Not only is it possible to lose a game in under ten moves, but the first few moves also establish the tone for the rest of the game. You don’t want to go into the middlegame with a handicap you picked up in the opening and be stuck with it for the remainder of the game!
The wonderful thing about chess openings is that with a little study and practice, it’s not too difficult to play the first few moves of a game precisely like a grandmaster would, giving your opponent no advantages and going into the rest of the game fully equal or better.
However, there are numerous opportunities to pick from. In reality, the Encyclopedia of chess openings for beginners
contains 500 codes that denote important openings and variations.
To become an excellent chess player, you don’t need to learn anything close to that many. You’ll be fine as a beginning as long as you have an opening for each of the following major scenarios:
As Black, you can play against 1.e4 in this opening.
As Black, you can play against 1.d4 in this opening.
As Black, you can play against the 1.c4 opening.
As Black, you can play against 1.Nf3 in this opening.
An opening to play as White (whether you’re a 1.d4 or 1.e4 player – we won’t discuss 1.c4 and 1.Nf3 because this is a beginners’ tutorial).
That last one, White’s opening, is a little trickier because you’ll have to cope with a variety of Black defenses. And each opening has a couple, if not a lot, of different permutations.
But don’t be concerned! With this tutorial, you’ll get a list of ten openings to learn that will prepare you well for all of the circumstances listed above – study these, and you’ll be considerably better prepared than the bulk of chess players!
#1 – The French Defense
Defense for Black against 1.e4 Opening moves: 1.e4 e6
For a variety of reasons, the French Defense is an excellent beginning for beginners. First and foremost, it’s a very strong and difficult opening against 1.e4 (the most common first move). If you enjoy playing the French Defense, you can easily continue with it for the rest of your chess career. Many renowned players from the past and present – Mikhail Botvinnik, Viktor Korchnoi, Tatev Abrahamyan, and Georg Meier, to mention a few – like it as a response to 1.e4!
Second, the French Defense is an excellent teacher of many fundamental chess ideas. You’ll get a lot of knowledge about pawn breaks and pawn structure, as well as fighting for the center, attacking from the wings, and improving pieces. It will also teach you how to deal with it as White if you play 1.e4, as the French is one of the most prevalent 1.e4 defenses.
White can play against the defense in a variety of ways, but for now, you should concentrate on the two most common: the Advance Variation (3.e5) and the Exchange Variation (3.dxe5).
#2 – The Sicilian Defense
Defense for Black against 1.e4 Opening moves: 1.e4 c5
If you watch any major chess competition, you’ll see that the Sicilian Defense is the preferred defense of virtually every grandmaster. And rightfully so! One of the most confrontational methods to play against 1.e4 is the Sicilian.
It’s a wonderful substitute for the French Defense as Black if you’re not frightened of more aggressive and tactical play. However, you’ll want to know how to handle this opening from White’s perspective for the same reasons, as it’s one of the most prevalent and difficult.
For beginners, the Sicilian is difficult because there are so many variations – the Najdorf, Dragon, Sveshnikov, Kan, Taimanov, Scheveningen, Classical, and that’s only the beginning. The Closed Sicilian, Alapin Sicilian, and Smith-Morra Gambit are examples of anti-Sicilian systems.
With all of these options, it appears to be a major undertaking. However, if you master the solid Najdorf Variation (3…a6) as Black and White, you should be able to play the Sicilian with ease in no time.
#3 – The Queen’s Gambit Has Been Rejected
As Black, you can defend against 1.d4, which is a frequent starting point for a 1.d4 repertoire as White. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6
The Queen’s Gambit is an important opening to know whether you’re on the White or Black side.
The Queen’s Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4) is a good opening for the 1.d4 player as White. It can serve as a backbone to any queen’s pawn repertoire, as it is both solid and ambitious. Black has a variety of defenses, but one of the most common and reliable is the Queen’s Gambit Declined, in which Black responds 2…e6 (just like in the diagram).
It can be a powerful answer for Black to both the Queen’s Gambit and even the English Opening (1.c4). In the latter situation, 1.c4 e6 2. d5 d4 would be a transposition (i.e., reaching the opening through a non-standard move order) to the Queen’s Gambit. It’s definitely a helpful opening to know as a “buy-one, get-one defense”! The Queen’s Gambit can also be seen as a transposition from other chess openings, like as the Reti (1.Nf3). When playing the Queen’s Gambit Declined, you’ll want to focus on the Exchange Variation (cxd5), a popular continuation.
#4 – The Slav Defense
Defense for Black against 1.d4 Opening moves: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6
If you ask 1.d4 players what opening they despise seeing over the board, you’ll almost always hear “the Slav”!
The Queen’s Gambit Declined is an excellent Black response to 1.d4, however the Slav is a solid option. As a result, this opening is included in the top ten list of openings that novices should be aware of, if only because they should be prepared to encounter it after playing 1.d4.
The Slav is far more confrontational than the Queen’s Gambit Declined, with early grabs on White’s c4 pawn and a free light-squared bishop. As a result, many White players try to calm it down with the Exchange Variation (cxd5) in order to avoid the more theoretically difficult and tactically risky positions.
#5 – The Italian Game
Starting point of a 1.e4 repertoire for White Opening moves: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4
If you play 1.e4, Black is likely to respond with 1.e5 – the Double King’s Pawn Opening – as one of the most prevalent answers. You’ll always want to play 2.Nf3, attacking the e5 pawn and developing a piece, but the opening can go in a lot of different directions from there.
Black will usually answer with 2.Nc6, defending his e5 pawn and advancing his own piece. The Ruy Lopez, Scotch Game, and Italian Game are now the three principal openings available to White.
For novices, I propose the Italian Game, as I did in my piece The Ultimate Guide to 1.e4. You’ll have a good game versus Black in the Italian with swift, dynamic development and a fight for the center. And it’s seeing a comeback at the highest level, led by powerful grandmasters like Wesley So. As a result, you can rest assured that the Italian Game will provide you with many years of enjoyment at the table.
#6 – The Caro-Kann Defense
Black defense against 1.e4 Opening moves: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5
The Caro-Kann is a superb alternative for Black to the French Defense and Sicilian against 1.e4 and is one of the most solid defenses in chess. As a result, it’s crucial to understand White’s point of view.
Black, similar to the French Defense, establishes a solid pawn structure that controls the center in the Caro-Kann. In contrast to the French Defense, Black will usually have a more aggressive light square bishop, which might cause fascinating thorns in White’s side.
The Advance Variation (3.e5), Exchange Variation (3.exd5), Classical Variation (3.Nc3), and Panov Attack are the most popular weapons White possesses against the Caro-Kann (3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4).
#7 – The London System
Opening after 1.d4 for White Opening moves: 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.Nf3
The London System can be triggered by a variety of move orders, although it is most commonly triggered by the move order listed above. Moves like e3, c3, Nbd2, Bd3, and O-O are generally always continued by White. In fact, it’s known as the London “system” since it’s virtually always performed that way, regardless of what Black does.
The London System, while not very ambitious, is a simple approach to get a pleasant game as White after 1.d4. Although I do not endorse the London System as a White opening (there are far better chess beginnings! ), many players do, so you should know how to play against it with the Black pieces.
#8 – The Nimzo-Indian Defense
Black defense against 1.d4 Opening moves: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4
Black does not have to answer with 1.d5 after 1.d4. In fact, 1.Nf6 is the subject of an entire section of opening theory. Black can choose from a variety of great defenses against 1.d4 in this family of openings, including the King’s Indian Defense, Queen’s Indian Defense, Benko Gambit, Benoni Defense, and so on.
It would be impractical to discuss all of these openings in this beginner’s book because, at least compared to openings like the Slav and Queen’s Gambit Declined, you would probably not see them very often at this level.
One of the Indian Defenses, however, should be learned as an introduction to the Indian Defenses. The point of “the Nimzo,” like the other Indian Defenses, is to forego defending the center with pawns in favor of controlling it indirectly with pieces – in this case, by taking out the defender of the important central e4 square (the knight on c3) and controlling the center with a future bishop on b7.
#9 – The Scandinavian Defense
Black defense against 1.e4 Opening moves: 1.e4 d5
The Scandinavian Defensive is another hard 1.e4 defense. This opening may appear strange at first glance : White will capture the pawn on d5, forcing Black to re-capture with the queen to avoid losing material. The queen, on the other hand, is in the middle of the board, giving it an easy target for attack! Why would Black use such a strategy?
The Scandinavian isn’t simply about trickery (although novices enjoy playing it since it’s challenging!). Strong players utilize it to create an open game in which White’s pawns can’t be used successfully in the center, while Black’s pawns establish very strong control over the center. In this opening, White’s d-pawn will always be a little awkward, and Black will take advantage of that by putting a lot of pressure on it with his rooks and queen.
#10 – The King’s Indian Attack
Opening for White 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.O-O
We’ve gone over all of the important scenarios I mentioned in the introduction so far, with the exception of one: what if you’re Black and White plays 1.Nf3?
This move, known as the Reti, is a difficult one to master. It throws up a plethora of opening possibilities, many of which are outside the scope of this essay (and for that reason, I don’t recommend playing it as White unless you are at least an intermediate player).
The King’s Indian Attack is the most popular continuation of 1.Nf3, in which White fianchettoes his king’s bishop (see diagram) and develops his king’s knight to f3 so that he can castle right away – usually in the move order given above the diagram.
The King’s Indian Attack is a style of Indian game that foregoes grabbing the center with pawns in favor of swift piece development, king protection, and indirect control of the center through piece activity and wing pawn breaks.
As a result, it makes sense to seize the center with your own pawns, taking advantage of the void your opponent has created. As a result, I advocate playing 1.d5, then fianchettoing your own king’s bishop like White, then a quick.e5 to gain pawn control of the “sweet center.”
You’ll be able to play a reasonable game in nearly any situation if you know these chess openings — at least as far as the opening is concerned. Of course, your opponent’s play will frequently differ from these tournament openings at the beginning level, but by studying them, you’ll be armed with the ideas grandmasters employ to win games against any opening.