Chess Opening Theory/1. b4

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Sokolsky Opening
a b c d e f g h
8 a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 g8 h8 8
7 a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7 7
6 a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6 6
5 a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5 5
4 a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 h4 4
3 a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3 3
2 a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2 2
1 a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 h1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position in Forsyth-Edwards Notation(FEN)

rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/1P6/8/P1PPPPPP/RNBQKBNR

Moves: 1.b4
ECO code: A00

Sokolsky Opening[edit]

1.b4[edit]

This opening is also known as "Polish Opening" or "The Orangutan". Some common ideas motivating this move:

  • Fianchettoing is often a good idea, why not grab a little space?
  • At some point a quick b4-b5 might dislodge a knight on c6.
  • Trading the b-pawn for the c-pawn may give white central power.
  • If 1...e5 or 1...e6, usual play either continues with 2.a3 or 2.Bb2. The idea after Bb2 is that the black can't play Bxb4 right away, anyway. E.g., 1.b4 e6 2.Bb2 Bxb4? 3.Bxg7 where black loses material, and 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 Bxb4?! 3.Bxe5 and black loses a central pawn for a flank pawn.

Statistics[edit]

www.chess.com's Game Explorer Master Games DB shows 1704 games with 1.b4: White wins 37%, 41% are drawn and Black wins 22% of all games www.365chess.com's Big Database shows 6360 games with 1.b4: White wins 33%, 26% are drawn and Black wins 41% ChessBase's Big Database 2010 has 14,389 games with 1.b4 giving White a 47.6% winning percentage - which is very bad when compared to White's winning percentages with 1.e4 (53%) 1.d4 and 1.c4 (+54%) and 1.Nf3 (55%) The average FIDE rating of all players is 1926, the average performance rating is 1942 which again compares unfavorably with the average ratings of all players employing 1.d4, 1.Nf3, 1.c4 and the average performance ratings of these openings (both categories are +2200) The average rating of all players employing 1.e4 in the DB is 2135 with an average performance rating of 2161.

Few Grandmasters (GMs) employ this opening in serious games. GMs Ivanchuk and Fischer played it three times - in simultaneous exhibitions. GMs Hort, Ljubojevic, Miles, Petrosian and Smyslov played it at least once against fellow GMs or IMs (International Masters); Larsen played it in at least 4 serious games. The Big Database has 291 games (out of almost 5.5 million) played with at least one player having a FIDE rating of 2400 or higher. The winning percentages for these games are: White 46%, Drawn 30%, Black 24%.

Surprisingly there are a few fairly recent books on this opening. Not surprisingly none are by GMs although two are by IMs.

Play 1.b4! Shock your Opponents with the Sokolsky Language: English by IM Yury Lapshun, Nick Conticello Everyman Chess, 2008, PB

1.b4: Theory & Practice of the Sokolsky Opening Full of Fresh Analysis by Jerzy Konikowski, Marek Soszynski Russell Enterprises, 2009, PB - English

The Sokolsky 1.b4 (Orangutan) Foxy 106 by IM Andrew Martin ChessOnDVD, 2010, DVD Language: English

In theory and practice Black usually responds by playing in the center with ...d5 or ...e5, or by exploiting the weak position of the pawn by playing ...e5 or ...e6. The flexible 1...Nf6 has been played as well.

Further reading: http://www.chess.com/article/view/openings-for-tactical-players-sokolsky-opening IM Tim Harding "Significant Games in the Sokolsky Opening" http://www.chesscafe.com/text/kibitz86.pdf http://www.chesscafe.com/text/lane140.pdf

Theory table[edit]

For explanation of theory tables see theory table and for notation see algebraic notation

1. b4

1 2 3
1 b4
e5
Bb2
Bxb4
Bxe5
Nf6
=
1 ...
...
a3
d5
Bb2
a5
=
2 ...
d5
Bb2
Nf6
e3
e6
=
3 ...
Nf6
Bb2
e6

=
Outflank Variation ...
c6
Bb2
a5

=
...
...
...
d5

=/+
Birmingham Gambit ...
c5
b4xc5
e5

=
...
...
a3
c5xb4

=/+

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References[edit]

  • Eric Schiller (2002). Unorthodox Chess Openings (Second Edition ed.). Cardoza. ISBN 1-58042-072-9. 
  • Batsford Chess Openings 2 (1989, 1994). Garry Kasparov, Raymond Keene. ISBN 0-8050-3409-9.