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I have heard of 1 b3 and 1 g3, but never any of those in the question title. Is this because they do not work in practical play?

I've tried 1. g4 d5 2. h3 e5 3. d4 Nc6 etc. with a good chance of a strong Bishop-pair and Queen for White. White must castle Queenside, and will develop his Knight to f3 soon. I played a couple trial games with myself, and haven't yet tried it on anyone else. Perhaps some variation on this brash opening is more effective? I'd like to know if anyone's studied this type of opening.

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I'm not quite sure where you intended White's pawn to go on the third move, but presumably not d5. –  tttppp Jun 20 '11 at 20:10

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

These openings are considered "irregular," and therefore not totally reputable. There are two reasons.

The first reason is that unlike c4, d4, e4, and f4, they do not begin a fight for the key center squares. You can make the case that b4 and g4 open the way for a bishop to be "fianchettoed," but they get the player "involved" in other ways. B3 and g3 are "safer," but lackluster versions of these moves. And the pawn on g4 blocks the bishop on h3 unless you move it further. But in any event, white is likely to get behind in development with such an awkward, clumsy opening, even though s/he shouldn't by virtue of moving first.

The second reason is that kings generally prefer to castle into the corners on one side or another. These moves of side pawns open up the corners prematurely, making it hard for your king to castle. They may be good moves LATER in the game (depending on the situation with the OPPOSING king), but playing them on the first or second move gives the opponent too much time to take evasive action, thereby robbing you of the potential benefits.

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((As you can guess, I'm hankering for the proposed chess Q&A division of stack exchange!)) –  Daniel Jun 20 '11 at 16:04
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@drm65: Maybe at some point. For now, we need to develop a following among GAMERS. Later, if we identify a "critical mass," then we can have our own division for chess. –  Tom Au Jun 20 '11 at 19:30
    
When playing these openings, it is easier for the opponent to use a bishop or queen to prevent you from castling since you can't castle through check. This alone makes them undesirable, not even mentioning the fact that they leave the center undeveloped. –  Gordon Gustafson Dec 10 '11 at 1:59

These would be classified as A00: Irregular Openings.

Starting with 1. a4 is Ware's Opening; 1. b4 is Sokolsky's Opening; 1. g4 is Grob's Attack; 1. h4 is the Desprez Opening.

As you've noted, these are not played often. The database at chessgames.com shows only 548 games starting with 1. b4, 260 with 1. g4, and just 10 each for 1. a4 and 1. h4. White has only a small advantage within all A00 openings, 38.5% to 35.1%.

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I've actually had 1. b4 played against me in tournaments; it's awkward, but not unsound like 1. a4 or 1. h4 - the idea is to fianchetto the bishop to b2 as fast as possible, even if it means sacrificing the pawn. Personally, however, I don't believe the pawn-sacrifice is worth the extra space white gains vs. playing the alternative, 1. b3.

1. g4 is also playable for the same reasons, but even more rare than 1.b4, because it forces white to castle on the queen's side (which means waiting at least one-extra move).

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b4 is the Polish opening and is sound. g4 is the Grobs or sometimes called "The Spike" and is rarely played because it is risky. I have never seen h4 or a4 as an opening move except by beginners. Even when I was a beginner, I opened with those latter two, to try to get my rooks out quickly. As I learned more about the game, I understood why those two opening moves are not good. It is best when in your beginning stages to open with a center pawn, more likely e4 or d4, until you learn more.

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