Over the years, the move 1.b4 (1.P-QN4) has been known as the English Opening, the Hunt Opening, the Orangutan (Orang Utan) Opening, the Polish Opening and the Sokolsky (Sokolski) Opening. Its ECO designation is A00.
In the 1880s, the Russian master Nikolay Bugaev (1837-1903) started analyzing and playing 1.b4. His first known game with this opening was against Alexander Solovtsov (1847-1923) in Moscow in 1888. The opening moves went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 f6 3.a3 d5 4.e3 Be6 5.Nf3 Bd6 6.Be2 Ne7 7.d4 e4 8.Nfd2 O-O and Black won in 38 moves. This is probably the earliest game with this opening.
The earliest game is not E. Schuehler - Wolfgang Muster, Postal 1863 as some databases have. The date is wrong. That game was played in the early 1980s and appears as an annotated game in Thema - Turnier Sokolski - Eroffnung by Karl Grund.
In 1895 Bernhard Fleissig lost to Carl Schlechter in Vienna with this opening. The opening went 1.b4 e6 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.a3 c5 4.b5 d5 5.d4 Qa5 6.Nc3 Ne4 7.Qd3 cxd4 8.Qxd4 Bc5 and Black checkmated White in 20 moves.
In 1896 Bugaev defeated W. Steinitz in Moscow with this opening. The opening moves went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 f6 3.b5 d5 4.e3 Bd6 5.c4 c6 6.a4 Ne7 7.Nc3 O-O 8.Qb3 and White won in 35 moves.
In 1896 Berthold Englisch drew with Harry Pillsbury in Vienna with this opening. The moves went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 f6 3.b5 d5 4.e3 Nh6 5.c4 Be6 6.cxd5 Qxd5 7.Nc3 Qd7 8.Nf3 Bd6 9.d4 Nf7 and a draw was agreed in 32 moves.
In 1897 Rudolf Charousek beat M. Brody in Budapest with this opening. The opening moves went 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 e6 3.e3 Nf6 4.b5 Bd6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.c4 b6 7.Be2 Bb7 8.O-O O-O 9.Nc3 and Charousek won in 30 moves.
In 1898 Zuckerbaecker lost to Augustin Neumann in Vienna. The opening moves went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 Bxb4 3.Bxe5 Nf6 4.a3 Be7 5.d3 d6 6.Bb2 Nc6 7.e4 Ne5 8.Be2 O-O and Black won in 33 moves.
In 1903, Bugaev published his analysis of 1.b4 in the Russian chess magazine Shakmatnoye Obozreniyi.
In 1919 Savielly Tartakower beat Richard Reti in Vienna with this opening. It was not known as the Orangutan at this time. Tartakower gave it the Orangutan name later in 1924. The opening against Reti went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 f6 3.e4 Bxb4 4.Bc4 Ne7 5.f4 d5 6.exd5 Bd6 7.fxe5 fxe5 8.Qh5 and Tartakower won in 33 moves.
In 1922 Carl Hartlaub beat Teichmann in Leipzig with this opening. The opening went 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 f5 3.e3 Nf6 4.f4 e6 5.Nf3 Bxb4 6.Nc3 O-O 7.Ng5 h6 8.h4 Ng4 9.Bd3 and Hartlaub checkmated Teichmann in 22 moves.
In 1923 Alexander Alekhine beat John Drewitt in a Portsmouth simulateneous exhibition with this opening. The opening went 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.a3 c5 5.bxc5 Bxc5 6.Nf3 O-O 7.c4 Nc6 8.d4 Bb6 9.Nbd2 Qe7 10.Bd3 Rd8 11.O-O and Alekhine won in 22 moves.
In 1923 Aaron Nimzovich drew with Richard Reti in Carlsbad with this opening. The opening went 1.b4 a5 2.b5 Nf6 3.Bb2 d6 4.e3 g6 5.d4 Bg7 6.Nf3 O-O 7.c4 e5 8.Be2 Nbd7 9. O-O and a draw was agreed on move 39 (an even Rook and Pawn endgame).
In 1923 Richard Reti beat Abraham Speyer in Schevingen with this opening. The opening went 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.f4 Qd6 4.Be5 Qb6 5.e3 Bg4 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.Nc3 e6 8.Bd4 Qd6 9.Nb5 and Reti won in 27 moves.
The Orangutan opening got its name from Savielly Tartakower (1887-1956). On a free day during the 1924 New York International, a tour was organized to the Bronx zoo. Tartakower walked by the cage where an orangutan was housed. The orangutan, named Susan, moved closer to Tartakower when Tartakower got closer to the cage. Tartakower, in jest, asked the orangutan what opening should Tartakower play in the next round, and showed the orangutan a chess set. The orangutan suggested somehow to Tartakower to play 1.b4. Since the climbing movement of the pawn to b4 and then to b5 reminded Tartakower of the climbing movement of the orangutan, he called it the Orangutan, and the name stuck. The next day, Tartakower did play 1.b4 against Geza Maroczy and drew in round 4. The opening went 1.b4 Nf6 2.Bb2 e6 3.b5 d5 4.e3 Be7 5.f4 O-O 6.Bd3 a6 7.a4 axb5 8.axb5 Rxa1 9.Bxa1 Nbd7 and a draw was agreed in 54 moves (an even Bishop and Pawn endgame).
