Polish Opening (Sokolsky Opening) orangutan

Polish Opening 1.b4 (Sokolsky Opening; Orangutan)

One such opening that may not be as popular as e4 or d4, but still offers its own unique charm, is the Polish Opening, also known as the Sokolsky Opening or Orangutan.

It is initiated by the move 1.b4.

Below we look into details of the Polish Opening, discussing its move order, strategic purposes, key variations, history, suitability for beginners and intermediates, and its frequency of use at the Grandmaster level.

Move Order of the Polish Opening

The Polish Opening or Sokolsky Opening is introduced by the move 1.b4.

Polish Opening (Sokolsky Opening) orangutan

This move is characterized by the pawn’s advance to b4, a move that is unconventional in comparison to the typical center board control strategies.

The standard move sequence of the Polish Opening is 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2.

After the initial pawn to b4 move, the second move generally involves developing the bishop to b2 to prepare for control over the center of the board.

Strategy and Purpose of the Polish Opening

The Polish Opening operates under a different set of strategic principles compared to the conventional e4 and d4 openings.

Instead of immediately focusing on the center, it aims at a flank attack.

The primary aim is to control the central e5 square with the b2 bishop, with the potential to destabilize black’s pawn structure.

It also provides a swift development of the queen-side pieces while keeping the king’s safety options flexible.

Variations of the Polish Opening

The Polish Opening branches out into several fascinating variations, each with its unique opportunities and challenges.

The primary variations are the Outflank Variation and the King’s Indian Variation.

The Outflank Variation begins with 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 f6. The King’s Indian Variation, on the other hand, starts with 1.b4 Nf6 2.Bb2 g6.

These variations allow for diverse game dynamics based on player preferences.

WIN WITH 1. b4 | The Polish Opening

Let’s look at some other variations of the Polish Opening:

Polish Opening, Symmetrical Variation: 1…b5

The Symmetrical Variation begins with 1.b4 b5. It aims to mirror White’s opening move, an approach that can lead to balanced positions.

The primary strategy here is to develop a robust pawn structure, challenging white’s advance and opening lines for bishop development.

Polish Opening, Birmingham Gambit: 1…c5

The Birmingham Gambit begins with 1.b4 c5. This aggressive counter gambit from Black aims to challenge White’s control of the board early on.

The pawn on c5 threatens to capture on b4 and dissolve the white pawn’s advance, aiming for rapid piece development and early control of the center.

Polish Opening, Outflank Variation: 1…c6

The Outflank Variation starts with 1.b4 c6.

This move aims to prepare for a potential d5 by Black, creating a solid pawn structure while also preparing to develop the knight to d7.

The intention is to challenge White’s indirect control of the center and develop a solid position for the mid-game.

Polish Opening, Schuhler Gambit: 1…c6 2.Bb2 a5 3.b5 cxb5 4.e4

The Schuhler Gambit initiates a pawn sacrifice for rapid development and central control.

After 1.b4 c6 2.Bb2 a5 3.b5 cxb5 4.e4, White has established central pawn presence and opened lines for the bishop and queen.

The strategy here is to forego material for dynamic piece activity and control.

Polish Opening, Myers Variation: 1…d5 2.Bb2 c6 3.a4

The Myers Variation starts with 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 c6 3.a4.

Here, White aims to challenge the black pawn structure on the queenside, potentially opening lines for the rook and the bishop.

The purpose of this variation is to apply pressure on Black’s position and strive for positional advantages.

Polish Opening, Bugayev Attack: 1…e5 2.a3

The Bugayev Attack, starting with 1.b4 e5 2.a3, is intended to fortify the b4 pawn while preparing to develop the bishop to b2.

The strategy revolves around maintaining the pawn on b4 and establishing control over the e5 square, supporting central control.

Polish Opening, Wolferts Gambit: 1…e5 2.Bb2 c5

The Wolferts Gambit begins with 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 c5. In this variation, Black counters by challenging the b4 pawn immediately.

This gambit aims for a quick development and central control, intending to create a dynamic game with plenty of tactical opportunities.

Polish Opening, Dutch Defense: 1…f5

The Dutch Defense against the Polish opening begins with 1.b4 f5. Black aims to control the e4 square and prepare for a king’s side pawn assault.

This defense presents an aggressive response to the Polish Opening, focusing on building a robust pawn structure that supports active piece play.

Evaluation of the Polish Opening

The Polish / Sokolsky Opening is evaluated at around -0.15 to -0.30 for white.

We have it rated as #13 out of 20 in our article on the best opening moves in chess.

