Categories

 Loading... Please wait...

The Sokolsky Opening

We learned previously that A. Alekhine called 1.b4 "an old move" in his 1924 commentary on the Tartakower-Maroczy game. Old maybe, but little played in top tournaments. There is a game Huntington-Kemeny, New York 1891 and then the Tartakower game mentioned above; from that time 1.b4 gets very little attention until Sokolsky himself defeated Salo Flohr (Moscow 1953) using this move.

Alexey Pavlovich Sokolsky was a prominent chess theoretician and correspondence player, very strong and active on the tournament circuit. Among his many books, the 1963 pamphlet "Debyut 1.b2-b4" sets out his research into this chess opening. Perhaps it is fair then that Tartakower's Orangutan should should bear Sokolsky's name instead.

As threatened, here are five home grown efforts using 1.b4 in tournament and correspondence play.

The Sokolsky Opening

[Event "match"] [Site "Memphis"] [Date "1985.06.16"] [Round "3"] [White "Pickard, Sid"] [Black "Jones, Curt"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A00"] [WhiteElo "2190"] [BlackElo "2380"] [Annotator "Pickard,S."] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "1985.06.15"] [EventType "match"] [EventCountry "USA"] 1. b4 Nf6 2. Bb2 d5 3. e3 Bf5 $5 4. Nf3 e6 5. b5 {[%csl Gb5] [The usual concession of time. This slow climbing orangutan pawn at b5 can be strong, weak or simply annoying.]} Bd6 6. c4 ({White needs to make contact in the center, although here} 6. Bd3 $5 {is possible.}) 6... O-O 7. Be2 a6 8. a4 axb5 9. axb5 Rxa1 10. Bxa1 c5 $6 ({Black had the more flexible 10...Nbd7, or better } 10... dxc4 11. Bxc4 Nbd7 12. Nc3 Qe7 $15 {with easy play.}) 11. O-O ({Now} 11. Nh4 $13 {is best, gaining the Bishop pair and degrading Black's pawn formation.}) 11... Nbd7 12. d3 h6 13. Nbd2 Bg4 14. Bb2 $13 {[The position offers a murky balance of chances.]} Qc7 15. h3 Bh5 16. Qa1 Be7 17. Rc1 Nb6 18. Rc3 $6 ({Much better is the disruptive} 18. Be5 $1 {for if} Qc8 ({or} 18... Bd6 19. Bxf6 $14 {gaining a pawn}) 19. d4 $14 {gives White an excellent game.}) 18... Ra8 19. Ra3 Qd8 20. Rxa8 Qxa8 21. Qxa8+ Nxa8 22. Kf1 $5 Nd7 23. Ne5 $14 { [There is no clear way forward, though White has the more comfortable position. ]} 1/2-1/2 [Event "US10P14"] [Site "corr."] [Date "1989.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Pickard, Sid"] [Black "Krauss, George"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A00"] [WhiteElo "2250"] [BlackElo "2300"] [Annotator "Pickard,S."] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "1989.??.??"] [EventType "corr"] 1. b4 e5 2. Bb2 Bxb4 3. Bxe5 {[White gets the e-pawn for the b-pawn, an excellent trade. He loses a couple of moves, however, while Black enjoys quick development.]} Nf6 4. c4 ({The main move, but others including} 4. e3 {and 4. Nf3 mostly transpose, White pushing c2-c4 later on.}) 4... Nc6 5. Bb2 O-O 6. Nf3 Re8 7. e3 d5 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Be2 Bg4 10. O-O {[This line always reaches something like the present position. White is solid with a 2-0 central pawn majority, but lags in development, while Black has only to play ...Rad8 after he deploys his Queen next move. And often the troubling ...Nf4 is in the air.]