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Chess – What You Need To Know?

Chess – What You Need To Know? 

Chess Basic Rules

Chess is played by two players on a checkered board with 8×8, 2 ¼ inches squares. Player begins with a King, a Queen, two (2) Rooks, two (2) Bishops, two (2) Knights and eight (8) Pawns. Each pieces have different legal moves. The main objective is to checkmate the King in which the King is being attacked and cannot escape capture.

Chess game

Sample Chess Game

The player wins when the opponent resigns because of unstoppable checkmate or when the opponent resigns because of lack of material. The game is played alternately wherein White pieces plays the first move and normally follows with an Opening theory to get an initiative, followed by the Middlegame where strategies and tactics are involved to find advantage.  After exchanges and capturing of pieces on both sides in the middlegame, in which few chess materials remains on the board, the player’s knowledge in Endgame theory is tested.

Checkmate

Black is checkmated
Black King was checkmated.
Image from Wikipedia.

If insufficient material are left which unable to checkmate the King and/or the position is equal wherein there is no possibility of checkmate, the game ends in a draw.

Chess in History

Scholars believed that the game of chess originated in India around 6th Century AD and spread throughout the Middle East and spread to Europe. The moves of each piece was changed in 15th century, the time when the game became prevalent. Tournaments began around 19th century and chess becomes much faster and more fascinating in the 20th Century where the World Chess Federation was established.

Chess in India. Krishna and Radha playing chaturanga on an 8×8 Ashtāpada.
Image from Wikipedia.
Ancient Chess pieces.
Image from Wikipedia.

World Championships were organized and World Cups are held in various countries. The first known World Chess Champion, is Wilhelm Steinitz who won his title in 1886 against Zukertort.

World Chess Championship 1886. Zukertort and Steinitz, New Orleans 1886 (engraving).
Image from Wikipedia

Current world champion is Magnus Carlsen of Norway who claimed his first world title in 2013 and successfully defended it in 2014 against Indian GM Viswanathan Anand, 2016 against Russian Sergei Karjakin and 2018 against the U.S. No. 1 Fabiano Caruana.

World Chess Championship, November 2018. Magnus Carlsen defended his crown
against Fabiano Caruana of the United States. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Computer plays a vital role in the game of chess. Chess engines and programs (hardware and software) became very significant in the modern era. With large databases and complex algorithm, computers can help beginners and grandmasters prepare for matches. Online chess allow players to find opponents worldwide using their mobile or computers.

Man vs. machine. Garry Kasparov playing against Deep Blue super computer. Image taken from: Peter Morgan/Reuters/pri.org.

Chess Rules – How To Play:

• Chessboard, Notation and Setup

Chessboard – is a 8×8 checkered board measured 2 ¼ inches squares on which the chess pieces are placed. Players of each set are referred to as White and Black, respectively.

DGT Electronic Chessboard and pieces. Image from Chess&Bridge

Chess Notation – algebraic notation is what modern chess players are using when writing or recording their games on their scoresheet. Pieces are identified by their initials: K (King), Q (Queen), R (Rook), N (kNight, to avoid confusion with King), B (Bishop) and Pawn does not have initials, i.e.: e4 means Pawn moves to e4. When capturing pieces, “x” is used before the destination square. Rxc5 means Rook captures a piece on c5 square. Some publications omit “x” on capture; Rxc5 is simply written as Rc5; and when a Pawn makes capture; dxe5 is written as de.

Chess Algebraic Notation.
Image taken from Wikipedia.

Chess Set-up – Diagram below shows how the pieces are setup on the board. White Rook (a1), Knight (b1), Bishop (c1), Queen (d1), King (e1), Bishop (f1), Knight (g1), Rook (h1) on first row and White pawns were setup on row 2, a-h.

Standard chess setup. Image from Wikipedia.

• How the Chess Pieces Move

Pawn – A pawn move one square forward. The pawn can be moved two squares forward only on its first move if the player wanted to. If a pawn captures a piece, it can only move one square diagonally. Pawns never move backward.

Pawn legal moves. Image taken from Wikipedia.

