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Chess Openings: The Complete Guide (2022)

By June 9, 2022June 13th, 2022No Comments
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A good opening game can lay out the groundwork beautifully for you to set up a win in the novel game of chess. A good start will help strengthen your hold in the middle and then finish it off with a victory in the endgame.

There are more than a billion possible moves in the game of chess, and there are chess masters who remember and use scores of them from pure memory.

Chess is not a game played well with memorization. While it is true that one can get by, at least to a certain point, on only a rudimentary understanding of chess opening principles,  no one can deny that a deep understanding of chess openings and the plans associated with each one is a huge advantage in any chess game.

There are a plethora of opening moves you could incorporate into your game. These have been made popular over a period of time and are among the best opening moves your game could use. Let’s have a look at a few of them:

Italian Game

This move was first developed in the 17th century and is arguably the oldest chess opening too. The Italian Game is also known as “giuco piano”. 

It remained popular through the 19th century but today has been supplanted by the Ruy Lopez move as white’s favourite choice on the third move.

In this particular opening, Bc4 eyes black’s potentially weak f7 pawn, but over the years, improved defensive techniques have shown this to be less dangerous to black than Bb5. Still, the Italian game often leads to aggressive, open positions, which can be fun to play. 

Ruy Lopez

Ruy Lopez Chess Opening

Also known as the Spanish game, this particular move is named after Rodrigo (Ruy) Lopez De Segura, who was a Spanish Bishop and analysed this opening in his work in the year 1561.

Many centuries later, this move still continues to wreak havoc on opponents and is considered to be one of the most popular chess openings.

Popular lines in the Ruy Lopez include but are not limited to the Morphy defence, Steinitz defence, and the Berlin defence. Each of these and several other variations lead to numerous sub-variations.

Nimzowitsch- Larsen Attack

This attack is named after Aron Nimzowitsch and Bent Larsen. The Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack lets players put their dark square bishop on b2 early in the game, which helps to control the centre. It also gives white a dangerous weapon against blacks’ kingside, especially if they castle on that side. 

A common tactic for black is to try and block the white’s dark-squared bishop with their pawn structure, and to attack whites’ kingside.

French Defence

French defence chess openings

This particular opening concedes the centre to the white, thereby limiting the scope of its bishop. It simultaneously allows black to have activity on the queenside and counterplay in the centre.

After the most typical line of 2. d4, d5, white’s “e” pawn is immediately pressured, and white must decide how to deal with this. This then leads to many variations including the exchange variation, advance variation, Tarrasch variation, Winawer variation, and classical variation.

The French Defence is the third most common response to e4, with e5 being the second. The idea is that black wants to counter white by playing d5 next move, quickly challenging white for control of the centre. It’s a solid move for black as it usually leads to closed positions in the mid game. This is handy when learning the game or playing against a higher-rated opponent.

Caro-Kann Defence

The Caro-Kann is an extremely solid opening, but not as dynamic as many of black’s other defences against e4. Compared to the French, black has avoided blocking his king’s bishop but will require a second move to play c5, a source of counterplay, where a player in a weaker position, essentially, fights back.

Some of the popular variations in the Caro-Kann include the classical variation, advance variation, exchange variation, and Panov-Botvinnik attack.

Scholar’s Mate

The Scholar’s Mate isn’t a great opening to learn when aiming to improve your game of chess, but it’s handy to know to avoid being beaten by it. White has checkmated black in this position, as the king can’t escape white’s queen. Meanwhile, the white’s bishop prevents black from capturing it.

There are a few ways by which black can counter this move. For starters, black can play Nf6 on move 3, guarding the f7 square and simultaneously developing a minor piece. It also prevents white from moving their queen to h5, which is another way to deliver the early checkmate.

Opening in this way isn’t a good strategy for white, as it usually puts them in a poor position in the middle game due to their awkwardly placed queen.

Queen’s Gambit

This is a move made famous by the show with the same name. The move may seem odd to new players, as black is free to take the unprotected c4 pawn. However, white is likely to win the pawn. 

The most common way for white to win the pawn back is with the move e3, which opens up the bishop to capture black’s pawn. Black can continue trying to defend the pawn, though they will likely find themselves in an awkward position.

Black has several options, the queen’s gambit accepted, the queen’s gambit declined, and the Slav defence.

King’s Indian Defence

The King’s Indian Defence is a common response to White’s d4 and c4 moves. Black intends to play g7 within their next few moves, allowing them to castle and develop some central control with their pieces rather than pawns. 

Generally speaking, this opening allows both players to comfortably start developing their minor pieces. It also allows them to castle within the first ten moves without any real trouble.

English Opening

This is an option which gives wide flexibility to white. The English often transposes into openings normally seen after 1. d4, either exactly or with slight variations due to move order. 

You can also enter a “reversed” Sicilian defence if black responds with e5, where white is playing the Sicilian defence with an extra tempo.

A pretty well-known set-up resulting from the English opening is the Hedgehog defence.

Conclusion

The above opening moves are like a drop in the ocean. They are among the popular ones, but as described earlier, there are numerous options available and what works for one might not benefit the other.
The key is to keep practising and trying out various moves to find the ones best suited to your playing style. Hone your skills on chessboards with the latest in technology and adaptive AI. Visit the Square Off Store and get yours now.