Classification of Chess Openings

Classification of Chess Openings

In the opening chess position, White has twenty viable initial moves.

Because they promote the most rapid expansion and center control, the movements 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.Nf3, and 1.c4 are by far the most popular chess openings for beginners. There are a few other opening motions that may be used, albeit they are less consistent with opening principles than the four most common.

1.Nc3 develops a knight to a beautiful square, but it is rather inflexible because it blocks White’s c-pawn; also, after 1…d5, the knight is prone to being driven to an inferior square by…d4. (Notice the similarity of 1…e5?

After 1.Nf3, losing a pawn, the Bird’s Opening, 1.f4, somewhat enhances the king position while addressing center control but not development.

The King’s and Queen’s fianchettos 1.b3 and 1.g3 help development, although they are slower than the more popular openers and only address center control peripherally. The eleven remaining alternatives are rarely employed at the top levels of chess.

The finest of these, such as 1.c3, 1.d3, and 1.e3, are just slow. Worse possibilities ignore the center and development (e.g., 1.a3), undercut White’s position (e.g., 1.f3 and 1.g4), or place the knights on unfavorable squares (e.g., 1.f3 and 1.g4) (1.Na3 and 1.Nh3).

White’s initial move gives Black twenty different options. Many of these are mirrored replicas of White’s most popular first moves, with the exception of one variation in tempo. 1…c6 and 1…e6 are popular defenses, which are commonly followed by the central push 2…d5. Popular defenses include an early…d6 and a kingside fianchetto.

The most prominent technique of classifying chess openings for serious players is the ECO code, which is a collection of 500 opening codes published by the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings. These codes are very valuable for serious chess opening study, but they are not particularly beneficial for a broad overview of the chess opening since they disguise common structural elements of related openings.

There are three types of chess openings: King’s Pawn Openings, Queen’s Pawn Openings, and Others. Because each of these groups is still somewhat large, it’s common to further categorize them. A good method to arrange the vacancies is as follows:

  • Open or Symmetric Games, Double King Pawn (1.e4 e5)
  • Semi-Open or Single King Pawn Games (1.e4 other)
  • Closed Games or Double Queen Pawn (1.d4 d5)
  • Semi-Closed or Single Queen Pawn Games (1.d4 other)
  • Openings on the flanks (including 1.c4, 1.Nf3, 1.f4, and others)

White makes some unusual early moves.

White starts the game with a 1.e4 move (moving his king pawn two spaces). This is the most common opening move, and it has numerous advantages: it helps dominate the center quickly, and it frees two pieces (the queen and a bishop). One of the earliest chess openings is 1.e4. Bobby Fischer rated 1.e4 as “Best by test.”

1.e4 weakens d4 and f4 and puts a piece on an undefended square; the Hungarian master Gyula Breyer melodramatically commented, “White’s game is in its dying throes after 1.e4”. If Black mimics White’s move and answers with 1…e5, the game is over.

2.Nf3, which assaults Black’s king piece in preparation for a kingside castle and predicts the queen pawn’s advance to d4, is White’s most common second move. The most common Black answer is 2…Nc6, which leads to the Ruy Lopez (3.Bb5), Scotch Game (3.d4), or Italian Game (3.d4) (3.Bc4). If Black maintains symmetry and counterattacks White’s center with 2…Nf6, the Petrov’s Defense is formed. The Philidor Defense (2…d6) is controversial in modern chess because it provides White an evident spatial advantage while Black’s position, although being good, remains confined and passive. There are no further replies to 2.Nf3 in the master play.

The most popular alternatives to 2.Nf3 are the Vienna Game (2.Nc3), the Bishop’s Opening (2.Bc4), and the King’s Gambit (2.f4). There are certain parallels between these openings, and the Bishop’s Opening, in particular, frequently transposes to Vienna Game variants.

The King’s Gambit was quite popular in the nineteenth century. In order to develop rapidly and remove a black piece from the center, White sacrifices a pawn. In the Vienna Game, attacks on the Black center with a f2–f4 pawn movement are particularly prevalent.

In the Center Game (2.d4), White immediately opens the center, but if the pawn is to be reclaimed after 2…exd4, White must cope with an early queen development following 3.Qxd4. As an alternative, one or two pawns might be sacrificed, as in the Danish Gambit.

