The Polish Opening (also known as Sokolsky opening) is a flank chess opening where White pushes the b-pawn to b4 (1.b4) in the first move. It is chosen rarely compared to other main openings (1.d4 or 1.e4). White often aims to have an imbalanced game by playing this opening.
Polish Opening originated with a famous grandmaster in the 1900s who played this opening in his games. Since b4 can be played later during the game, it is rare among elite players nowadays. Former 5-time World Champion Magnus Carlsen occasionally used this weapon in his blitz games.
- Winning Percentage on Both Sides
- Main Ideas
- Polish Opening Theory
- Main Line: 3. Bxe5 Nf6
- Schiffler-Sokolsky Variation: 3…e6 4.b5
- German Defense: 2. Bb2 Qd6
- Bugayev Attack: 2.a3
- Common Traps in Sokolsky Opening
- Polish Trap
- Pros and Cons of Polish Opening
- What are black’s responses to the Polish Opening?
- What is the point of the Polish Opening?
Winning Percentage on Both Sides
Master Games Statistics
|Victory for White
|Victory for Black
Statistics from 18 Million Amateur Games
|Victory for White
|Victory for Black
Sokolsky Opening creates dynamic chances for both sides. The c1-Bishop is often located in the b2 to scope the ‘a1-h8’ diagonal. This formation allows White to push the b-pawn further, kick the c6-Knight, and assault the g7-pawn. Black might have difficulty arranging their pieces to castle in the Kingside. If Black can consolidate, they are often better due to their pawn structure and extra central space.
Polish Opening Theory
The Main line typically leads to positions where both sides have non-symmetrical pawn structures. The game often possesses a dynamic nature with various plans.
The Schiffler-Sokolsky Variation often allows White to strike on the Queenside by marching up the pawns. Black, on the other hand, often strikes in the center.
The German Defense is a variation where Black aims to assault the extended d-pawn with the Queen. Black often controls the center with the pawns. White typically controls the long diagonals with Bishops.
Bugayev Attack is a more solid White approach, often leading strategic battles. Instead of extending on the Queenside, White consolidates the pawn structure and aims for pawn breaks.
Main Line: 3. Bxe5 Nf6
The main line starts with Black intending to capture the pushed b4-pawn. To do that, they push the e-pawn to e5 (1…e5) and open up the scope of the f8-Bishop. Then, White fianchettos the c1-Bishop to b2 (2.Bb2). Bishop almost always belongs to this square scoping on the long ‘a1-h8’ diagonal. After Black captures the b4-pawn (2…Bxb4), White captures the e5-pawn (3.Bxe5). Black develops the g8-Knight to f6 (3…Nf6).
From here, White has several options. 4.c4 (with the idea of preventing the enemy d-pawn moving forward) and 4.Nf3 (developing the Knight) are the two most common choices.
If 4.c4 is chosen, Black can get a tempo from the e5-Bishop by developing the b8-Knight to c6 (4…Nc6) or castle (4…O-O) to bring the Rook into the game.
4…Nc6 should be met with 5.Bb2 because that Bishop secures all the dark squares for White. Then, the enemy can choose to play 5…d5 and activate the c8-Bishop and Queen by claiming the center.
After 5…d5, White can take the d5-pawn (6.cxd5), and after the Queen takes on d5 (6…Qxd5), White develops the b1-Knight to c3 with a tempo (7.Nc3). In these lines, White wants to develop the g1-Knight to f3 and fianchetto the f1-Bishop to g2 after the g3-pawn push. On the other hand, Black aims to oppress the e-file by putting the f8-Rook to e8 and closing the scope of the g2-Bishop by pushing the c7-pawn to c6.
One sample line after 4…O-O can be 5.c4 (similar to the other lines, c4 is often played in the main line to capture on d5). Then, the rival can choose to go for 5…d5, White can take the d5-pawn or play an e3-pawn push (6.e3) and aim to capture on c4 with the f1-Bishop. After this flexible move, the enemy can submit another pawn by playing 6…c5. White can capture the d5-pawn (7.cxd5), and Black can recapture with the Knight (7…Nxd5 should be chosen because 7…Qxd5 would be better for White after Bxf6, ruining Black’s Kingside pawn structure).
