Larsen’s Opening

by Bill Wall


Larsen’s Opening (1.b3), also known as the Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack, Nimzo-Larsen Attack, Queen’s Fianchetto Opening, Baby-Orangutan, Owen’s Opening, Greek Attack, and Danish Opening, is a hypermodern attempt to control the center through control of the a1-h8 diagonal.  The Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO) classifies it as A01.  New In Chess (NIC) classifies at VO 8.3.  White avoids committing the central pawns too early.  The opening is flexible enough to transpose into the Reti, English, Bird, Dutch, Catalan, King’s Indian Attack, King’s Indian Defense, Queen’s Indian Defense, Queen’s Gambit, Sicilian Defense, French Defense, and the Caro Kann.  Larsen’s Opening is a good way to avoid opening defenses that your opponent prepared for.


The move was first mentioned by Luis Ramirez de Lucena (1465-1530) in 1497.  Lucena published the first still existing chess book, Repeticion de amores y Arte de ajedrez.  Lucena’s opening moves were 1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 c5 3.g3 Nc6 4.Bg2 e5 5.Nc3 (5.Nf3 Bd6 6.Nc3 Be6 7.Bb5 a6 8.Nxd6+ Qxd6 9.Ng5 h6 10.Nxe6 Qxe6) 5…Be6 6.Nf3 h6 7.h3 a6 8.e4 d4, favoring Black. 


The earliest recorded game with 1.b3 is from 1851 (Maarten van ‘t Kruijs vs Klaas De Heer, Amsterdam 1851).  In the 19th century, Reverends John Owen (1827-1901) and Arthur D. Skipworth (1830-1898) adopted it.  Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) revised it through transposition (1.Nf3, 2.b3) in the 20th century.  Nimzowitsch played 1.b3 three times (a win, loss, and draw) and 1.Nf3, 2.b3 29 times, winning 27 games, drawing 10, and losing 2.


1.b3 did not appear in Modern Chess Openings (MCO) until the 11th edition in 1972. 


The Danish grandmaster Bent Larsen (1935-2010) was the leading player to adopt this opening in the 1960s.   Larsen started playing 1.b3 in tournament play in 1968.  Of the 42 tournament games that he played with 1.b3, he won 30, drew 6, and lost 6.  Larsen lost to Boris Spassky with this opening in 17 moves during the 1970 USSR vs. Rest of the World match in Belgrade.

Other strong players who have opened with 1.b3 include Bobby Fischer (scoring 5 wins, and no losses or draws), Tigran Petrosian, Vassily Smyslov, Ulf Andersson, Lubomir Ljubojevic, Mark Taimanov, Jan Timman,  Pal Benko, Raymond Keene, Juan Bellon, Robert Byrne, Larry Evans, Bernard Cafferty, David Bronstein, Tony Miles, John Grefe, Walter Browne, Michael Basman, IM Calvin Blocker, IM Doug Root, Nigel Short, Kevin Spraggett, Vladimir Kramnik, Bagirov, Hebden, Blatny, Nakamura, Hodgson, Conquest, Minasian, Arthur Bisguier, Lakdawal, and dozens of other Grandmasters and International Masters.

It is one of my favorite openings, and I have played it over 1,000 times since 1969.

The main lines are:

1.b3 e5 – Modern Variation

1.b3 d5 – Classical Variation

1.b3 Nf6 – Indian Variation or Fianchetto Opposaition

1.b3 c5 – English Variation

1.b3 f5 – Dutch Variation

1.b3 e6 – French Variation

1.b3 c6 – Caro-Kann Variation

1.b3 b6 – Symmetrical Variation or Queen’s Fianchetto Variation

1.b3 b5 – Polish Variation

In 1986 I wrote a chess book for Chess Enterprises called Larsen's Opening. I included about 450-500 games and analysis from 1851 to 1984 that began with 1.b3. I like the opening because of its hypermodern style, and not many players of less than master strength know much about it. I play it often and have been quite successful with it on the Internet, postal play, and OTB play.

Here are a few traps and analysis of one of my favorite openings.