Many different versions following 1.e4 e5 have been researched; see Open Game for further details.

  • 1.e4 e5 Double King’s Pawn Opening or Open Game
  • 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Ruy Lopez
  • 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 Scotch Game
  • 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Italian Game
  • 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 Four Knights Game
  • 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 Petrov’s Defense
  • 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 Philidor Defense
  • 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Vienna Game
  • 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bishop’s Opening
  • 1.e4 e5 2.f4 King’s Gambit
  • 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4 Center Game
  • 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 DanishGambit


In semi-open games, White plays 1.e4 and Black immediately breaks the symmetry by answering with something other than 1…e5. The most common Black defence versus 1.e4 is the Sicilian (1…c5), while the French (1…e6, typically followed by 2.d4 d5) and the Caro–Kann (1…c6, usually followed by 2.d4 d5) are also popular.

The Pirc and Modern are two often encountered openings, whereas the Alekhine and Scandinavian have only appeared in World Chess Championship games on rare occasions.

Because both sides have a chance to win, the Sicilian and French Defenses provide unbalanced positions that may be interesting to play. The Caro–Kann Defense is strong because Black uses his c-pawn to bolster his center (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5). The Alekhine, Pirc, and Modern are hypermodern openings in which Black tempts White to build a large center so that it may be attacked with pieces.

Other semi-open games have been studied, although they are less popular; see Semi-Open Game for additional details.

  • 1.e4 c5 Sicilian Defense
  • 1.e4 e6 French Defense
  • 1.e4 c6 Caro–Kann Defense
  • 1.e4 d5 Scandinavian Defense
  • 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 Pirc Defense
  • 1.e4 Nf6 Alekhine’s Defense
  • 1.e4 g6 Modern Defense

The closed game openings begin with 1.d4 d5. The move 1.d4 has the same development and center control advantages as 1.e4, but unlike other King Pawn openings, White’s queen defends the d4-pawn when the e4-pawn is undefended after the initial move. This tiny change has a big influence on the beginning.

For example, the Queen’s Gambit is still a popular weapon at all levels of play, but the King’s Gambit is rarely utilized anymore at the highest levels of the game. In closed games, transpositions between variants are also more common and important than in King Pawn openings.

The most important closed openings are in the Queen’s Gambit family (White plays 2.c4). White may always recapture the given piece if he so wants, hence the Queen’s Gambit is a misnomer. In the Queen’s Gambit, Black plays…dxc4. Accepted, giving away the center in exchange for unfettered development and the possibility to try to provide White an isolated queen pawn after…c5 and…cxd5. Active pieces as well as attack possibilities will be given to White. Two common ways for Black to decline the pawn (2…e6) are the Slav (2…c6) and the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

Both of these movements open up a large forest of variants to master, which may require a lot of opening study. In the Queen’s Gambit Declined, the Orthodox Defense, Lasker’s Defense, the Cambridge Springs Defense, the Tartakower Variation, and the Tarrasch and Semi-Tarrasch Defenses are only a few of the numerous alternatives. Black replies to the Queen’s Gambit are uncommon, with the exception of 2…dxc4, 2…c6, and 2…e6.

The Colle System and Stonewall Attack are Queen’s Pawn Games because White plays d4 but not c4. They’re also instances of the System rather than specific opening versions.

White devises a strategy focused at a certain configuration, paying little attention to how Black defends. Both systems are popular among club players because to their ease of learning, but professional players seldom utilize them since a well-prepared opponent playing Black may swiftly equalize.

The Stonewall is a White pawn formation that may be gained in a variety of ways and against a variety of Black setups on c3, d4, e3, and f4. The movement sequence detailed here, as well as the posture illustrated in the diagram, are both typical.

Other closed openings have been investigated, although these are less popular; see Closed Game for additional details.

Opening or Closed Game with:

  • 1.d4 d5 Double Queen’s Pawn Opening or Closed Game
  • 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Queen’s Gambit
  • 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 Queen’s Gambit Accepted (QGA)
  • 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 Queen’s Gambit Declined (QGD)
  • 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 Slav Defense
  • 1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.f4 (a typical move sequence) Stonewall Attack
  • 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 Colle System

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