Writing an article on the best openings for White is difficult because it’s not that simple as to just say an opening is one of the best, because it depends on too many factors. In Chess, context is everything, meaning it depends on the position. What opening you play as White could change and should be derived from how Black responds to White’s moves.
With that being said, there are openings that are universally classified as the top of the food chain in terms of having been proven time and time again that the position ends up being an advantage for White, even if it’s only a slight advantage.
All of these openings can be found in every rating bracket. They’re played by amateurs under 1000 on Chess.com and in tournaments with over 2600 ELO Super Grandmasters playing against each other. If you’re looking for a different list, see the list of the best Chess openings for beginners.
CriteriaHow We Chose Openings For This List
Tried and True
I chose openings that are classified universally as one of the top openings for the White pieces that have been tested and analyzed exhaustively, they’re tried and true. There are so many factors to consider when putting together a list like this. This is why I gave each opening in the list a specific attribute in the title. Best Opening for Beginners for example. For this list, we’ll focus on just two of the most important factors.
Skill level, i.e. rating, is another factor that dictates what opening you should play. There are hundreds of different openings, some are easier to learn and play than others. Others require years of studying theory in order to be “qualified” sufficiently enough in order to play it with any degree of competency.
Note: Take notice that all of the openings for Black end with the term, defense. Black is by default technically playing a line in order to defend against what White plays. White is technically the attacker since having the advantage of the first move.
Tried and True
Is the opening tried and true? How long has the opening been around? Some openings were popular in the 19th century and were played by the best players in the world. However, that same opening is now never played in tournaments because it’s been analyzed over the last hundred or so years and has been declared a disadvantage.
In other words, has the opening been analyzed over a long period of time and has been declared a strong opening in todays tournaments. This is why there are openings in this list that date back more than four hundred years.
Note: Openings, even though in this list of the best, are not designed to go through the motions of the opening line pre-moving the first few moves while ignoring what your opponent is doing, in this case, what White is doing. You may also have to delay the next move in the opening by one or two moves if White is posing a threat. Defend against the threat first and then continue.
With that being said, let’s start with the list.
London System: Best Opening For Beginners
1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 or 1.d4, 2.Nf3, and 3.Bf4
The London System is an excellent opening for White because of its versatility. White can play the London against many different defenses from Black. This also makes it easier and faster to practice because you can play it more often.
The London has gained a reputation for being too boring and dull since the main line and attacking strategy is for the most part, the exact same every single time you play it. However, this doesn’t have to be the case, there are ways of putting pressure on your opponent earlier than usual in the game. The main line for White is 1. d4 2. Bf4 3. Nf3 4. e3. Depending on what Black plays, the sequence of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th moves may be different, but those moves will be made.
The London is one of the best openings for beginners with the White pieces because of its ease of learning and the fact that it’s a system. Meaning it can be played against nearly anything Black plays. For more information, see the step-by-step tutorial on how to play the London System opening.
Why It’s One of The Best
Ease of learning.
You’re able to play it against nearly anything Black plays.
The attacking strategy is straightforward, coordinating an attack on the King using the diagonals with the light squared Bishop and Queen.
Danish Gambit: Best Opening For Rapid Development
1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3
Many players will tell you that playing tricks and gambits in the opening isn’t the “right” way to learn Chess because you’re not learning the opening principles because you’re hoping your opponent will fall for some trick. However, this isn’t always the case. The Danish Gambit, as well as a few other select gambits are sound openings regardless of whether or not your opponent accepts the gambit. And besides, Chess also has to be fun, and the Danish loads of fun to play.
A common line in the Danish is 3…dxc3 and if you’re unfamiliar with the Danish, you may think well, you have to recapture the pawn now right? Actually you can sacrifice yet another pawn and just develop a piece, commonly 4. Bc4. And Black could take accept another gambit with 4…cxb2 and now White would recapture with 5. Bxb2.
Now look at this position. White has a pawn in the center as well as a Bishop. And White’s other Bishop is out. Now look at Black. Cricket’s anyone? Black doesn’t have one piece developed.
White sacrificed three pawns in exchange for a massive lead in development. Was is worth it? Absolutely. It’s not uncommon for White to win in less than ten moves if Black accepts the Danish.
There are possible drawbacks to be aware of when playing this gambit. After the beginner level ratings, stronger intermediate players are going to know what to play against the Danish. For example, this is a common line that Black could respond with that leads to a disadvantage for White, even after accepting all three of the gambit pawns.
Why It’s One of The Best
White can gain a massive gain in development for the cost of just two or three pawns.
It’s fun to play which will help encourage you to keep learning, practicing, and improving.
Evans Gambit: Best Opening For Attacking
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4
The Evans Gambit is one of the top openings for White because it’s one of the few gambits that gives Black a worse position if the gambit is declined. Thus accepting the gambit is better for Black, but this also means Black is accepting the gambit which is exactly what White wants.
White gambits a wing-pawn in exchange for development and controlling the center. This line also generates an exciting game for White in terms of attacking.
You’ll see the Evans being played with ratings ranging from beginners at 800 all the way to Grandmaster players above 2600. In fact, Paul Morphy who is arguably the best Chess player to ever live was a frequent player of the Evans Gambit. Garry Kasparov also won brilliantly with this gambit. Furthermore, one of the strongest Chess engines in existence called AlphaZero, played the Evans Gambit in a game against another top engine Stockfish with estimated FIDE ratings of 3200.
It is difficult to play against because declining the gambit results in a worse position for Black.
You can play the Evans Gambit from beginner level rating all the way to the Grandmaster level.
Makes for exciting games for White with victories commonly due to attacking strategies.
The top engines prove that it’s a strong opening by playing it against other engines.
Ruy Lopez: Best Opening For Theory
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5
In terms of lore, the Ruy Lopez opening takes the crown. It’s one of the oldest openings in the entire game of Chess dating back to the fifteenth century, and has stood the test of time all the way to present day where it’s still played regularly. But does age automatically mean it’s one of the best? Absolutely not. However in this case of the Ruy Lopez, it’s true. All of the World Champions have played it multiple times.
The strength of the opening really begins when White plays 3. Bb5 where Black must combat this strong position on the next move. The variations that can develop from the main line are long and complicated, which is to be expected when an opening has been analyzed with a fine tooth comb over the course of more than five hundred years and counting.
The Ruy Lopez employs all of the principles that have been established over the centuries that make a strategy advantageous for White. For more details, see the step-by-step guide on how to play the Ruy Lopez opening.
Why It’s One of The Best
One of the oldest openings of all and has stood the test of time.
Played by every World Champion in major tournaments.
Many different variations to play from that have been analyzed for hundreds of years proving to be effective.
Employs all of the principles of Chess.
Scotch Game: Best Opening For Simplicity
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4
The Scotch Game has been played by the GOAT of Chess himself, Garry Kasparov to win three successive World Championship matches in the 1990’s. The Scotch has been declared an alternative to the Ruy Lopez, since the first couple moves are the same. It’s a simple, straightforward, solid opening to play with the White pieces.
White plays 3. d4 forcing Black to give up control in the center with 3… exd4, which then White can re-capture with 4. Nxd4. Black then has to pick one of many different options, more commonly is to either attack the e-pawn with 4… Qh4 or 4… Nf6. The Scotch Gambit is also a variation that can be played to mix things up and have a more lively game which is 4. Bc4 instead of playing 4. Nxd4 For a more detailed tutorial, see the guide on how to play the Scotch Game.
Why The Scotch Game is One of The Best
Played by top Grandmasters to win World Championship matches.
Solid and straightforward line making it easy to memorize and play.
An alternative opening to play for Ruy Lopez players, which nearly every serious player is.
The development of the pieces make for very active pieces early on in the game as opposed to pieces not becoming more active until the middlegame.
Italian Game: Best Opening For Intermediates
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4
The Italian Game is one another opening that develops pieces in a straightforward logical sequence. Like the Ruy Lopez, is has stood the test of time for more than four hundred years and is still played today. If you’d like to learn more about this opening, you can read the entire guide on the Italian Game.
Why It’s One of The Best
Stood the test of time and is still played in tournaments today.
Straightforward and logical piece development.
I hope this list of the best openings for White helped you. If it did and you want to read more guides like this, you can go to the best openings for Black. Also be sure to see the complete list of Chess openings and gambits.