The Black Lion Defense is an opening system employed by Black against any of these opening moves by White: 1.e4, or 1.d4, or 1.Nc3. It is an agressive version of the Philidor Defense closed Hanham variation.
The mainline Philidor Hanham variation, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7 6. O-O O-O, gives Black a strong position.
While each of the above moves appear to be very logical, a fourth move variation by White prevents this setup – 4.dxe5 Nxe4 5.Q5!
Enter the Black Lion
According to Grand Master Simon Williams the opening phase of the Black Lion Defense can be broken into five stages:
1. Bring the Knights out.
So after the first three moves – 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 – the board will look like this:
Note, the e4-e5 pawn push is bad for White (3.e5 dxe5 4.dxe5 Qxd1+ 5.Kxd1).
2. Control the center and develop with …e5 and …Be7.
So the game continues with – 4.Nf3 e5 5.Bc4 Be7 :
3. Consolidate the center with …c6 and …Qc7.
So the game continues with 6.O-O c6 7.a4 Qc7
4. Attack with …h6 and …g5.
Black delays (or even omits) castling because he wants to launch a kingside pawn storm attack with …h6 and …g5, and the Rh8 is key to it. The game continues with 8.h3 h6 9.Be3 g5
5. Bring the Queen Knight over.
The game continues 10.Re1 Nf8 with thoughts of following up with …Ng6 and …Nf4 .