Knight – The Knight is a horse-shaped chess piece which can jump over other pieces in an L-shape move on the board. It means that knight lands on the opposite color square from where it started. The knight captures pieces by landing on the square where the captured piece is located.

Knight legal moves.
Image taken from Wikipedia.

Bishop – The Bishop controls the diagonal squares. White-squared Bishop controls the white square diagonals and Black-squared Bishop controls the black square diagonals. It captures a piece by moving onto its particular square. Bishop and Knight has the same 3 pawn-piece value, but other players believed that it depends on the position.

Bishop legal moves.
Image taken from Wikipedia.

Rook – The Rook travels vertically and horizontally and can capture a piece along its way. It’s pawn-piece value is 5.

Rook legal moves. Image taken from Wikipedia.

Queen – The Queen can move diagonally, horizontally and vertically and can capture a piece by moving on to its square. The Queen is the most valuable chess piece after the King. It has 9 pawn-piece value.

Queen legal moves.
Image taken from Wikipedia.

King – The King is the main piece in the game of chess. It is the most important material on the chessboard wherein all the pieces should strategically defend it at all cost to avoid checkmate. The King can move one square at a time in any direction. The King can capture a piece along its way. Once the King is threatened to be captured and unable to escape, the King is checkmated.

King legal moves. Image taken from Wikipedia.


• Basic Rules

Check – a “check” is called when the King is under attack or threat of capture but able to escape by moving to safe square or can be protected by other pieces.

Checkmate – The main goal of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s King. Checkmate is when the King is unable to escape from a check or an attack from opponent’s chess piece, either moving away or defended by other pieces. Normally, a grandmaster anticipate 8 to 10 moves in advance, before his King is to be checkmated while computer chess programs can perceive 30 moves in advance.

Black King was checkmated.
Image from Wikipedia..

Stalemate – is when the King is not under attack and the player cannot move any of his pieces to a legal square or unable to make any legal move after his opponent’s turn.

Black is in stalemate since Black has no legal moves. Image from Wikipedia

Draw – the game is called Draw if: (a) both sides are not capable of a checkmate; (b) insufficient material or chess piece to checkmate and has no pawns that can be promoted; (c) offers draw by agreement on both players; (d) opponent run out of time but the player with remaining time has insufficient material to checkmate;

Resign – is when the opponent does not want to continue the game due to completely lost position or insufficient material to win the game.

En passant – is a French word means “in passing.” It is a rare pawn capture that happens when a pawn moves 2 squares from starting position in which there is an opponent’s pawn positioned beside it.

Pawn promotion to a Queen and
En passant rule.
Image taken from Wikipedia

Pawn promotion – a pawn can be promoted to a piece: Queen; Rook; Knight; and Bishop, replaced by player’s choice when it reaches its eight rank. All pawns on the game that can be promoted is not limited to any pieces; i.e.: a player can have 9 Queens if all of his pawn has been promoted.

Castling – is when the King moves two squares towards a Rook on the player’s first rank, then the Rook jump over the square where the King has crossed. Castling can only be done if: (a) the King and Rook never made a move; (b) the squares between the King and Rook involved are unoccupied by other chess pieces; (c) the King is not under check; (d) the King does not cross on the available squares attacked by his opponent.

Castling rule. Initial position of kings and rooks wherein Kings can move to the squares indicated by dots of the same color.
Image from Wikipedia .

Time Format – Chess is usually played with a chess clock especially during organized tournaments. Players have certain amount of time depending on the format they are playing.

Modern chess clock. Image from ChessHouse

There are four (4) common Time formats:

(a) Classical time control – normally played for most of major tournaments or events: 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with an addition of 30 seconds per move starting move one.

The Candidates Match and the World Championship are played at 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for another 20 moves, followed by 15 minutes for the rest of the game, with 30-second increment starting move one;

(b) Rapid time control – played between ten and sixty minutes;

(c) Blitz – played normally between 5 and ten minutes each player; and

(d) Bullet – played with time control of 1 minute each player.

