A Rare Chess Opening Move for White

Larsen’s Opening (1. b3) has taken over fifth place, narrowly pulling ahead of g3 in the popularity race for White’s first move. Out of 281,678 games played in major tournaments in the years 2014 and 2015, Larsen’s (1. b3) numbered 2,049 (0.73% of all those games); the former fifth-place g3 was edged out with 1,956 games.

That 0.73% may not impress most chess players, but among the sub-1% openings the lowly b3 is now at the top, albeit not in the same league as the English Opening (6.7% for the two years 2014 and 2015). Larsen’s Opening is not new, with Bobby Fischer playing it at least four times in major competition in 1970, winning all four games.

The opening’s name comes from the Danish grandmaster Bent Larsen.

Chess books on this opening include the following:

  • Nimzowitsch/Larsen Attack, by Grandmaster Raymond Keene
  • Larsen’s Opening, by chess expert Bill Wall
  • Nimzo-Larsen Attack, by expert Jonathan Tait (an Everyman chess book)

In the following game, Bobby Fischer defeated Vladimir Tukmakov (who gained the title of grandmaster two years later in 1972). It’s from the Buenos Aires 1970 chess tournament, which Fischer won by a margin of 3½ points, a huge margin in tournament scores. Tukmakov came in second, half a point ahead of Oscar Panno.

White: Robert J. Fischer

Black: Vladimir B. Tukmakov

1. b3     e5

2. Bb2  Nc6

chess opening beginning with b3

3. c4     Nf6

4. e3     Be7

5. a3     O-O

6. d3     d5

After Black's d5

Black’s position is fine, with a strange-looking pawn structure on White’s part

7. cxd5  Qxd5

8. Nc3   Qd6

9. Nf3    Bf5

10. Qc2  Rfd8

11. Rd1   h6

12. h3     Qe6

According to the Stockfish chess engine, the position gives about even opportunities after twelve moves of this game between Fischer and Tukmakov.

After Black's 12th moveAfter Black’s 12th move (Qe6)

13. Nd2  Nd7

14. Be2  Kh8

15. O-O  Bg6

According to Stockfish, a5 or Qg6 would are better than Bg6 for Black’s 15th move.

16. b4    a6

17. Rc1  Rac8

18. Rfd1  f5

According to Stockfish, f5 is far from the best move here. Nb6 would have been better.

19. Na4   Na7

20. Nb3  b6

21. d4    f4

22. e4    Nb5

Black would have done better with Bxe4 (23. Qxe4  Qxb3)

Larsen's Opening - middle game of chess

White (Bobby Fischer) to move

23. Bg4    Qf6

According to Stockfish, Black would be down by the equivalent of at least two pawns if Qg8 had been played instead of Qf6. (White wins more quickly after Qf6.)

24. dxe5  Nxe5

25. Bxc8  Rxc8

26. Rd5    Black resigns

Fischer won this game on the merits of his middle-game skill rather than on the theoretical strength of Larsen’s Opening. It takes a game completely out of standard opening variations, making it a potentially potent weapon against an opponent who is very well prepared with memorized standard lines.

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The Kids’ Book of Chess
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Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors

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