Meet the Drunken Master

by Wesley Falcao
4/1/2018 – How would you react if your opponent just moved all their pawns to the third rank of the board in the opening and still managed to hold ground? Wesley Falcao, a National Master living in New York, did exactly this in some of his blitz games. The result: this seemingly drunken manner of opening the game actually caught some strong players off guard, provoked errors and produced some really entertaining games. In this article, Wesley Falcao shares some of his games (a whopping 17 of them!) and discusses some key ideas behind his opening, urging readers to kick back and have a drink with the Drunken Master!

The Sniper The Sniper

The Sniper is a universal opening framework which can be played against all main first white moves — 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4, 1.f4 and 1.Nf3. Black plays 1...g6, 2...Bg7 and 3...c5 against practically anything!


First experiments with the Drunken Master

I have a fascination for mischief in chess. From the earliest days of my chess career, I have enjoyed making moves that seem odd, shocking, or even dubious, just for the pleasure that comes out of it. So when I play, especially when I play for fun, such ideas often come easily to me. And so it happened one day, in an anonymous 3m+2s increment game online that I played the following opening with Black.


Next, I tried the same opening in a 1m+1s bullet game.


I played a few more bullet games subsequently and I realised the more I was playing, the more I was getting addicted to this seemingly drunken opening. Besides, since this was working well in bullet, I thought I should give it a try in a slower time control. So, I decided to try the same thing in blitz games. Here's the first one.


The method behind this madness

Poster of Drunken Master

The inspiration for the name of the opening comes from a Jackie Chan movie called "Drunken Master". There's an insightful line in its trailer which captures the essence of this opening.

"Don't be fooled by the way I stagger. There's power to kill there. It looks real weak, but that's how you win, by appearing to lose!"

The Drunken Master Opening is a dubious opening, but it's not as dubious as it looks. If the opponent overexerts, the Drunken Master can deliver a strong counterpunch. It's an opening meant for a fun blitz game, where you can dazzle and confuse your opponents with strange positions, pose them questions, and provoke mistakes.

Here's another video that describes this philosophy:

"So you think I just fell? Now you're gonna come at me and try to attack me? [throws kung fu punches!]...that is drunken boxing!"

The main idea behind the opening is rather simple. The side playing the opening keeps its pawns on the 3rd rank and develops the a-Rook to the second rank. The rook is then free to move across the second rank as the need arises. The pieces temporarily remain undeveloped, waiting for the pawn-structure to be solidified so they can be moved to the appropriate squares.

Playing this opening (or against it) requires a good grasp of where the pawns belong and what structures are favourable. I don't claim to have mastered this concept, but I think that this opening can help one learn about pawn structures a lot better. After having had some success in anonymous games, I decided to try this opening against more serious opposition. It took a few games before I scored my first a win against a National Master in a 3-minute blitz.


Against stronger opposition...

Now I will show you some more wins against serious opposition. These games are quite recent and my understanding of this opening is still developing. Nevertheless, I must say I am amazed by what I have found in the little that I have explored so far.


One of the drawbacks of the opening is that, sometimes, if the d-file opens, the rook can pin the bishop to the queen and it could be dangerous. An example of this could be seen in the following game.


On a few occasions, I tried launching an early attack on the kingside with my 'g' and 'h' pawns. And sometimes, to avoid castling into my attack, my opponents castled long. Below is one such example.


Double the rooks first!

I haven't heard of a chess game where a side managed to double its rooks without moving a single minor piece! But this is the kind of magic the Drunken Master is able to bring about, as happened in the following game.


This next one, I like to call "A game two drunk rooks!"


It is important to bring the rook out early before advancing all the pawns since the rook can be a good defensive piece. Without the Drunken Rook's help, the opening can have a quick collapse, as was almost demonstrated in this game below.


Opponent forgets to defend

The Drunken Master often takes opponents by surprise and, at times, these baffled opponents feel provoked to go all out to punish the opening. Because of the provocative nature of this opening, it is often easy for the opponent to think only about attacking and forgetting to look for threats to his own position, as happened in this game.


Sometimes, unsuspecting players can move their bishops right in front of one of our pawns, thinking that a pawn move would "provoke a weakness". But in the Drunken Master, it's what you want to do anyway!


As mentioned earlier, the main idea of the Drunken Master is to provoke the opponent to overexert himself in the attack. The following game demonstrates a triumph of this "come at me bro" strategy.


Here's another example of an opponent overexerting in "attack mode".


Blitz and some banter!

Sometimes this opening tends to psychologically disturb players who aren't used to being subjected to such mischief. This can cause them to play badly because their mind is processing more than just the chess! In this game, my opponent, after seeing me open with the Drunken Master, began to swear at me in the chat. What happened next, you can find below.


Some opponents are just surprised and they can't believe that this opening is holding up. In the game below, after white's 7th move, my opponent just asked at once: "Are you serious? How did you become NM?". All I could do was give him a wink.


After the game, he offered a rematch which I accepted. Then I said, "Now you know how I became NM". "I'm not yet fully convinced," he replied. Then he went on to lose another game in the Drunken Master, which he should have won. The third game was drawn, and I didn't have the energy to play a fourth!

