Bird’s Opening

Tim Taylor

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Everyman Chess
224 pages

Bird’s Opening by IM Timothy Taylor fills a gap in the chess literature. The number of books on Bird’s Opening (1.f4) are few and far between. I recall Schwarz’s Die Bird Eroffnung and several editions of works on 1.f4 or 1.f4 with an early b3 by GM Soltis, but no really systematic, current look at the Bird. Now a lifelong fan of this opening has done a first rate job.

If you play 1.f4 the first question is what about 1…e5? One could build an opening repertoire using the Bird to transpose into the King’s Gambit or Closed Sicilian but that is not what Taylor is advocating. He devotes almost 50 pages to From’s Gambit and comes to the conclusion that White is doing well if he really knows his stuff. The sometimes-crazy positions that arise from this opening are like no other in chess.

The bulk of Bird’s Opening is devoted to the position after 1.f4 d5. Taylor points out many strong players play the Dutch but few venture the Bird’s and asks why if the most common answer to 1.f4 is 1……d5, which gives White a Dutch with an extra tempo. To resolve this question Taylor looks at all reversed Dutch setups from those involving a queenside fianchetto, to the Leningrad, Antoshin (an early c3, d3, Qc2 and b3), Stonewall and Classical (d3 and e3). He points out time and again that many sharp setups that worked as White versus the Dutch don’t do the job with colors reversed. More difficult to judge are the lines where Black plays solidly. Does an extra tempo in a Dutch line where Black is a little worse lead to an advantage with an extra tempo? Most likely not, but greater experience with the line should count.

The one line where Taylor feels White does best to deviate from a pure Bird is after 1.f4 c5. White could of course steer into the Grand Prix or Closed Sicilian variations but Taylor likes 1.f4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.e4 Bg7 4.Be2 d6 5.0-0 Nf6 6.d3, a setup used more than once by Bent Larsen.

The final chapter deals with various odd and ends. Here Taylor looks at the ugly 1.f4 f5. Black answers 1.e4 with …e5, 1.d4 with …d5 and 1.c4 with …c5, but somehow the symmetrical approach doesn’t look so solid here. Taylor feels 2.b3 may be objectively best but the reversed From Gambit with 2.e4 clearly has got his full attention.

This is the fourth book by IM Taylor whose earlier works were the 1985 Manhattan International, The Rubinstein Nimzo-Indian and How To Defeat The Sicilian Smith-Morra Gambit. Like his three previous efforts, the Bird’s Opening is characterized by thorough research and original work. You may not agree with all of IM Taylor’s assessments, but you can count on him giving his best effort.