Bellon – Benko, Palma de Mallorca 1971

1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Qd2 Nf6 6.Nc3 d5 7.e3 Bb4 8.Bb5 O-O 9.O-O-O Ne4 10.Qe1 d4 11.Bxc6 Nxc3  0-1


Blount – Wolford, Virginia 1980

1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 c5 3.e3 e6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.d4 Nc6 6.Bd3 h6 7.Nbd2 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bd7 9.Nxc6 Bxc6 10.O-O Be7 11.Re1 O-O 12.e4 dxe4 13.Nxe4 Nd5 14.Qg4 f5 15.Qxg7 mate  1-0


Fenic – Botha, Dayton 1981

1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.Nf3 e4 4.Nd4 Bc5 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.Bxg7  1-0


Finegold – Murray, Detroit 1974

1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 Nf6 4.Bb5 d6 5.d4 Bd7 6.c4 Be7 7.Nf3 O-O 8.Bxc6 Bxc6 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Qxd8 Bb4+ 11.Qd2  1-0


Krewson - Grochowski, Maryland 1979 

1.b3 Nf6 2.Bb2 e6 3.f4 d5 4.Nf3 c5 5.e3 Nc6 6.Bb5 a6 7.Bxc6+ bxc6

8.Ne5 Qc7 9.d3 Be7 10.O-O O-O 11.Nd2 Ne8 12.Qh5 Bd7 13.Rf3 Nf6 14.Qh4

Be8 15.Rg3 d4 16.Qh6 g6 17.exd4 Nh5 18.Qxh5   1-0


Martinkova – Svoboda, Czech Republic 1997

1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 Bc5 4.Bxe5 f6 5.Bxc7 Qxc7 6.Qh5+  1-0

K Nielsen - Moller, Hillerod 1987
1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.c4 Nf6 4.Nc3 d6 5.e4 Bg4 6.Be2 Bxe2 [perhaps better is 6...Be6 or 6...Bd7] 7.Ngxe2 Nd4 8.O-O c5 9.f4 Nd7?! [9...Be7 and 10...O-O] 10.Nd5 Nb6? [10...Be7 is best] 11.fxe5 dxe5 12.Nec3 [maybe better is 12.Nxd4 and 13.Qh5] 12...Bd6 13.Qg4 O-O 14.Rf2 Qd7?? [Black should play 14...Qc8 or 14...f6] 15.Nf6+ [forking King and Queen] 1-0

Perlaki - Csatho, Postal 1982
1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.c4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.e3 O-O 6.Nf3 e4 7.Ng5 Re8 8.Nd5 Nxd5? [Black's best may be 8...Be7. Now White attacks on the king side] 9.Qh5 [not 9.cxd5 Qxg5 10.dxc6 dxc6 and Black is a pawn up] 9...Nf6 10.Qxf7+ Kh8 11.Bxf6 Qxf6 12.Qxe8+ Bf8 13.Rd1 Kg8 14.Nxe4 1-0

Schirmer - Mueller, Postal 1994
1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 d4 [more normal is 2...c5] 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e3 Bg4 [4...dxe3 or 4...e5] 5.exd4 Nxd4? [Black should play 5...Nf6] 6.Bxd4 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 Qxd4 8.Qxb7 Rd8 [not 8...Qxa1 9.Bb5+! c6 10.Bxc6+ Kd8 11.Qd7 mate] 9.Bb5+ [9...Rd7 fails to 10.Qb8 mate] 1-0

Schlenker - Steinbacher, Heidelberg 1980
1.b3 c5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 Nf6 4.f4 [or 4.Nf3] 4...e6 5.Nf3 Be7 6.Bd3 b6 [6...O-O may be best] 7.O-O Bb7 8.Nc3 O-O 9.Ne5 d6 10.Ng4 Nxg4?! [Black should play 10...Nb4] 11.Qxg4 Bf6 12.Rf3 Nb4? [12...g6 should hold] 13.Bxh7+ Kxh7 14.Qh5+ [14...Kg8 15.Rh3 threatens mate. Black's only hope is 15...Bh4 16.Rxh4 f6, but he is a piece down] 1-0

Sherman - Stone, London 1973
1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.c4 Nf6 4.Nc3 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.a3 a5 [or 6...Nxc3] 7.e3 Bc5 8.Qc2 O-O 9.Nf3 Re8? [9...Bg4 is better; Black needs to keep his Rook on f8 to guard the f7 pawn] 10.Nxd5 Qxd5 11.Bc4 Qd6? [slightly better is 11...Qd8] 12.Ng5 [threatening the pawns at f7 and h7] 12...Kf8 13.Qxh7 Qf6?? [13...Qg6 puts up more resistance] 14.Ne4 [threatening the Black Queen and the Bishop at c5. Black can't play 14...Qe7 because of 15.Qh8 mate] 1-0

