Portuguese Opening – 1. e4 e5 2. Bb5 (Theory)

Portuguese Opening - 1. e4 e5 2. Bb5

The Portuguese Opening – often called the Portuguese Gambit – is an unconventional choice that starts out of the King’s Pawn Opening, Open Game with the moves 1. e4 e5 2. Bb5.

This opening takes a distinctive approach to the game, leaving room for both a unique strategy and a breadth of possibilities.

Through this article, we look at the move order, theory, variations, history, and relevance of this particular opening for different player levels.

Move Order of the Portuguese Opening

The Portuguese Opening is characterized by the unique move order: 1. e4 e5 2. Bb5

Portuguese Opening - 1. e4 e5 2. Bb5
Portuguese Opening – 1. e4 e5 2. Bb5

Unlike many popular openings, such as the Ruy Lopez, where white initially moves the knight to f3 (Nf3), the Portuguese Opening instead moves the bishop to b5 (Bb5), delaying the development of the knight.

This move order allows the possibility of moving the f-pawn to f4, a flexibility that the Ruy Lopez does not have.

Theory, Strategy, and Purpose of the Portuguese Opening

The fundamental theory of the Portuguese Opening is to leave the f-pawn free to move, providing the opportunity to advance to f4.

This gambit can open lines and present dynamic attacking possibilities for White.

However, the downside to this strategy is that there’s no immediate pressure applied on Black’s pawn at e5.

This provides Black with a freer hand, often leading to a game with more dynamic and diverse options.

Variations of the Portuguese Opening

There are several variations to the Portuguese Opening, depending largely on Black’s response to White’s initial bishop move.

If Black responds with 2…Nf6, White can try a gambit with 3.d4.

Another Black reply can be 2…Nc6, anticipating that White might transpose into the Ruy Lopez with 3.Nf3.

However, a more common response is to dislodge White’s bishop with 2…c6.

The game might then proceed with 3.Ba4 Nf6, allowing White the options of 4.Nc3 or 4.Qe2.

Evaluation of the Portuguese Opening

The Portuguese Opening is generally evaluated at around -0.20 to -0.50 for white.

Theory & Continuation Lines of the Portuguese Opening

Below we have some common theory and continuation lines from the Portuguese Opening starting move order 1.e4 e5 2.Bb5 that you would see at the highest level of play.

2… c6 3. Be2 d5 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d3 Nf6 7. Nxe5 Bd6 8. d4 O-O 9. Nc3 Re8 10. f4 Nbd7 11. Be3 Nb6 12. Bd3 Bb4 13. Qf3 Nc4 14. Bxc4 dxc4 

2… c6 3. Be2 Nf6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nxe5 d5 6. Nc3 Nxc3 7. dxc3 Bd6 8. Nf3 O-O 9. O-O Nd7 10. Re1 Re8 11. c4 Nb6 12. cxd5 Nxd5 13. c4 Nf6 14. Be3 Bf5 15. Qb3 Qc7 

2… c6 3. Be2 Nf6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nxe5 d5 6. O-O Bd6 7. d4 O-O 8. Nd2 Bf5 9. Nxe4 Bxe4 10. Bg4 Qc7 11. f3 Bg6 12. g3 Re8 13. c3 Bxe5 14. dxe5 Nd7 15. Bxd7 Qxd7 16. Qd4 

2… c6 3. Be2 Nf6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nxe5 d5 6. Nc3 Nxc3 7. dxc3 Bd6 8. Nf3 O-O 9. O-O Nd7 10. c4 Nb6 11. cxd5 Nxd5 12. Re1 Re8 13. h3 Qf6 14. c4 Nf4 15. Bf1 Rxe1 16. Nxe1 Bf5 17. Qb3 Be4 18. Qxb7 

2… c6 3. Be2 d5 4. Nf3 dxe4 5. Nxe5 Bd6 6. d4 exd3 7. Nxd3 Nf6 8. O-O O-O 9. Re1 Re8 10. Na3 Qc7 11. g3 Be6 12. Nf4 Bxa3 13. Nxe6 Rxe6 14. bxa3 Nbd7 15. Bf1 Ne5 16. Bf4 Rae8 17. Rb1 h6 

2… c6 3. Ba4 Nf6 4. d3 d5 5. exd5 Nxd5 6. Bb3 Bd6 7. Ne2 O-O 8. Nbc3 a5 9. O-O Bc7 10. Nxd5 cxd5 11. Nc3 Be6 12. f4 exf4 13. Bxf4 Bxf4 

What is the Portuguese Gambit?

