surprise Weapon for Aggressive Chess Players

A regal black lion surveys its territory from atop a pedestal draped in a Union Jack flag. Chess pieces are strewn on the ground nearby.
"Our flanks are exposed, our center is wavering – in that situation stand firm!"

Unleash the Black Lion:
A Dynamic Weapon for Black in Chess

The Black Lion Defense: 

  • Variation of Philidor Defense: The Black Lion is an aggressive sub-line of the Philidor Defense employed against the common 1. e4 opening by White.

  • Dynamic and Unorthodox: This defense offers Black a chance to fight for the center and launch a kingside attack, deviating from more reserved approaches.

  • Step-by-Step Sequence: The opening sequence involves developing knights, placing the black bishop on d7, and eventually pushing pawns to e5, h6, and potentially g5 to create attacking chances.

  • Strengths:
    • Challenges White's central control.
    • Offers flexibility in strategy and tactics.
    • Provides a dynamic and surprising weapon for Black.
  • Weaknesses:
    • Requires understanding positional concepts and active analysis.
    • Less common than other openings, leading to fewer resources for study.
    • Decision-making during the middle game can be challenging for beginners.
  • Suitability:
    • A fun and exciting option for players seeking alternatives to standard defenses against 1. e4.
    • Accessible for beginners due to the clear opening sequence.
    • Effective against various White opening strategies.

      Bishop's Bounty Philidor Main Page

BOOKS & Courses (Free)

Short & Sweet: Black Lion Free Chessable Course - 24 Trainable Lines w/1 hr Video - GM Simon Williams
  • In a mere 24 variations, you can learn how to play this Line which is fierce to face and rich in tactics. The Black Lion avoids castling and aims to checkmate White on the Kingside from the get-go. You are a predator and you are on the hunt.

Black Lion Articles

LiChess Studies

  • The Black Lion - 4 Chapter Study (114 hearts) - Explore the Black Lion variation, a dynamic sub-line of the Philidor Defense, with a few model games for practical application.

New to Lichess studies? These interactive tools allow you to explore chess concepts and variations move-by-move, perfect for testing your understanding and deepening your knowledge.

Games Databases

Unleash the Black Lion by delving into real chess battles! Explore these game databases to find high-quality games featuring the Black Lion and related variations:


Sharpen your tactical skills specifically for the Black Lion Defense with these puzzle collections:

LiChess Openings Puzzles

Black Lion Video Lessons

The Lion Defense (Played Right) - 52 Min - G
M Max Illingworth - introduces the Philidor Defense as a solid response to 1.e4. He discusses the traditional move order and its drawbacks, suggesting an alternative approach to avoid common issues. The video covers the Antoshin variation, the Black Lion move order, and strategic ideas for both sides. Slingworth emphasizes the importance of move order, development, and pawn structure in the Philidor Defense, providing insights into how to play it effectively.

Hanham Variation of the Philidor Defense - 24 Min - Hanging Pawns 
- in-depth analysis of the Hanham Variation of the Philidor Defense in chess. The presenter, Stepan, discusses the key ideas behind the variation, its transpositional nature, and the main lines that can arise from it. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the lion variation, which is a common transposition, and the critical move orders that lead to it.

The most DECEIVING opening? The BLACK LION chess opening! -  7 min - ChessGeek
goes over the black lion opening, one of the most deceiving openings there are. You start in a very passive setup, but quickly and powerfully transition into a massive attack on your opponent.

Philidor LION Variation for Black | Advanced Chess Theory | Bortnyk 
- 8 Min - Delve into the key ideas and strategies behind the aggressive Philidor Lion Variation for Black. Presenter Bortnyk analyzes common lines and critical pawn structures that arise from this dynamic sub-line of the Black Lion.

How To Play The Black Lion - Quickstarter Jedi Guide - 13 Min - FM James Canty III:
A comprehensive guide explaining move order, key pawn structures (like the fianchettoed bishop and the pawn chain on d6 and e5), and strategic objectives (like castling quickly and launching a kingside attack) for beginners new to the Black Lion.

Dirty Chess Tricks 22 (Larobok Shock for Philidor/Black-Lion Defense) - 
27 Min - Chess tricks against Philidor Defence, Chess tricks against Black Lion, Dirty chess tricks to win fast, Chess tricks to win fast for white

Chess Openings : A gambit system vs Philidor defence - Lion variation  - 4 Min (Analysis of a GM game)

The Black Lion Opening's Pawn Structure and Pieces Placement Ideas -
 13 Min - main focus is on its typical pawn structure and piece placement for both sides.

Black Lion Series

 NM Sean Lei
Simon Williams - The Black Lion - An aggressive version of the Philidor Defense
 - 18 Min - GM Simon Williams

Learn the Black Lion Opening: In Five simple stages - 23 Min - GM Simon Williams -
Master the five essential elements for playing the exciting Black Lion opening in this beginner-friendly video. GM Williams breaks down concepts like developing your pieces efficiently, controlling the center squares, and preparing for a quick pawn storm on the kingside.

Chess Stream #74 Black Lion Q+A - 57 Min - GM Simon Williams - answering questions and demonstrating key ideas. The Black Lion is a response to 1.e4, aiming for an exciting, aggressive setup against the King’s Pawn opening. The host shares his journey of discovering the Black Lion and emphasizes its potential for launching a strong kingside attack.

Chess Openings: Learn to Play the Black Lion Defense! - 20 Min - Chess Giant - Learn the concepts and plans and not theory.

Chess Stream #43 Live Lesson with YayBjorn. A masterclass in the Black Lion! - 1.5hr

How to Fight Against The Black Lion!! - 21 Min - IM Perunovic -
discusses strategies to counter the Black Lion opening, a variation of the Philidor Defense, emphasizing the importance of controlling the center and light squares.

Smithy's Opening Survey #2: The Black Lion / Philidor - 
16 Min - SmityQ - A look at the basic ideas of the Black Lion set-up in the Philidor, plus some suggestions to get Black off his automatic play-without-thinking plan.

Game Videos w/ analysis


The Black Lion Defense is FUN! Subscriber Game Analysis 2x03 - 11 Min - Chess Giant 

A Brutal Tactic Against the Philidor Defense: Hanham, Lion Variation - 4 min - Jozarov's Chess Channel

Standard Chess #193: IM Bartholomew vs. vperboy (Philidor Defense) - 39 Min - 
In the Hanham Philidor (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nbd7) Black develops quietly in hopes of later counteracting White's central advantage. Here Black experiences problems after 12.Nf5 Bf8 13.Bg5, and blitzing out his moves does not help him find a viable defense!

Kingscrusher (Blitz Games)

GM Simon Williams (Black Lion Games)

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