Polish Opening


The Polish Opening, also known as the Sokolsky or the Orangutan, is the opening 1.b4 by White. Although only the ninth-most popular opening move, it's a respectable option with some devoted followers. Instead of playing in the center, White fights for an advantage on the queenside.

Starting Position

The Polish is very distinctive and once 1.b4 is played, a game is in the Polish Opening with little chance at transposing into something else.


  • Gains queenside space
  • Can catch Black off guard
  • Prepares to fianchetto the dark-squared bishop


  • Doesn't control the center
  • b-pawn can become a target
  • Prepared opponents can cause White difficulties


Black has several viable options against the Polish. Here are the most popular.

Polish Opening
Black's main responses to 1.b4.


Black's most common response is 1...e5, immediately attacking the b-pawn. Often a trade follows with 2.Bb2 Bxb4 3.Bxe5. Although this trade's a central Black pawn for a wing White pawn, Black scores very well. Black does less well defending the e-pawn with either 2...d6 or 2...f6 but both are playable.

Polish Opening
White fianchettoes the bishop as planned, attacking Black's e-pawn. Now what?


Black's next two most popular moves are 1...d5 and 1...Nf6 and they often transpose into the same line, the Schiffler-Sokolsky. Black has more central space while White gains further queenside space by pushing the b-pawn again. The most common move order is given below.


The idea behind this move, the Outflank Variation, is to attack the b-pawn with 2...Qb6.


The two players most associated with 1.b4 are Polish GM Savielly Tartakower (1887-1956) and Soviet IM Alexey Sokolsky (1908-1969), hence the common names for the opening: the Polish (more common in the West) and the Sokolsky (more so in Russian sources). The third name, the Orangutan, is also thanks to Tartakower. During the 1924 New York tournament he visited the Bronx Zoo and something inspired him to play the move and name it for that primate.

It was an obscure 19th-century British player, however, who first played 1.b4: Arthur Skipworth in 1868, a game Skipworth won. Maybe we don't call it the Skipworth Opening because that makes it sound like it's worth skipping.

Although rare, the Polish Opening isn't bad and it can lead to unique positions that are interesting to play.

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