The Bird Opening A02 & A03


Understanding the Bird Opening

The English Master H.E. Bird demonstrated the aggressive potential of this opening in the second half of the nineteenth century. Tartakower revived it, and Nimzovich won several beautiful games with it in the 1920s and later Larsen and Soltis added it to their opening repertoire.

It is rarely seen in modern times, and there are two good reasons for this, and both begin with 1e5, as is seen in the From Gambit. 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6. Which is a good reply to the Bird's Opening. And the Schlechter Gambit, an even better defense, that is an excellent reply to the Bird. 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 Nc6

You can see both of these variations below in our section, The Variations.

Statistics from the Chessbase report shows that Black scores excellently at 70% with the Schlechter Gambit. (What a Weapon this is against the Bird! )

Usually Black has no great theoretical difficulties in equalizing. There is nothing wrong with White's unusual strategy of dark-square control, and surprise value can count for something.

However be careful because, stronger players and Master rated players are usually not impressed much with unorthodox and so called surprise openings.

Henry Edward Bird. (1830 - 1909) England

Of the 77 Bird games he played as White in my data base he won 29 of them. 38%
As White in (212) games he scored below average at 47% As Black in 215 games, he scored below average at 42%

Bird - Von Minckwitz (1885) 1-0

The Ideas Behind The Bird
Could the Bird be considered a Unorthodox Opening? Although it is considered to be a respectable opening it has several flaws that can be exploited by Black.

It would appear that by White playing 1.f4, he has weakened his Kingside pawn structure with out any compensation. His f diagonal, from f2 to h4 is now wide open to a checking attack on his king by Blacks Queen. That makes it necessary for White to place his Knight on g1 to f3 as soon as possible to control the h4 square from an attack there. See our game 7. Perovic - Craggs. If this is not done and the Black Queen checks the king then the only response is to move the g2 pawn to g3 blocking that attack. Of course now White would not want to castle there any longer because his protective pawn structure is messed up. His h1 pawn is now protected only by the king should he castle there. Also if the king is attacked on the f2-a7 diagonal and he moves to h1, he can be attacked again on the h1-a8 diagonal and may even suffer a checkmate.

2. Trap 2

Also if Black's dark squared Bishop is moved to c5 then this prevents White from castling because the g1-a7 diagonal is wide open, and this could prevent White from castling short by moving through the check delaying a castle untill that diagonal is closed.

White is not trying to meet Black in the center. Instead he is trying to stake out his own territory there. White wants to continue with Ng1-f3 and completely control the e5-square. He may also move his dark square Bishop to Bb2 and put even more pressure on e5 with another prophylactic move. This is playing positional chess as Aron Nimzovich would tell us to do. See our game 4. Long - Michiels for an example.

Don't underestimates the Bird for It quickly can be a very dangerous and formidable fighting Opening for Black because of its ability to take immediate control of the center. In fact white's first move 1.f4 does just that. The Bird's goal is to try to quickly gain an advantage in space and immediately tries to take control of the central squares. The e5 square is twice attacked with the f-pawn and with a Knight to f3 to strengthen it's grip on it and possibly his dark squared Bishop on b2 attacking it again. Then he may quickly add three pawns on the 4th rank building up his forces against Blacks castled King. We have three games to illustrate this.

2. Nimzovich - Olson
9. Alekhine - NN
10. Neil - Reid

Soon he will annihilate the kings pawn defenses to close in on the kill. He may even castle long so that he can throw everything he has on the King side against you. The kitchen sink and all the knives and forks as well, building a dangerous unstoppable pawn storm against your castled king.

Chessbase Opening Report

The earliest game of the Bird played was played between De Labourdonnals and McDonnell in London 1834. McDonnell, (Black) won. The game went for 53 moves.

This is an interesting game to see how chess was played back in the 1800's. Pure mayhem !

Delabourdonnals - McDonnell 0-1

Strong Grandmasters who used this line as White.
Bent Larsen ELO 2600 - Vladimir Malaniuk Elo 2563 Leonid Yudasin Elo 2595 and 7 more at Elo's over 2500.

