The Black Lion

There are no Chess matches at the moment for Woodseats Chess Club. We’re still meeting though, and there has been a goodly assembly. If you want to join in and come along, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Just use the contact details on this website. We’ve seen quite a few new faces recently. The more, the merrier!

One of the really good features of the meetings has been the chance to play friendly games and discuss Chess, life, the universe and everything. One topic that has come up has been chess openings (obviously with an eye to next season). Last Monday, I played some games (and lost them all!) against a learned and chess scholarly member of the club who shall remain nameless but his initials are J.W. The opening (or more accurately) defence of the night was, what my honoured colleague called, the “Black Lion“.

Well, that name is up for discussion. Another member of the club opined that it was an Old Indian (with a new title) but that’s just plain wrong. Really it’s a form of Philidor’s Defence, with the moves played in a slightly different order! After I’d recovered from my defeats, I remembered that there had been an article about it in CHESS magazine. Well, that was in the days before we had the Internet. I decided to use said wonderful invention and look into the matter…

One of the strong players who uses the Defence is a very pleasant individual called Sean Marsh. He’s also a chess trainer for Chess in the Community. I went on one of his training courses sometime ago. There’s a post on this website about that day, it was very good. He’s written a lot about the Black Lion and played it extensively. Here’s a taste of what he’s posted. This is an extract from the CHESS magazine article mentioned above. He wrote it. I start from mid-way because this was the position that I and the mysterious J.W. reached:

Here’s another of Sean’s games:

There’s a lot more to the Black Lion than the above. If you want to know more, please leave a comment, and there might be another episode, e.g. if White decides to swop Queens off, at the beginning of the game,  there are some very interesting end games that arise. If you can’t wait for the next episode, a very good place to start your own investigations is Sean Marsh’s own website. YouTube is another possible source of instruction.

Peter Hulse

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Thanks Peter that’s great! If anyone wants to dig further, don’t forget to take a look at Simon (the Ginger GM) Williams on YouTube. Here’s a good intro: Learn the Black Lion Opening:


I’m also thinking playing Nbd7, before e5; limits white’s ability to force a Qween swap. Kinda feel like I want the Queens on when playing the Black Lion. What do you think?


An important line is the nimzo-larobok variation ( probably spelt wrong ) that I have been preparing that gains a rook and 2 or 3 pawns for two minor pieces, the variation follows 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nbd7 4. Nf3 e5 5. Bc4 Be7 6. Ng5 0-0 7. Bxf7+ Rxf7 8. Ne6! Qe8 9. Nxc7 …

Peter Hulse

Dan, which side are you preparing it from? I thought it was supposed to be good for Black? I’m not sure but I think it’s Lärobok (!?), which seems to be the Swedish for ‘textbook’. I’m not sure because I’ve not had a chance to look it up properly but I think Nimzovich may have possibly published his analysis in a publication called Collijn’s Lärobok: “According to Hooper and Whyld, the fourth edition of Collijn’s Lärobok (in Swedish), with groundbreaking contributions by Rubinstein, Reti, Spielmann and Nimzovitsch was one of the “popular reference sources for strong players between the two… Read more »


I’ve created a study on Lichess for this line Dan: and my friend, Mr Stockfish said it looked very equal after 9. Nxc7. I’m sure black has opportunity to disrupt white’s plan though, for example (and credit for this goes to my friend, rather than my own analysis), instead of 5. … Be7, black can play 5. … exd. Interesting and aggressive line for white though.