Sonora - Sobrero, Villa Ballester 1992
1.b3 Nf6 2.Bb2 d6 [other ideas are 2...g6 and 2...Nc6] 3.Bxf6 gxf6 4.c4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.g3 Bf5 7.Bg2 Qd7 8.Nd5 Nd4 [or 8.O-O-O] 9.Ne3 Bh6 [9...c6 or 9...O-O-O] 10.Nxf5 Qxf5 11.Rc1 [to prevent 11...Nc2+] O-O-O?? [11...Nc6 may be best] 12.Bh3 [pinning Queen and King] 1-0

Wall - M Greenwalt, Dayton, Ohio 1983
1.b3 c5 2.Bb2 d5 3.e3 Nc6 4.Bb5 Bd7 5.Nf3 Ne5 [or 5...Nf6] 6.Nc3 Nxf3+ 7.Qxf3 d4? [7...Nf6 is best] 8.Qxb7 Bxb5? [8...Rc8 had to be played] 9.Nxb5 a6?? [9...Rb8 10.Qc6+ Qd7 11.Nc7+ Kd8 is better] 10.Qc6+ [or 10.Nc7+] 1-0

Wall - K. Jennings, San Antonio, TX 1996
1.b3 c5 2.Bb2 f6?! 3.e4 e5 4.Bxe5!? [4.Bc4 or 4.Nf3 may be better] 4...fxe5 [best is 4...Qe7] 5.Qh5+ g6? [better may be 5...Ke7 6.Qxe5+ Kf7] 6.Qxe5+ Qe7 7.Qxh8 Qxe4+ 8.Be2 [simply 8.Ne2] 8...Qxg2 9.Bf3 1-0

Wall - Goldeneye, Internet 1996
1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 c6 3.Nf3 e6 4.g3 Nf6 5.Bg2 Bc5 6.O-O O-O 7.c4 dxc4 [7...Nbd7 may be better] 8.Qc2 b6 [or 8...Na6] 9.bxc4 b5? [9...Bb7 was best] 10.Ng5 [threatening 11.Bxf6 and 12.Qxh7 mate] g6? [10...Bd4 should be played] 11.cxb5 cxb5?? [11...Bb4 is a little better] 12.Bxa8 1-0

Wall - D. Adams, Palo Alto, CA 1988
1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 d4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.O-O e5 7.c4 Nf6 8.b4 Ng4 [or 8...e4] 9.b5 Na5?! [9...Ne7 is better] 10.Qa4 b6? [Black should try 10...c6] 11.Nxd4 exd4?? [best is 11...Bb7 12.Bxb7 Nxb7. White now plays 13.Nc6] 12.Bxa8 1-0

Wall - S. Johnson, NC 1975
1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 e6 3.c4 Nf6 4.Nf3 Bd6 5.e3 O-O 6.Be2 c6 7.O-O b6 8.Qc2 Bb7 [better may be 8...Ba6] 9.Ng5 h6?? [9...g6 or 9...Nbd7 had to be played] 10.Bxf6! 1-0 threatens the Queen and 11.Qh7 mate

Wall - Warrior, Internet 1999
1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.e3 a5 5.c4 dxc4 6.Bxc4 Qd6 7.Nc3 Qb4 8.Ne5 f6 9.Qh5+ wins (if 9...g6 10.Nxg6) 1-0

Wall - Erg, Internet (Zone) 1998
1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 f5?! 3.e3 Be6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Be2 Bd7?! [5...Nc6] 6.O-O Ne4? [6...e6 or 6...Nc6] 7.Ne5 [threatening 8.Bh5 g6 9.Nxg6] 7...Bc6?? [7...Rg8 may be best] 8.Bh5+ g6 9.Nxc6 [and 10.Bxh8] 1-0

Wall - D. Bye, Postal (IECC) 1995
1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.f4 c5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bb5 Bd7 7.O-O Bd6 8.c4 Qc7 9.cxd5 exd5 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Nc3 Ne7 12.Qc2 a6 13.Bxd7+ Kxd7 14.Rac1 Rac8 15.Nxd5 [15...Nxd5 16.Qf5+ and 17.Qxd5 gives me an extra pawn and ruins Black's pawn structure] 1-0