History of the Portuguese Opening

The Portuguese Opening, while not as commonly seen as other openings, has a unique place in chess history.

The opening is not named after a renowned player or a specific historic game, but rather, it gets its name from its origins in Portugal.

The opening has been explored and analyzed by various grandmasters, and despite its perceived novelty, it is not as nonsensical as it may first appear.

Is the Portuguese Opening Good for Beginners or Intermediates?

The Portuguese Opening can be an interesting choice for both beginners and intermediate players.

For beginners, it offers a simpler opening sequence than many others, avoiding complex theory, and emphasizes the importance of pawn structure and piece development.

For intermediate players, the Portuguese Opening presents opportunities for more complex strategic planning, taking advantage of the opening’s unique flexibility.

However, due to the potential lack of pressure on Black’s position, it is essential that players employing this opening proceed with care.

How Often Is the Portuguese Opening Played at the Grandmaster Level?

While the Portuguese Opening is not one of the most frequently played openings at the grandmaster level, it does make occasional appearances.

Its novelty often allows for surprise and psychological advantage against unprepared opponents.

However, grandmasters, known for their deep opening preparation, tend to prefer openings with more established theory and defensive solidity.

FAQs – Portuguese Opening

1. What is the Portuguese Opening in Chess?

The Portuguese Opening is a chess strategy that starts with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Bb5.

It is considered an uncommon opening.

The key difference from the popular Ruy Lopez Opening (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5) is that White defers the move Nf3, keeping the f-pawn free for potential movement and leaving open the option of playing f2–f4.

However, this lack of immediate pressure on Black’s e5 pawn gives Black more flexibility.

2. How does the Portuguese Opening differ from the Ruy Lopez?

The main difference between the Portuguese Opening and the Ruy Lopez is the sequence of White’s moves.

In the Ruy Lopez, White plays 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5, putting pressure on Black’s e5 pawn.

In contrast, in the Portuguese Opening, White delays the move Nf3 and instead opts for 1.e4 e5 2.Bb5, leaving the f-pawn free to move.

This gives White the possibility of playing f2–f4, but at the expense of immediate pressure on e5, thus allowing Black a freer hand.

3. What are the typical lines after the Portuguese Opening?

After 2.Bb5, Black has several replies. If Black plays 2…Nf6, White may attempt a gambit with 3.d4.

If Black responds with 2…Nc6, White could transpose into the Ruy Lopez with 3.Nf3.

However, a more popular response is for Black to try to force White’s bishop to move with 2…c6.

The game might then continue with 3.Ba4 Nf6, and now White can play either 4.Nc3 or 4.Qe2.

4. How should Black respond to the Portuguese Opening?

Black should proceed carefully after the Portuguese Opening, as the move 2.Bb5, while seemingly innocuous, can still present challenges.

Common responses include 2…Nf6, which could invite a gambit from White, or 2…c6, aiming to force the bishop back to a4 and give Black the possibility of developing the knight to f6.

It’s important for Black to maintain flexibility and consider that White might transpose into more conventional openings, such as the Ruy Lopez.

5. Is the Portuguese Opening a strong strategy?

The Portuguese Opening is not as popular as other openings like the Ruy Lopez or the Italian Game, and some might even characterize it as if White forgot to play 2.Nf3.

However, it’s not inherently weak or nonsensical.

The main trade-off is that White relinquishes early pressure on e5 to keep the option of playing f2–f4.

This strategy can prove to be a surprise weapon, particularly against less-prepared opponents.

However, it also requires careful play from White to not fall behind in development.

6. How can I practice the Portuguese Opening?

Practicing the Portuguese Opening, like any chess opening, involves studying its key lines, understanding the typical middlegame structures that arise from it, and actually playing games with it.

Online chess platforms provide an excellent opportunity to practice against opponents around the world.

Furthermore, chess books and databases can provide valuable information about the opening.

You can also use chess software to analyze games and understand the intricacies of this opening.

It’s important to review and learn from your games, regardless of whether you win or lose.


The Portuguese Opening offers a distinctive approach to the chess game, introducing unique strategic possibilities and a myriad of potential responses.

While it might not be as prevalent or widely studied as other openings, the Portuguese Opening embodies the beauty of chess – an infinite game of strategy, innovation, and unexpected moves.

The key is understanding its nature, possibilities, and risks.

Whether you’re a beginner learning the ropes or an intermediate player exploring new strategies, the Portuguese Opening can add a valuable tool to your chess arsenal.

As with any move in chess, the key to success lies in understanding, calculation, and careful execution.

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