What are examples of provocative openings where the opponent can be baited into playing more aggressively than they normally would, ie. pushing a lot of pawns or sacrificing material to keep an advantage? Here are a few I can think of:

  • Hippopotamus Defense
  • Alekhine's Defense
  • Scandinavian Defense (Portugese Gambit)
  • Pseudo-Trompowsky

In general, I'm looking for any nonstandard opening that is objectively dubious and "looks" bad on the surface because it violates chess principles (ie. not putting pawns in the center / moving pieces out when they can easily get attacked by pawns), but leads to good practical chances and positions where the opponent is out of their comfort zone.

  • Another one is 1.e4 d5 2.Nc3 after 2...d4 white scores 54% to 42% in lichess database.
    – Akavall
    May 19, 2021 at 0:10
  • 1.e4 g5 qualifies. May 19, 2021 at 9:10
  • I suggest an edit where only objective criteria (pawn moves, early sacrifices) count. Note that whether a sacrifice is correct still is a bit opinionated. I could show a few provocations of mine in the Sicilian... May 19, 2021 at 11:34

2 Answers 2


Norwegian Defense.

Perhaps THE best scoring defense on Lichess (White scores below 45% on 2000+ rating), even though it is positionally dubious and does not set any tactical traps.

[FEN ""]

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Nf6 3. e5 (3. Nc3 d5 4. e5 Ne4 5. Nxe4 dxe4) Nh5
  • 3
    I'm afraid this is great proof of why statistics are pretty much irrelevant when discussing sidelines
    – David
    May 19, 2021 at 8:28
  • 1
    @David Personally I've had great success with the opening. I am rated 2000 rapid on Lichess. But I see your point.
    – B.Swan
    May 19, 2021 at 12:13

you mentioned the main ones, Alekhine is the good one, with Pirc and Modern also black let's white to over extent and hopes to attack it later, and some side-lines or Caro-Kann and French with Nc3,

but the idea to rely on unsound opening is not advisable in general, it is better to learn some standard lines and get a playable position with chances for both sides, this is a better way to improve one's chess.

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