Tag Archives: chess openings tutorials

Chess Openings: the most popular ones

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As all chess games start with a first move by White and then Black has to decide on his response. It is not surprising that the most common questions from beginners are related to the openings they should adopt when playing as White and the appropriate responses when playing as Black.

In 10 steps to raise your game, we discussed about the general issues that should be considered in taking such decision. You should also be familiar with the principles of good chess strategies as the opening moves lay the foundation of the kind of game you are likely to have with its advantages and disadvantages.

All chess openings aim to achieve certain strategic targets as have been discussed in Chess
Strategy and Chess Tactics in a nutshell
as also in Classical Opening Principles in Chess. But as your opponent also has his targets which will try to nullify yours, it is not possible to achieve all the ideal strategic goals unless your opponent is playing badly! Normally, you gain advantages in some areas while conceding some to your opponent. The theoretical ideas behind the openings from both White’s and Black’s sides try to balance these gains and losses.

When playing as White, you will naturally try to play the opening moves that give you a decided advantage. But if your opponent is as good as you are, he will obviously not allow you to follow those lines and choose his moves to take you to areas that give him at least equality at the end of the opening phase. So whatever you may adopt as the opening of your choice, learn the underlying ideas and play to fulfill those to the extent possible. The same goes for you playing as Black in preparing the responses against White’s moves.

After saying all these, we are now giving a list of the most popular opening moves by White and corresponding responses by Black as per the basic data available at Wikipedia but spread over its different pages. What we have done is to make a gist by combining those data to give you a kind of ready reckoner for the most popular combination of first moves by White and Black and the ECO codes that relate to those first moves. We have included only those first moves which are estimated to occur in at least 2% of the games used by Wikipedia to prepare the statistical data. It appears that the following set of first moves cover 86% of the games.

White’s 1st move Black’s response Frequency ECO codes Nature of Game
e4 c5 18% B20-B99 Semi-open
e4 e5 11% C20-C99 Open
e4 e6 6% C00-C19 Semi-open
e4 c6 3% B10-B19 Semi-open
e4 d6 2% B07-B09 Semi-open
e4 d5 2% B01 Semi-open
d4 Nf6 20% A45-A79, D70-D99, E00-E99 Semi-closed
d4 d5 10% D00-D69 Closed
d4 e6 2% D31-D49 Semi-closed
Nf3 Nf6 5% A05 Flank opening
Nf3 d5 3% A06-A09 Flank opening
c4 Nf6 2% A15-A19 Flank opening
c4 e5 2% A21-A29 Flank opening


You can understand that after these first moves, the subsequent moves can take you to a wide variety of openings as apparent from the number of ECO codes shown against each set of first moves. The nature of game that may arise is only a broad indication. From the applicable ECO codes, you may choose one or several lines of play that most suit your personal preferences.


Ruy Lopez opening Basic Moves

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One of the oldest chess openings is the Ruy Lopez opening. Also referred to as a Spanish Game, the Ruy Lopez opening is a very complicated opening and is usually more favorable to the person using white pieces in the initial stages, as the developments and plots can cramp the movement of some black pieces either temporarily or permanently. If one can learn and gain mastery over this Spanish opening, then he or she can develop as a very good chess player.

Without going more in to the other trivia of Ruy Lopez opening, let me go ahead and discuss the very basic moves of this very fascinating opening.

The Ruy Lopez opening is part of the open games, where the first move from White would be the king pawn moving two squares to “e4” in an effort to have control over the central part of the game – the important 4 central squares, e4, e5, d4 and d5. The black responds with the similar move to “e5” in an effort to gain a fair share of the central field.

In response to black’s move to have a fair control over the centre, White opens up the kingside knight to f3, or simply Nf3, attacking the black pawn at e5 seeing that there is no support for the black pawn at e5.

The black, visualizing threat for his king pawn at e5, which is immobile due to block at the front and no pieces to capture on the diagonals, offers to support the pawn at e5 by placing the Queenside knight at c6, or simply Nc6.