• Chess Popularity

For centuries, Chess has become part of our culture. Its pieces has reflected every analogy we can think of; how its strategies relate to real life struggles; how the decisions we have made in life affects our future; and how we manage ourselves against time. These are all real life experiences in which the game of chess is related. Our failure and success has something to do in what we have done in the past.

Chess Grandmasters understands that to win this game is to look ahead better than your opponent. Same as we journey our life’s experiences, we must look ahead and see better future. What we do now affects our future; our actions, our plans, strategies, preparation and mindset are just some of basic stuffs when looking ahead to anticipating failure.

Chess is very often related with intelligence, strategy and tactics, decision-making and success. There is something in this game that is so unique that its concept makes its ideal to promote businesses, sports, advertising and other line of businesses in which everyone can leverage in marketing their products.

As part of this evolution, Chess certainly has its own class and reason, touching every people’s lives, it does not matter if it’s black or white.

Chess – Strategy and Tactics

Now that we’ve learned more about the history of chess, how to play chess, how to set it up on the board, the basic rules, and play chess in a way it was played by grandmasters, we can now start on the next level as a chess player by learning chess strategy and tactics.

Today, we are going to discuss Chess Strategy and Tactics, which is very important in the game of chess especially for beginners who wants to outclass their opponents, and for players of any level who wants to prepare before playing in the tournaments or any chess events.

We are going find out the difference between strategy and tactics and what’s vital in high-level tournaments. Most beginners and intermediate players commonly need certain types of training to improve the level of their play.  This topic examines whether a game with accurate strategy and tactics can really help improve and increase your chess rating.

Finally, we are going to talk about how to improve chess strategy and tactics and its application on every game we play.

What is Chess Strategy?

Chess strategy recognized a plan in a certain position and assigning your chess pieces to perform that plan. In the same way we solve a problem, strategy plays a significant role.

In a problem solving process: First, we identify, define and examine what’s causing the problem, these steps falls on the recognizing a plan part of your strategy; then, improve, control and check the overall situation, falls on the performance of your chess pieces on a given task in which you already analyze the position; and lastly, act and look back, the last step in your strategy to decide on your best move and look back to see if you missed something before making a move.

Personally, when I play chess, I first evaluate the position by checking the value of each pieces, checking pawn structures and identify weakness on my opponent’s pawn structure.  We need to understand the difference between open positions and closed positions since we based our strategy on the factors for example the position of Bishops and Knights. Bishop pair are good in open positions while Knights are better on closed positions.

There are many factors a player should consider when examining chess strategy:

(a) King safety – Castling is the position where the King has moved in to safety and put the Rook into play. King has enough defensive materials in a castling structure. Castle early in the game also has initiative since your King is already safe and you are now ready to develop your pieces in the centre;

(b) Control of the squares – this is where we normally control the centre squares. Knights are active in controlling the squares in a very closed positions. We will appreciate the value of Knights in the middlegame where we start planning our strategy. Bishops or Bishop pair controls diagonals in an open position which are advantageous over Knights in this structure;

(c) Pawn structure – Pawns are very important in the middlegame since this is where we start developing our pieces in the centre. As much as possible, we need to avoid doubled-pawn and isolated pawn structures as it weakens the position and creates holes which is permanent and hard to defend; and

(d) Position of individual pieces – Early in the game, there are openings where we put the Bishop in a “Fianchetto” in which we move the pawn in b file or g file and set the Bishop in front of the Knight. Rooks are active after Castling. Knights controls the centre. Being aware in the placement of chess pieces helps prevent tactical moves of our opponent.

What is Chess Tactics?

Chess Tactic is simply series of moves to achieve a position where you gain initiative or some advantage. Tactics is sometimes differentiated with strategy, wherein combination like sacrificing a piece or an exchange of a Rook to Bishop or Knight to create an advantage in the position.

