Upgrade to Chess.com Premium!

Bird's Opening







Question: Hmm, Bird's Opening... isn't that an unsound or unorthodox way to start a game of chess?

Answer: No. The move 1.f4  is a standard opening which conforms to many well-established and universally accepted principles of opening play. It is completely sound.

Question: Well if that's the case, then why isn't Bird's Opening more popular?

Answer: There are probably several reasons for this... it could be because many chessplayers feel that 1.f4 weakens the protective pawn structure around White's king. It does do this of course, but White receives good compensation in the form of attacking potential against Black's kingside. It's a balanced trade-off which appeals to some fearless players, and the 'Bird' is considered to be an aggressive opening.

Another reason is poor statistical performance. Databases show that other standard opening pawn moves - e4, d4 and c4 - all win in approximately 55% of games for White, but f4 only wins 48% of the time. I believe this is because Bird's Opening requires an advanced understanding of both positional and tactical play which makes it unsuitable for beginners and weaker players. Also, there hasn't been much research or study material available about the opening until very recently, so most players haven't been able to understand it or learn how to play it effectively.

Many people who specialise in playing 1.f4 generally tend to score around 55% or better...

Question: Why should I play Bird's Opening as opposed to other more popular opening moves?


Answer: There are lots of things I could say in it's favor - for one, if you only play 1.f4, then you will never have to worry about facing the Sicilian Defense, French Defense, Berlin Defense, Caro-Kann, Slav, Meran, QGA, QGD, Indian Defenses, Grunfeld, Benoni, etc, etc, etc.

Another good thing about playing 1.f4 is that you will quickly become familiar with the systems and positions which arise from it - much more so than your average opponent, who will most likely encounter the opening only infrequently due to its comparative rarity. It is one of the least well-understood of all the standard chess openings - with plenty of unexplored territory. Improvements to old theory and brand new cutting-edge developments are being discovered by its practitioners all the time, with the aid of super-strong computer chess programs such as:- Komodo, Stockfish, Rybka and Houdini.


Question: Ok, sounds cool... but I need to know one more thing - has Bird's Opening actually been played successfully by any famous players in the past? Like ever?


Answer: Yes. Bird's Opening has been employed successfully on several occasions by many strong players and famous Grandmasters. Here's just a few of them: 

1. Henry Bird

2. Bent Larsen

3. Paul Morphy

4. Bassem Amin

5. Robert Fischer

6. Emanuel Lasker

7. Henrik Danielsen

8. Timothy Taylor

9. Aron Nimzowitsch

10. Mikhail Gurevich

11. Alexander Alekhine

12. Viktor Kortchnoi

13. Howard Staunton

14. Mikhail Chigorin

15. Adolf Anderssen

16. David Bronstein

17. Sergey Von Freymann

18. Louis De La Bourdonnais

19. Joseph Blackburne

20. Siegbert Tarrasch

21. Levon Aronian

22. Granda Zuniga

23. Boris Alterman

24. Michael Basman

25. Savielly Tartakower

26. Vladimir Malaniuk

27. Adolf Albin

28. Vasja Pirc

29. Larry Evans

30. Nigel Davies

31. Jorge Pelikan

32. Andrew Soltis

33. Jose Capablanca

34. Gioachino Greco

35. Vladimir Kramnik

36. Vladimir Yurevich

37. Richard Rapport

38. Artur Jakubiec

39. Alfred Brinckmann

40. Fedor Bohatyrchuk

41. Anna Muzychuk

42. Ju Wenjun

43. Machgielis Euwe

44. Hikaru Nakamura

45. Ian Nepomniachtchi

46. Bengt Ekenberg

47. Thomas Barnes

48. Simon Williams

49. Magnus Carlsen

50. Lars Karlsson


  • 15 months ago


    Breeze, I totally agree with you that ...d6 invites e4, and after ...d5, White is in normal waters.  BUT ...d6 takes away e5, which is a critical square in many Bird lines, so White needs to learn some other piece layouts.