Total games played to 2004 was 12,438.
In 1939, 150 games were played and again in 1940. Then it dropped off to practically nothing in 1946 to 50 games or less. Then climbed to its peak at 175 games in 1950. Held steady at approximately 100 games a year until 2002 and then started on a steep decline again.

On average White scores below average at 48%
In my Database with 4316 games, White wins 35%, Draws 26%, Black wins 39%
The drawing quote is low. And for quick draws is 5% for < 20 moves.

Moves and Plans for White.
a)1.f4 d5 You should play 2.Nf3
b) 1.f4 Nf6 You should play 2.Nf3
c) 1.f4 g6 You should play 2.Nf3
d) 1.f4 c5 You should play 2.Nf3
e) 1.f4 e5 You should play 2.fxe5
f) 1.f4 d6 You should play 2.Nf3
g) 1.f4 b5 You should play 2.Nf3
h) 1.f4 b6 You should play 2.Nf3
i) 1.f4 c6 You should play 2.Nf3
j) 1.f4 e6 You should play 2.Nf3
k) 1.f4 f5 You should play 2.Nf3
l) 1.f4 g5 You should play 2.fxg5
m) 1.f4 Nc6 You should play 2.Nf3
n) 1.f4 f6 You should play 2.Nf3

The Variations

The Schlechter Gambit 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 Nc6 (A awesome, excellent weapon against the Bird.)

Chessbase Report: Black scores excellently at 70%. White wins 22%% Draws 15% Black wins 63%
The Schlechter Gambit is fully in the spirit of the From Gambit, into which it often transposes. In recent years, however Black has found additional resources to very the plans at the disposal of the Black player. The idea is classic gambit play, give up a pawn for the rapid development. It is now considered as a respectable opening as is it's more popular counterpart the From Gambit.

Five Strong Masters who used this line as Black all won as Black.
a) 1. Willard - Finegold (Give the Bird the Bird with, The Schlechter Gambit) 0-1

b) Dijkstra - Van Veen - The Schlechter Gambit) 0-1

c) Pjilippin - Wege - The Schlechter Gambit) 0-1

The From Gambit a good reply to the Bird's Opening. 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6
In the From Gambit Black gives up a pawn but gets to work on the weak pawn structure and dark squares on White's kingside. If White captures on d6, (3.exd6) then after Bxd6 Black already has forces aimed at the weak White Kingside.

This is a sound gambit and White often avoids it by transposing to the King's Gambit with 2.e4.

Statistics from the Chessbase report shows that Black scores above average at 48% with the From Gambit.
2. From Gambit (1.f4 e5)- Taylor - Mestel 0-1

Chessbase Report: Black scores above average 52%. White wins 34% Draws 27% Black wins 38%
3. Reversed Dutch (1.f4 d5) - Bird - Gossip 0-1

Chessbase Report: Black scores below average (41%)
4. Hobbs Gambit (1.f4 g5) - Thorsteinsson - Larusson 0-1

Chessbase Report: No Report
5. Horsefly Defense 1.f4 Nh6) Gayken - Mudelsee 0-1

Chessbase Report: White wins (35%) Black wins (38%)
6. Sturm Gambit 1.f4 d5 - Kaczmarek - Nadstoga 0-1

Chessbase Report: White scores badly (23%) Black wins (45%)
7. Batavp-Polish Attack 1.f4 Nf6 - Keuschnig - Janetschek 0-1

Chessbase Report: White wins (44%) Black wins (33%)
8. The Lasker Attack - (1.f4 d5) Lasker - Bauer 1889 (Earliest Game) 1-0

The Games

White Wins

1. Kan - Camilleri

2. Nimzovich - Olson

3. Tartakower - Winter

4. Long - Michiels

5. O'Donovan - Cordova

6. Proenca - Figueiredo

7. Perovic - Craggs

8. Larsen - Perez

9. Alekhine - NN

10. Neil - Reid

The Traps

1. Trap 1

2. Trap 2

3. Trap 3