Polish / Sokolsky Opening

Jul 4, 2010, 12:12 AM |

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

ECO     A00
Named after     Alexei Pavlovich Sokolsky
Parent     Irregular chess opening
Synonym(s)     Orangutan or Polish Opening

The Sokolsky Opening (also known as the Orangutan or Polish Opening) is an uncommon chess opening:

    1. b4

According to various databases, out of the twenty possible first moves from White, 1.b4 ranks ninth in popularity. It is considered an irregular opening, so it is classified under the A00 code in the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings.

The opening has never been popular at the top level, though a number of prominent players have employed it on occasion (for example, Richard Réti against Abraham Speijer in Scheveningen 1923 and Boris Spassky against Vasily Smyslov in the 1960 Moscow–Leningrad match). Perhaps its most famous use came in the game Tartakower–Maróczy, New York City 1924. The name "Orangutan Opening" originates from that game: the players had visited the zoo the previous day, and Tartakower had consulted an orangutan there about what move he should open with the next day. Soviet player Alexei Pavlovich Sokolsky (1908–1969) wrote a monograph on this opening in 1963, Debyut 1 b2-b4.

The opening is largely based upon tactics on the queenside or the f6 and g7 squares. Black can respond in a variety of ways: perhaps the most principled is to make a claim to the centre (which White's first move ignores) with 1...d5 (possibly followed by 2.Bb2 Qd6, attacking b4 and supporting e7-e5), 1...e5 or 1...f5, though less ambitious moves like 1...Nf6, 1...c6 (called the Outflank Variation, preparing ...Qb6 or ...a5), and 1...e6 are also reasonable. Rarer attempts have been made with 1...a5 or 1...c5. Black's reply 1...e6 is usually followed by ...d5, ...Nf6 and an eventual ...c5. After 1.b4 e5 it is normal for White to ignore the attack on the b-pawn and play 2.Bb2, when 2...d6, 2...f6, and 2...Bxb4 are all playable. After 1...a5 White will most likely play 2.b5 and take advantage of Black's queenside weakness. Black's 1...c5 is much sharper and more aggressive and is normally used to avoid theory. After the capture Black will generally place pressure on the c5 square and will develop an attack against White's weak queenside structure.