Four Choices in the Opening

Introduction: your four choices

There are four basic choices to be made before sitting down at a chessboard.

You must decide whether to open as White with 1. e4, with 1.d4 or with a Reti/English system

(and have something in mind against each semi-open or Indian defence)

You must decide how to respond to 1. e4 as Black

You must decide how to respond to 1. d4 as Black

You must decide how to respond to the Reti/English system as Black.

  What you choose may depend on whether you like to attack or to play more solidly, and whether you prefer to play open or more closed positions.

  You should also consider how it fits with what else you have chosen. For example, if you adopt the Dutch or English Defences with the move order 1. d4 e6, you must be prepared to play the French. Or, if you like to play the Slav with ...c6, you might feel the Caro-Kann with ...c6 is a nice fit.

  The commonest - and many would say the best - opening move is 1. e4, and 1. d4 is also a good first move. But almost every other first move has been played and advocated at some time or another, and almost every legal Black move has been tried in reply to 1.e4/1.d4.

  I enclose an openings map below. Even if you learned this off by heart, there are still over 1000 more openings, defences and variations listed in the Oxford Companion to Chess. This is a map, not so you can go charging off everywhere, but so if someone shows you something, you can look it up. You should know that each opening has a plan (or if it doesn't, it's not a very good opening!) You will easily find things not on this list - either mainstream (e.g. last time I visited a bookshop it had a new book on the Torre Attack 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 and 3.Bg5), and or amongst the 'fringe' (e.g. the Vulture 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 Ne4). Moreover, as GM LOMBARDY once said (cited above),

  "All openings offer good winning chances in amateur play".

  I used to know a Henry who was known as H.4.Stewart because of his inclination to 1.h4 as an opening move, and I'm sure it saved him a lot of time sweating over the latest line in the Sicilian Dragon. How should you reply to this? If faced with 1.h4, or anything else unusual, just keep playing good chess - keep calm, keep developing, keep your eye on the centre, and keep your wits about you.

  The variety of openings can be daunting. I think there is a trick to coping with this, which is expressed in Reti's famous statement:

"A knowledge of tactics is the foundation of positional play. This is a rule which has stood its test in chess history and one which we cannot impress forcibly enough upon the young chess player. A beginner should avoid Queen's Gambit and French Defence and play open games instead! While he may not win as many games at first, he will in the long run be amply compensated by acquiring a thorough knowledge of the game" - RICHARD RETI

  The development of a chessplayer should naturally progress through stages just as chess has passed through stages in its history. MacDonnell and LaBourdonnais (and even Steinitz and Tchigorin) lashed at each other with the Evans Gambit; by the time Steinitz played Lasker we saw more of the Ruy Lopez. The titanic Capablanca-Alekhin struggle was fought out mainly with the Queen's Gambit Declined (whereas the era of Steinitz was more concerned with the Gambit Accepted). The Euwe matches saw the French, a Semi-Open defence, and Indian Defences like the Dutch, Grunfeld and Nimzo-Indian adopted as main choices at World Championship level for the first time. By the time of Botvinnik we saw the Caro-Kann, the King's Indian and the flank openings (Reti and English) appearing in matches, while Karpov and Kasparov seem to have played everything.

  From this we can draw up a hierarchy, on each side of the board:

1. Open games and Gambits with 1. e4 e5; Queen's Gambit Accepted.

2. Ruy Lopez; Queen's Gambit Declined.

3. French; Dutch, Grunfeld, Queen's and Nimzo-Indian.

4. Flank openings; King's Indian.

  There is no doubt in my mind that only once you have served your apprenticeship with the earlier and strategically more simple openings should you venture out to play in the jungles of the later ones.

  Also, if you do want to move down the list, I think you should not move through dissatisfaction or fear with your current repertoire, but preferably from boredom, or the experience that opponents at your level know all about how to play the openings you practice. One might also remember that Bobby Fischer rarely departed from 1. e4 throughout his career, and that the Giuoco Piano was played by Karpov against Kortchnoi.

Playing Aggressively or Solidly as White and Black

Did I say four choices? There is another choice which you need to make first: do you wish to play solidly or aggressively? Reti and I suggest that you play open games, which more or less obliges an aggressive style. It is in these games that you can practice attacking play and learn to spot tactics, without which there is not much point considering more strategically complex systems. However, if you feel you have been through this apprenticeship, there are some more solid, strategical choices available.

 For example, the Italian Game generally results in fewer draws than the English Opening, and more draws than the King's Gambit, although the percentage score from each opening may be similar, acording to databases I have examined:
Italian Game: 41% White wins, 26% drawn, 33% lost by White (total 54%)
English Opening: 37% White wins, 36% drawn, 27% lost by White (total 54%)
King's Gambit: 47% White wins, 15% drawn, 38% lost by White (total 54%)

Within the Giuoco Piano alone, playing d2-d4 instead of d2-d3 reduces the proportion of draws by 10%. So, you have quite a lot of influence over the style of the game by your opening choices, although these are always negotiated (as it were) with your opponent!

  Here is a sorted list of common opening systems, from which you can make your four choices.

  • Playing White with 1. e4
    • Playing aggressively as White with 1. e4
      • After 1...e5: Danish Gambit, Giuoco Piano with d2-d4/Max Lange, King's Gambit, Vienna Gambit, Bishop's Opening (Urusoff Gambit), Ruy Lopez with an early d4
      • Against semi-open defences: early d2-d4, advance variations, transposition to Blackmar-Diemer Gambit or other Gambits (e.g. Morra).
    • Playing solidly as White with 1. e4
      • After 1...e5: Centre Game, Bishop's Opening/Giuoco Piano with d2-d3, Ruy Lopez with d2-d4 late or never, Vienna Game,
      • Against semi-open defences: advance variations, King's Indian Attack.
  • Playing White with 1. d4
    • Playing aggressively as White with 1. d4
      • After 1...d5: Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, Queen's Gambit with Queen's-side castling,
      • Against Indian defences: King's-side Pawn storms e.g. Samisch vs. King's Indian.
    • Playing solidly as White with 1. d4
      • After 1...d5: Queen's Gambit Declined with O-O, Queen's Pawn games without c2-c4.
      • Against Indian defences: Queen's-side Pawn storms e.g. Classical King's Indian.
  • Playing White with the Reti/English
    • Playing (relatively) aggressively as White with the Reti/English
      • King's Indian Attack, Botvinnik system of English.
    • Playing solidly as White with the Reti/English
      • Queen's-side Pawn storms, systems with b2-b3.
  • Playing Black
    • Playing Black against 1. e4
      • Playing aggressively as Black against 1. e4
        • Sicilian, Alekhin's, Pirc/Modern
      • Playing solidly as Black against 1. e4
        • Petroff or other lines with 1...e5, French, Caro-Kann, Modern with ...c6
  • Playing Black against 1. d4
    • Playing aggressively as Black against 1. d4
      • Tarrasch Defence, Budapest Gambit, Benko/Benoni, King's Indian, Grunfeld
    • Playing solidly as Black against 1. d4
      • Slav Defence, Queen's Gambit Declined e.g. Tartakower, Nimzo/Queen's Indian
  • Playing Black against the Reti/English
    • Playing aggressively as Black against the Reti/English
      • Reversed Sicilian, Dutch systems, King's Indian
    • Playing solidly as Black against the Reti/English
      • Slav, London System

If you don't know what these openings are yet, you might look them up below, but you will need more information than this to play them properly!

Changing your opening repertoire.

It may be from reading things like this that you are thinking about changing your opening choices. There are some things to consider:
  • Don't try and change your whole repertoire from a given date. It's much better to experiment with part of your repertoire at a time, and you don't have to play your new line in every game.
  • The first thing to do is to get hold of a good verbal summary of the ideas behind the new line(s). [Don't spend a fortune on specific monographs until you are committed to the line; you are better off owning more general, inclusive titles until you pass 1400 ELO (Class C).] Reuben Fine's The Ideas behind the chess openings is a great place to start, but it is terribly dated. [He disparages some openings which, fifty years on, are believed to be very playable.] If you have access to this book, and can bend the ear of a couple of players who are a couple of classes or more above you, this is probably all you need.
    There are some brief explanations which are quite nice in "BCO2", the second edition of Batsford Chess Openings.
    There are also some monographs which cover a variety of openings and which are designed to explain the ideas: some of the best of these are also rather old and out of print like the RHM series "Understanding the ...", or books which cover several openings at once [e.g. The Italian Game, Botterill/Harding].
  • The next thing is to find some example variations and games. BCO2 is fine for variations, and there are game databases on the internet for different openings. All of these are totally unannotated. Play over a few lines or games to get a "feel" for the opening - which squares your pieces often come to, and which side of the board to play on.
    To get hold of annotated games, try magazines, and games collections like, say, Alekhin's Best games of Chess.
  • So, now you should know the ideas behind the openings, some of the main lines, and have a feel for how the game may go. The next step is to try it out. Play friendly "quick" games using this opening at your club, or on one of the chess servers; it's nice to find an opponent who will cooperate by agreeing to play your chosen opening. [I say quick rather than blitz: I have a prejudice that 5-minute chess (G/5) is useless for learning openings, but 10-15 minute chess is very useful. Every so often in the opening you will need to stop and think for 2-3 minutes, which you can do at G/10. ]
    This should let you know what the basic variations are that you will meet most often in practice, and the plans most often adopted.
  • Then introduce it into your serious games. Again, you don't have to play it in every game; I've been experimenting with 1. e4 as a replacement for the English 1. c4 in my games, but I still play the English if:
    1. a draw is more important than a win, or
    2. my opponent is a known skilful attacking player who hates slow games, or
    3. my opponent is a junior who is likely to be inexperienced in the English, or
    4. my opponent plays a defence to 1.c4 which I like to play against, or
    5. my opponent plays a defence to 1.e4 which I don't like, or
    6. I feel like it!
  • Playing a couple of postal games with your new opening is very good practice.

A simple openings map.

Openings without 1.d4 or 1.e4

There are hundreds of tried and untried moves. I recently came across Larsen's Gambit 59: 1. g3 e5 2. Bg2 d5 3. b4!? Bxb4 4. c4! Stefan Bucker of Norwalde, Germany, has actually invented a little trio of related defensive systems for Black. Amazingly, they occur after some very familiar initial moves:

  They are:

The Vulture: 1. d4 c5 2. d5 Nf6 3. c4 Ne4
The Habichd: 1. d4 c5 2. d5 Nf6 3. Nf3 c4
The Woozle: 1. d4 c5 2. d5 Nf6 3. Nc3 Qa5 (idea ...b5)

  (The "Habichd" comes from the German phrase for "I've got you" (maybe we would say in English: Gotcha!), and the "Woozle" comes perhaps from English slang "woozy", meaning drunk or befuddled.)

  There are some morals to be drawn from the existence of these openings: one gloomy, one cheerful.

1. You cannot anticipate everything. Time spent trying to come up with a "complete", failsafe opening repertoire is doomed to failure. You will get locked inside an arms race where the only winners are the publishers. You are better off studying chess than openings!

2. There is always scope for originality in the opening. Even if you feel yourself being drawn into your opponent's preparation you may be able to head off into untheoretical territory - not by playing a bad-looking move, but perhaps with an odd-looking one, or a good-looking one that just isn't in the books. Tartakower used to say, "Unfashionable, therefore playable"!

  1. Na3 [unhappy] Durkin Opening (a.k.a. Sodium Attack). Supports c4 but isn't really going anywhere. I recommend 1...e5 in reply. I can't guarantee you will emerge equal but it's a natural way to try.

  1. Nc3 [solid] Dunst Opening. One of the better non-standard lines: White can hit out with e4 or go solid with g3.

  1. Nf3 [solid] [unhappy] [bookish] Reti Opening. White invites Black to set up a pawn centre; White can follow up with g3/c4. (The [unhappy] is for the difficult and subtle nature of many of the main lines - save it for later in your career. This applies also to other modern openings like the English and Catalan.)

  1. Nh3 [unhappy][skull] Amar Opening (Paris Gambit). Usually intending 1.Nh3 d5 2. g3 e5 3. f4 Bxh3 4. Bxh3 exf4. Tartakower played this and even won] but don't you play it until you're as good as Tartakower.

  1. a3 [solid] Anderssen Opening. A way of reserving options. White may follow up naturally with 2.b3 or 2.b4, transposing.

  1. a4 [?!] Meadow Hay Opening. The name is insulting (implying, a yokel opening). Not really going anywhere: 1...e5 equalises.

  1. b3 [!?] Nimzo-Larsen Opening a.k.a. Queen Fianchetto Opening. White will allow Black to set up a pawn centre [which can then be used as a target.

  1. b4 [!?] Sokolsky Opening a.k.a. Polish Opening a.k.a. Orang-Utan Opening. Black is again allowed a pawn centre, but is not given the freedom of ...c5.

  1. c3 [solid] Saragossa Opening. A way of reserving options. 1...e5 should equalise.

  1. c4 [solid][bookish] English Opening. A major opening complex. Black can reply

  1 ... c5 - Symmetrical Variation

  1 ... e5 - Reversed Sicilian

  1 ... Nf6 - Indian-style variations

  1. d3 [solid][smile] King's Indian Attack, a.k.a. Mieses Opening. The KIA requires a follow-up with Nf3,g3,Bg2,O-O and then e4 or c3/a4. You can also get into it via 1.Nf3 or 1.e4, and these are more common in practice.

Openings with 1.d4

1. d4 [smile]

  1. d4 Na6 [skull] (never seen by your inexperienced author: may intend ...c5)

  1. d4 Nc6 [?!] may transpose into the Kevitz-Trajkovic Defence: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6.

  1. d4 Nf6 [bookish][active] leads to various

Indian Defences [e.g...

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 (with ...e6) - Modern Benoni Defence. [active]

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 - Old Indian Defence.[solid]

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 - Nimzo-Indian Defence. [active]

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 - Queen's Indian Defence. [solid]

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb6 - Bogo-Indian Defence. [solid]

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Ne4 - Dory Defence. [unhappy]

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 - Neo-Catalan Opening. [solid]

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 - Budapest Gambit. [!?] [trappy]

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 - Grunfeld Defence. [active]

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d6 - King's Indian Defence. [active]

1. d4 Nh6 [skull] (never seen)

  1. d4 a5 [?!] (never seen)

  1. d4 a6 [!? ] (usually intended as a transposition to ...b5 lines)

  1. d4 b5 [!?] Polish Defence. Black intends ...Bb7 without allowing a block by c4/d5

  1. d4 b6 [!?] English Defence. Black tempts c4 and e4 which can be undermined with e.g. ...f5

  1. d4 c5 [solid] Old Benoni Defence.

  1. d4 c6 [solid] (usually transposes to e.g. Slav Defence to Queen's Gambit)

1. d4 d5 [smile] (leads to main-line Queen Pawn openings)

  1. d4 d6 (usually transposes to e.g. King's Indian Defence)

  1. d4 e5 [bomb][trappy] Englund Gambit. (a.k.a. Charlick Gambit) Vigorous but unsound. 1.d4 e5 2.dxe5 Nc6 3. Nf3 Qe7 4. Qd5! += (4.Bf4 Qb4+ can lead to trouble).

  1. d4 e6 [solid] (usually transposes [e.g. to Nimzo-Indian or French Defence)

  1. d4 f5 [active][smile] Dutch Defence. Black stakes out space on the King's side.

  1. d4 f6 [skull] Onc's Defence. Intends ...Nh6-f7.

  1. d4 g5 [skull] (loses a pawn: see 1...h6)

  1. d4 g6 [active] Modern Defence. Black invites White to make a centre with c4/e4 which can then be attacked.

  1. d4 h5 [?!] (never seen)

  1. d4 h6 [?!] Borg Defence. (Grob reversed) Black will play ...g5,...Bg7 and probably ...c5 or ...d5.

  1. e3 [solid] Van't Kruy's Opening. A way of reserving options.

Openings with 1.e4

1. e4 [smile]

  1. e4 Na6 [?!] (never seen - Benjamin and Schiller call it the Lemming)

  1. e4 Nc6 [!?] Nimzovitch Defence. Black can counter-punch with ...d5 or ...e5, sometimes transposing.

  1. e4 Nf6 [active] Alekhin's Defence. Black invites 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4, after which ...d6 strikes back at the extended centre.

  1. e4 Nh6 [?!] (never seen: may intend ...f5)

  1. e4 a5 [?!] (never seen)

  1. e4 a6 [!?] St.George's Defence (a.k.a. Baker's Defence). Black intends ...b5, ...Bb7 and probably ...e6,...c5 and ...Nf6

  1. e4 b5 [skull] (loses a pawn: see 1...a6)

  1. e4 b6 [?!] Owen's Defence a.k.a. Queen Fianchetto Defence. Black invites White to set up a pawn centre which can then be attacked.

  1. e4 c5 [active] Sicilian Defence. Black will exchange if White plays d4.

  1. e4 c6 [solid] Caro-Kann Defence. Black will counter-punch with ...d5.

  1. e4 d5 [solid] Centre Counter Defence a.k.a. Scandanavian Defence.

  1. e4 d6 [active] Pirc Defence. Black will develop first] and strike out in the centre later.

1. e4 e5 [smile] (leads to the main King Pawn games)

  Defences to 1. e4 other than 1...e5 are generally referred to as

Semi-Open Defences

and include the Alekhin, Sicilian, Caro-Kann, Pirc and French.
1. e4 e6 [solid][smile] French Defence. Black will counter-punch with ...d5.

  1. e4 f5 [skull] The Fred Defence. Ugh.

  1. e4 f6 [skull] Onc's Gambit. 2.d4 e5 3. dxe5 Nc6 4.exf6 Nxf6. Ugh.

  1. e4 g5 [?!] Borg Defence. (Grob reversed). see 1.d4 h6.

  1. e4 g6 [active] Modern Defence. (a.k.a. Kotov/Robatsch Defence) Black invites 2.d4; the centre can then be used as a target.

  1. e4 h5 [skull] (never seen)

  1. e4 h6 [?!] see Borg Defence above.

  1. f3 [skull] Barnes Opening. Rude players have even followed this up with 2.Kf2 (known as the Pork Chop).

  1. f4 [solid] Bird's Opening. Not bad; White can play as if playing the Dutch or follow up with 2.b3.

  1. g3 [solid] Benko Opening a.k.a. King Fianchetto Opening. Often transposes.

  1. g4 [!?] [trappy] Grob's Opening. Intends a gambit with 1 ... d5; 2 Bg2 Bxg4 (2 ... c6 is safer) 3.c4!

  1. h3 [unhappy] Clemenz Opening. English IM Michael Basman has played this, along with other 'odd' moves like a3 and g4/b4 (and the same for Black), as a way of reserving options and tempting opponents to over-commit themselves.

  1. h4 [unhappy] Desprez Opening a.k.a. Reagan Opening ('Thoroughly unmotivated and creates weaknesses with only vague promises of future potential' - BENJAMIN and SCHILLER).

Double Queen Pawn Openings

1. d4 d5 [smile] (leads to main-line Queen Pawn openings)

  1. d4 d5 2. e3 [smile] Colle System. White is aiming for a 1.e4-style game after Nf3,Bd3,Re1 and e4

  1. d4 d5 2. e4 (dxe4 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. f3) [active][bomb] Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. Tricky and with something of a cult following.

  1. d4 d5 2. f4 (or 2.e3+ 3.f4) [solid] Stonewall Opening. Playing for a slow K-side attack, but leaves weak points. Not good enough, really.

  1. d4 d5 2.Nc3 (2...Nf6 3.Bg5) [!?] Veresov Opening a.k.a. Richter-Veresov. White often aims for e4, sometimes with f3, although can play more quietly.

  1. d4 d5 2.c4 [solid] Queen's Gambit. The main weapon of 1.d4 players

  1. d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 [!?] Queen's Gambit, Tchigorin Defence. Tricky, trappy difficult chess.

  1. d4 d5 2.c4 Nf6 [!?][trappy] Queen's Gambit, Marshall Defence. Often played by beginners, and not to be rushed at.

  1. d4 d5 2.c4 c5 [?!][unhappy] Queen's Gambit, Symmetrical Defence. White should be able to preserve an advantage.

  1. d4 d5 2.c4 c6 [!?][bookish] Queen's Gambit, Slav Defence. A good defence, combining solidity with possibilities for playing for a win.

  1. d4 d5 2.c4 dxc5 [!?][bookish] Queen's Gambit Accepted. More open and fighting approach than the Orthodox.

  1. d4 d5 2.c4 e5 [active][trappy] Queen's Gambit, Albin Counter-Gambit. A difficult gambit line, usually mistrusted, sometimes tried with success.

  1. d4 d5 2.c4 e6 [solid][bookish] Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defence. The main highway of the QGD, with many sub-variations.

  1. d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3. g3 [solid][unhappy][bookish] Catalan Opening. Slow, solid, subtle.

Double King Pawn Openings

1. e4 e5 [smile] (leads to main-line King Pawn openings)

  1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 [active][smile] Bishop's Opening. Under-rated for many years, now taken more seriously. Often played at GM level in a very solid way, which I don't think you should imitate until you have a good few years experience.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 [solid][smile] Vienna Game and Vienna Gambit (3.f4). Worth a look: not a real kick-and-rush opening but has its points.

  1. e4 e5 2. Ne2 [solid] Alapin's Opening. Intends f4 without loss, but is too slow a move for this stage of the game.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 [solid][bookish] Ruy Lopez. Very large opening system: the main weapon of many 1.e4 players. An opening for life.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 [smile] (generally) Italian Game. Just the sort of open, tactical chess you should be playing.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 [active][smile][bookish] Giuoco Piano. A good training ground for your early chess games.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 c6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 [active][smile][bookish] Evans' Gambit. A sharp and enterprising line, which sadly has not really survived Lasker's scrutiny.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Be7 [solid][unhappy] Hungarian Defence. Unnecessarily passive, but not bad.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 [smile][active] Two Knights' Defence. A good counter-attacking line.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Be2 [solid] Tayler Opening. Recently explored, but no great discovery.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Bb4 [solid] Three Knights' Game. A way of trying to avoid the Four Knights. (3...Bc5 is not good)

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 [solid] Four Knights' Opening. Solid, square, often stodgy.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3 [solid] Ponziani Opening. Slow, but some interesting lines if Black stirs things up.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 [smile][solid] Scotch Opening. Fashionable recently, worth looking at.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. c3 [smile] Goring Gambit. Not fashionable [but also worth looking at.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. g3 [solid][smile] King's Indian Attack. Slow but aggressive: not at its best in this form but often used against the half-open defences such as the French and Caro-Kann.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 [active] Petroff Defence. Recently very fashionable, enough to make people look at the Bishop's Opening to avoid it.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d5 [bomb] Queen's Pawn Counter-Gambit. Unsound.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 [solid] Philidor's Defence. Solid but nothing special: may lead to a slower game than White would prefer.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f5 [bomb] Latvian Counter-Gambit. The line with 3. Bc4 probably wins for White, although 3. Nxe4 Qf6 4. Nc4 is +=

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f6 [skull] Damiano's Defence. Unsound.

  1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. Qxd5 [solid] Centre Game. 3...Nc6 simply gains time and White will struggle to equalise against accurate play by Black.

  1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 [active][unhappy] Danish Gambit. The way to liven up the Centre Game, although Black can decline or return the gambit with good chances.

  1. e4 e5 2. f4 [active][smile] King's Gambit. Bold, vigorous, dangerous. Black can decline or return the gambit pawn, and even offer a gambit with ...d5, but in no case can Black avoid a complex game with a full board.


[bookish]= Popular opening [books or other support material readily available

[smile] :) = a good opening for juniors

  [!?] = Interesting or tricky]

  [?!] = Dubious or difficult]

[bomb] = Too risky

[unhappy] :( = Not recommended

[skull] = Definitely not recommended


[solid] = Solid - won't get you into trouble

[active] = Active (White) or counterattacking (Black)

[trappy] = Trappy


The Ideas behind the Chess Openings, Reuben Fine
Batsford Chess Openings
, Kasparov/Keene
Modern Chess Openings, 13th Edition
, Korn
Unorthodox Chess Openings
, Benjamin/Schiller