The Polish Opening, also known as the Orangutan Opening, is a chess opening beginning with 1. b4
White’s first move is quite unusual. It does gain control of some central space, but not nearly as much as a “normal” opening move that moves one of the central pawns forward.
The Polish Opening does open a line of development for the bishop, but white will never have any trouble developing the bishop to b2 in other chess openings, if that is where he wants it to go. There are many mainstream openings where white focuses on controlling the center first, and later plays b3 and Bb2.
Furthermore, this pawn on b4 has no natural defender. As soon as black moves his e-pawn, the white pawn on b4 will immediately be under attack by black’s dark-squared bishop.
All these factors combine to make the Polish Opening a rare guest in high-level chess – but it certainly has its disciples, and white may have some tricks up his sleeve depending on how black proceeds! Let’s take a look at how the game may proceed.
First, let’s take a look at a simple trick I’ve seen many beginners fall for:
1. b4 e5 2. Bb2 Nc6? 3. b5!
The b-pawn makes itself felt early, driving away black’s knight! After 3…Nd4 4. E3 white will win the e5 pawn and stand much better.
Here’s another one:
1. B4 e6 2. Bb2 Bxb4??
3. Bxg7 and white is winning the rook! Black needs to watch out for tricks along this long diagonal.
Now that we’ve gotten some tricks out of the way, let’s take a look at how black can respond to the Polish opening and cover some basic set-ups.
This is one of the most common continuations in the Polish opening.
Both sides have reasons to be happy. White has succeeded in exchanging one of his flank pawns for a key black central pawn, but black is likely to achieve a lead in development due to having more open lines for his pieces.
The game may proceed 4. Nf3 0-0 5. e3 d5 6. Be2 c5 7. 0-0 Nc6 8. Bb2 Re8
Black has a large center and active pieces, but white shouldn’t have much trouble finishing development.
Black avoids the exchange of pawns that occurs in the mainline and forces white to react to an early threat to his exposed b-pawn. After white defends this pawn by advancing it, black grabs central space by pushing the c-pawn.
Of course, white can take en-passant in this position, but it’s not a popular option as after 5. bxc6?! Nxc6 white only succeeds in helping black to develop a knight.
The main line continues 5. Nf3 Bd6, and here white strikes back against the black center with 6. c4, with a strategically complex game to follow!
Let’s take a look at one more black set-up against the Polish Opening:
Black responds to white’s weird opening choice with perhaps an even weirder defensive system! It’s rarely correct to develop your queen before moving any other piece, but black’s move has a certain logic to it.
First, the queen threatens the b-pawn. White often deals with such threats in the polish by advancing this pawn forward, but here it does not work: 3. b5? Qb4! And white loses material due to this unusual double-attack!
After 3. a3 e5, another point is revealed – the queen also supports the e5 square, allowing black to take the full center and gain a space advantage.
The Polish Opening is sure to catch many unprepared opponent’s off-guard. From a classical Opening Principles perspective, white can surely do much better than 1. b4, but many players have found some success employing the Polish from time to time.
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