Tartakower wrote about how he came up with the Orangutan name in his book, My Best Games 1905-1954.
Jose Capablanca lost a short game against Alexander Kevitz during a simultaneous display in New York in 1924. The game went 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 Bf5 3.e3 e6 4.f4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bxb4 6.Nc3 Nbd7 7.Ne2 Ng4 8.c3 Be7 9.h3 Nc5 10.Ng3 Bh4 11.Nxh4 Qxh4 12.Qf3 Nxe3 13.Kf2 Nxf1 and Capablanca resigned.
In 1926 Tartakower beat Edgar Colle at Bartfield with this opening. The opening went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 f6 3.e4 Bxb4 4.Bc4 Ne7 5.f4 d5 6.exd5 exf4 7.Qf3 Bd6 8.Ne2 Ng6 9.d4 Qe7 10.Bc1 Bf5 11.Bd3 and Tartakower won in 33 moves.
In 1927 Capablanca beat A. Pedroso in a simulaneous exhibition in Sao Paulo with this opening. The opening moves went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 f6 3.a3 d5 4.e3 Be6 5.d4 e4 6.c4 c6 7.Nc3 Nd7 8.cxd5 cxd5 9.Nge2 Bd6 10.g3 and Capablanca won in 37 moves.
In 1930 Heimbach beat Efim Bogoljubov in Heidleberg. The opening went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 Bxb4 3.Bxe5 Nf6 4.c4 Nc6 5.Bb2 O-O 6.e3 d5 7.a3 Ba5 8.Nf3 Bg4 9.cxd5 Nxd5 10.Be2 f5 11.Qb3 and Heimbach won in 27 moves.
In 1934 Frank Marshall drew with Samuel Reshevesky in New York. The opening went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 e4 3.a3 f5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7 6.d3 a5 7.b5 exd3 8.e3 O-O 9.Bxd3 d6 and a draw was agreed in 24 moves.
In 1937 Tony Santasiere beat Fred Reinfeld in New York with this opening. The opening went 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.a3 a5 5.b5 c5 6.Nf3 Bd6 7.c4 O-O 8.Nc3 Nbd7 9.Qc2 and Santasiere checkmated Reinfeld in 31 moves.
The opening got more serious attention by the Russian master Alexey Sokolsky in 1938. Sokolsky produced the first serious study of the opening and played in in correspondence and over-the-board chess. His first game with this opening was with Alexander Kotov in the Trade Unions Championship in Leningrad in 1938. The opening went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 f6 3.b5 d5 4.e3 Be6 5.d4 Nd7 6.dxe5 fxe5 7.Nf3 Bd6 8.Nbd2 Ngf6 9.c4 c6 and the game was drawn in 36 moves, but in White's favor.
In 1938 Sokolsky beat Vitaly Chekhover in the Russian Championship semi-finals in Leningrad. The opening went 1.b4 Nf6 2.Bb2 e6 3.b5 b6 4.e3 Bb7 5.Nf3 Be7 6.c4 O-O 7.Be2 d5 8.a4 and Sokolsky won in 70 moves (three Pawns vs Knight endgame).
In 1939 Santasiere beat Alburt Pinkus in New York. The opening went 1.b4 e6 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.a3 a5 4.b5 c5 5.Nf3 b6 6.e3 Bb7 7.c4 d6 8.d4 Nbd7 9.Nbd2 Rc8 10.Bd3 Be7 11.O-O O-O 12.Qe2 and Santasiere won in 45 moves.
During World War II, Sokolsky continued to analyze and play 1.b4. Sokolsky lost to Gavril Veresov in the 1944 USSR Championship in Moscow. The opening went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 f6 3.b5 d5 4.e3 Be6 5.Nf3 c5 6.c4 d4 7.d3 Nh6 8.e4 g6 and Sokolsky lost in 26 moves.
In 1945 Santasiere beat Arthur Bisguier in New York. The opening went 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 Bf5 3.e3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.a3 a5 6.b5 c5 7.Be2 h6 8.d3 Nbd7 9.Nbd2 Qc7 10.c4 and Santasiere won in 42 moves.
In 1947 Sokolsky beat Peter Romanovsky in Lvov. The opening went 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 Bf5 3.e3 Nf6 4.b5 e6 5.c4 dxc4 6.Bxc4 Bd3 7.Qb3 Bxc4 8.Qxc4 and White won in 36 moves.
In 1947 Gerald Abrahams lost to Harry Golombek with this opening at Hastings. The opening went 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.e3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.c4 c6 6.Qb3 O-O 7.Nc3 h6 8.d4 Be6 9.c5 Nbd7 and Golombek won in 25 moves.
In 1950 Sokolsky drew with Paul Keres in the USSR Championship in Moscow. The opening went 1.b4 e6 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.b5 c5 4.e3 d5 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.c4 Bd6 7.d3 O-O 8.Nbd2 b6 9.Be2 Bb7 10.O-O Qe7 11.a4 a5 and a draw was agreed in 66 moves (Rook and Pawn vs Rook and Pawn endgame).