Theory and Continuations Lines of 1.b4

Some continuation lines of the Sokolsky Opening:

1… Nf6 2. Bb2 d5 3. Nf3 e5 4. Nxe5 Bxb4 5. c4 O-O 6. e3 Re8 7. cxd5 

1… Nf6 2. Bb2 d5 3. Nf3 Bf5 4. e3 e6 5. a3 a5 6. b5 Nbd7 7. c4 a4 8. cxd5 exd5 9. d3 Bd6 

1… e5 2. Bb2 Bxb4 3. Bxe5 Nf6 4. c3 Ba5 5. e3 O-O 6. Qa4 Nc6 7. Bxf6 Qxf6 8. Nf3 d5 9. Be2 a6 10. d4 Bf5 11. O-O g5 12. Nfd2 

1… d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3 e5 4. Nxe5 Bxb4 5. c4 O-O 6. Bb2 Re8 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Bc4 c6 9. O-O Nd7 10. Nxd7 Qxd7 11. Qb3 a5 12. Bxd5 cxd5 13. Nc3 

1… d5 2. Bb2 Nf6 3. a3 a5 4. b5 Bg4 5. h3 Bh5 6. d3 c6 7. Nd2 Bg6 8. bxc6 bxc6 9. e4 e6 10. Ngf3 a4 11. Be2 

1… d5 2. Bb2 Nf6 3. Nf3 Bf5 4. e3 e6 5. b5 a6 6. a4 Bd6 7. Be2 axb5 8. axb5 Nbd7 9. c4 dxc4 10. Rxa8 Qxa8 11. Bxc4 

History of the Polish Opening

Named after Polish International Master Aleksander Sokolsky who popularized it in the 1920s and 30s, the Polish Opening, however, has its roots as far back as the 19th century.

Sokolsky wrote a monograph on the opening in 1963, bringing it into the limelight and contributing to its popularity in Eastern Europe.

Whether It’s Good for Beginners or Intermediates

The Polish Opening is a strategic choice that could serve both beginners and intermediates well.

For beginners, it’s an excellent way to explore different board control strategies beyond the traditional focus on the center.

For intermediates, it provides an opportunity to surprise opponents and divert from well-trodden paths of the main-line openings.

However, the Polish Opening does require understanding of advanced chess concepts to be played effectively, hence a complete novice may find it challenging.

How Often It’s Played at the Grandmaster Level

While the Polish Opening is not a frequent visitor in top-level chess, it’s not entirely absent either.

It is often employed as a surprise weapon in games where the player with the white pieces is willing to avoid mainstream theory.

Its infrequent use at the grandmaster level adds to its allure as an unexpected opening that can catch opponents off guard.


The Polish Opening, or the Sokolsky Opening, serves as a compelling divergence from standard chess openings.

While it might not enjoy the popularity of e4 or d4 openings, its unique approach to controlling the game offers exciting opportunities to players at all levels.

FAQ on Polish Opening (Sokolsky Opening) in Chess

1. What is the Polish Opening (Sokolsky Opening) in Chess?

The Polish Opening, also known as the Sokolsky Opening, is a non-traditional chess opening that begins with the moves 1.b4.

Named after the Polish grandmaster Alexei Sokolsky, this opening is also sometimes referred to as the Orangutan Opening.

The key idea is to control the center indirectly by preparing to fianchetto the queen’s bishop, with a pawn on b2 being advanced to b4.

2. What is the main strategy of the Polish Opening?

The main strategy of the Polish Opening is to control the center indirectly, rather than occupying it with pawns (as in openings like the Queen’s Gambit or the King’s Pawn Opening).

The opening move 1.b4 prepares for the bishop to be fianchettoed on b2, where it can control the central e5 and d4 squares.

In addition, the b4 pawn may also be used to disrupt the opponent’s pawn structure.

3. What are the key variations of the Polish Opening?

There are several key variations of the Polish Opening:

  • The Outflank Variation starts with 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 Bxb4 3.Bxe5 Nf6, with Black aiming to exploit the weaknesses created by White’s pawn move.
  • The Bugayev Attack begins with 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 f6, with Black immediately trying to challenge the bishop’s control of the center.
  • The King’s Indian Variation starts with 1.b4 Nf6 2.Bb2 g6, with Black aiming to fianchetto the king’s bishop and challenge the center.

4. How effective is the Polish Opening?

The Polish Opening is not as commonly played as more traditional openings, but it can be effective in the right hands.

Its unorthodox nature can throw off an unprepared opponent and lead to an advantageous position for White.

However, it requires careful play as the early pawn move may expose weaknesses in White’s pawn structure.

5. How can I counter the Polish Opening as Black?

There are a few ways to counter the Polish Opening.

The simplest is to establish control of the center with 1…e5.

After 2.Bb2, Black can play 2…Nc6, preparing to advance the d-pawn and challenge White’s bishop.

Alternatively, Black can play the Outflank Variation or the Bugayev Attack, which aim to exploit the weaknesses in White’s position.

6. Why is it also called the Orangutan Opening?

International Master Savielly Tartakower used this opening at the 1924 New York Chess Tournament after visiting the Bronx Zoo and seeing an orangutan.

Hence, the name “Orangutan Opening” also became associated with this opening.

7. Are there any famous games that utilized the Polish Opening?

Yes, there have been a number of famous games that have used the Polish Opening.

Perhaps the most famous is Tartakower vs. Maróczy, New York 1924, in which Tartakower introduced the name “Orangutan Opening”.

Despite its unconventional start, Tartakower won the game in spectacular style.

8. How can I learn the Polish Opening?

The best way to learn the Polish Opening is by studying it.

This could involve reading chess books, watching video lessons, or studying annotated games where it’s been used.

It’s also important to practice the opening in real games.

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