The only opening named after a woman: the new

Published: February 12, 2021

The analytical investigation

In this investigation we’ll consider the chess opening which has a connection with the unique historical fact: it was named after a woman chess player who won games with its help. It’s important that it’s an opening, not an opening variation. Its ECO code is C20 only. It’s well-known that 1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 (A01) is a quite popular opening variation which can be transposed into this unique opening: 3.e4 (C20). It is well-known that each opening isn’t a branchy sequence of positions, it’s a sum of positions. Thus, this unique opening is a sum of positions with the moves e2-e4, e7-e5 and b2-b3, with some simple requirements (to moves) which differ it from positions of the Sicilian defence, the English opening, the Reti opening and some others. By the less exact way, we may define this opening as the part of C20 with 1.e4 e5 2.b3 (or with 1.b3 e5 2.e4).

WIM Stefi Bednikova pict

Stefi Bednikova (WIM) [2]

It was named ‘the Bednikova opening’, there is no doubt, after the Bulgarian woman chess player Stefi Bednikova (WIM – since 2010) [1], and the young tradition to use this name for the opening has been formed already [3, 4]. We’ll analyse this name below.

Today this opening name is one of synonyms among its names: the Czyzewski opening /variation, the Santa Claus opening (it’s a joke name), the subvariation of the Modern variation of A01 (the Larsen opening /the Nimzowitsch-Larsen attack /other names of A01). All the above synonyms can be used, although we think that the ideal order in opening names has a value, so we should comment all of them here. Thus, first of all, this opening’s ECO code is C20, not A01, so it isn’t a subvariation of the Modern variation of A01 really. Further, we shouldn’t use joke names as main names, so ‘the Santa Claus opening’ can’t be its main name. Further, the name ‘the Czyzewski opening /variation’ has a reference to Mr. Czyzewski’s unpublished and unregistered notes in his notebook, and no documents were shown [5, 6]. Thus, his descendant writes: “Some time ago my family had found a very old notebook of our great-grandfather, the old box was from 1883. This man was an amateur player and passionate about chess. One of the pages contained the notes about unusual structure (Czyzewski, 1883)” [6]. That is why its using isn’t justified.

And what about other possible names? The oldest published comment to an individual move of this opening we could find was done by the well-known English master William Pollock, and it was a comment to his own game Donisthorpe - Pollock he played 25.06.1885 in London [7, page 226]. The beginning of this game was the following: 1.b3 e5 2.e4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Bd3 0-0 5.Nge2 d5 6.Bb2 de 7.Be4 Ne4 8.Ne4 f5 9.N4g3 Nc6 10.c3 Ba5. Thus, White played the opening weakly, received this enough bad position and lost rapidly. Since the dubious move 4.Bd3?! we can see a not good understanding of this “Spanish” position by White, that is why the possible name ‘the Donisthorpe opening’ can’t be justified as the main name. And what valuable conclusions about possible names can we do from W.Pollock’s comment? There he accepted his own move 3…Bb4, but he indicated no possible good alternative to it and to the previous opponent’s move 3.Nc3. He didn’t comment the opponent’s move 4.Bd3 [7, page 226], so it isn’t necessary to use W.Pollock’s name for the opening or for its variations (3…Bb4, 2…Nf6 etc.). In result, the names of players of the game, of the author of this 1st published comment to an individual opening move can’t be justified for the main name of the opening.

How old is this opening as a practice? It maybe, the following mentioned game (1873) [8] was the initial point for both the ‘Palmiotto opening’ and 1.b3 e5 2.e4: “Opening: Palmiotto opening. <…> Standard line: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3.b3. Official Debut: 1873 (Bixby). <…> Opening that can be associated with the name of the Italian chess player Fiorentino Palmiotto who in Reggio Emilia in 1964, the year in which he became Italian champion by correspondence, defeated the IM Enrico Paoli (1908 - 2005) with the surprising 3.b3. However it is a diagram of White that had at least one precedent, the game lost by the American George F. Bixby against his compatriot William Henry Harrison Hotchkin, in 1873, even if the two contenders reached the position of the diagram starting from the Larsen opening (1.b3 e5 2.e4 Nc6 3.Nf3)” [8]. Moreover, this division into two different openings (with Nb8-c6, Ng1-f3 and without it) is doubtful that is enough analogous to the doubtful division into C20 Mengarini opening (2.a3) and C26 Mengarini opening (2.Nc3 Nf6 3.a3). Thus, we think that the Palmiotto opening shouldn’t have the code C44: it’s a subvariation of C20 with 2.b3. In any case, opening stages of those old games can’t give the main name to the opening, because there are no justifications for it.

