The Polish opening broken down

Openings create a series of possibilities for players in the quest of carving a win.  Because all pieces have a starting position and it takes complex maneuvering to get them into action, studying of openings gives players an edge in the game.

Players choose openings aligned to their playing styles. Aggressive players pick openings which set up pieces swiftly, while conservative players pick slow brew type of openings.

The column today is dedicated to the infamous Polish Opening better known as Orangutan or Sokolosky Opening – a name derived from Alexey Sokolosky, a Russian chess researcher who dedicated his time and efforts into studying and analysing this irregular and seldom played flank opening.

A chess theoretician and a renowned International Master of his times, Sokolosky was the first to publish a book around the opening. The book gave a theoretical approach to the main ideas and variations of the 1. b4 opening.

He also successfully used this opening in his games.

History tells that the opening was played by other great players before Alexey. Before him 1. b4 had been played by Hunt, Bugayev, Englisch, Schlechter and later Tartakower from which the opening got its name Polish game.

 

The ideas of the game

Pushing the b pawn two steps forward is always a shocker to an opponent. The move creates questions that preoccupy the opponent with the task of analysing and predicting the next move. Some opponents take offence and usually respond with their heart not their heads.

The 1. b4 move creates immediate pressure on the queenside. The main idea of 1. b4 is to gain spatial advantage on the queenside. The b4 pawn attacks the c5 square near the centre; White’s bishop at b2 and White’s knight at f3 attack the central squares. White plans to advance the b-pawn to b5 and support it with a2-a4 and c2-c4 thereby slowing down the development of b Knight.  The Bishop on b2 seeks control of the centre with the main idea being to control the whole diagonal all the way to h8.

Because of its rarity, unprepared opponents usually fall into the following traps, in their efforts to clean the country by getting rid of the menacing pawn:

 

  • Pushing the e5 pawn (1.b4 e5 2. Bb2 Nc6? 3. b5)

After the b4 opening, opponents tend to choose 1…e5 which is followed white’s 2. Bb2 move. Some opponents furiously push the b knight to Nc6 to continue with development plan. Pawn push to b5 leaves the e5 pawn prone to capture by the Bishop on b2.

 

I have seen the Nc6 knight seek refuge on d4 spot, with the objective of bocking Bishop capture on e5 while threatening the b5 pawn. The defense is, however, diffused by a quick e3 pawn push which leaves the knight with no options but a track back to f5 or e4.

 

  • Pushing e6 (1. b4 e6 2. Bb2 Bxb4??)

This one is very common in amateur levels and is also very common response for heart players, head players are not usually swayed. So here the response is e6 push followed by a desperate capture of the b4 pawn with a bishop. The move leaves the g7 pawn unprotected and the h8 rook in danger of an unchallenged capture by the fierce Bishop on b2.

 

There are other sound responses to the b4 conundrum which positions the black into a winning position. The disadvantages of the polish include the creation of weaker queenside, which usually become visible and exploitable in move 7.

The opening also gives away the castling side in the earliest stages of the game – the Kings side. The aim of opening in chess is to activate pieces the quickest and earliest, Orangutan slows activation of other major pieces especially in the main line of 1b4…2Bb2 …3.b5., three moves into the game and only 1 major piece developed.

The opening is very rare in major tournaments and skillful players quickly take advantage pf the known weaknesses. If you are risk takers and love action, it presents you with an opportunity, however, play it with caution.

 

Checkmate!

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