Wall - TinHorse, Internet 1998
1.b3 e5 2.Ba3!? [2.Bb2 is the most common move] 2...Bd6?! [best to take with 2...Bxa3 3.Nxa3 d5] 3.Bxd6 cxd6 4.e4 f6 5.Nf3 Ne7 6.Nh4 d5 7.exd5 Nxd5? [better is 7...d6] 8.Qh5+ g6?? [slightly better is 8...Ke7] 9.Nxg6 1-0

Wall - R Vondruska, Postal 1987
1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 d5 4.Bb5 Bd6 5.Nc3 Ne7 6.d4 [6.Nf3 may be better] 6...e4 7.Nge2 Be6 8.O-O a6 9.Bxc6+ Nxc6 10.Ng3 Qe7 [perhaps 10...O-O or 10...Qh4] 11.Ngxe4 [11.f3; 11.f4; or 11.Nce2] 11...Nxd4?? [11...dxe4 12.d5 O-O-O is best] 12.Nxd6+ [extra tempo move with check that he overlooked] 12...Qxd6 13.Qxd4 1-0

Wall - SirMick, Internet 1997
1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e4 d5 4.Bb5 dxe4 5.Bxe5 Qd5 6.Bxc6+ Qxc6 7.c4 Qc5 8.Bg3 g6 [8...Nf6 is good] 9.Nc3 Bg7? [perhaps 9...Bf5] 10.Nd5 [threatening 11.Nxc7+] 10...Kd7 11.Nxc7 Bxa1 [Black should try 11...Rb8] 12.Qxa1 [now 2 Rooks are hanging] 1-0

Wall - L. Calvo, Guam 1974
1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.g3 d6 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.c4 Bd7 6.Nc3 Be7 7.Qc2 O-O 8.Nf3 a6 9.Ng5 Rb8?! [9...Nd4 and 10...h6 may be best] 10.Nce4 h6?? [Black should play 10...Nxe4 11.Nxe4 f5] 11.Nxf6+ [threatening mate next move with 12.Qh7 mate] 1-0


Wall – Guest769928, 2013

1.b3 d5 2.bb2 d4 3.Nf3 c5 4.e3 Bg4 5.exd4 cxd4 6.Bxd4 Bxf3? 7.Qxf3 Qxd4? 8.Qxb7  1-0


Wall – Rocheleau, 2013

1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 d5 4.Bb5 Bd6 5.f4 Qh4+ 6.f3 Qe7 7.Nf3 f6 8.Bxc6+ bxc6 9.fxe5 fxe5 10.Nxe5 Bb7? 11.Qh5+ Kd8 12.Nf7+  1-0


Larsen – Spassky, Belgrade 1970

1. b3 e5 2. Bb2 Nc6 3. c4 Nf6 4. Nf3 e4 5. Nd4 Bc5 6. Nxc6 dxc6 7. e3 Bf5 8. Qc2 Qe7 9. Be2 O-O-O 10. f4 Ng4 11. g3 h5 12. h3 h4 13. hxg4 hxg3 14. Rg1 Rh1 15. Rxh1 g2 16. Rf1 Qh4+ 17. Kd1 gxf1=Q+ 0-1


Fossum – Magnus Carlsen, Oslo 2003

1. b3 Nf6 2. Bb2 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. d4 c5 7. dxc5 Qa5+ 8. Qd2 Qxc5 9. e4 Nc6 10. Ne2 Bh3 11. b4 Qxc4 12. Na3 Nxe4 13. Nxc4 Nxd2 14. Bxc6 Nxc4 15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16. Bxb7 Rab8 17. Bd5 Rxb4 18. Nf4 Bf5 19. a3 Ra4 0-1



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Jacobs and Tait, Nimzo-Larsen Attack, Gloucester 2001

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Meinsohn, Gambit #27: Le Debut Larsen, Gambit, 1977

Odessky, Paly 1.b3!, New In Chess, 2008

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Soltis, Larsen’s Opening 1 P-QN3, Chess Digest 1972

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Tim Wall, Larsen’s Opening, Anova, 1999