The Chess Variant Pages
Custom Search

Schoolbook openings #1


In this article, we will explore the opening in the game Schoolbook.


1. f4 f5

Just like in FIDE chess, one of White's best moves is moving the king's pawn forward two squares. This is called the "f4" move in Schoolbook notation. After 1. f4, black has a number of replies, the best probably being 1. ... f5. The game, at this point, can continue a number of ways, including 2. Ng3 Nd6 3. Nd3 Ng6, 2. Nd3 Nd6 3. Ng3 Ng6, or 2. Nd3 Ng6 3. Ng3 Nd6, resulting in the Schoolbook equivalent of the four knights defense:

Another way to continue the game after 2. ... f5 is with the Schoolbook form of the Bishop's opening, 3. Bd4. Black's best response at this point is probably 3. ... Ng6, which results in the following position:

White at this point can defend his f pawn with 4. Nd3 or 4. e3.

The Marshall Spike

If, instead of 3. ... Ng6, black opts for the symmetric 3. ... Bd5, one reply that White has is called the Marshall Spike. This is when either white moves his Marshall to the h3 square early in the game, or black performs the corresponding Mh6 move. The Marshall Spike, when done by white, threatens the h7 square. One reply for black is to move out his marshall to Mh6, which will result the Marshalls being exchanged and Black having doubled pawns. Another reply to the Marshall Spike, which seems more sensible, is for black to defend his h pawn with h6, which results in the following position:

Position after 1. f4 f5 2. Bd4 Bd5 3. Mh3 h6

One interesting dynamic in Schoolbook caused by the Marshall Spike is that it weakens the other player's kingside. Black will most likely castle queenside and white will castle kingside in a game with the above position. This will result in a dynamic game where both sides can use their pawns to attack the other king without weakening their own king's fortress.

The Nimzoesque Defense

Black, naturally, has some other options besides 1. ... f5 when white opens by pushing out his king pawn. One reply is the Schoolbook equivalent to the Nimzowich defense, which I call the Nimzoesque Defense. In this defense, black responds to 1. f4 with 1. ... Nd6. Since the centrally placed archbishop doesn't defend his file the way the centrally placed queen does in FIDE chess, white can not reply by moving his other central pawn forward two squares the way he can in FIDE chess. What white can do, however, is push out his king bishop's pawn, resulting in the following position:

The position after 1. f4 Nd6 2. g4

In the above position, Black can not move out any of his central pawns two squares until he finds some way to defend them. Should black play 2. ... f5, for example, white can simply respond with 3. gxf5 Nxf5 4. e4 and now black has to move his knight a third time in the opening, and white still has control of the center.

Another way white can reply to the Nimzoesque Defense is via 2. Ng3. Greg Strong has analysized this position, and found the following line: 1. f4 Nd6 2. Ng3 f5 3. Bd4 e6 4. Nd3 Bf6 5. Ne5 Mh6. The position obtained from this line is as follows:

Greg Strong's analysis of the Nimzoesque Defense

Here we see that it is black who performs a Marshall Spike; white's best reply is probably h3, although Mh3 is reasonable if White doesn't mind exchanging off the Marshalls and having doubled pawns.

The Sibahi Defense

Another reply that black has to 1. f4 is to start a queenside fianchetto with 1. ... c6. I call this defense the Sibahi Defense, named after Abdul-Rahman Sibahi, who played this defense against me. Here is how this position looks:

The Sibahi Defense

As we can see, in this position black immediately applies pressure on the f pawn with his queen. Unlike many other openings in Schoolbook, the Sibahi Defense puts the queen in to play at the beginning of the game. White's best reply appears to be 2. Nd3, which develops a piece and defends the f pawn.

Black will probably, at this point, fianchetto his queenside bishop with 2. ... Bc7, which applies more pressure on the f pawn. White, at this point, can defend with either 3. e3 or 3. g3. These aren't the only options; ChessV feels white gets compensation for the f pawn if the gambit 3. e4!? is played.

An analysis using ChessV of the positions obtained after both 3. e3 and 3. g3 indicates that e3 is better; while white has more mobility with his kingside bishop after g3, this blocks the key square for his kingside knight and opens white's kingside bishop to harassment should black play Bb6. Here is the position after white defends with e3:

The position after 1. f4 c6 2. Nd3 Bc7 3. e3

Another way black can continue the Sibahi Defense after 2. Nd3 is to have a Sicilian setup with 2. ... d5. White's best reply, at this point, looks to be 3. Ng3, which results in the following position:

The position after 1. f4 c6 2. Nd3 d5 3. Ng3

Should black now apply more pressure on the f pawn with Bc7, white can reply with the e3 defense.

This 'user submitted' page is a collaboration between the posting user and the Chess Variant Pages. Registered contributors to the Chess Variant Pages have the ability to post their own works, subject to review and editing by the Chess Variant Pages Editorial Staff.

By Sam Trenholme.
Web page created: 2006-09-11. Web page last updated: 2006-09-11