Larsen’s Opening 1.b3 – A Positional Powerhouse

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Larsen’s Opening 1.b3 packs a powerful positional punch!

Let others think positional openings aren’t hard-hitting if they want. By the time they learn differently, it will be too late.

Apart from being a positional powerhouse, Larsen’s Opening is extremely flexible too.

GM Damian Lemos’ Deep Dive course takes a modern approach to a timeless classic.

Learn how the strongest chess players of today employ Larsen’s Opening:

Played by Past and Present Chess Greats

In the past, this opening was played consistently by Bent Larsen. The great Bobby Fischer also played the opening with success.

Nowadays, the opening is played by such greats as Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Baadur Jobava, and Richard Rapport.

Larsen’s Opening has enough venom to attract the very best attacking players.

Why Play Larsen’s Opening?

When you play 1.b3 and 2.Bb2 you immediately develop your bishop on a magnificent diagonal

Starting position of Larsen's Opening, also known as the Nimzo-Larsen Attack.
Starting position of Larsen’s Opening, also known as the Nimzo-Larsen Attack.

Apart from being a sound hypermodern opening, Larsen’s Opening allows you to keep your opponent guessing

You can transpose into the English Opening or Double Fianchetto depending on what black plays. By starting with the moves b3, Bb2 and e3, you aren’t giving much away.

Later you can stake a claim in the center with d4. Another sound approach is to let black take control of the center with pawns and attack it with c4.

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Black won’t know how you plan to deploy your pieces, which makes it more difficult for him in the opening. How can he select the best defensive set-up if he doesn’t know your plans?

Right from the start, you have black playing a guessing game. However, you have the flexibility to adopt the best line against black’s chosen defense. 

The advantage of playing e3 instead of e4 is it keeps the h1-a8 diagonal open. This makes a double fianchetto system even more powerful.

Typical Strategies for White in Larsen’s Opening

One of the most common strategies employed by white in Larsen’s Opening is the double fianchetto.

White can choose to play a variation of the Sicilian Defense with an extra move. Often by playing e3, c4, and d3.

White has created the typical Sicilian Defense small center. Playing g3, and Bg2 will add to his control of d5.
White has created the typical Sicilian Defense small center. Playing g3, and Bg2 will add to his control of d5.

These moves create the small center often used by black in the Sicilian. If black adopts a setup with pawns on e5 and d6, then the bishop on g2 and c4 clamp down on the freeing …d5.

Nc3 will add further control of the d5 central square, while in Larsen’s Opening, white retains the freedom to advance his pawns.

The compact nature of the white pawns makes it easier to defend them.

Watch how Magnus Carlsen makes effective use of the small center.

In many Sicilian endgames, black has a slight edge thanks to his pawn structure. This means white can expect to have at least a similar advantage in any endgame.

White has the option to strike in the center or expand on the queenside. Playing in two areas is good to stretch black’s defensive resources.

Common Set-Ups By Black

Because 1.b3 initially seeks to control the center from a distance, Black has considerable freedom to choose how to arrange his pieces.

If black plays ...d5 and ...c5 white can play for control of the e5-square.
If black plays …d5 and …c5 white can play for control of the e5-square.

Black has regularly chosen one of these three set-ups in Larsen’s Opening

  • 1…e5 supported with …d6 or …Nc6
  • 1…d5 with …c5
  • 1…Nf6 with …g6

1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 d6

This is a super-solid approach by black.

The drawback of …d6 is it allows white to establish a firm grip on the d5 square.

There are two approaches for white. 

Playing a double fianchetto with c4 and Nc3 will make it very difficult for black to play d5.

White often develops with Nge2 to avoid blocking the bishop on g2.

It is important to remember that after d4, meet …exd4 with Qxd4 or Nxd4. This creates a semi-open d-file for white to use.

The second approach is to play e3, d3 and expand on the queenside with b4.

1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 c5

When black plays …d5 and …c5, white can play Nf3 and meet …Nc6 with Bb5. After playing Bxc6, white can take control of the e5 square with Ne5 and f4.

If black attempts to drive the knight away with …f6, it creates weaknesses around the king. White can retreat the knight to g4, where it takes aim at f6.

Don’t forget the bishop on b2 is attacking f6 too!

1.b3 Nf6 2.Bb2 g6

Against the King’s Indian Defense structure follow the plan adopted by Baadur Jobava.

Play the moves Nc3, d4, e3, Qd2, and O-O-O. Then begin your attack thematically with f3 and a kingside pawn storm.

Stay attentive to what your opponent is doing. Your opponent is likely to launch a pawn storm against your king.

This variation goes to show Larsen’s Opening is not just a dry, positional opening. There is every reason to believe you can enjoy an exciting, tactical game too!

Here is Baadur Jobava showing how it’s done!

In Conclusion

Larsen’s Opening is a deceptive opening with unexpected attacking potential. 

This is a sound opening that will smoothly accommodate your playing style. 

You have every reason to believe by playing 1.b3, you will catch your opponent unawares!

This Deep Dive course on Larsen’s Opening will teach you everything you need to play the opening with confidence against any black set-up.

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