We’ll consider the name ‘the Bednikova opening’ now. We don’t know yet who was a creator of this opening name, what justification (or what sum of justifications) did he (or she) put in the base of this name. But we have our own thoughts about it.

All Internet users can find 4 games with this opening by S.Bednikova as White, she won 2, drew 1 (her opponent was WGM Emilia Djingarova), lost 1 (her opponent was WIM Mara Jelica) [9-12]. Is it too few to form such name of an opening if this player wasn’t the first one who played it? No. For example, the case of the great maestro Aron Nimzowitsch proves it: the move 1.b3 was named in future as ‘the Nimzowitsch-Larsen attack’, although he wasn’t the first one and played it as White in 3 games only, he won 1, drew 1, lost 1 [13]. Why is a part of these her games more interesting for us than other players’ older games?

There were a few games of C20 with the sequences of moves 1.e4 e5 2.b3 and 1.b3 e5 2.e4 in history in comparison with games with the sequences of moves 1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e4, 1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 d6 3.e4 and several other sequences with 1.b3 and 2.Bb2. Moreover, on the master level and higher after 1.e4 e5 2.b3 (or 1.b3 e5 2.e4) 2…Nf6 White has got the advantage almost never after a choice of a very weak opening subvariation. If such choice isn’t a casual blunder when a player looks for the strongest move, but is, it maybe, a result of a purposeful large sport risk, then it can be interesting.

Thus, Stefi Bednikova has played one such game: it has been played against Yordanka Naydenova (Vratsa, 2007) [9]. Here is a summary of our analysis of the opening’s first stage in this game (a real theory of the Bednikova opening didn’t exist before this investigation, so we don’t mark an ocean of our novelties and new appraisals as ‘theoretical novelties’ and ‘new theoretical appraisals’ here: roughly speaking, all summary is a new theory by our authorship):

1.e4 e5 2.b3 [It is unknown why Ms. Bednikova chose this “modest” move in this game. It maybe, she prepared a surprise for her opponent in the Spanish game reversed (2…Nf6 3.Nc3 Bb4) or in some other possible variation.]

2…Nf6 [It’s really the best line for Black.]

3.Nc3 [It’s a good move. (Only some of sources say that players get here the Vienna game C26. We think that it’s a subvariation of C20 with 2.b3.) The other good move is 3.d3. If 3…d5 then 4.ed Nd5 (4…Qd5 5.Bb2) 5.Bb2. If 3…Bc5 then 4.Bb2 too. There is a complicated fight everywhere, and White fights for a little advantage.]

chess problem diagram

3…Bc5 [It’s a good move. The other good move is 3…Bb4 where White shouldn’t plan Ng1-f3xe5, and White gets a complicated “reversed Spanish fight” with unclear positions. The move 3…d5 is good too: 4.ed Nd5 with different White’s possibilities and with the unclear position.]

4.Nf3 [This move isn’t very good, and we’ll prove it below. White should play 4.Bb2! (with a fight for a little advantage; 4…Bd4? 5.Nge2 c5 6.f3, and White stands better), or even 4.Bd3!? (with the idea Na4, c4), or 4.Na4! Thus, after 4.Na4! Black’s best response is 4…Be7! (4…Ne4 5.Qg4!? Bf2 6.Ke2 d5 7.Qg7 Rf8 8.d3 Bd4 9.Bh6 Qe7 10.Rb1!?; 4…Bf2 5.Kf2 Ne4 6.Ke2 with a large advantage in both cases; 4…Bb6 5.Nb6; 4…Bb4 5.a3 Ba5 (5…Be7! 6.Nc3! with a fight for a little advantage) 6.b4 Bb6 7.Nb6, and White stands slightly better in both cases) 5.Nc3! If Black plays 5…Bc5 then 6.Bb2! (with a fight for a little advantage) or 6.Na4 (if White wishes a draw by repeat).]

4…d6 [4…d5! was the best response: 5.ed? e4!, and Black stands better; 5.Ne5!? de (5…d4!?) 6.Nc4! with a complicated position, but White can’t fight for an advantage; after other White’s 5th moves White can’t fight for an advantage too: 5.Na4 Bd6! 6.Bb2 Qe7 etc.

chess problem diagram

If 4…Ng4 then 5.d4 ed 6.Nd5 c6! (6…d3 (Black dreams to get the Nh4-Bukayev gambit [14, 15] reversed, but White can prevent it) 7.Qd3 (7.Bb2!?) 7…Bf2! 8.Ke2 Bb6 9.Bb2! 0-0 (9…Nf2? 10.Qc3 f6 11.Nb6! Ne4 12.Qe3 0-0 13.Na8 Re8 14.Ne5 Nd6 15.Qa7, and White wins; 9…f6 10.Nb6 ab 11.h3 Nh6 12.e5 Qe7 13.Kf2 or 12.Kf2 d6 13.g4 Nf7 14.g5 with a strong attack in both cases) 10.Nb6 ab 11.h3 Nf6 12.e5 with a strong attack)

chess problem diagram

7.b4!, and we have the known unclear position of the Fritz variation reflected (it can be got also after 1.e4 e5 2.d3 Bc5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Ng4 5.d4 ed 6.Nd5!? [16] 6…c6!? 7.b4!, first of all).]

