I have often (or this one video just got it stuck in my head) heard Youtube videos (time 2:37, nothing else relevant) refer to this kind of pawn structure as a “crab” pawn structure (below, white pawns.) The name makes sense because it is like a crab pincer enclosing the board, as agadmator said.

This is just an example; it is not to be analyzed.

[FEN ""]
[startply "8"]

1. e3 f5 2. f4 Nf6 3. c4 c5 4. d3 Nc6

Is there a good opening that revolves around such a “crab” pawn structure? I am looking for just one example at the least. I’m just asking a single opening, not all possible ones.

I would like to utilize such an unorthodox playing method to surprise opponents. I would like to know advantages/disadvantages of the opening, such as how to counter/play it. There is no need to cover all possible variations.

As long as the structure of the pawns, as shown in the example, is the same, the “crab” can be anywhere on the board.


One disadvantage of the position in your diagram is that the pawns on d3 and e3 are "backward". That is, there are no pawns behind them and they cannot be safely advanced. Backward pawns are often a target for the opponent to aim at.

One advantage is that all four center squares are covered by your pawns.

This pawn structure, if shifted one file towards the queenside, can arise from the Giuoco Pianissimo, among other openings. For example, the following is perfectly reasonable and has been played by multiple grandmasters:

[FEN ""] 
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 O-O 6. b4 *

Here's a game from 1857 where Paul Morphy wins against this structure, arising from a Roy Lopez opening:

[Site "New York (USA)"]
[Date "1857.??.??"]
[White "Meek A"]
[Black "Morphy Paul"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C65"]
[FEN ""]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 d6 6.b4 Bb6 7.a4 a6 8.Bc4 Be6 9.Bxe6 fxe6 10.O-O O-O 11.Ng5 Qe7 12.Kh1 h6 13.Nh3 d5 14.Ba3 Nd8 15.b5 Bc5 16.Bb2 dxe4 17.d4 exd4 18.cxd4 Bd6 19.Nc3 axb5 20.axb5 Nf7 21.Qe2 Qd7 22.Nxe4 Nxe4 23.Qxe4 Qxb5 24.Rab1 Qd5 25.Qg4 Ra4 26.Nf4 Qe4 27.Bc1 Bxf4 28.Bxf4 Rxd4 29.Qh3 Qxf4  0-1
  • I don't know the name of the formation, but I'll include an old game, for fun. – D M Apr 24 '19 at 2:34

To answer your question, there are no good openings that revolve around this "crab" pawn structure. This is because this structure takes a lot of pawn moves, decreases the mobility of your bishops, and creates weakness on the kingside. It would even be difficult to come up with a respectable variation of any opening that has this pawn structure (perhaps the variation in the link provided is playable, but I don't think it gives an objective advantage). Of course the pawn structure in the link is different than the one you displayed. Either way, I recommend avoiding these "crab" structures at all costs. If you want to surprise you're opponent with unorthodox openings in an aggressive manner, try some gambits out. For example, King's Gambit, Smith Morra Gambit, Evans Gambit, etc.


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