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An unusual opening devised and played almost exclusively by eccentric English International Master Michael Basman, the Pudding Bowl (also known as the Creepy Crawly) can be played by White or Black, and gets its name from the first two moves, 1.a3 and 2.h3 (or 1...a6 and 2...h6), which produce a pawn structure resembling a large, flat bowl with slightly raised lips. As far as I know, there are no opening books on the Pudding Bowl, just a self-published pamphlet by Basman available through Chess Digest.

The idea of the Pudding Bowl is prophylaxis and temptation. The two single pawn moves prevent Black (or White) from placing pieces aggressively on b4 and g4 (or b5 and g5) and prepare the advance of the knight's pawns, gaining space on both wings. A player facing the Pudding Bowl will be tempted to try and refute the opening in a few moves, and may overstretch, leaving his position vulnerable. The idea will be to push pawns to g4 and b4 (or g5 and b5) and fianchetto both bishops, which will influence the centre from a distance.

The major disadvantage of this opening is that, for want of a better description, it sucks. It makes no attempt to do any of the essential things that a chess opening should accomplish: control the centre, develop pieces, gain space. Many openings exist which succesfully contravene one or more of these precepts (see Alekhine's Defense, Hypermodern Chess), but the Pudding Bowl is not one of them, and it is difficult to imagine it being successful at grandmaster level. However, just to make sure that I give a balanced assessment, the score of a Basman victory against a grandmaster-level player, Budnikov, using the Pudding Bowl, is given below.


Basman-Budnikov, Lloyds Bank Masters, 1994

1.h3 d5 2.a3 e5

+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| r  | n  | b  | q  | k  | b  | n  | r  |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+ 
| p  | p  | p  |    |    | p  | p  | p  |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    | p  | p  |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| P  |    |    |    |    |    |    | P  | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    | P  | P  | P  | P  | P  | P  |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+ 
| R  | N  | B  | Q  | K  | B  | N  | R  |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+

Notice the 'pudding bowl' shape of White's pawn structure.

3.c4 d4 4.d3 a5 5.g4 Nc6 6.Nf3 h6 7.Nbd2 Nf6 8.Bg2 Be7 9.g5 hxg5 10.Nxg5 Nh5 11.Ndf3 f6 12.Ne4 g5 13.Qc2 Rg8 14.e3 dxe3 15.Bxe3 Ng7 16.d4 exd4 17.0-0-0 Nf5 18.Ng3 Qd7 19.Rhe1 Nxe3 20.fxe3 d3 21.Rxd3 Qe6 22.Rd5 Bd7 23.Nf5 0-0-0 24.Qb3 Qe4 25.Ne5! Qxf5 26.Nxc6 Bxc6 27.Rxf5 Bxg2 28.e4 g4 29.hxg4 Rxg4 30.Rxa5 b6 31.c5 Kb7 32.c6+ Kb8 33.Ra8+! 1-0

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