In 1952 Santasiere beat James Sherwin in New York with this opening. The opening went 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.e3 e6 5.c4 Nbd7 6.a3 Be7 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Be2 O-O 9.O-O Re8 10.d3 and Santasiere won in 30 moves.
In 1953 Sokolsky beat Salo Flohr in Moscow. The opening went 1.b4 a5 2.b5 Nf6 3.Bb2 d6 4.e3 e5 5.c4 Be7 6.Nf3 O-O 7.Be2 c6 8.Nc3 Re8 9.O-O e4 10.Nd4 c5 11.Nc2 Nbd7 12.d3 and Sokolsky won in 42 moves.
In 1953 Sokolsky lost to Alexey Suetin in Minsk with this opening. The opening went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 d6 3.c4 f5 4.e3 Nf6 5.Nf3 Be7 6.d4 e4 7.Nfd2 d5 8.Qb3 c6 9.Nc3 O-O and Suetin won in 40 moves.
In 1954 Sokolsky drew with Ratmir Kholmov in Kiev. The opening went 1.b4 Nf6 2.Bb2 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.c4 O-O 5.e3 d6 6.Nc3 e5 7.Be2 e4 8.Nd3 c5 9.Nc2 Nc6 and a draw was agreed in 53 moves (Rook and 3 Pawns vs Rook and 4 Pawns endgame).
In 1954 Sokolsky drew with Andre Lilienthal in Kiev. The opening went 1.b4 Nf6 2.Bb2 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.c4 O-O 5.e3 d6 6.d4 e5 7.Be2 exd4 8.Qxd4 Nc6 9.Qc3 Re8 10.O-O Qe7 11.b5 Nd8 and a draw was agreed in 33 moves.
In 1954, C. Schiffler wrote the first book on this opening, Orang-Utan-Eroffnung, published in Berlin.
In 1957 Sokolsky drew with Geller in the USSR. The opening went 1.b4 Nf6 2.Bb2 e6 3.b5 a6 4.a4 Be7 5.e3 O-O 6.Nf3 axb5 7.axb5 Rxa1 8.Bxa1 d5 9.d4 c5 and a draw was agreed in 22 moves.
In 1958 Sokolsky lost to Yakov Estrin in the USSR with this opening. The opening moves went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 f6 3.e4 d5 4.f4 exf4 5.Qh5 g6 6.Qxd5 Qxd5 7.exd5 Bxb4 8.Ne2 Bd6 and Estrin won in 24 moves.
In 1959 Osip Bernstein beat Arnold Denker in New York. The opening went 1.b4 Nf6 2.Bb2 d5 3.Nf3 e6 4.b5 Be7 5.e3 O-O 6.Be2 a6 7.a4 axb5 8.axb5 Rxa1 9.Bxa1 Nbd7 10.O-O c5 11.d3 Qc7 12.c4 and Bernstein won in 42 moves.
In 1959 Bernstein lost to Edmar Mednis in New York. The opening went 1.b4 a5 2.b5 e5 3.Bb2 d6 4.e4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.d4 Nbd7 7.Nf3 exd4 8.Nxd4 Bg7 9.g3 O-O 10.Bg2 Re8 11.O-O Nb6 and Mednis won in 53 moves.
In 1959 Boris Katalimov beat Suetin in Moscow. The opening went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 d6 3.c4 Be7 4.Nc3 c6 5.e3 Nd7 6.d4 Ngf6 7.Nf3 O-O 8.Be2 a6 9.Qb3 b5 10.c5 and Katalimov won on 40 moves.
In 1963, Alexey Sokolsky wrote Debyut b2-b4.
In 1964 Bobby Fischer beat Gloger in a simultaneous exhibition in Cleveland. The opening went 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 f6 3.e4 Bxb4 4.Bc4 Ne7 5.Qh5 Ng6 6.f4 exf4 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.Nc3 and Fischer won in 17 moves.
In the 1960s, the opening was played by Bent Larsen, Bill Lombardy, Vlastimil Hort, Roman Dzindzihashvili, Robert Huebner, and Hans Ree.
In the 1970s, the opening was played by Ken Rogoff, Vasily Smyslov, Tigran Petrosian, Pal Benko, and Michael Basman.
In the 1980s, the opening was played by Gilles Miralles and Tony Miles.
1.b4 is rare among the strongest players in the world. For example only 10 games beginning with 1.b4 has been published in Chess Informant since 1966. That's after 84,000 games have been published. White won 3, drew 1, and lost 6.
In 1989, I wrote Orangutan for Chess Enterprises, and included 90 pages of games and analysis on the opening. It included 90 complete games and 600 partial games. Now, databases have over 5,000 complete games, all beginning with 1.b4.
One of the best web pages on 1.b4 is Marek's 1.b4 world at http://www.algonet.se/~marek/
Another good web site is Carel's 1.b4!? at http://www.b2-b4.com/mps/frmain.html