  • 15 months ago


    If Black uses a d6 setup, for example: 1.f4 d6 2.Nf3 Nf6, then you should follow up with 3.Nc3, which allows the option of later playing e4. The Bird is only weak against the d6 systems if White commits himself to a setup where e3 is played early on.

  • 15 months ago


    I think that a setup with d6 is very challenging.

  • 15 months ago


    In response to zenomorphy's comment, regarding comparisons with the Dutch Defense:

    Any reply to 1.f4 other than 1...d5 is significantly inferior. I've spent a lot of hours working out adequate responses to every possible reply, but the Reverse Dutch still presents the greatest challenge to White. Any prospective Bird player will inevitably have to concentrate most of their effort towards becoming an expert in handling those kinds of positions.

  • 15 months ago


    I've heard that argument about controlling e5 before, but the most common response that favors white in the DBs is 1...d6, so that seems to poke holes in that reasoning.

    More and more, I think that white is doing everything he can to make his first move count, and black is trying to make the first move not matter.  When white plays a reversed defense, he is essentially undermining his first move advantage by playing a setup that is meant to erode the first move advantage.

  • 15 months ago


    Here's a tiny historical database, yet spanning a nice long reflective period of use. Number of games in database: 1667

    Years covered: 1620 to 2014

    Overall record:

    White wins 36.3%

    Black wins 40.9%

    Draws 22.9%


    The next shows slightly more games (still old sample), though still a small sampling (9500 games), yet the trend of black winning percentage remains, with the top 5 responses.


    A cool discussion on the point and excellent question is pointedly asked "Chess-beta", at http://chess.stackexchange.com/questions/1302/birds-opening-and-the-dutch-defense .

    Posed: "My question therefore is this. If f4and f5 are such interesting moves in the opening, then why should Bird's Opening 1. f4 be so much less common than the Dutch Defense 1... f5? Is it only because the King's Gambit is better than Bird's, or is there some other reason?"

    "To be clear, my question today is not whether pushing the f-pawn two spaces is wise or fundamentally sound. Believe me, having tried it over and over during recent years, I have learned a lot of ways to lose by pushing that pawn! My question regards rather, among aggressive players who will push the f-pawn, why black tends to push the pawn earlier than white does. Given the increased risk black runs by pushing the f-pawn at the disadvantage of a tempo, one would think that white, not black, would be the leading f-pusher -- whereas 365chess.com has 1. f4 in 0.6 percent of all games, compared against 1... f5 in 3.6 percent of games that have begun 1. d4."

    "In light of the relative popularity of the Dutch, why should Bird's Opening be relatively so uncommon?"

    Interesting opinions follow and are worth checking out. I'll leave these to your discovery, yet one poignant point, of several (yet one which evades many of us) was that:

    "An f5 setup by black is strongest when white plays d4, weakening his e4 square (which f5 of course attacks). In the Dutch, black already KNOWS white has played d4, so there is already strategic logic in the reply. However in Bird's, white is committing to f4 quite speculatively and black can if he wishes avoid d5, often making the f4 advance rather less useful (while still having the inherent risks). This is the main (positional) reason the Dutch is preferred to Bird's, and indeed is slightly stronger than it: it is reacting to an already-created weakness rather than attacking one that isn't even there yet..."

    The work was done and minimal search here, yet pertinent to the question at hand and hopefully useful to this cool debate! Thanks D_Breeze! Peace!

  • 16 months ago


    Humiliating a weak player, huh? ... LOL Smile

  • 16 months ago


    Pretty much my assessment, as well.  Every move, you have to be on tight blunder watch, and you can't miss your opponent's errors, either.  I think it would be best as a way of giving odds or humiliating a weak player, something like that?

    If I recall right, the guy's mother testified against him in court, and he swore in the courtroom that he would kill her the day he was out of prison.  And the day he got out, he killed her.  So then he was in jail for life...

  • 16 months ago


    Actually, I've analysed the Grob on a computer and I can see that it's sound, but you have to try and find a tactical resource on virtually every move just to make it work. Looks exciting, but I'm not sure if it's at all practical. As for Claude Bloodgood - I probably wouldn't buy his works out of principle. The guy was a convicted felon.

