The Dutch Defence is a fairly popular response to 1. d4. So shouldn't 1. f4 (Bird's opening), viewed as a Dutch plus a tempo, be at least as popular?

  • 1
    I don't know whether the Dutch Defence can actually be considered "popular". You encounter it only very occasionally, and the same can be said about Bird's Opening.
    – Annatar
    Aug 31, 2018 at 8:03
  • Very much related, and potentially a dupe is: chess.stackexchange.com/questions/1302/…
    – Herb
    Aug 31, 2018 at 15:38
  • 1
    As a side note: IM Tim Taylor wrote a book on the Bird, this game which appeared in the Los Angeles Times and was annotated by Jack Peters: www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1499185, made him recommend transposing out of the bird if Black plays an early g6.
    – Ywapom
    Aug 31, 2018 at 21:34
  • That would be like asking, why is the Sicilian that popular vs. 1.e4, but a few years ago the English, 1.c4, was not so popular? Today 1.c4 is popular because contemporary top GMs do play almost everything, but look back to thr 1980s and 1990s... Sep 1, 2018 at 6:11

4 Answers 4


A good opening for Black seldom is a great choice for White even with a tempo up. Grandmaster Alex Yermolinsky discusses reasons for this in his book "The Road to Chess Improvement". One of the main reasons is that the opening goals are not the same for both sides in the opening, and schemes that are suitable for defense or counterattack are much less valuable for assuming the initiative.

Famously, when grandmaster Vladimir Malaniuk, a great proponent of the Dutch Leningrad with Black, had some issues with his White repertoire, someone suggested to him that he should start with 1.f4. His retort was definitive:

That extra move's gonna' hurt me!

As a side note, the Dutch is not that popular, especially at the highest level.


It helps to think about it at a very basic strategic level: With white you're supposed to play for the initiative and not induce a weakness on move 1... 1.d4 for example is a safe first step towards claiming the centre, while creating active squares for the queen, b1 knight and activating the c1 bishop, all while stopping black from any immediate e5 attempt (i.e., directly challenging black's options in claiming the centre for themselves). Whereas 1.f4 does none of those except for stopping e5, while also permanently weakening the kingside. Central pawns (d and e) are safer commitments because they're advancements on files where the king doesn't belong. Same cannot be said for f pawn in general.

All these apply to black playing the Dutch (1...f5) as well, and explain why it is not as commonly adopted as other sounder systems vs 1.d4. As a rule of thumb (so to be taken with a grain of salt), the "good" openings are those that tend to be less committal (starting from the moved pawns, hemmed-in pieces and induced weaknesses...) and offer more flexibility in the middlegame (in terms of transpositions for instance).


The problem is that many players who don't know much, if any, of the theory and history behind the Bird, think it's unsound, especially due to the From Gambit.

Additionally, there aren't any world class players who have used it regularly since Bent Larsen.

  • 1
    I'm not sure Bent used anything regularly Sep 23, 2018 at 23:48
  • Transposing into the King's gambit from From's gambit is fine for White.
    – user24344
    Aug 4, 2020 at 5:17

This is because it gives up White's advantage. Sure, it is playable, but it isn't so good from a White perspective. The Dutch defence for Black, however, has the purpose of creating an imbalance, and so is reasonable.

However, I still prefer Bird's opening.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.