There are basic ways we execute Tactics:

(a) Discovered Check or discovered attack – to move a piece to expose an attack (in a file, rank or diagonal) to opponent’s King or any chess piece in which we achieve some advantage;

Image from: Wikipedia

(b) Fork – is an attack on two (2) or more pieces using a piece. Fork normally occurs early in the game using a Knight;

Image from: Wikipedia

(c) Pin – is the position where a piece is under attack but cannot be moved due to a King in check or it will allow a capture to a more valuable chess piece;

Image from: Wikipedia

(d) Skewer – is a piece which is under attack is more valuable than the piece to be captured or attacked. i.e.: Bishop checks a King in a diagonal and after the King moves, the Bishop can capture the Queen behind it;

Image from: Wikipedia

(e) Battery – a position where two or more pieces are connected in the same file, rank, or diagonal, i.e.: Queen is connected to a Rook in a rank or file; Queen is connected to a Bishop in a diagonal; both Rooks are connected;

Image from: Wikipedia

(f) Double check or double attack – this is an attack on two (2) or more pieces at the same time, normally a fork or discovered check;

Image from: Wikipedia

(g) Pawn storm – Pawns are moved early in the game to create a structure to weaken opponent’s defences; and

Example of Pawn Storm in the game Fischer-Petrosian. After fourteen moves in this position, Petrosian uses Pawn Storms in a and b files, forcing Fischer to resign. Image from: Wikipedia

(h) Sacrifice – a move in which we purposely allow a loss of material in exchange to a clear advantageous position or to execute a checkmate.

Image from: Wikipedia

What is the Difference between Chess Strategy and Tactics?

Now that we know chess strategies and the fundamentals of chess tactics, let’s look at the difference between the two and apply both in every chess game we play from now on.

After exchanging of moves in the opening, strategy and tactics starts in the middlegame. This stage is where we start planning and look for initiative to attain some advantage. The pawns now becomes important, and your King must stay away in the battlefield by castling early.

Strategy is considered by many chess masters to be more of a positional play, about how we attack the centre and device a plan to take advantage of opponent’s mistakes. On the other hand, Tactics comes in at the time we are executing our strategy, as mentioned above, these are fork, pin, skewer, etc. We are forcing our opponent to make mistakes and adding pressure to our target square.

So the difference between strategy and tactics is that strategy is your game plan; while tactics are the methods we use either conventional, deliberate, or irregular moves used to carry out your strategic plan.

How to Improve Both Chess Strategy and Tactics?

Chess tactics

If you want to improve your chess strategy and tactics today, you have to develop your character, as well as your mindset. The character is very important since we are playing chess like a soldier, dominating the playing field and finally wins the game.

One of the basic principles of chess strategy is to keep the king in a safe position if possible, and to weaken the opponent’s king. Moving your King away from the center where most of the action takes place.

Do not move the queen too early in the game. Most beginners try to use the Queen early to threaten the weak square f7 or f2. This threat is usually not a successful plan, and the player who moves the Queen early normally takes several moves before it finds its safety.

That’s one the reasons why castling your king early is very important since it helps you bring one of the rooks attack the center.

Think twice before moving your pawns. Pawns can only move forward, they can’t go back.

Also, another very important chess strategy is to always know that Pawns are the pieces with more limitations when it comes to mobility, the pawns are always very important to determine the nature of the position and the plans that each player should follow.

If you have a bad piece, try to exchange it very quickly. Bad piece commonly are isolated piece or too far from defenses. Being able to identify a piece that is not useful is a very important aspect of chess strategy at any level. This skill actually separates beginners and masters.

Another example of bad piece is when a Bishop is blocked by pawns of the same colour, therefore it’s a good decision to exchange it by opponent’s good piece if possible. Also, Bishops are better than knights in open position; while Knights are better in closed positions, snce Knight can jump over other pieces.

Free Chess Training Course

Let’s explore other chess strategies and tactics which can increase success rate and motivate you to improve your chess skills:

a. Beginner’s Opening – It would be better to choose a simple chess opening as a beginner to avoid confusion in theoretical lines. Not all chess openings are as best for beginners even for experts, since there are chess openings in which it requires deep knowledge, strategic ideas and move-order subtleties.

Remember these six (6) chess opening principles:

a.1. Don’t move same piece twice in the opening;

a.2. Fight for the centre squares;

a.3. Don’t let your pieces unprotected;

a.4. Develop Knights first before Bishop;

a.5. Create threats by developing active pieces; and

a.6. Put King to safety or castle early.

