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I am an early, intermediate in chess. I played the Whale Variation and won some games as White. But there is an issue when Black moves their knight to d4. I have a problem with it. Is the Whale Variation a proper opening to use? I like to know your ideas about Whale Variation.

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  • 4
    What's the whale variation?
    – David
    May 8 at 9:24
  • 2
    1.e4 e5 2.c4 appears to be the Whale Variation, unless there's more than one.
    – D M
    May 8 at 10:12
  • When I play whale, the idea is to eventually transpose it into some line in the English opening. After all, in most lines of English, whilt pushes his e pawn to e5.
    – Zuriel
    May 8 at 14:07
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The Whale variation

[FEN ""]
1.e4 e5 2. c4

is quite an offbeat opening. It shares obvious similarities with the English opening, and it sometimes transposes, but it has some serious drawbacks. The obvious one is the gaping hole it leaves on d4. Another one is that it leads to very closed positions, which intermediate players usually do not fin comfortable. This leads to inaccurate plans and rushing, which because of the dubious setup from white, usually ends up favoring black. The main one is that white does not have a threat, allowing black to immediately seize the initiative with Nf6.

Let's address first the hole on d4. There are several setups to play around it, the most straightforward plan is to play d3, Be3, and Ne2. This overprotects the weakness and ensures better center control, but is awfully slow since Bc5 essentially blocks everything, and severely neglects king safety (white's not gonna castle anytime soon). Another setup is to kingside fianchetto, and another is with Be2. They all have big drawbacks, since essentially white is playing an English opening with a way too early e4 push. With somewhat accurate play for black (Nf6 and Bc5, which are natural moves that they should consider), there really is no good solution for this.

Here you have several sample lines that give an idea of why this opening should be avoided. For example, 1. e4 e5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Bc5 4. d3 d6 is more than fine for black, with easy plans and development. This seems like a closed Sicilian gone wrong. Also, 1. e4 e5 2. c4 Nf6 3. d3 Bc5 4. Be2 is pitiful, with white's only "developed" piece being completely shut behind the pawns. Black still has easy plans.

Finally, let's address the issue of giving up the initiative. Since white is no making any threats with 2.c4, black is completely free to just play Nf6 and Bc5 in virtually all variations. Moreover, d6 and Bg4 is a very standard plan, as well as Nc6 aiming for the hole in d4. Since the dark squared bishop is now outside the chain pawn, black has e7 free for a knight, with Nf6-Ne7-Ng6 being a common reroute.

This makes it a difficult variation to play if black makes reasonable moves. I would suggest to play the English opening, and steer the game into closed positions that will benefit from a timely e4 push. For example: 1. c4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. e4, followed by d3.

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