Sodium Attack

Also known as the Durkin Opening, the Sodium Attack starts with 1.Na3. The name ‘sodium’ is taken from the abbreviation of the metallic element ‘sodium’, as it’s used as ‘Na’ in the periodic table, and the annotation of the first move, ‘Na3′, looks similar.

Sodium Attack

Sodium Attack is a rarely played flank opening at the master level due to its dubiousness. In contrast to the other gambits and dubious openings, it has a negative score for White players at the amateur level, which means it negatively affects White’s game even at the low level.

Winning percentages on both sides

Master Games Statistics

Results Rate
Victory for White 43%
Draw 36%
Victory for Black 21%

Statistics from 413 Thousand Amateur Games

Results Rate
Victory for White 41%
Draw 5%
Victory for Black 54%

Key ideas

White usually aims to relocate the a3-Knight to a more useful square like c4. The Na3 move itself does not possess a specific idea and is considered a dubious attempt. White can achieve good positions if their opponent does not act correctly. The main goal is to create an adequate square for White Knight (usually either c4 or c2-squares, or maybe Nb5 ideas to attack c7-pawn). It should not be forgotten that a3-Knight is temporarily there and should find a safer home soon.

Sodium Attack Theory

1…d5 variation stops White’s e4-pawn pushes and usually gains robust control of the center for Black. White needs to act wisely against Black’s next choice.

1…e5 line allows White to relocate the a3-Knight to c4. Black has several options, such as “d5 or Nf6,” to force the opponents’ hands.

1…d5 variation

This variation starts after Black plays 1…d5. This move stops White’s Nc4 intentions and allows Black to strike first in the center. White has several options, such as 2.c4, 2.d4, or 2.Nf3.

Sodium Attack - 1...d5

Black can ruin White’s pawn structure after a variation like 2.Nf3 e6 (opening up the scope of the f8-Bishop to hit the a3-Knight), 3.e3 Bxa3, and 4.bxa3. Due to intact pawn chains, the resulting position would be slightly better for Black. White would possess a Bishop pair benefit and utilize the ‘a1-h8’ diagonal by putting a Bishop on the b2-square.

Another typical move 2.d4 could also be met with 2…e6, with the idea of capturing the a3-Knight with the Black’s dark square Bishop.

To avoid this pawn structure, White can play the b3 move and protect the a3-Knight with the c1-Bishop.

Another attempt by White is to push the c4-pawn and tempt Black to capture the c4-pawn so that White can place the a3-Knight on c4.

We will examine these (2.c4 and 2.b3) two lines in the following sections.

2. c4 line

This variation begins after White plays 2.c4 to the 1…d5. White hopes Black to capture the c4-pawn (2…dxc4) so that they can locate their poorly placed Knight in an ideal square (3.Nxc4). A Knight on c4 is commonly seen in various structures, such as King’s Indian Attack, and allows White to control critical squares, such as e5 and d6.

Sodium Attack - 1...d5 c4

The most common move at the amateur level is to make this mistake and capture the c4-pawn as Black (2…dxc4 and 3.Nxc4). In these cases, Knight can stop Black’s e5-pawn push, and White can play d3-g3 pawn pushes to protect the c4-Knight and create a fianchetto square for the f1-Bishop on g2. White usually wants to play a4-pawn push to stop Black’s expansion on the Queenside and stop the b5-pawn advancement from kicking White’s c4-Knight.

After 2.c4 is played, Black can also expand in the center and enter a reversed Benoni-type structure. This would allow Black to dominate the central space, and White would need to create the required pawn breaks to have a chance in the game.

One sample variation in this structure could be 2…d4, 3.d3 c5 (supporting the d4-pawn), 4.g3 (when there is little space like Benoni, it is advisable to fianchetto the Bishop and castle), 4…e5 (consolidating the robust rein over the center), 5.Bg2 Nc6 (both sides improve their pieces), 6.Nf3 Nf6 7.O-O, 7…Bd6 (Black is preparing to castle), 8.Nc2, and 8…O-O.

In the resulting position, Black has to play either a3-b4 or e3 to create targetable weak pawns in the opponent’s pawn structure and hunt those pawns.

2. b3 and 3. Bb2 line

This line starts with 2.b3 after 1…d5 is played. This move aims to fianchetto the c1-Bishop on b2-square and protect the a3-Knight to avoid a ruined pawn structure on the Queenside. However, it is objectively a bland idea because the a3-Knight is misplaced and should relocate to somewhere else like c2 or c4 instead of creating a home for it.

Sodium Attack - 1...d5 b3

After 2.b3, Black usually goes 2…e5 to control the center. Then, White goes 3.Bb2 to scope the ‘a1-h8’ diagonal and assault the e5-pawn. If Black guards the e5-pawn with 3…Bd6, White can activate the a3-Knight and play 4.Nb5 to strike the d6-Bishop and threaten to win a Bishop pair.

Hence, Black usually goes for 3…Nc6 or 3…Nd7 to protect the e5-pawn. Then, White can play e3-g3 setup with Bg2-Nf3 to castle on the short side and play c4 to create a home for the a3-Knight on the c4-square.

1…e5 2.Nc4 Nc6 3. e4 variation

This variation starts with 1…e5, and White improves the a3-Knight to c4 (2.Nc4) and attacks the e5-pawn. Black protects the e5-pawn by going 2…Nc6, and White plays 3.e4 to stop Black’s d5-pawn push.

