I want to ask a question about Bird's opening (1. f4). My question is:

  1. What's the main idea of this opening?
  2. Is 1. ... d5 the best counter to 1. f4? Why 1. ...d5?
  • There's no single "best" answer to 1.f4. And if there's one, it's definitely 1..Nf6!
    – David
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 9:34

6 Answers 6


What's the main idea of this opening?

Main ideas for white:

  • surprise weapon as it is rarely played (since it is not all that good)
  • playing the Dutch opening with an extra tempo, but this is not a big deal IMO
  • avoiding opening theory as you can basically learn a "system" (certain position of pieces that you want to achieve) and follow this almost independent of what black plays
  • in some cases the pawn being already on f4 can be handy for kingside attacks

Basically there are three set ups:

  1. stonewall with pawns on f4, e3, d4, c3; gives you good control of dark squares but weakens the light squares; Usually you only play this if black plays d5 at some point as otherwise black has the option to play something like d6 and e5 which is often unpleasant for the stonewall setup
  2. fianchettoed bishop on b2 often in combinations with pawns on e3 and f4. This gives you good control along the a1-h8 diagonal
  3. fianchettoed bishop on g2. This can lead to king's indian like setups if you combine it with d3, e4.

In the end it depends whether you like the resulting positions. Check a few games from the database and look at the positions around move 10.

Is the best counter of 1.f4 is 1...d5? Why 1...d5?

Yes, d5 is most popular and best. It takes control of the center, opens the way for the light squared bishop and is just a natural move. A reason not to play 1. ...d5 could be if you are worried about losing control of the dark squares in the center. In that case you could think to wait with d5, perhaps develop the bishop to g7 (which would work well against the white setup number "2" above) and leaving the option open to play d6 e5 later which would work well against the stonewall.

As a former 1. f4 player I would discourage you from playing this or any other off-beat opening if you want to be serious about chess. You can learn a lot more (and get better positions) if you play more normal openings.


The two answers have already provided a very good explanations of the Bird's opening. So mine can be viewed as an addition.

1.f4 e5

is a known gambit and is reasonably sound. Followed by 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6. Black sacrifices a pawn but gets ahead in development.

I like to point it out for two reasons.

1) It is one of the approaches to play against the Bird's opening. Especially if Black prefers open positions.

2) It shows that black has wide choices as to what kind of position they like to play. This limits practicality of the Bird's opening.

  • Thank you Akavall for your comment!!! I appreciate that!!!
    – Kiel
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 1:44
  1. What's the main idea of this opening?

This is basically white playing what is normally a black defence, the Dutch 1) d4 f5, with a move in hand so the idea is the same - white will develop his kingside quickly with the knight on f3 behind the pawn, castle kingside, maybe bring the queen over with Qd1 - e1 - h4 if there isn't already a pawn on g3 and then use his f4 pawn in conjunction with his pieces to launch a rapid attack against black's castled king.

If the opponent isn't careful this can be very effective and lead to quick victories, but ...

  1. Is the best counter of 1.f4 is 1...d5? Why 1...d5?

If you believe in classical chess then, yes. In classical chess you try and win control of the center first with pawns then with pieces. From black's point of view the problem with 1) f4 is that it doesn't exert the same control and influence as e4 or d4 would and it weakens f2, an already weak square.

Of the two main ideal first moves for black, from a classical pov, e5 is not possible so d5 is the best that's left. It is also good because it releases the f8 bishop to go to g4 undermining white's center when white plays Nf3 which he will almost certainly do on his 2nd move.

If black wants to be a bit unconventional there are also ideas of following up with moves that prepare e5 like Qd6, Nd7 or Nc6, maybe even f6. If black can get in e5 then white is probably in trouble.

Another idea could be to follow up with c6 and Qb6 looking down the open diagonal to g1 making castling difficult.

Alternatively black can just play the white side of the Dutch relying on the fact that in the past some grandmasters have had such a low opinion of the Dutch that they think it is just giving them a free point, Kortchnoi for one.

  • "e5 is not possible" is an overstatement. See my answer. But objectively it is less attractive than 1...d5.
    – Akavall
    Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 18:20
  • 1
    Funny mentioning that 1. f4 is likely the only opening that allows a counter-counter-gambit. Consider 1. f4, e5 (Fromm Gambit) 2. e4 (King's Gambit), d5 (Falkbeer). Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 13:44
  • Even if you "believe in classical chess" (whatever that means), there is no reason to prefer 1...d5 over 1...Nf6
    – David
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 9:34

I must quote some thoughts on bird opening from gufeld's book ,

"1 f4 d5 Avoiding the sharp play of the From Gambit ( l . . .e5 ! ?),

Black is ready to play against the Dutch Defence by the first player.

2 Nf3

The attempt to prevent the fianchetto of Black 's king' s bishop is unsuccessful: 2 b3 Bg4 ! (hindering the development of White's kingside)

3 Bb2 Nc6 4 g3? ! (better is 4 Nf3 Bxf3 5 exf3 with only a minimal advantage for Black) 4 . . . e5 ! ? 5 fxe5 f6 !

with an attack for Black. Kupreichik-Yusupov (Yerevan 1 982) continued 6 Bh3 Bxh3 7 exf6 Nxf6 8 Nxh3 J.c5 9 e3 d4 10. e4 0-0 11. d3 Bb4+ 12. Nd2 Nd5 13. Qh5 Ne3 14. Ke2 g6,

when it was hard to offer White any good advice.

2 g6

The most precise move order. After 2 ••• Nf6 3 e3 g6 4 b4! White can count on an opening initiative. The text move prevents this plan and allows Black smoothly to fianchetto his king's bishop - the best counter to the Dutch set-up."


Bird's opening aims for a potential kingside attack, at the cost of weakening the kingside. It is a reversed Dutch defence.

I believe that the best refutation to Bird's opening is not 1...d5, which offers White kingside counterplay. Simply play 1...c5, attempting to transpose into a variation of the sicilian.


Most good players do it to avoid other openings like the sicilian. It is not that bad at all. If White plays well the projected outcome is a score of 49.5% for white. White could do better with Pe4 or other moves but the Bird has a psychological advantage by not playing the usual opening.

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