5.Bb2? [White should play 5.Bd3 or even 5.Na4!?. Thus, 5.Bd3 c6 (5…a6 6.Na4 Ba7 7.c4 with the unclear position; 5…d5 6.Nd5 Nd5 7.ed Qd5 8.Qe2!? (with the idea Bc4 or Be4), and White stands slightly better) 6.Na4 Bb4 7.c4 (with the unclear position) 7…d5 cd 9.Bb5, and White fights for an advantage. After 5.Na4!? Ne4 (5…Bb6 6.Nb6, and White stands slightly better) 6.Qe2 the play is very sharp, the position is unclear.]


chess problem diagram

[White stands slightly better. But after 5…Ng4! Black has a large advantage. For example, after 6.d4 ed 7.Nd5 c6 8.b4 cd 9.bc Qa5 (9…de!?) 10.Qd2 Qd2 11.Nd2 dc, and Black stands better.] The game was continued, and White won. It maybe, Ms. Bednikova’s idea was in the case of 5…Ng4! the following:

“6.d4 ed 7.Nd4 Qf6 8.Nf5 [8.Nf3 Nf2 (this response is more probable here than in the case of 8.Nf5) 9.Qc1 Nh1 10.Nd5 Qd8 11.Bg7 Rg8 12.Nf6 Ke7 13.Qg5 (or even 13.Nd5) with an unclear and a very sharp play, and it isn’t bad for me] 8…Nf2 9.Qc1 Nh1 10.Nd5 Qd8 11.Bg7 Rg8 12.Nf6 Qf6 13.Bf6 with a large advantage, it is nice for me”.

Thus, she could see that here all Black’s moves are “natural”, although not all of them are strong in fact. But, it maybe, her idea was in the case of 5…Ng4! the other:

chess problem diagram

“6.d4 ed 7.Nd5 c6 8.b4 cd 9.bc de 10.Nd4! with a very sharp play, it isn’t bad for me”.

We suppose, this idea could be found by both players, so Ms. Naydenova’s renunciation of 5…Ng4 could be a result of her thinking about this sharp line.

But the other situation is also possible: it maybe, Ms. Bednikova knew well that her opponent, most probably, isn’t going to play unknown sharp lines in this game, so she ignored such opponent’s possibilities as 4…d5! after 4.Nf3 and 5…Ng4! after 5.Bb2?. That is why her choice of the very weak opening subvariation (5.Bb2) is, it maybe, a result of a purposeful large sport risk. Other situations are possible too.

In any case Ms. Bednikova had a luck in the opening of this game. That is why we suggest the synonym ‘the Woman Player’s Luck opening’ for the Bednikova opening. First in chess history this analytical investigation permits to see that a woman chess player occupies her legal place in the name of this opening which is today the only opening named after a woman.

Note: Everywhere in the text the words “we” and “our” mean “author” and “author’s”.


  1. The article 'Stefi Bednikova' on
  2. S.Bednikova's chess photo in the Bulgarian press
  3. Bednikova Opening (1.e4 e5 2.b3)
  4. Chess Openings: C20
  5. C20 King's Pawn - Czyzewski Opening
  6. Czyzewski Variation,forgotten hypermodern chess opening
  7. W.H.K. Pollock: A Chess Biography with 523 Games - Urcan & Hilbert
  8. Palmiotto opening
  9. Bednikova, Stefi (2077) vs Naydenova, Yordanka (1890) (1-0)
  10. Bednikova, Stefi (2052) vs Djingarova, Emilia (2302)(1/2 - 1/2)
  11. Bednikova, Stefi (2052) vs Petkova, Veneta (1952) (1-0)
  12. Bednikova, Stefi (2086) vs Jelica, Mara (2207) (0-1)
  13. Larsen’s Opening by Bill Wall
  14. Two knights defence c57: Fritz variation: bomb!
  15. c57: new strong gambit: chess opening analysis part 2
  16. Vienna game C26 theory: reflectogen No.1: bomb!

Auteur : Y.Bukayev

(c) Bukayev, Yury ( or Facebook)

© 2021 Yury V. Bukayev (Copyright © Bukayev Yury Vyacheslavovich 2021). All rights reserved.

[A legal using of this investigation with a reference to it is permitted and doesn’t require author’s consent.]

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