} Qd6 $5 ({There is also} 10... Qe7 11. a3 Bd6 12. h3 $13 {with complications.}) 11. a3 Ba5 12. d4 $5 ({Better to play} 12. h3 Bf5 13. Qb3 Rad8 14. Rc1 $13 { and each side has enough for his strategic investment.}) 12... Rad8 13. h3 Bh5 $5 14. Nbd2 Bc3 15. Qc1 Nf4 16. Bd1 Bxd2 17. Nxd2 ({The recapture} 17. Qxd2 Nd5 {and then} 18. Rc1 $13 {improves.}) 17... Ne2+ 18. Bxe2 Bxe2 19. Re1 Bh5 $5 20. Qc3 $14 {[White has emerged with a slight edge.]} f6 ({If} 20... Qd5 {[%csl Ye4] to lock down the light squares, then} 21. Nb3 Bg6 22. f3 f5 23. Nc5 $14 { is also more comfortable for White.}) 21. Nb3 Bf7 $6 22. Nc5 ({White should mobilize his asset with} 22. e4 $16 {etc.}) 22... Rb8 ({Or} 22... Na5 23. Qxa5 b6 24. Qa4 $14 {and White is good.}) 23. Rac1 Ne7 $6 24. e4 $16 {[At last! White's advantage is evident now - the ideal pawn center has only been delayed. ]} b6 25. Na6 Rbc8 26. Nxc7 Nd5 27. Nxe8 1-0 [Event "US10P14"] [Site "corr."] [Date "1989.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Pickard, Sid"] [Black "Morford, Wayne"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A00"] [WhiteElo "2250"] [BlackElo "2200"] [Annotator "Pickard,S."] [PlyCount "119"] [EventDate "1989.??.??"] [EventType "corr"] 1. b4 e5 2. Bb2 f6 3. e4 d5 ({A sideline. Black normally takes} 3... Bxb4 {and after} 4. Bc4 Ne7 5. Qh5+ Ng6 6. f4 $44 {White has some compensation.}) 4. f4 ( {White also plays} 4. exd5 {in the center, but the text is logical.}) 4... exf4 5. Qh5+ g6 6. Qxd5 Qxd5 7. exd5 Bxb4 8. Ne2 ({From here White's only plan is development, so} 8. Bc4 {is also good, then bring out the Knights and castle.}) 8... Bf5 $5 ({The retreat} 8... Bd6 {is probably best.}) 9. Nxf4 Bxc2 10. Bc4 Bf5 11. O-O Bc5+ 12. Kh1 Bd6 13. Ne6 Ke7 $6 ({Some previous moves might have been altered, but this is a poor choice. Instead, after} 13... Bxe6 14. dxe6 Nc6 15. d4 $13 {anything can happen.}) 14. Nc3 $6 ({The proper punishment was} 14. Re1 Kd7 15. Ng5 $16 {with a clear advantage.}) 14... Nd7 15. Nb5 $14 Nb6 $6 ({Black needs to centralize with} 15... Ne5 {but after} 16. Bb3 $14 {White has good play for his pawn.}) 16. Bb3 $16 {[Now White is in control.]} Bd3 $6 ({He had to go} 16... c6 {and suffer} 17. dxc6 bxc6 18. Nxd6 Kxd6 19. Ng5 $16 { clear advantage to the first player.}) 17. Rfe1 $18 {[Winning.]} Kd7 18. Nxd6 cxd6 19. Rac1 Rc8 20. Rxc8 Nxc8 $6 ({The tougher} 20... Kxc8 {still fails to} 21. Ba3 $18 {and ought to win.}) 21. Rc1 Nge7 22. Bxf6 Rg8 23. Rc7+ Ke8 24. Rxb7 h6 25. Bxe7 Nxe7 26. Rxa7 Be4 27. Kg1 g5 28. g3 Bf5 29. Kf2 Bg4 30. d3 Bh3 31. Ra8+ Kf7 32. Rxg8 Nxg8 33. a4 Bf5 34. Ke3 Nf6 35. a5 Ng4+ 36. Kd4 Nf6 37. a6 Nd7 38. a7 Nb6 39. Nc7 Ke7 40. a8=Q Nxa8 41. Nxa8 h5 42. Nc7 Bg6 43. Ke3 h4 44. gxh4 gxh4 45. d4 Kd7 46. Ne6 Bh5 47. Kf4 Be2 48. h3 Bf1 49. Kg4 Ke7 50. Kxh4 Kf6 51. Kg4 Be2+ 52. Kf4 Bf1 53. h4 Bd3 54. Ba4 Be2 55. Bc6 Kg6 56. Nc7 Kf6 57. Ne8+ Ke7 58. Kg5 Bd3 59. h5 Be4 60. h6 1-0 [Event "Texas Ch"] [Site "Dallas"] [Date "1990.05.28"] [Round "5"] [White "Pickard, Sid"] [Black "Lau"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A00"] [WhiteElo "2256"] [BlackElo "2378"] [Annotator "Pickard,S."] [PlyCount "48"] [EventDate "1990.05.28"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventCountry "USA"] 1. b4 Nf6 2. Bb2 d6 3. e3 Nbd7 4. c4 g6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O e5 8. d4 Qe7 $5 ({The exchange} 8... exd4 $13 {is likely best. The stronger player, however, is loath to see symmetry.