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Why these moves in the Polish Opening?

  • #1

    (1) In the most popular line of the Polish Opening, why does Black prefer to lose a central pawn (his e5-pawn) in exchange for White's flank pawn (b4-pawn)? Central pawns are supposed to be more valuable than flank pawns.

     

     

     

    (2) Why does White prefer 4. Nf3 over 4. c4? Nf3 doesn't seem to do anything: it doesn't prevent ...e5 since Black doesn't have an e-pawn anymore, and it doesn't make sense to protect the bishop since nothing is threatening it. Maybe it's just a standard waiting move, waiting to see what Black wants to do?

     

     

  • #2

    Center pawns are usually more valuable than flank pawns. Black's idea is that he will have a space advantage and a lead in development in exchange for this trade. He will also gain another tempo on the bishop on e5 sooner or later.

  • #3
    penandpaper0089 wrote:

    Center pawns are usually more valuable than flank pawns. Black's idea is that he will have a space advantage and a lead in development in exchange for this trade. He will also gain another tempo on the bishop on e5 sooner or later.

     

    Well, thanks, but I still can't see it. White is *also* going to gain a tempo on the Black bishop pretty soon.

  • #4
    Sqod wrote:
    penandpaper0089 wrote:

    Center pawns are usually more valuable than flank pawns. Black's idea is that he will have a space advantage and a lead in development in exchange for this trade. He will also gain another tempo on the bishop on e5 sooner or later.

     

    Well, thanks, but I still can't see it. White is *also* going to gain a tempo on the Black bishop pretty soon.

    It's possible but probably not worth the trouble. If White plays c3 at some point then he's either burying a bishop on b2 or is going to be forced to give up the bishop pair because the bishop may not be able to retreat to b2. White typically ends up playing c4 to challenge Black's d5 pawn to challenge Black's control over the center. a3 is a move but it's not all that helpful to White to play it.

    Black will just develop with moves like ...d5, O-O, ...c5, ...Nc6 and just have a space advantage and faster development. While White has an extra center pawn.

     

  • #5

    4.Nf3 0-0 5.c4 is the usual move order.

    4.c4 d5 5.cxd5 0-0! (intending to recapture at d5 with the knight) gives Black a fine position.

    Also: kicking the e5 bishop with Re8/Nc6 does win a tempo. Kicking the b4 bishop with a2-a3 does not, since a2-a3 cannot be considered as development.

  • #6
    pfren wrote:

    4.Nf3 0-0 5.c4 is the usual move order.

    4.c4 d5 5.cxd5 0-0! (intending to recapture at d5 with the knight) gives Black a fine position.

    Also: kicking the e5 bishop with Re8/Nc6 does win a tempo. Kicking the b4 bishop with a2-a3 does not, since a2-a3 cannot be considered as development.

     

    Some playable boards to match your descriptions:

     



     

  • #7

    ...Bxb4 isnt a common line. in fact the polish isnt even popular. Nf3 develops a piece and controls two squares at once. 

  • #8

    It basically comes down to time.  It takes White two moves to win the e-pawn, whereas Black wins the b-pawn in one move.  After Nf6, Black is both ahead in development, has the easier / more natural development and can win more time hitting the Bishop.  Such an advantage in time is worth more than an extra central pawn.

    I used to play the Polish as my 'just for fun' choice, but I would almost always go 1.b4 2.e5 3.a3, protecting the b-pawn and continuing with some combination of e3, Nf3 and c4.  The position resembles a Sicilian Kan with the White pieces, but one where Black has a thousand different ways to set up his pieces and seek play.  Games were original, fun and 100% not decided by theory, but as I advanced past 1600 I played this less and less, as it became harder to justify.

    Still, I enjoyed those positions more than the ones after 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 Bxb4, though.

  • #9
    SmithyQ wrote:

    It basically comes down to time.  It takes White two moves to win the e-pawn, whereas Black wins the b-pawn in one move.  After Nf6, Black is both ahead in development, has the easier / more natural development and can win more time hitting the Bishop.  Such an advantage in time is worth more than an extra central pawn.

     

     

    Thanks. That's an answer I can easily understand. Until now I wasn't really understanding the advantage that Black was supposedly getting by this line.

  • #10
    NoHaxJustLuck wrote:

    ...Bxb4 isnt a common line. in fact the polish isnt even popular. Nf3 develops a piece and controls two squares at once. 

     

    The database I'm using has 6,475 games of the Polish (1. b4),

    2,584 games with 1. b4 e5,

    and 802 games with 1. b4 e5 with Bxe5,

    so it looks like you're partly right on both counts:

    (1) Compared to other openings, there are relatively few games from which to draw statistics, and

    (2) It looks like the most popular line has changed since I last looked at the same database, which might be partly what was throwing me off. 2...d6, protecting the e-pawn, is most popular now (849 games) whereas 2...Bxb4 is close behind but still 2nd in popularity (802 games). That's one problem with lines close in popularity: their rankings can flip frequently. I don't think I like the above line, so I think I'll more strongly consider 2...d6. Thanks for your insights.

     

  • #11

    The 2...Bxb4 variation is ambitious, easy to play, the most frequently played (almost 7,000 games in my database) and also in excellent theoretical status. I can't think of a better line to play as Black.

    2...d6 followed by ...Nf6, ...g6 etc is also fine.

  • #12
    SmithyQ wrote:

    It basically comes down to time.  It takes White two moves to win the e-pawn, whereas Black wins the b-pawn in one move.  After Nf6, Black is both ahead in development, has the easier / more natural development and can win more time hitting the Bishop.  Such an advantage in time is worth more than an extra central pawn.

    I used to play the Polish as my 'just for fun' choice, but I would almost always go 1.b4 2.e5 3.a3, protecting the b-pawn and continuing with some combination of e3, Nf3 and c4.  The position resembles a Sicilian Kan with the White pieces, but one where Black has a thousand different ways to set up his pieces and seek play.  Games were original, fun and 100% not decided by theory, but as I advanced past 1600 I played this less and less, as it became harder to justify.

    Still, I enjoyed those positions more than the ones after 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 Bxb4, though.

     

    Just by the look of it, I like it a lot better than allowing Bxb4 on the second move.  Of course it looks ridiculous to spend two tempi for two flank pawn moves, but hey, it accomplishes its objective of taking Black out of the book.

  • #13

    "... [After 1 b4 e5 2 Bb2, 2...Bxb4] is just a good move. In return for the e-pawn Black gains easy and swift development, while White even has to be careful about tactics down the half-open e-file. ..." - IM Richard Palliser (2006)

  • #14

    I think still have a copy of Bangiev's fine article on 2...Bb4. Its the reason i took up taking the pawn

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