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I've been studying the Bird's opening, and I wonder if I could launch a surprise with this line

  1. f4 d5 2. Kf2?! I can artificially castle, and I can develop naturally. Is this move playable, or just plain bad?
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    By the way, since the bird is fairly rare, playing 1.f4 already gives you a small amount of surprise value. Although it's debatable how much this is worth, since someone with a good opening repertoire would be reasonably prepared against it anyway. Aug 5 '20 at 4:12
  • It may be playable, but... Why? What could possibly be better about 2.Kf2 than 2.b3 or 2.Nf3? In the best case scenario, you'll en dup in a regular Bird position but several tempi down
    – David
    Aug 7 '20 at 12:10
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This move is bad, however, depending on your opponent it has merit. If your opponent is 2100 and above with an understanding of how to break open a position and kill a king then it won't end well for you. On the other hand, if your intention is to provoke your opponent to attack you and then counter-attack when an opening is created it may well be okay. You must have some idea of the attacking patterns against your king and how to protect your king in those circumstances.

I wouldn't play this opening personally unless for fun and to improve my overall play -- not necessarily results. I still see some merit if you are targeting an opponent who is not a great attacker or prefers not to attack early or at all. There are some opponents who always play consolidating or slow moves in the middle of an attack which gives away the advantage. These types of opponents would be a lamb to the slaughter since you are forcing them to do something they would prefer not to do.

This is a more psychological ploy that will work against certain opponents. Of course, it goes without saying that you will have to play well since you are playing from behind. Play like a tiger and take advantage of every blink by your prey. Stalk (develop), stalk (secure king), stalk (arrange pieces to pounce), stalk (wait for a mistake -- blink), pounce.

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    The opponent doesn't have to be close to 2100+ for this to end badly for White, at least in a non-blitz game. If this was bullet however then I agree more with your answer - the move could potentially even work at 2300+ (since you're egging your opponent on when they barely have any time to think), depending on how skilled White is. Aug 6 '20 at 6:05
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It's a bad move. Sure it would be surprising, but a surprising move is only effective if it's challenging for your opponent to play against (here that's reversed). The only value would be playing this as a joke in a fun game with a friend or something.

Stockfish 11 at depth 31 gives -1.48 after Black pushes 2...e5.

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  • I'd focus more on the evaluation after a more "normal" move. After all, if Black has to play very accurately to exploit our mistake, then it probabbly has some surprise value!
    – David
    Aug 7 '20 at 12:11
  • @David The position after 2...Nf6 gives -1.06 at depth 30. I wouldn't call finding 2...e5 very accurate, as it's a fairly principled reaction to 2.Kf2. Aug 7 '20 at 19:27
  • Not many players would go for ...e5 there, since it's taking an unnecessary risk while 2...Nf6 gives Black an awesome position without the need to be temporarely down on material
    – David
    Aug 8 '20 at 10:48
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The most important question here is: why? There is no benefit in castling artificially at this stage. There are two reasons people do that:

  1. the rook is needed on the a/h file
  2. they are forced to.

Neither of these apply in this situation. So artificial castling is not a good reason. Then two options remain: is the king safer on f2 or is the king providing assistance to an attack? Obviously the answer to both questions is no.

It does not matter what the level of your opponent is. There is never any benefit in playing a move that is bad regardless of the response.

The only valid reason is psychological and therefore most appropriate in blitz games: many opponents will feel a strong urge to destroy your position and might very well make some fatal mistakes in doing so. Having the initiative can be a curse, especially in blitz games.

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