Then, White can put the Bishop back to b2, after the enemy attacks it with the Re8 attempt, improve the d1-Queen to c2, and castle in the short side. On the other hand, Black can develop the Knight to c6, improve the c8-Bishop to g4 and both Rooks to c8- and e8-squares. White typically wants to utilize the semi-open files and place their Rooks to oppress the backward pawns. Black aims to enjoy the extra space and put pressure on the enemy.
Schiffler-Sokolsky Variation: 3…e6 4.b5
It begins with Black chooses to go for an early 1…d5. Then, White places the c1-Bishop to its ideal square (2.Bb2). Black replies with a developing move (2…Nf6) to get ready to castle in the short side. Then, White opens the scope of the other Bishop by pushing the e-pawn to 3.e3. Since the f6-Knight blocks the g7-pawn, Black aims to assault the b4-pawn by going to the e6-pawn (3…e6). The attacked b4-pawn is used as an aggressive tool and pushed (4.b5) to restrict the b8-Knight’s casually developing square (c6 is taken under control).
From here, Black has three popular candidate moves. 4…c5 could be a decent response to increasing the control over the center. 4… Bd6 is another attempt to get ready to castle for Black. 4…a6 also played to release control over the c6-square.
One sample line after 4…c5 could be 5.Nf3 (developing the Knight and preparing the shortside castle). Black can improve the b8-Knight to d7 (5…Nbd7). White can assault the d5-pawn with another flank pawn push (6.c4). Then, the rival can fix the pawn structure and create a square for the b8-Bishop by going 6…b6. White can respond with 7.Be2 to prepare the castling. Black can improve the f8-Bishop to d6 (7…Bd6) to scope the ‘b8-h2’ diagonal. White often aims to strike in the Queenside and expand with the pawns; hence, 8.a4 could be a decent try. Black can reply by fianchettoing the c8-Bishop to b7 (8…Bb7) and protecting the a8-Rook. White can castle (9. O-O), and the opponent can improve the a8-Rook to c8 (9…Rc8) for further actions. White often aims to create a passed pawn in these scenarios. 10.d4 could be an excellent attempt to create strong pawns in the Queenside. Black can improve the d8-Queen to c7 (10…Qc7), and after 11.cxd5, 11…exd5, 12.dxc5, and 12…bxc5 occur, White can strike with an a5-pawn push.
In these positions, the White aims to prove the strength of the a- and b-pawns, whereas the Black side seeks to prove the extra space they have in the center. After Black castles, they can try to create their own passed pawns.
The idea will be similar in the other lines for both sides. White will aim to push the pawns on the Queenside. The opponent will try to develop their pieces, push the pawns in the center, and control the central space.
Another sample line after 4…Bd6 could be the same 5.Nf3 attempt. Then, the enemy can castle (5…O-O) directly to bring the f8-Rook into action. Then, 6.c4 pawn push can be chosen to strengthen the b5-pawn. Black can play 6…c6 to stop the uncontrollable pawn pushes on the Queenside. 7.a4 could be moved with the same intention as c4. Black can place the f8-Rook to e8 (7…Re8) to have their pawn push (intending to go for e5). From here, White aims to go for d4-c5 pawn pushes to march their army in the Queenside. On the other hand, Black seeks to increase control over the e5-square by improving the b8-Knight to d7 and pushing the e5 to blast open the center.
German Defense: 2. Bb2 Qd6
It starts after Black chooses to advance the d-pawn (1…d5) and after White plays the typical 2.Bb2, the enemy plays the odd-looking 2…Qd6 to assault the unprotected b4-pawn.
White almost always guards the b4-pawn with 3.a3 (c3 would block the b2-Bishop’s scope). Then, Black can establish robust central control by moving the e-pawn forward (3…e5). Then, White has several options. Two main lines are 4.e3 and 4.Nf3. The Nf3 line often leads to a more open position because White can get the c4-pawn push. However, the 4.e3 often leads to a completely closed structure where both sides improve their pieces before committing a pawn break.
