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.

  • "I have often heard Youtube videos refer to this kind of pawn structure as a “crab” pawn structure" - can you give examples? Do you have any links? – Brian Towers Apr 23 '19 at 20:49
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    Interesting game but with a completely different pawn structure. – Brian Towers Apr 23 '19 at 21:16
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    Pawns on c4, d3, e3, f4 make a completely different structure to pawns on d5, e4, f4, g5. The weaknesses in the two cases are completely different. The strengths and threats are completely different. They are just completely different. If your question is intended to cover both cases then it is indeed "too broad". – Brian Towers Apr 23 '19 at 21:55
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    About the "crab" metaphor: A pincer is used to focus energy. But that's the opposite of what your structure does. You attack all 4 central squares, but only once each, resulting in rather weak / easy to break control over these squares (Black has a multitude of good pawn breaks) - compare that to the "stonewall" structure d4, e3, f4 which gives white a firm (pincer-y) grip on e5. – Annatar Apr 24 '19 at 6:13

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
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  • 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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    I think you go a bit far; it's not THAT bad. – D M Apr 24 '19 at 2:02
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    It doesn't make much sense to suggest the King's Gambit. It's well known to be dubious and black is simply better after 2. f4?! There are other much stronger gambits. – Qudit Apr 24 '19 at 4:54
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    @Qudit, You know what they say, all openings are playable provided their reputation is bad enough. All jokes aside, I think it's still valid to include the king's gambit as it still provides interesting opportunities for white to be aggressive. Furthermore, if it means anything, I'm around 2150 and play the king's gambit exclusively(also the Morra Gambit), so it is not too bad at amateur levels. It's still certainly better than basing your opening on a "crab" structure. – CognisMantis Apr 24 '19 at 6:01
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    Indeed, this pawn structure is pretty awful. Not only does it take a lot of moves to set up, it can easily be undermined with a timely and completely natural ...d5 or ...e5, which also arguably makes this useless as a surprise weapon. Note that if white takes on d5/e5, he will be left with backward pawns on halfopen files in the center. Perhaps the closest to this that is playable is either a c4-d3-e3 structure (English) or an f4-e3-d3 structure (Bird's Opening/reversed Dutch). – TMM Apr 24 '19 at 18:50

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