Now, White tries to put pressure on Black’s queen side knight placed at c6 by moving its kingside bishop, or White bishop from “f1” to “b5” – written as Bb5 in chess notation. The primary idea of the White in this move is to force the Black’s knight to move away from that place so that the White Knight at “f3” can attack the Black pawn at “e5”.

However, this is not the only intention of the White. There is one more motive or indirect pressure on Black. Can you visualize that?

The pawn in front of the Black Queen, which is at “d7”, cannot be moved before the threat from the White bishop at “b5” is averted. If, per chance, the pawn in front of the Black queen, or simply queen pawn, is moved a square up to “d6” to offer support to the king pawn at “e5”, then the queen knight will become a pinned piece for the Black King.

The above-mentioned five moves are the very basic moves, which can be categorized under the general Ruy Lopez opening in chess parlance. The black has many alternative means to counter the moves by either counterattacking the White Bishop or attacking the white pawn in “e4”. Each of those moves are categorized under different variations leading to a fascinating middle game that calls for strategical planning by both the players.

In Chess Opening basics: Ruy Lopez, some more steps beyond the basic moves have been shown for Classical Variation of Closed Defense, explaining the moves step by step graphically.

Classical Opening Principles in Chess

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The game of Chess, said to have been invented as early as 600 A.D. in India, is said to have been characterized by attacks against the enemy King. Nevertheless, since the popularization of the game since the past 3 centuries, a number of principles have been evolved by the erstwhile masters of the game, which have been tried and tested over a prolonged period.

One of such principles related to the opening moves of a chess game, initiated and advocated by Francois-Andre Philidor in the year 1749. Unfortunately, the importance of the principles of Philidor was realized much later than he expired, in the nineteenth century, and is commonly referred to as Classical Opening Principles of Chess.

Philidor moved away from the general notion of attacking the enemy king at every possible opportunity in the game of chess. Philidor insisted that the attacks should be more properly planned and executed to win over the enemy. He also laid emphasis on minor objectives in the game. You may have known by now that the major objective of chess game is to attack the enemy king. Philidor emphasized that apart from the major objective, minor objectives such as conquering the centre from the enemy and controlling the conquered centre, should be pursued as part of the development of the game. With this concept getting popular among the chess players, the art of defending against attacks gained more prominence and the games challenge and fascination was taken to a new level.

Without dwelling more on Philidor, let me explain the classical opening principles.

Well, the centre of the chessboard refers to the four vital squares in the central part – the four squares commonly referred to as e4, e5, d4 and d5.

The four major aspects of Classical Opening Principles are —

  • Centralization
  • Quick Development
  • Early castling
  • Knights before Bishops

Centralization: The most important part in the chessboard is the centre. It is but obvious that pieces placed in the centre attack more squares than those positioned on either sides of the board. For example, a knight placed in “d4” can effectively attack eight squares. Do you know what they are? They are c2, b3, b5, c6, e6, f5, f3, and e2. Assuming that the same knight is not in d4, but in h1 – then the knight can attack only two squares – f2 and g3.

If you do not control or possess a fair share of the centre, then it might be difficult to maneuver pieces from one side of the board to the other side of the board.

Quick Development: The second important part of Classical Opening Principles is Quick Development. You might know that pawns are of the lowest cadre. The minor pieces such as bishops and knights are the next cadre. The Queen and the rooks are the major pieces in the chessboard while the ultimate superior is the King.

According to classical principles, developing minor pieces is considered important before developing major pieces such as rooks and the queen. It should be ensured that pawn movements are restricted to the minimum. The knights can jump over other pieces in the board and as such, pawn movement is not necessary for developing the knights. If you open up the pawns in front of the King and the Queen, then the two bishops are opened up, and so are the Queen and the King.

Early castling: Castling, as you all know, is one of the special moves in chess, where the king is allowed to move two squares in a single move. In addition, two pieces are moved in a single move, the King and the Rook.

The two rooks are in the two corners. In line with the concept of quick development, both the minor pieces such as bishops and knights can be moved out after the pawns in front of the queen and the king are opened. Now there will be no pieces in between the King and the Rook at the kingside, while queen will be there in the queenside. You can take up castling on the kingside, thereby opening up the rook to combine with the Queen and the other rook. In addition, the King in the first row will be guarded by the Queen and two rooks.