Some defeats

Now in case, you thought that the Drunken Master is a truly sensational opening, I must remind you that I have also lost quite a few games in the opening. In some games, I lost right out of the opening because of a blunder. I suppose I could be excused for that since I am myself still exploring this opening. But in some games, the opening itself was refuted with good play by my opponent. I will now show you a few such games.


In conclusion

Finally, what can I say? I still believe the Drunken Master is a dubious opening. But I also believe it is a fun opening with good chances in blitz chess if you know how to hold your balance while being "drunk". I can only hope that you have at least as much fun playing this opening as I did and still do. As I write this, I'm still exploring the opening. Perhaps the theoreticians might soon jump on it and publish concrete refutations. Until then, "drink" and be merry!

Wesley Falcao is National Master and a software engineer living in New York. Originally from Vasai, a suburb of the city of Mumbai in India, Wesley was taught chess by his father when he was four. He moved to the US in 2010 to pursue Masters in Computer Science and has been living there ever since. In 2014, he got the National Master title from the US Chess Federation. He still pursues chess part-time and loves playing online blitz.
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Offramp Offramp 4/5/2018 04:33
It is spelt "mischievous".
joshuar joshuar 4/4/2018 05:00
This is the single greatest chess article that I have ever read.
ngnn ngnn 4/3/2018 08:19
Yes, this was sort of reversed April Fooling. Similar to a spoiler combination...

A funny article. I must admit I feel quite annoyed whenever someone plays "wrong" against me and I might get provocated, overplaying my position. But in blitz it's not easy to refute dubious openings, and too often the result is that I end up in time trouble and lose because of that.

Also, I am slightly surprised that nobody has been disapproving of the article so far. I was expecting to see at least one "This opening is rubbish, how does Chessbase dare insult us with articles like this, now I will unfriend you, block your site and never come back" type of reader comment.
WesleyFalcao WesleyFalcao 4/2/2018 10:31
@pillius Good game! Hope you enjoy the opening!

And for those who thought this was an April Fool's joke, it was deliberately posted on April 1, so I guess you've been indirectly April Fooled! :D
WesleyFalcao WesleyFalcao 4/2/2018 10:31
@geeker, very interesting story about the mathematician. My intent with moving the pawns is completely different than his. He wanted to 'give freedom to the pieces', but I want to keep the pawns flexible, and swing the a-Rook to the kingside to prepare for solidification of the pawn structure. Then I'll bring the pieces out, if need be!
geeker geeker 4/2/2018 12:36
There's nothing new under the sun...
From Botvinnik's "Achieving the Aim", chapter 2:
"In the professor's home to which I had been invited...A simultaneous exhibition took place. The famous mathematician Ivan Matveyevich Vinogradov...played in original fashion. First of all he moved all his pawns up one square 'to give freedom to the pieces' as he explained it, and then played quite well, but it was no longer possible to save the position..."
pillius pillius 4/1/2018 10:08
it works! i played this game just now! :):):)
[Site ""]
[Date "2018.04.01"]
[Round "-"]
[White "pillius"]
[Black "maddog1812970"]
[Result "1-0"]
[UTCDate "2018.04.01"]
[UTCTime "19:58:22"]
[WhiteElo "2146"]
[BlackElo "1959"]
[WhiteRatingDiff "+6"]
[BlackRatingDiff "-5"]
[Variant "Standard"]
[TimeControl "300+0"]
[ECO "A00"]
[Opening "Mieses Opening"]
[Termination "Normal"]
[Annotator ""]

1. d3 { A00 Mieses Opening } d5 2. e3 e5 3. c3 f5 4. b3 c5 5. a3 Nc6 6. Ra2 Nf6 7. f3 Be6 8. g3 Bd6 9. h3 O-O 10. Rg2 Qc7 11. Ne2 Rad8 12. Nd2 Rfe8 13. Bb2 b5 14. Qc2 a5 15. g4 f4 16. e4 dxe4 17. fxe4 Rf8 18. Nf3 h6 19. g5 hxg5 20. Nxg5 Bc8 21. Rhg1 Rd7 22. Ne6 Qa7 23. Nxf8 Bxf8 24. Rg6 Kf7 25. Qc1 b4 26. cxb4 axb4 27. a4 Ba6 28. Nxf4 exf4 29. Qxf4 Nd4 30. e5 Re7 31. Rxf6+ gxf6 32. Qxf6+ Ke8 33. Bxd4 cxd4 34. Rg8 Rf7 35. Qc6+ Kd8 36. Qd6+ Ke8 37. Be2 Bc8 38. Bh5 Qd7 39. Rxf8# { White wins by checkmate. } 1-0
jaberwocky jaberwocky 4/1/2018 09:09
Beware of flying pigs.
pshuk pshuk 4/1/2018 08:40
haha. april fool
frankiekam frankiekam 4/1/2018 04:01
Go easy on the Vodka.
lbtr74aao lbtr74aao 4/1/2018 11:37
april fool day
garyklien garyklien 4/1/2018 08:03
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 4/1/2018 07:24
Very nice
aji2017 aji2017 4/1/2018 06:48
Nice article on April 1 FD "funny day" as it was
Queenslander Queenslander 4/1/2018 04:54
Just silly