One sample line with 4.e3 could be 4…Be6 (preventing the c4-pawn push). Then, White can play 5.Nf3 (increasing the pressure on the e5-pawn). Since the c8-Bishop is already developed, Black can guard that pawn with the ‘5…Nbd7‘ improving move. Then, White can develop the f1-Bishop to e2 (6.Be2) and prepare castling in the next move. Black may solidify their pawn structure with 6…c6, and after White castles (7. O-O), Black can improve their g8-Knight to f6 (7…Ngf6). White can prepare a c4-pawn push with 8.d3. Black ignores it and develop the f8-Bishop to e7 (8…Be7) to castle next. Then, White can finally have their 9.c4 pawn push in. After Black castles (9…O-O), taking on d5 with the c-pawn would not be great because White would give the full center to Black without concrete plans. Hence, White aims to maneuver the b1-Knight to b3 (Nbd2 and Nb3) and try to have a more strategic battle.
The difference in the 4.Nf3 line is that after it is played early, the c8-Bishop would be stuck after Nd7. Hence, Black can choose to go for an early 4…e4 to kick the f3-Knight and protect the e5-pawn by moving it forward. Once the 5.Nd4 attempt is picked, White aims to go for e3 and c4 pawn pushes. Since the d4-Knight covers the e6-square, the c4-pawn push cannot be easily prevented. These games can be a little richer regarding tactical play and opportunities for White.
Bugayev Attack: 2.a3
The Bugayev Attack begins after Black chooses 1…e5, and instead of fianchettoing the c1-Bishop to b2, like the other lines, White chooses not to risk the b4-pawn and plays 2.a3. This line can be very double-edged because White seeks to expand on the Queenside with the pawns, but this gives plenty of attacking opportunities to the enemy in the center and on the Kingside.
2…d5 is the most common choice by Black. This enables both Bishops to improve themselves to d6-and e6-squares. White typically develops the Bishop to b2 (3.Bb2). 3…Bd6 protects the e5-pawn and improves the Bishop. 4.e3 can then be chosen to endorse the c4-pawn push. 4…Be6 may again be chosen as a developing move. White plays 5.d4 to commit a strong assault on the Queenside. Black can lock the pawn chains by pushing the e-pawn forward (5…e4). Then, White plays 6.c4 to increase the assault. Black usually doesn’t want to weaken their pawn structure, enhancing the reinforcement by going 6…c6. Both sides can improve their Knights to c3 and f6 (7.Nc3 and 7…Nf6). Then, White pushes the c-pawn to 8.c5. After Black hides it with 8…Bc7, White develops the minor pieces on the Kingside (Nge2, Nf4, and Be2 to prepare castling), and Black also improves the pieces (Nbd7). White often seeks to strike in the Queenside, whereas Black aims to maneuver both Knights on the Kingside and create menace against the enemy King.
Common Traps in Sokolsky Opening
This trap occurs after Black plays 1…e5, and after 2.Bb2, Black chooses to improve the b8-Knight to c6 (2…Nc6). The b-pawn is then used as an aggressive tool to dislodge the Knight (3.b5). If the Knight jumps to b4 (3…Nb4), 4.c4 (securing the d5-square) would trap the Knight. Then, the Knight can be trapped by playing 5.a3.
Pros and Cons of Polish Opening
|Players can surprise their opponents with this opening.
|Polish Opening is considered objectively dubious.
|Allows double-edged games in certain variations.
|These double-edge games are often objectively worse for Whiteside.
|White can create a strong Queenside attack.
|White gives up central control.
|White can create an early passed pawn in some lines.
|Black can have a strong Kingside attack.
The Polish Opening is one of the flank openings (1.b4) where White aims to launch a strong Queenside attack. It often gives central control to the enemy. The games are typically double-edged and strategic. It is not objectively the best opening to play as White, and it is advised to beginners choose more principled lines to start with.
What are black’s responses to the Polish Opening?
Common responses by Black to the Polish Opening include: 1…e5, challenging the pawn structure immediately; 1…Nf6, aiming for control of the center; and 1…d5, a solid and central counter-move.
What is the point of the Polish Opening?
The Polish Opening aims to control the dark squares on the queenside and prepare for a fianchetto of the bishop. It often leads to asymmetrical pawn structures and unbalanced games, offering White chances for creative and less-explored play outside of mainstream opening theory.