Knights before Bishop: Another part of the classical opening principles is to move the knights before the bishop. As already stated, the knights can be moved without waiting for the pawns to leave way, as they are capable of jumping over pieces lying in between the original square and the destination square of the knight. As such, it is suggested that knights are moved into the front before opening up the bishops.

These classical opening principles, if employed effectively, can open up to fascinating contests in the middle game, as the art of defense and attack needs to be mastered to enhance the level of knowledge in the game of chess.

5 simple tricks to improve the opening moves

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One of the most fascinating board games is Chess, played between two players with the intention of capturing the opposite member’s King through checkmate. Both the players start the game with equal amount of resources in terms of pieces and their notional values. There is no spatial advantage or disadvantage to the two players before the game starts. However, as soon as the first move is made by the white pieces, as is customary practice in the game of chess, there sets in an imbalance that needs to be rectified by the other player using black pieces.

In little over two or three moves, a player can defeat the other player by making the effective opening moves that expose the King of the opposite team. If you are a novice, you can easily fall into the trap and get defeated easily.

A typical game of chess has to have a minimum of three stages so that a meaningful and enterprising game can be had. It should be, in the same order, Opening Game, Middle Game and the End game.

The effectiveness of the opening moves or the Opening game will decide the course of action in the crucial middle part of the game and logically leads to the end game, where the result of the game such as victory, defeat or draw is decided.

In nutshell, opening moves or simply Opening shall comprise that part of the game in which the forces, such as the bishops, knights and rooks as well as pawns, are disposed for action.

As part of the latest development, controlling the centre is deemed a vital aspect. Of the 64 squares in the chessboard, the four squares in the middle, namely, d4, d5, e4 and e5 are the central squares, and any player who has effective control over these four squares at the centre will have an edge over the opponent. Considering your style of play, it is advisable that your first moves or opening moves aim to have control over the middle of the board or the central squares.

With this basic premise about the first aspect of the game, the Opening moves, let us discuss some of the useful tips that will pave way for an interesting middle game battle.

It is always advisable to open the game with the centre pawns – pawns in front of the king and the queen. The move, e4, moving the king pawn two steps forward, is the most popular one, for the simple reason that the move opens up both the queen and the bishop adjacent to the king to move, if required. The move of the pawn in front of the queen – to either d3 or d4 – will liberate the bishop adjacent to the queen. The moves may not be in the same order as I suggested. It can be otherwise as well. Once the two central pawns are moved from the original places, the queen is free to move in either of the two diagonals opened, and the bishops are opened to move in their respective squares diagonally.

The primary idea is to deploy all the available resources and place them in strategic places so that plans of attack, counter-attack or defense can be carried out effectively.

As knights are capable of jumping over the other pieces, knights should be considered for removal from the first rank and placed in such a way that it does not hamper the movement of the bishops or the queen that has been opened up. The Queen and the two bishops should also be moved out from the first rank. This will give an opportunity to do castling involving the king. By resorting to castling, the two rooks will come together. As part of the opening moves, it should be ensured that the King is safe and there is no lapse in safeguarding the king.

As part of the opening, it is but natural that both the players would like to have spatial control and in the process, few minor pieces might have to be sacrificed and/or captured. In this connection, I would suggest that while capturing pieces of the opposite player using pawn, you should always capture inward, or in other words, the pawn moves towards the central part of the board. In other words, if you have a pawn each at say b5 and d5, and one piece that can be captured is in c6, it is advisable that you use the pawn at b5 to capture c6, rather than the pawn at d5 to capture c6. By capturing the piece at c6 with b5, you are capturing inward – that means the pawn at b file is moved to the c file – that is moving inward. If the pawn at d5 is used to capture c6, then that move is outward one – moving away from central “d” rank to the “c” rank.

A typical opening can comprise of a minimum of eight moves whereby all the forces are deployed at strategic points to plan an interesting middle game.