How To Play The Boiling Frog Attack
No frogs were hurt for this article.

How To Play The Boiling Frog Attack

| 97 | Strategy

Let me start with a disclaimer. While the title sounds sinister, I can assure you that no frog or any other animal was hurt for the sake of this article. It is just a metaphor!

This is how Daniel Quinn describes it in "The Story Of B":

If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.

I want to present to you a game played by two famous super-grandmasters where White won in just 16 moves.

Black didn't break any opening rules, was fully developed and castled. Moreover, he didn't blunder anything and yet had to resign after White played his 16th move.

How is that possible? 

Let's start with the opening. The first moves were 1.d4 d5 2. e3. 

This line known as the "queen's pawns opening" leads to slow positional play in most cases. But there is a variation aptly named "The Stonewall" where White literally creates a wall in the center using his pawns:

For an inexperienced player, such a set-up might look like the perfect defense.

A stone wall

Indeed, it looks like White creates a wall in the center to prevent any possible attack. In reality, White's goal is very ambitious. He prepares a direct assault on the kingside, where his Bd3 and especially Ne5, supported by the pawns d4 and f4, are going to be very dangerous.

Look how the game can proceed if Black is careless:

So you can see how deceptive the opening appears. It looks like a slow, quiet set-up and then out of blue, Black's king gets mated! In most of the very aggressive openings, like the Sicilian Defense, your opponent is well aware of your attacking intentions and therefore plays accordingly.

In the Stonewall opening, Black frequently doesn't see the danger until it is too late. So, he is the frog, so to speak—and your goal is just to slowly raise the temperature of the water until he gets boiled! 

This strategy was very popular against the early computer programs. They couldn't see the danger due to the so-called "horizon effect," so skillful human players easily boiled them! 

The grandmaster Richard Reti was one of the best opening experts of his time and even had an opening named after him. When one of the best players of the time, GM Akiba Rubinstein, started building the wall, Reti could see the danger right away!

In order to stop the coming attack, Black decided to take the sting out of White's set-up: the bishop on d3! Guess how Rubinstein responded to the Black's ploy.

Yes, instead of a very natural capture with the queen on d1, Rubinstein preferred to get the dreaded doubled pawns. Why did he do that? Well, for starters his "wall" in the center got even more massive, but more important, he repaired the hole on e4, so Black's knight on f6 could never jump there! 

The next question should be very easy for you as well. How should White proceed?

With every move White slowly turns up the heat so Black "sinks into a tranquil stupor" and captures the knight on e5 due to the unpleasant threat of Bh4! Of course, opening the f-file against his own king cannot help his defense.

Find Rubinstein's final touch!

It is amazing how White slowly brings his pieces to attack Black's king and yet his opponent cannot do anything! The water is getting hotter and hotter with every move until the king gets boiled!

This is not the most sophisticated opening line, so don't hold your breath waiting for Magnus Carlsen to play it. However, it can be a very dangerous weapon for club players. Slowly boil your opponents' kings. 

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