}) 9. Nc3 e4 10. Nd2 Re8 11. a4 h5 {[Black is playing a King's Indian Attack with reversed colors, White having spent his extra tempo on the b2 Bishop.]} 12. b5 Nf8 13. a5 N8h7 14. a6 b6 15. Na2 Bf5 16. Nb4 Ng4 17. Qe1 {[An important defensive scheme, anticipating the Black Queen's arrival on the h4-square. White mishandles the plan, however.]} Bh6 18. Nd5 Qd8 19. Nb1 Rc8 20. Nbc3 Qh4 21. h3 Ng5 $2 ({The rash text move ought to lose, but even the stubborn} 21... Ngf6 {meets the calm} 22. Ra2 $14 {and White has a very good game.}) 22. f4 $2 ({White should accept the offer with} 22. hxg4 hxg4 23. g3 Nh3+ 24. Kg2 Qg5 25. Nb4 $18 {winning.}) 22... Nxh3+ 23. gxh3 Qxh3 24. Bxg4 $2 ({Giving back a little by} 24. Rf2 $16 {retains a clear advantage for White.}) 24... Qxg4+ 1/2-1/2 [Event "Lone Star Open"] [Site "Dallas"] [Date "1990.07.01"] [Round "4"] [White "Pickard, Sid"] [Black "Shtern, Igor"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A00"] [WhiteElo "2261"] [BlackElo "2472"] [Annotator "Pickard, S."] [PlyCount "54"] [EventDate "1990.07.01"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventCountry "USA"] 1. b4 d5 2. Bb2 c6 3. e3 Qb6 4. b5 $5 ({It seems that} 4. a3 {is universally played, but the orangutan climbs higher.}) 4... Nf6 ({If} 4... cxb5 {then} 5. Nc3 {ought to be good.}) 5. a4 Bf5 $5 ({Black could be more solid with} 5... Nbd7 {or even 5...e6, and see if White is overextended.}) 6. c4 e6 7. Nf3 Nbd7 8. Nc3 Rc8 9. Nd4 $5 ({White should take the chance to play} 9. a5 $1 Qc7 10. a6 $13 {with the kind of game he is hoping for.}) 9... Bg4 10. f3 c5 11. Nc2 $6 ({Much better is} 11. Nde2 Bf5 12. g4 Bg6 13. g5 ({or} 13. cxd5 $5 $14) 13... d4 14. gxf6 dxc3 15. fxg7 Bxg7 16. Bxc3 $14 {with a fine game.}) 11... Bf5 12. d3 $6 ({And here} 12. cxd5 exd5 13. e4 dxe4 14. Ne3 Bg6 15. f4 $13 {is superior, leading to an unclear fight.}) 12... Bg6 $15 13. e4 dxc4 14. dxc4 Qc7 15. g3 $6 Rd8 $17 {[Black stands much better.]} 16. Qe2 Ne5 17. Qe3 $6 Bh5 18. g4 Nfxg4 19. fxg4 Nxg4 20. Qg3 Bd6 21. Qh3 Bxh2 22. Ne2 Bf4 $2 ({Finally an error from Black. Instead} 22... Be5 $17 {keeps a clear advantage.}) 23. Bc3 $2 ({White's only hope is} 23. Bg2 {and after the forcing} Qa5+ 24. Bc3 Bd2+ 25. Kf1 Bxc3 26. Qxc3 Qxc3 27. Nxc3 Rd2 $15 {Black is perhaps a little better.}) 23... Qd6 24. Nxf4 ({Now if} 24. Bg2 {there follows} Bd2+ 25. Kf1 Ne3+ 26. Qxe3 Bxe3 27. Rxh5 Qd3 28. Nxe3 Qxe3 29. Rh3 Qg5 30. Rg3 Qh4 $19 {winning.}) 24... Qxf4 25. Qg2 Ne3 26. Qh2 Nxc2+ 27. Qxc2 Qe3+ 0-1

A move like 1.b4 is not liked by many chess players, but many who handle the Black pieces don't like it either. Eccentric, provocative and even insulting - such factors cannot be overlooked. And while 1.b4 remains experimental in reputation it's practical value is quite good. So whether you call it the Orangutan Opening or the Sokolsky Opening, try adding 1.b4 to your repertoire!