Bishop’s Opening: Complete Guide

Prasanna Kumar
Category: Openings
Bishop’s Opening: Complete Guide

Bishop’s opening (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4) is one of the oldest known starting lines. Luis Ramirez Lucena first mentioned it in a manuscript. Philidor thoroughly examined the Bishop’s Opening, which gained popularity. Philidor preferred 2.Bc4 over 2.Nf3 because it allowed the pawn thrust f2-f4 to gain a spatial advantage and fight for the center with pawns.

Later in the nineteenth century, Howard Staunton investigated the line and played numerous games as both White and Black (most notably in his match against Cochrane in 1842).

The modern version of the opening was popularized by the Danish Grandmaster Bent Larsen, who played it regularly in the 1960s against strong opposition.

The Bishop’s Opening can be played by players of all levels and is a perfectly sound opening for any time control.

After the initial moves, play can take many forms. It can eventually transpose into a more solid opening like the Giuoco Piano or lead to crazy double-edged positions that are very hard to evaluate in practice. Which direction to go for is totally up to you. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities:

But first, we have to examine what happens when Black immediately goes on the counterattack. The g2 pawn is left undefended when we move our bishop from f1 to c4. So Black plays Qg5.

Bishops Opening

Is this attack dangerous?


This is a premature attack on Black’s part. No attack can succeed only with the help of the lone queen. White can easily push the queen away and build up a lead in development.

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According to the database, the most played moves after Bc4 are (in order of number of games):

  • Nf6
  • Nc6
  • Bc5

[insert img bishop-options]

Let’s take a look at each one of them:

  • Nf6

After Nf6, you have a wide range of choices on how to proceed. You can transpose the game to a Giuoco Piano by playing d3, followed by Nf3 and a normal development scheme of the Giuco Piano.

There are also gambit options available to you. One such Gambit is the famed Urusov Gambit. This gambit has a win rate of 56% at the club player level! Therefore, this could be a very good Rapid or Blitz opening to use on unsuspecting opponents.

Bishops Opening

White ignores the threat on the e4 pawn and plays for rapid mobilization of pieces. You can refer to the model game below to learn all the tactical resources and ideas White has. Learn more about typical pawn structures: the e5 pawn structure.

  • Nc6

This move suggests that Black is content with normal development and doesn’t want to immediately punish White. There are many lines to choose from in this position. You can play 3.Qh5, creating immediate threats and forcing your opponent on the defensive. One aggressive line is to play in the style of King’s Gambit with 3.f4

After 2….Nc6 3.f4!?

Bishops Opening

In this variation, the games are complicated and double-edged. Naturally, the player with better calculation and tactical ability should be the winner.

  • Bc5

After this move white can transpose into the Vienna game. This line also offers excellent attacking chances for White.

Bishops Opening

Let’s take a look at the following games to get some ideas on how white can treat the position.

To Sum Up

The Bishop’s Opening is a very good choice for players with very little study time. It directly avoids some openings like the Petroff and the Scandinavian Defense. Overall, this opening gives a very good foundation to conduct an attack and go for a quick victory. Engines may not agree with some of the lines but in a practical game, things are not so simple.

It is not easy to defend and players generally crack under consistent pressure which the Bishop’s opening offers plenty.

Want to learn about other openings? Click here to learn how to play against Closed Sicilian.

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Updated 05.16.2024