Sodium Attack - 1...e5 2.Nc4 Nc6 3. e4 variation

Unfortunately, the 3.e4 does not stop Black’s d5 idea, and they can play 3…d5, and after 4.exd5 and 4…Qxd5 occur, Black would be slightly better due to active pieces and easy improvement.

These positions can be chaotic and tactical, where White can gain several tempos by attacking the Black Queen, and the Black Queen could exploit White’s lack of development and stop White from advancement.

One sample line could be 5.Ne3 (attacking the d5-Queen), 5…Qe6, 6.Nf3 (improving the Knight to castle on the short side), 6…e4 (advancing the pawn and harassing the f3-Knight), 7.Bc4 (creating an intermediate attack on the enemy Queen), 7…Qg6 (assaulting the g2-pawn), 8.Nh4 (attacking the Queen), 8…Qf6 (assaulting the unprotected h4-Knight), 9.Nd5 (assaulting the c7-pawn and f6-Queen). The resulting position would be a slight chaos, where White would lose a Knight and win the a8-Rook, while their Knight would be trapped on the a8-square.

This 3…d5 idea is less popular among amateur players than the quiet 3…Nf6 to attack the e4-pawn. There is also a gambit that Black can deploy with 3…f5.

In the following sections, we will examine these two ideas (3…Nf6 and 3…f5) more closely.

3. e4 Nf6 line

This line begins similarly to the 3.e4 variation, and Black plays 3…Nf6 to attack the e4 pawn. White usually goes for 4.d3 to protect the pawn. Then, Black has many options, such as 4…Bc5 or 4…d5, to claim their advantage.

Sodium Attack - 1...e5 2.Nc4 Nc6 3. e4 Nf6 variation

After 4…Bc5 is chosen, White must be careful because they can run into a bad position after a continuation line. 5.Nf3, 5…Ng4 (attacking the f2-pawn), 6.Be3 (protecting the f2-pawn), 6…Nxe3 7.Nxe3 Bxe3, 8.fxe3 (White already compromised their Kingside pawn structure), and 8…d5. And after 9.exd5 and 9…Qxd5 occur, Black would be significantly better due to White’s lack of improvement and weaknesses along the dark squares.

Hence, 5.Be2 could be a better approach for White to avoid this sequence, and then White can improve the g1-Knight to f3 and castle on the short side.

If Black plays 4…d5 directly, it could transition to a similar position we already examined after 5.exd5 Qxd5, and 6.Ne3 played.

Durkin Gambit: 3. e4 f5 line

This line occurs after Black plays 3…f5 and assaults the e4-pawn. White can decline this invitation with 4.d3 or play 4.exf5. If 4…exf5 is played, the game usually possesses a dynamic and tactical nature where White tries to expose the enemy King from the vulnerable ‘e8-h5’ diagonal, and Black intends to control the center with d5-d4.

Sodium Attack - 1...e5 2.Nc4 Nc6 3. e4 f5 variation

One sample line after 4.exf5 could be 4…Nf6 (this move is essential to stop Qh5 ideas), 5.Be2 (aiming to go for the Bh5 check and ruining the enemy’s castling rights), 5…d5 (kicking the c4-Knight), 6.Bh5+, and 6…Ke7 (6…Nxh5 would be much worse for Black due to Qxh5 and no protection around the Black King).

White is close to being lost in the resulting position unless they find the best moves. White can maneuver the c4-Knight to g3 (7.Ne3 d4 8.Nf1 Bxf5, and 9.Ng3), claiming they have a safer King in the long run.

Pros and Cons of Sodium Attack

Pros Cons
Sodium Attack variations can surprise Black and catch them off-guard. Black is objectively better.
There is limited theory due to this opening’s dubiousness. Black can improve their pieces, and White wouldn’t have an ambitious plan against it.
Some lines can be very tactical and favor White. Black can gain complete control of the center in many lines.
Black can have a difficult time proving their advantage. Sodium Attack violates the basic opening principles of the game.

Trap in Sodium Attack

This trap starts with the 1…d5 variation, and White plays the immediate 2.c4. After 2…dxc4 is chosen, White captures the c4-pawn (3.Nxc4), and Black improves the g8-Knight to f6 (3…Nf6). Then, White plays 4.d4 to stop the e5-pawn push. After that, Black plays 4…b5 and tries to kick the c4-Knight, and White goes 5.Ne5. If Black tries to challenge that Knight with 5…Ndd7, 6.Nc6 traps the Queen.


The Sodium Attack is an unprincipled chess opening with no reasonable ideas behind it. Players like Magnus Carlsen use it to prove they can win even with a dubious line. It violates the basic opening principles and is not used in competitive chess. Players can utilize it at least once to test themselves and see if they can get away with it.

Written by
Emre Sancakli, Сhess Coach
has a rating of 2400+ on and, making him one of the top 5000 players in the world. He teaches many chess enthusiasts and even creates educational courses. As a writer, he keeps bringing his 'A game' to the content you will face on this website.
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Is Sodium Attack a good opening?

The Sodium Attack is an unconventional opening in chess. While it offers the element of surprise, it’s not widely regarded as a strong opening in high-level play. Its effectiveness is more as a novelty strategy rather than a foundation for consistent victory.

Who invented Sodium Attack in chess?

The Sodium Attack was invented by Robert Durkin. Despite its unorthodox nature, Sodium Attack has carved a niche in the world of chess openings, known more for its originality than its strategic dominance.

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