Chess tournaments Chess strategy Computer chess Chess players FIDE Chess variants Chess rules and history

Bird's Opening

Bird's Opening
a b c d e f g h
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Moves 1.f4
ECO A02-A03
Named after Henry Bird
Parent Flank opening
Synonym(s) Dutch Attack

Bird's Opening (or the Dutch Attack) is a chess opening characterised by the move:

1. f4

Bird's is a standard but never popular flank opening. White's strategic ideas involve control of the e5-square without occupying it, but his first move is also non-developing and slightly weakens his kingside. Black may challenge White's plan to control e5 immediately by playing From's Gambit (1...e5!?). However, the From's Gambit is notoriously double edged and should only be played after significant study.

The Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings assigns two codes for Bird's Opening: A02 (1.f4) and A03 (1.f4 d5).


The opening was mentioned by Luis Ramírez de Lucena in his book Repetición de Amores y Arte de Ajedrez con Cien Juegos de Partido, published circa 1497. In the mid-nineteenth century the opening was sometimes played by La Bourdonnais and Elijah Williams, among others. The British master Henry Edward Bird first played it in 1855 and continued to do so for the next 40 years. In 1885, the Hereford Times named it after him. In the first half of the 20th century Aron Nimzowitsch and Savielly Tartakower sometimes played 1.f4. In more recent decades, Grandmasters who have used the Bird's with any regularity include Bent Larsen, Andrew Soltis, Lars Karlsson, Mikhail Gurevich, and Henrik Danielsen.


Black's most common response is 1...d5, when the game can take on the character of a Dutch Defence (1.d4 f5) with colors reversed. White will then often either fianchetto his king's bishop with Nf3, g3, Bg2, and 0-0 with a reversed Leningrad Dutch; adopt a Stonewall formation with pawns on d4, e3, and f4 and attempt a kingside attack; or fianchetto his queen's bishop to increase his hold on the e5 square. Another strategy, by analogy with the Ilyin-Zhenevsky variation of the Dutch Defence, involves White playing e3, Be2, 0-0, d3 and attempting to achieve the break e3-e4 by various means, e.g. Ne5, Bf3, Qe2 and finally e3-e4, or simply Nc3 followed by e4. Timothy Taylor's book on Bird's Opening puts the main line Bird's Opening as follows: 1.f4 d5 2.Nf3 g6 3.e3 Bg7 4.Be2 Nf6 5.0-0 0-0 6.d3 c5.

From's Gambit

Black's sharpest try is 1...e5!?, From's Gambit, named for the Danish chess player Martin Severin From (1828-1895). White then has the option to transpose into the King's Gambit with 2.e4. This is an important option which may cause Black to consider playing a different line if he wishes to avoid the King's Gambit. It has been observed that one of the possible disadvantages of From's Gambit is that it is very easy for White to avoid.

If White accepts the gambit with 2.fxe5, Black must choose between the main line 2...d6 and the rather obscure 2...Nc6. After 2...Nc6, International Master (IM) Timothy Taylor, in his 2005 book on the Bird's, recommends 3.Nc3! Nxe5 4.d4 intending 5.e4, rather than 3.Nf3?! g5! when Black stands well. After the normal 2...d6 3.exd6 Bxd6, White must play 4.Nf3, avoiding 4.Nc3?? Qh4+ 5.g3 Qxg3+ 5.hxg3 Bxg3 checkmate. Then Black again has two alternatives: 4...g5 to drive away White's knight, and 4...Nf6, threatening 5...Ng4 and 6...Nxh2! Future World Champion Emanuel Lasker introduced 4...g5 in the game Bird-Lasker, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1892, so it is known as "Lasker's Variation". Taylor considers 4...g5 dubious; a quiet response that he considers favorable for White is 5.d4 g4 6.Ne5! (6.Ng5? leads to a dubious piece sacrifice) Bxe5 7.dxe5 Qxd1+ 8.Kxd1 Nc6 9.Nc3! Be6 (9...Nxe5?! 10.Bf4 f6 11.Nd5 Kd8 12.Nxf6!) 10.Bf4 0-0-0+ 11.Ke1 Nge7 12.e3 Ng6 13.Bg5 Rdf8 14.Bf6 Rhg8 15.Be2 Ngxe5 16.Rf1 "with the typical edge for White that is characteristic of this variation", according to Taylor. He also considers the sharper 5.g3 g4 6.Nh4 favorable for White, giving as the main line 6...Ne7 7.d4 Ng6 8.Nxg6 hxg6 9.Qd3 Nc6 (9...Rh5 10.Bg2; 9...Na6 10.c3) 10.c3 (10.Nc3? Nxd4! 11.Qxd4?? Bg3+ wins White's queen) Bf5 (10...Qe7 11.Bg2! Bd7 12.Nd2 0-0-0 13.Ne4! favored White in Taylor-Becerra Rivero, Minneapolis 2005) 11.e4 Qe7 12.Bg2 0-0-0 13.Be3. According to Taylor, White has a large advantage in all lines, although play remains extremely sharp, e.g. 13...Rde8 14.Nd2; 13...Rxh2 14.Rxh2 Bxg3+ 15.Kd1 Bxh2 16.exf5! Re8 17.fxg6! Qxe3 18.Qxe3 Rxe3 19.gxf7; or 13...Bd7 (threatening 14...Rxh2!) 14.Bf2!

Other Black responses


Out of the twenty possible opening moves, 1.f4 ranks sixth in popularity in's database, behind 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.Nf3, 1.c4, and 1.g3. It is less than one-twentieth as popular as the mirror image English Opening (1.c4). The move 1.f4 slightly weakens White's king's position.'s statistics indicate that the opening is not an effective way of preserving White's first-move advantage: as of February 2013, out of 3,872 games with 1.f4, White had won 30.7%, drawn 32%, and lost 37.7%, for a total score of 46.7%. White scores much better with the more popular 1.e4 (54.25%), 1.d4 (55.95%), 1.Nf3 (55.8%), 1.c4 (56.3%), and 1.g3 (55.8%).

According to the similar site, which includes data for lower level games, as of August 2015, out of 20,010 games with 1.f4, White had won 35.1%, drawn 25%, and lost 39.9%, for a total score of 47.6%. The five more popular openings are still substantially more successful for White: 1.e4 (53.15%), 1.d4 (54.8%), 1.Nf3 (55.4%), 1.c4 (54.65%), and 1.g3 (54.9%).

Read more: