Welcome to the the complete guide on Chess Openings. This is an exhaustive list of Chess openings for you to filter through and learn the ones you want to learn. Each section has a link to the complete guide to that specific opening that tell you everything about that opening in detail.
We will continue to update this post to be as helpful as possible and add additional openings in their respective opening type as we find them to add.
The openings are categorized by type of opening. Types of openings include:
(1. e4) King Pawn Openings
(1. e4 e5) Double King’s Pawn Openings
(1. d4) Queen Pawn Openings
(1. d4 d5) Double Queen’s Pawn openings
(1. d4 Nf3 2. c4) Indian Openings
King Pawn (e4) Openings
King Pawn Openings represent openings that start with 1. e4, also known as King’s Pawn Openings, King’s Pawn Game openings, and Semi-Open Games. Black responds with a move other than e5, which would be a Double King’s Pawn (1. e4 e5) opening. These openings create a semi-open position on the board, hence the term semi-open game. Black responds with a move other than 1…e5 in order to break the symmetry and create more aggressive lines. This also means there’s less likelihood of the game ending in a draw where everyone just trades pieces and calls it a night.
1. e4 Nf6
The Alekhine’s Defense Opening is played with the Black pieces. The strategy provokes White to gain more space in the center by crossing over to Black’s side of the board with 2. e5. This makes for a very aggressive fighting style of play. Grandmasters play this opening frequently in todays tournaments.
Note that Black does not gain much at all for giving away space in the center.
1. e4 c6
The Caro-Kann Defense is one of the most popular openings played with the Black pieces. Black plays 1…c6 claiming some space towards the center, but allows White to play d4 without a problem achieving two pawns in the center.
The advantage from playing this line is that Black is able to develop all pieces while also avoiding creating weaknesses, unlike another defense like the French Defense that can see a locked-in inactive Queen’s Bishop.
1. e4 e6
The French Defense Opening is played with the Black pieces. Black plays the French and prepares to have a slightly crowded position that makes maneuvering pieces in order to develop an important component in the opening.
1. e4 c5
The Sicilian Defense Opening is played with the Black pieces. 1…c5 is Black’s most popular response to 1. e4. You’ll see the Sicilian frequently played by amateurs to Grandmasters. It makes for an unsymmetrical position with active pieces.
There are more variations of the Sicilian Defense than most other openings in the entire game of Chess.
1. e4 2 d6
The Pirc Defense Opening is played with the Black pieces. This is a newer defense that wasn’t played until the 1920’s. Black holds back from pushing pawns further in the center opposed to most other openings. The Pirc is interesting because it examines what the principle of “taking control of the center” really means. The Pirc says, taking control over the center of the board doesn’t mean you must occupy the center”. Controlling the center is superior to occupying it.
The main line delays the in-your-face confrontation in the center of the board, which makes for a more exciting clash as pieces develop and finally do invade each others space. The main line commonly continues with 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6.
1. e4 g6
The Modern Defense, also known as the Robatsch Defense, is played with the Black pieces. Black must take some control in the center sooner rather than later as having zero control over the center is a concern in the overall position.
The line commonly continues with 2. d4 Bg7. White achieves space and control in the center while Black’s advantage is having a very flexible position with the option of playing one of many different lines. The Modern commonly transposes into the Pirc Defense with Black plays …Nf6 earlier in the line.
1. e4 d5
The Scandinavian Defense, also known as the Center Counter Defense or Center Counter Game, is an opening played with the Black pieces starting with 1. e4 d5. It’s straightforward and easier to learn compared to most other openings making it a top defense for beginners.
Black plays 1…d4 to remove White’s King Pawn from the e4 square which removes many threats White can give Black the opening. The line commonly continues with 2. exd5. This achieves Black’s attempt to remove the e4 pawn form the center. The downside is that Black loses a move by having to recapture the pawn while White develops a piece.
1. e4 Nc6
Named after opening theorist Aron Nimzovich, the Nimzowitsch Defense is a rather odd opening played with the Black pieces. This particular line has been disregarded for the most part and is rarely seen on the board of major tournament matches. Unlike other lines named after Nimzovich such as the Nimzo-Indian Defense.
1. e4 b6
Owen’s Defense is an opening played with the Black pieces. Black gets in position to apply pressure to the long light-squared diagonal. This opening is regarded as being unreliable and is rarely played.
Double King-Pawn (e4 e5) Openings
1. e4 e5
These are all openings that start with 1. e4 e5, also known as Double King-Pawn openings.
1. e4 e5 2. Ke2
The Bongcloud is an anomoly is the world of Chess. Making the worst possible move you could make putting your King out in the open as if it was screaming “come and checkmate me”, on just the 2nd move is baffling. However, some players have made this into a legitimate opening.
For more information, you can go to the complete guide on how to play the Bongcloud opening.
1. e4 e5 2. f4
The King’s Gambit Opening is played with the White pieces. The goal of this gambit is to clear the center of Black’s pawn by sacrificing one pawn in order to develop pieces in the center to control it, faster. This opening creates many favorable positions for White on the open f-file. Specifically launching attacks on the vulnerable f7 square.
Gioachino Greco gave the King’s Gambit a strong reputation by winning many games in the 1600’s.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5
The Giocco Piano Game is an Opening played with the black pieces. Giocco Piano translates to “quiet (or soft) game” in Italian. Meaning this opening tends to make for a dry boring game of Chess. Players can make it more exciting by playing the more aggressive variations though.
The main line appears to be straight forward without any surprises. Just developing pieces and then castling.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4
The Evans Gambit is a variation of the Giocco Piano played with the White pieces.
For more information, you can go to the complete guide on how to play the Evans Gambit.
Two Knights Defense
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6
The Two Knights Defense is a variation of the Italian Game played with the Black pieces.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5
The Ruy Lopez Opening is played with the White pieces.
For more information, you can go to the complete guide on how to play the Ruy Lopez opening.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6
Petrov’s Defense is an opening played with the Black pieces. Black is copying White’s moves in the first few moves and many of the lines develop a symmetrical position on the board. This tends to be annoying for White while also thinking that Black can’t make a move for themselves. On the contrary, all the moves are natural developing moves following the opening principles in Chess.
Black is simply telling White, hey, capture my e-pawn and I’ll capture yours! And if you do, I’ll just attack your Knight with a pawn and you’ll have to move your Knight again.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4
The Scotch Game Opening is played with the White pieces and follows a straightforward approach to developing pieces. All of which are logical and natural.
The first three moves of the Scotch are more than a century old, it lossed some steam in the twentieth century due to Black’s lack of strategy in the opening. This was reversed by none other than Garry Kasparov in the early to mid 1990’s when he took a deeper look at the opening and played it in the World Championships winning three of them with the Scotch Game.
The Veinna Game Opening is played with the White pieces. Played by Steinitz and Tartakower played the Vienna as they traveled from Spain where its name came from.
The strategy behind 2. Nc3 is to develop pieces while also leaving some options open depending on what Black plays next. Black commonly responds with 2… Nf6.
Four Knights Game
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6
Four Knights Game is an opening played with the Black pieces and is the perfect example of one of the first lessons beginners learn about developing pieces, Knights before Bishops. Both players push a pawn front and center and then develop both of their Knights–logic at its finest.
The Four Knights Game was popular and commonly played before World War 1. By the 1930’s, it lost its oomph as the masters considered it to be too passive. Developing is nice, but not really when no threats are also being made. It wasn’t until nearly 60 years later than Nunn wrote a book on the Four Knights and Grandmasters started playing it on occasion again. It’s still considered a respectable opening, but not the most exciting.
Three Knights’ Game
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3
The Three Knights Opening is one move shy of transposing into the Four Knights Game we just talked about and is only avoided from doing so because Black chooses to add some spice into the opening and avoid creating the symmetry of the position.
Even though Black is going to make a move other than 3… Nc6 to avoid the common dull and dry games it produces, there is still no move more logical than to continue developing Knights before Bishops. The most commonly played move by Black is 3… g6.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6
The Philidor’s Defense is an opening played with the Black pieces. Name after the best Chess payer in the eighteenth century by far, Philidor who was also a composer of music. The opening got it’s name in 1749 when Philidor discussed it in his L’analyse.
