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Sokolsky/Polish Opening (1.b4). Basic Opening Theory.

  • Eugen
  • | May 27, 2014
  • | 5515 views
  • | 24 comments

     The Sokolsky Opening 1. b4 (also known as the Polish opening, Polish Attack, Orangutan) relates to the closed openings and is considered an irregular opening. It ranks ninth in popularity and is seldom played in top-level games and official tournaments. Thus the 1. b4 opening is another white spot in chess theory among other vaguely studied chess openings.

History of the Opening

     One of the first who researched deeply into the opening was Alexey Sokolsky (1908 - 1969) - a Soviet chess player and opening theoretician of International Master strength. Sokolsky wrote a book in Russian about this opening ("Debyut 1. b2-b4", 1963) in which he gave a theoretical approach to the main ideas and variations of the 1. b4 opening. He also successfully used this opening in his games. Due to these facts the 1. b4 opening carries the name of Sokolsky. However Alexey Sokolsky wasn't the first who used this opening in official tournaments. Before him 1. b4 had been played by Hunt, Bugayev, Englisch, Schlechter and later Tartakower.  

     The opening is often called Polish in honor of Savielly Tartakower (who played this opening only occasionally). The most famous games in which Tartakower used this opening were a game against Géza Maróczy and a game against Richard Réti. 

     As for Orangutan, this funny name appeared after the game between Tartakower and Maróczy played in 1924. The day before this game the chess players visited a zoo where Tartakower asked (as a joke) an Orangutan called Suzanna what first move he should play in the coming chess battle. Some people on the Internet assume this is a rare picture of that very orangutan Tartakower and  Maróczy met in the zoo:

phpEJOBfm.jpeg
A pensive expression on her face when Tartakower asked her what move would be better to open the game with. 

     The game started with 1. b4 and ended in a draw. Since then when someone calls this opening the Orangutan they usually underline their attitude towards this move as offbeat, eccentric and even jocular.

Theory of the Opening

     Pushing a b-pawn two squares forward is not a random move attempting to shock your opponent with an unusual opening. The 1. b4 move creates an immediate pressure on the queenside.

     In the following great game between Alekhine and Drewitt White plays b4 already on his second move! In this game Alekhine doesn't advance the b-pawn to b5 (which is so typical of the Sokolsky) but exchanges the pawns at c5.

Annotation by Alekhine

     A reasonable question arises: can White start attacking on the queenside immediately without any preparation? 

     The main idea of 1. b4 is to gain spatial advantage on the queenside. The b4 pawn attacks the c5 square near the center; White's bishop at b2 and White's knight at f3 attack the central squares. White plans to advance the b-pawn to b5 and support it with a2-a4 and c2-c4.

     Below are given the links to the most popular variations of the Sokolsky Opening as well as some rare lines. Keep tracking the main article (as well as sub-articles) so as not to miss any updates and new lines added about which I will inform you in the comments Cool

Various continuations of the Sokolsky Opening
Popularity rank in brackets

P.S. This article and sub-articles cover the basic ideas and theory of the Sokolsky opening enough to start playing this opening and handle the most popular responses by Black. For deeper learning please refer to chess books about the Sokolsky, video lessons, other chess articles and annotated games by chess masters.


References:
А.П. Сокольский - "Дебют 1. в2-в4 (дебют Сокольского)", 1963
Y. Lapshun, N. Conticello - "Play 1. b4! Shock your opponents with the Sokolsky", 2008
J. Konikowski, M. Soszynski - "1.b4: Theory and Practice of the Sokolsky Opening", 2009
Wikipedia
Chess.com

Comments


  • 2 months ago

    aaliyahsofia001

    b

  • 4 months ago

    Eugen

    Article updated.
    Birmingham Gambit (1. b4 c5) was added.

  • 4 months ago

    Eugen

    Article updated.
    I've added a new variation: the Symmetrical Variation (1. b4 b5).

  • 4 months ago

    Eugen

    Article updated.
    New variation added: the Ware Defense (1. b4 a5).

  • 4 months ago

    Eugen

    @upen2002
    Your approach is interesting: a lot of pawn moves aiming to seize the center as much as possible: 

    Though I don't think it may be called a rafutation of the Sokolsky - no theory and no games at high level to prove whether this method is really good or not. 

  • 4 months ago

    upen2002

    Well,what about my system? 

  • 4 months ago

    Eugen

    Article updated.
    New line: Grigorian Variation - another rare defense against 1. b4.

  • 5 months ago

    Eugen

    Article updated.
    A new line added: the Advance Variation (1. b4 e5 2. Bb2 e4) which is a rare continuation in the Sokolsky.

  • 5 months ago

    Eugen

    Article updated.
    Popularity ranking of the Sokolsky opening variations reconsidered and updated.

  • 5 months ago

    Eugen

    Sub-article about the Sokolsky Gambit (Declined) updated. Added more options of declining the gambit including very rare ones.

  • 5 months ago

    Eugen

    Article updated.
    Added a new line: the Outflank Variation.

  • 5 months ago

    TheGoalkeeper

    Good examples. Good article. Thanks Eugen.

  • 5 months ago

    Eugen

    @polyspastos

    ... otherwise your opponent may get in trouble Wink

  • 5 months ago

    polyspastos

    [COMMENT DELETED]
  • 5 months ago

    kanewestafrica

    thanks - i played this opening in my most on recent correspendance game here on chess.com. Won't play it again against the same opponent though, he likes a board with free ranging bishops!

  • 5 months ago

    endroid1

    @Eugen

    I am sorry that i missed 19 th move Bxc6 and did bxc6.i agree that it was an easy win for white.

  • 5 months ago

    Eugen

    @endroid1|

    Nice point! I've put the final position of the game to Chessmaster vs. Chessmaster set-up with 20 min. per player and here is the result (White won by checkmate):

    I've also added this computer line to the article diagram.

    Perhaps anyone has a more powerful software to analyze the position?

  • 5 months ago

    endroid1

    once Bxg7 was played f6 cud hav neutralisied white's possible mating threats.Morever My computer is showing advantage for black after some moves.Is their any mov my comp overlooks,I wud b happy if someone replies the right mov after Bxg7 

  • 5 months ago

    Eugen

    @nemenyi1111

    You are absolutely right! The Outflank variation (1. b4 c6) should be included and it will be covered a bit later. I'm accumulating theoretical materials at the moment. Thanks for your concern 

  • 5 months ago

    karunasmallela

    i am learning this opening. Thanks. regards

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