The Sodium attack is characterised by the move 1.Na3, tending to be followed by the fianchetto of the bishop. This opening has never been played by myself, but I seem to encounter it quite frequently amongst lower rated players. What would be the best way to respond?

  • 1
    Fianchetto of "the" bishop? Which bishop is that?
    – bof
    Apr 17, 2019 at 22:47
  • The bishop tends to be positioned on the c file. Apr 18, 2019 at 1:17
  • 1
    The name of the opening is even dumber than the move 1.Na3.
    – bof
    Jun 19, 2020 at 3:38
  • @bof It's called the Sodium attack because 1.Na3 contains the chemical symbol for sodium: Na. +1 just because I found your comment funny Nov 13, 2023 at 22:01
  • @PraiseDare Having a triple digit IQ, I had figured out how the "sodium attack" got that name, and I thought it was pretty dumb. I guess the guy who came up with it must have thought it was clever as hell.
    – bof
    Nov 14, 2023 at 1:54

5 Answers 5


Play whatever.

Two-three moves like that hardly constitute an "opening". It could help if you told us what kind of set up white tries to achieve in the center (e.g. which of the central pawns are moved.)

Generally moves like that are nothing I'd worry about. Playing just normal moves (occupy the center, develop pieces, take it from there....) should be fine. If you have a favourite black opening against say d4 or e4 you might be able to follow it.

You might want to make the somewhat fundamental decision on whether you prefer to block the b2 bishop by playing e5 at some point or to limit the space for the a3 knight by playing d5.

  • 3
    I think the key line here is "Playing just normal moves..."
    – Ghotir
    Apr 18, 2019 at 18:24

What should you play? You play chess!

You can't have a prepared answer for every nonsense move your opponent may play. If you can't easily equalize as Black against 1.Na3, then your chess skills should be improved somehwere else other than the opening


FM Graham Burgess suggests the following when facing this kind of unorthodox but modest opening from White: play as though you (as Black) gained a tempo somewhere. In other words, you now have an advantage, but it's not much; therefore you should try to keep the initiative, but don't play too aggressively trying to refute the opponent's opening.

So after 1. Na3 (a clearly bad opening move), play 1...d5, 1...e5 or 1...Nf6, which are all natural developing moves. You occupy the center and develop normally, and don't get drawn into aggressive moves like ...d4 or ...e4 before you're developed.

As an example, consider:

[FEN ""]
1. Na3 d5 2. c4 Nf6 {A quick check with Stockfish shows that this isn't one of its top choices - it prefers ...e5 or ...d4 - but it's safe, the knight is probably developing here anyway, and by avoiding having to play ...Qxd5, Black avoids potential traps} 3. Nf3  Nc6 {Amazingly, ...Bf5 would be a mistake because it exposes the Bishop to the latent threat of e4. For example 4. cxd5 Nxd5? 5. e4 Bxe4 6. Qa4+ wins a piece, while 4. cxd5 Qxd5 5. d3 still leaves Black scrambling to defend against the threatened e4. If you are unfamiliar with this line you'd be forgiven for falling for this, but that's why FM Burgess suggested not playing too aggressively. 3...Nc6 avoids these traps by leaving all your pieces defended, and follows the principle of developing knights before bishops.} 4. d4 {White has to stop 4...e5, and now we're effectively in a (slightly unusual) Queen's Gambit.} Bf5 {With the a4-e8 diagonal blocked, Black can safely play this now.}

Black wins no prizes for maximally exploiting White's weak opening play, but that's not the point - he has survived White's opening to reach a playable middlegame.


You should think this through a bit. 1.Na3 puts the Knight on a bad square but gives it access to the good square c4. If you play 1...e5 then 2.Nc4 gives White some kind of initiative (2...Nc6 3.e4). If you play 1..d5, you start to make the Knight look silly. It will have to come into play via c2, but could then reach good squares via e3. In the early part of the opening White will need to find a good square for that misplaced piece and your play should include some way of making this difficult. "Whatever" is seldom a good answer. If the player of a wierd opening can make you lazy in your analysis they can point to some success.


As a longtime proponent of Durkin's Attack, I think the best answer to 1. Na3 is 1... Nh6!

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