It was played back then, but now it’s considered to be too passive for Black and gives White an opportunity to gain more control in the center of the board.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3
Ponziani’s Opening is played with the White pieces. White’s strategy behind it is to gain complete control in the center of the board by building a strong pawn structure in the center. However, today the opening is only played for surprise because Black can neutralize the threat of White gaining center control with multiple ways.
Black can play the most straightforward path to equality 3…Nf6 4. d4 Nxe4 to remove the e4 pawn. Black can play 4…d5 to force the exchange in the center.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. c3
The Goring Gambit is a variation of the Scotch Game opening played with the White pieces. The strategy behind the Goring Gambit is to give up a pawn in exchange for rapid development and also clear the center of the board for White by getting rid of Black’s e-pawn.
White can then place the light squared Bishop on c4 putting pressure on the f7 square hoping to develop some kind of attack. White achieves compensation for the sacrificed pawn, but gains no advantage over Black making this gambit not the most commonly played today.
1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3
The Danish Gambit is a variation of the Center Game Accepted opening and makes for an exciting game full of attacks and mate patterns. White sacrifices two pawns in exchange for the initiative and quickly launch an attack with it.
You’ll see the Danish played frequently especially in Blitz and Bullet games as White is determined to win quickly in all of it’s glory or quickly go down in a burst of flames only to be revived to try it again the next game, like a phoenix.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f5
First talked about by Damiano in 1512, the Latvian Gambit is a variation of the King’s Pawn Opening played with the Black pieces. The Latvian gambit was also known as the Greco Countergambit named after Greco as he played the gambit in the early 1600’s.
The opening is highly tactical and was played by master players including Tal and Nimzovich.
White can continue with 3. Bc4 to gain control of the a2-g8 diagonal.
1. e4 e5 2. Bc4
The Bishop’s Opening is played with the White pieces. White’s strategy behind the main line is to delay developing the King’s Knight, which goes against the Knights before Bishops rule, in order to leave the option of playing f3.
Today, it appears to be a beginner playing and attempting a typical Scholar’s Mate or some early Queen attack. However, the Bishop’s opening can also transpose into another more solid opening like the Giucco Piano or the Vienna.
1. e4 e5 2. d4 cxd4 3. Qxd4
The Center Game Opening is played with the White pieces. White attempts to remove Black’s pawns from the center of the board at e5. The center game succeeds in doing so, however also allows Black to develop with tempo as White would need to move the Queen again to defend itself.
This opening is mostly abandoned as it’s been analyzed over time to yield no advantage for White.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 Bc4 Be7
The Hungarian Defense is a variation of the Italian Game. The strategy behind the Hungarian Defense is to avoid the Giucco Piano and the Two Knights Defense. White usually dictates the direction of the game after playing the main line.
Queen’s Pawn (d4) Openings
Also known as Queen’s Pawn Game, refers to openings that start with d4. Queen’s Pawn openings, or d4 openings, start with 1. d4 and Black responds with something other than d5.
1. d4 f5
The Dutch Defense is an opening played with the Black pieces in response to 1. d4. The Dutch starts off with 1…f5 promising White an imbalanced pawn structure including blazing tactical combinations and announcing to both players to strap in and buckle up.
The only threat to be fully aware of when playing the Dutch is the temporary window of when the King is vulnerable due to pushing the f-pawn forward. If White simply continues to develop, then Black can continue and all is well. This threat to the King’s safety is the main reason the Nimzo-Indian Defense is more often played instead of the Dutch.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5
The Budapest Gambit, also known as the Budapest Defense, is an opening is played with the Black pieces. One of the more recent openings, the Budapest Gambit was seen officially for the first time at a tournament held in Budapest in 1916.
Black pushes the e-pawn up charging into it’s own slaughter as it would be appear. However, White usually does not capture the pawn as simply continuing to develop it more advantageous.
For more information on how to play this, see the complete guide on the Budapest Gambit.
Double Queen Pawn Openings
1. d4 d5
Double Queen Pawn Openings are openings beginning with 1. d4 d5 creating symmetry on the board.
1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 Nf6 3. Nf3
The London System is an excellent opening for the White pieces.
The Queen’s Gambit Declined Opening is played with the White pieces. Unlike King-Pawn openings that quickly erupt in attacks, the Queen’s Gambit delay the tactical attacks until after developing pieces and castling around the start of the middlegame.
White gambits the pawn on 2. c4 which is what gives this opening its edge. However, take the “gambit” part of this opening with a grain of salt because Black cannot keep the pawn after capturing. The c-pawn attacks Black’s center d4 pawn striking at the heart of the strong pawn structure. The Queen’s Gambit is a popular opening and commonly played in Grandmaster games. Unlike the King’s Gambit which puts the King at risk, the safety of the King is never jeopardized by advancing the pawn on the Queen side of the board.
Queen’s Gambit Accepted
1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4
The Queen’s Gambit Accepted is when Black accepts the gambit which in this case in the c4 pawn after 2. c4.
Note: Generally, accepting the gambit in the most straight forward defense which forces the gambiteer to prove it was worth it to sacrifice a piece.
With that being said, this doesn’t apply to The Queen’s Gambit Accepted. The position commonly produces a disadvantage for Black when trying to hold on the pawn after accepting the gambit. Instead of trying to run and save the pawn, Black could use the moves White takes to re-capture the pawn to develop pieces.
Like the Latvian Gambit, The Queen’s Gambit Accepted dates back to Damiano 1512. Back then, Black tried holding on to the pawn which as we learned, wasn’t the best approach.
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6
The Slav Defense is transposed from the Queen’s Gambit Declined played with the Black pieces. The Slav and Semi-Slav have also become the most popular defense to 1. d4. This is due to the exciting positions that arise from the gambit with sacrificial tactics and variations.
Indian Game Openings
1. d4 Nf6
The Indian Game, also known as the Indian Defense, are openings that begin with 1. d4 Nf6. Black responds with one of many moves transposing into an Indian opening while White responds to 2… * also transposing into an Indian opening.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3
The Catalan Opening is played with the White pieces and is one of the most solid openings you’ll ever play. The Catalan received its name in 1929, however the opening dates back nearly a millennium earlier. Nearly ever Grandmaster you could name has played the Catalan in tournaments. White fianchettoes the light-squared Bishop on g2 on the long open diagonal and provide a solid fortress of safety around the King after castling.
Flank openings are openings played by White, since White has the first move, that begin with moving a piece on one of the flanks, flanks being the areas of the board outside of the central d and e files. In other words, an opening that starts with a move other than the other openings we’ve gone over so far such as 1. e4 or 1. d4. The strategy behind flank openings is to attack the center, rather than take up space in it to occupy it.
The English Opening begins with 1. c4 attacking the center preventing White from playing 1. d4. White commonly follows up with 2. g3 to prepare for fianchettoing the light-squared Bishop. The English often transposes into another opening such as the Dutch Defense or the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Black commonly plays a reversed opening Sicilian Defense to create symmetry on the board.
1. Nf3 d5 2. c4
The Reti Opening is played with the White pieces. It was popularized by Alekhine in the 1920’s and started off describing any opening that began with White playing 1. Nf3 and 2. c4. Since then, it’s been analyzed over time and has been differentiated from other openings with their own classifications. Today, the Reti only refers to Black playing 1… d5.
White will fianchetto at least one Bishop, which is one of the strengths of playing the Reti. White is open to expand on either side of the board, or both at a moments notice while building pressure on Black
Played with the White pieces, the King’s Indian Attack is not an opening like other “openings” are openings. The King’s Indian Attack is a line that White can play regardless of nearly anything that Black plays. This is because of the compact piece structure that White develops. This structure gives White the freedom to be able to play this line in response to anything Black plays.
I hope this guide on the best Chess openings helped you. If you want to see the other guides like this one, you can read the complete guide on Chess Gambits.
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