  • 16 months ago


    You might like it, it has its followers!  You could pick up Claude Bloodgood's work on it (I found a great condensed version on some website or another) and try it out.

  • 16 months ago


    ...or in other words, "don't play the Grob!"  Wink

  • 17 months ago


    I played around with the Grob for a while.  It's certainly playable, but I just can't find the right type of opponent.  Aggressive players go straight for your exposed king, solid players go straight for the uncontested center, strong players exploit the inherent positional weaknesses, weak players watch as you beat yourself with risky double-edged play...  You can't specifically punish any of them, you can only play precisely and wait for the inaccuracies to pile up in your favor.

  • 17 months ago


    Straightforward, for sure. But even the standard Bird wasn't edgy enough - I had to create the Hurricane Gambit and the Ba3 Attack before it finally suited my tastes. Still can't bring myself to attempt the Grob though - I'm not THAT crazy. lol. Smile

  • 17 months ago


    I've familiarized myself with a lot of openings, and I do find a move as flexible as Nf3 helps me make the most of that study.  Unfortunately, it does tend to rule out the Bird...  It's hard to beat the straightfowardness of the Bird when you have to beat the clock, though!

  • 17 months ago


    You said you favored 1.Nf3 instead of a pawn move - in political terms, I think you would be considered 'middle of the road' - neither radical nor conservative. Someone who likes to wait and see how things turn out before deciding what is best. With Nf3, you could end up playing all kinds of stuff - a swing-voter! lol Laughing

  • 17 months ago


    Orangutan is a favorite wild opening of mine!  It's more conservative than it looks, I suppose, lol.  Definitely not as crazy as the Grob!

    For a long time I kind of had the sense that the e-file was more "central" than the d-file, and that 1f4 and 1d4 were closely related ways to control e5.  Working with some other openings, especially the Gruenfeld, has made me see the value of controlling d4 and d5 as well as e4 and e5.

    I always felt like the Bird is kind of sending the king's personal guard on the offensive.  Smile

  • 17 months ago


    Lol, yes I agree - it's a pretty complex argument with many exceptions. But in general, I feel that when it comes to the two-square opening pawn moves, it's a lot like politics - a sliding-scale which goes from extreme radicalism on the far-right side of the board, to extreme conservativism on the far-left side of the board.

    For example, 1.h4 is unrealistically radical, then 1.g4 is ultra-radical, whilst 1.f4 is very radical, and 1.e4 is more radical than 1.d4 - which is conservative. 1.c4 is very conservative and 1.b4 risks even less danger to the king - so is ultra-conservative, whilst 1.a4 is ineffectually conservative.

    I mostly play 1.f4, and in real life I tend to believe in rapid, radical, dynamic changes for the better. Smile

  • 17 months ago


    That's interesting...  I only play 1e4 for "theme" situations.  I do play the other big 3: 1c4, 1Nf3, and 1d4, though 1Nf3 is the most to my taste.  The English is weird because sometimes it is so closely related to the Sicilian you have to imagine a 1e4 player would feel comfortable with the positions (Reversed Sicilian and Symmetrical English give me that feel), while other times it's clearly a transpositional tool for a semi-closed game (against Indian or Dutch defenses, for example).  I think a Veresov or a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit would be a great changeup for a King's Pawn player.

    I guess with the Bird, you always have potential King's Gambit, Grand Prix, and related lines if your opponent decides to play you into them.  Of course, then there's the Stonewall...

  • 17 months ago


    To be honest, I think 1.e4 and 1.d4 still are - (and always will be) - the two best opening moves. However, a good tournament player will usually also have a Plan-B opening-move up his sleeve, either for when the A-game isn't working, or simply to add some variety to a repertoire and make play less predictable.

    This is where moves likes 1.c4 and 1.f4 take center-stage. I think 1.c4 is a complementary 2nd-choice move which would suit a lot of 1.d4 players, and 1.f4 would be a pretty good secondary move for many 1.e4 players - but of course if you are capable enough, you could just use the top two moves as your 1st and 2nd choices... ...like Magnus Carlsen. Smile

  • 17 months ago


Back to Top

Post your reply: