Chess Openings

Choosing the right opening is the first step to becoming a good chess player.
Let’s take a look at TEN of the most common and popular chess openings for beginners:

Ruy Lopez (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5)

The Ruy Lopez (also known as the Spanish Opening) is considered the most popular opening in chess for beginners. White is establishing two of its minor pieces, the knight and the bishop, attacks the knight and threatens to capture the e5 pawn if black moves the knight. White also has castling kingside as an option for its next move. This is considered a great and solid position for white.

Sicilian Defense (1. e4 c5)

The Sicilian Defense is a useful opening to know with the black pieces, especially if your opponent is used to playing center games (e4 e5) and doesn’t know any theory in the Sicilian. It is known as an aggressive defense, and can lead to many variations including the Najdorf, Sozin, Dragon, Taimanov, and Kan among others. With black’s c5 move, it prevents white from developing a second pawn in the center with d4, without forcing an exchange.

French Defense (1. e4 e6)

The French Defense is another answer to white’s first e4 pawn move. While it is considered more passive than the aggressive e5 or c5 responses, black does have some ideas, including moving pawns to d5 and c5 in future moves and it does open black’s kingside bishop. The main line usually continues 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 and white has a decision whether to accept the pawn (3. exd5), move the pawn up (3. e5) or ignore the threat by playing another move, such as Nc3.

Caro-Kann Defense (1. e4 c6)

Another response to white’s king pawn opening is the Caro-Kann Defense, where black plays pawn to c6. Black is able to keep a good pawn structure, although at a more passive approach, and the main line does continue 2. d4 d5, just like the French Defense. There are many different variations that can follow, including the Advance variation (3. e5) and the Exchange Variation (3. dxe5). The difference between this opening and the French Defense is that black has a more useful queenside bishop.

King’s Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. f4)

The King’s Gambit is an aggressive and risky opening for the white side, as it invites black to go up a pawn and start attacking the kingside with thoughts of Queen to h4 check. The two main variations in this gambit have to do with either taking the pawn or ignoring the pawn offering. While this opening is rarely seen in Master-level play, as it is considered a bad opening for white because of the open kingside, it is still seen at the beginner to intermediate level because of the fun complications that can occur on both sides. 

Queen’s Gambit (1. d4 d5 2. c4)

The Queen’s Gambit is one of the oldest chess openings and it still remains popular today, even in Master-level play. White is offering to give up the c4 pawn, for a space advantage in the center, and the two main variations in this line is the Queen’s Gambit Accepted (2… dxc4) and the Queen’s Gambit Declined (2…e6). With best play, even if Black accepts the pawn on c4, it is not really a gambit since white will be able to win back the pawn in a few moves.

Scandinavian Defense (1. e4 d5)

The Scandinavian Defense (also known as the Center Counter Defense) is one way to throw good beginner players out of theory. While the Scandinavian Defense is one of the oldest recorded openings in history, it is not as popular as the Sicilian (c5) or Center Game (e5) openings, but is quite effective to play against the right opponent. The opening seems to be quite good for black, despite bringing your Queen out in the game early in the Exchange Variation (2. exd5 Qxd5).

Four Knights Opening (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6)

The Four Knights Opening is an opening that is common and popular in beginner play because of the solidity of the position, and the premise to always develop knights before bishops. This opening usually leads to quiet play and a draw most of the time with best play. The three main continuations include 4. Bb5 (Spanish Variation), 4. Bc4 (Italian Four Knights Game), and 4. d4 (Scotch Four Knights Game).

Dutch Defense (1. d4 f5)

The Dutch Defense is another good opening as black, as it could confuse many beginner players that are playing the white pieces who are used to moves such as pawn to d5 or Nf6. It is considered a risky opening and that is why you don’t see it being played often in higher-level games, since it does weaken the kingside. Most continuations including the fianchetto of the kingside bishops, and there are some interesting and sharp variations that can immediately occur such as 2. e4 for white (Staunton Gambit).

English Opening (1. c4)

The English Opening is an opening move (c4) that is less frequently seen then the popular e4 or d4 moves, but has its purposes. For one, it guards the d5 square without opening up the center, and could result in many unique positions such as a Symmetrical Defense when black follows with 1… c5 or a Reversed Sicilian when black responds with 1… e5. The lines in the English Opening do usually transpose into the Queen’s Gambit (1. d4 d5 2. c4) or Indian Defense (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4).