Bashing the Birds Opening in only 3 Moves!
Contributed by Martin Simons
Yes, this is a little known secret, guaranteed to give you an advantage after only 3 moves with Black if White plays his move order slightly inaccurately. If you don’t believe me, then please read on!
Birds (or Nimzo-Larsen) Opening players often like to play f4 followed by a quick queenside fianchetto or vice-versa so I will recommend a simple, easy to play line for Black. This works when White plays any of the following first 3 moves:-
Part A) 1.f4 2.b3 3.Bb2 or 1.b3 2.Bb2 3.f4
Part B) 1.f4 2.Nf3 3.b3
The simple response for Black against both is to play 1… Nf6, 2… d6 and then the surprising gambit move 3… e5!
So here is the Top Secret Analysis (not given in any opening book) but please don’t tell anyone!
Part A) 1.f4 Nf6 2.b3 d6 3.Bb2 e5! or 1.b3 Nf6 2.Bb2 d6 3.f4 e5!
So, you may be asking what’s the big deal, how can Black possibly be claiming an advantage, let alone winning chances, after all, he is losing a pawn for nothing?
I believe White already has significant dark squared weaknesses and if he falls for the bait of capturing the pawn on e5 then he is quite simply … losing. It’s not obvious, though which makes this whole variation all the better! Most of the Black tricks hinge on being able to threaten mate on g3.
In Part A1 we will consider when White cannot resist the winning of Black’s e-pawn.
In Part A2 to A4 we will look at when White does not accept the gambit pawn.
Part A – 4.fxe5 dxe5
A1) 5.Bxe5? This fails to 5…Ng4!! After only 5 moves, White is completely lost!
Black is eyeing up the f2 square and the weak h4 to e1 diagonal. White has 4 main defences, all of which fail.
A1a) 6.Bg3 (best)
A1a) 6.Bg3 to cover the weak h4 to e1 diagonal but Bd6! White may now try …
A1a1) 7.Nf3 then Bxg3+ 8.hxg3 Qd6! and there is no defence e.g 9.Rh3 Nh2!
an excellent move uncovering the attack on White’s rook on h3. Furthermore the knight on h2 cannot be captured by either rook or knight due to the weak g3 pawn so it is game over!)
A1a2) 7.Bxd6 Qxd6
A1a2a) 8.Nf3 Nxh2 followed by 9… Qg3+ and Black is winning!
A1a2b) 8.d4. Black wins 2 pawns with Ne3 9.Qd2 Qxd4!! 10.Qxd4 Nxc2+ 11.Kd2 Nxd4 and Black is a safe pawn up.
A1b) 6.d4? Nc6! 7.Nf3 Ncxe5 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.dxe5
and now Black can exploit White’s dark squared weaknesses with …
9… Qh4+! 10.g3 (10.Kd2 allows 10… Qd4+ picking up the rook on a1!) Qe4 11.Rg1 Bc5 winning!
A1c) 6.Nf3? Nxe5 7.Nxe5 Qd4 forking the knight on e5 and rook on a1 and winning!
A1d) 6.Bb2? This is the most obvious move but 6… Bd6 7.Nf3 (what else?) Bxh2! 8.Rxh2 Nxh2 9.Bxg7 Qd6! threatening mate on g3.
and once again Black is winning … +5 according to the chess playing program Houdini.
All this looks pretty convincing so let’s peel back and see what if White does not grab Black’s e5 pawn. I believe Black will still get a good game. Let’s take a look …
1.f4 Nf6 2.b3 d6 3.Bb2 e5!! 4.fxe5 dxe5.
Now White plays A2) 5.g3 (instead of 5.Bxe5?).
This seems logical as it blunts the h4 to e1 diagonal but Black gets easy play with.
5… Bc5 (5… h5 is entertaining and may also be strong).
The pawn on e5 is still taboo which is why this variation is so great to play
e.g. A2a) 6.Bxe5 Ng4, now White must play 7.d4 due to the dual threat of Nxe5 and Nf2. 7… Bb6 seems simplest keeping all threats alive. If 8.Bxg7? Rg8 9.Be5 Nxe5 10.dxe5 Bf2+! wins the White queen!!
So safest seems to be:
A2b) 6.e3 Bg4 7.Be2 Bxe2 8.Qxe2 Nc6 9.Nf3 Qe7 and Black has easy play with advantage.
If White tries to stake a claim in the centre with 10.d4 then 10…exd4 11.exd4 Qxe2+ 12.Kxe2 0-0-0!!
The bishop on c5 is taboo due to Rhe8+. Black has all the chances.
If White chooses to play
A3) 5.e3 (instead of 5.g3 or 5.Bxe5) then 5… Bd6 looks the most solid move with a slight advantage to Black. White always has to be careful about moving his d-pawn as then Ng4 can then be played e.g 6.Nc3 Nc6 7.Bb5 Bd7 8.Nge2 a6 9.Bxc6 Bxc6 10.0-0 0-0 11.d4? Ng4! winning.
If White chooses not to swap off the pawns on move 4, then this allows Black the chance to swap the pawns off with advantage.
e.g A4) 4.e3 exf4 5.exf4 Be7
A4a) 6.Nf3 0-0 7.Be2 Nd5!
An excellent and difficult to meet move as it is not easy to defend the pawn on f4 particularly as 8.g3 allows 8… Bh3 with advantage.
If A4b) 6.g3 (instead of 6.Nf3) then 6…0-0 7.Bg2 Re8 8.Ne2 d5! and Black has lots of free play!
Part B) 1.f4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3.b3 e5!
The e-pawn is taboo as after 4.fxe5 dxe5
B1) 5.Nxe5 Qd4 and White can resign. The trouble is the White knight on f3 can often be hit with e4 which makes this variation even better for Black.
If White prevents this with B2) 5.e4 then Bc5 6.Bc4 0-0
and Black has such easy play. White’s b3 move is in fact a weakening move and White is long way off from castling!
If B3) 4.d3 then Black can still play 4…e4 5.dxe4 Nxe4 6.Bb2 d5 7.g3 Bb4+ 8.Nbd2 Bg4.
Black has excellent chances and is threatening to win a piece with the immediate 9…Bxf3 and 10…Bxd2+. Also 9…Bc3 may be a threat.
Summary: The set up for Black is so powerful (and unknown!) that it is almost a refutation to White’s Birds Opening set up involving f4 followed by b3 in the first 3 moves. If you get a chance to play this, then please go for it and let me have your games!
Martin Simons (posted Dec ’15)