Once we become familiar in chess opening principles above, we can now try and experiment suitable chess openings for beginners. The best chess openings for beginners should be: (a) Easy to learn; (b) Based on key ideas or we thoroughly understand the principles and not endless memorization of opening theories; and (c) Create comfortable middlegame by applying basic chess principles.

Ruy Lopez Opening. Image: Wikipedia

Chess masters highly suggest the Ruy Lopez opening for White, starts with 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6, and the Sicilian Defense for Black with 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 … which are pretty easy openings that follow very logical patterns and are easy to understand for beginners. We will cover more Chess Openings in detail on Part 3 – Chess Openings – Opening Moves of the Masters.

Sicilian Defense. Image: Wikipedia

b. Chess Strategy and Tactics Training

Training and constant practice really helps improve chess game of a chess player of any level. The best tip we can offer is to have a Trainer or a chess Coach who can teach you understand tactics like forks, pins, skewer, battery, etc in great detail. We should have a mindset of knowing and understanding the fundamentals of chess strategy and tactics.

c. Joining a Local Chess Club

Most strong chess players join a Chess Club to associate with others and have same interests, and to practice more of their chess skills in which they are normally trained by in-house chess masters. There are lots of benefits in joining a chess club, it’s not just finding new opponent but having friends and connecting socially with other people as well.

A membership in a chess club is one of the best decision for beginners if they want to leverage their chess to another level. You can have fun playing with new friends, share your ideas and thoughts, get tips from your fellows, gain playing experience, benefit from weekly training and so much more.

Chess Opening Preparation

Now that we’ve learned about the basics of chess strategy and fundamentals of chess tactics, we are now ready to the next level as a chess player, learning  Chess Openings.

We are going to apply the best chess strategy and tactics ideas, and principles we have learned in this article as well as mastering chess opening theories both as white piece and black piece.

Chess Openings – Opening Moves of the Masters

Chess Openings

Now that we have learned chess basic rules, chess strategy and tactics, and its fundamental principles, we’re now ready to study Chess Opening Theories and Opening Moves of the Masters.

As I’ve mentioned in Part 2-Strategy and Tactics, not all openings are as suitable for beginners as they are for experts since many openings require acquainted knowledge, strategic ideas and move-order familiarity.

Let’s review the six (6) Chess Opening principles we have learned so far: (1) Don’t move same piece twice in the opening; (2) Fight for the center squares; (3) Don’t let your pieces unprotected; (4) Develop Knights first before Bishop; (5) Create threats by developing active pieces; and (6) Put King to safety or castle early.

These opening principles play a vital role in understanding chess opening.

What is a Chess Opening?

A chess opening refers to the essential moves of a chess game. The term can suggest to the first move by, White or Black, yet an opening by Black normally called a defense. There are many various openings, and several variations to an opening. These have change generally from positional play to wild strategic or tactical play. The opening is the first stage of a chess game, next stages are the middlegame and the endgame.

Standard opening moves are simply called “by the book” or sometimes referred to as “book moves.” If a player veer off from the opening theory, the player is said to be “out of book”. Chess Masters or grandmasters invest years studying chess openings and continue to do so as opening theory keeps on developing, especially now that we use computer chess programs or chess engine that can analyze billions positions per second.

Most chess players study openings by means of chess programs, training course, online course and get some advice from top chess engine available in the market.

Understanding Chess Openings

Generally, chess players spend a lot of time preparing for their opening choice by giving a great deal of thinking in the opening stages using these strategies:

Fighting for the Center

Control of the center squares d4, e4, d5 and e5 gives us an advantage to move the pieces easily on the board since the pawns placed in the center basically are established pawns. These pawns should be defended by major pieces and breaks down opponent’s center squares. A good example chess opening is the Alekhine’s Defense – Four Pawns Attack, 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4 in which White has established pawns in the center, but still, Black has hopes to equalize later in the game.

Place King into Safety

Castling early in the opening is one of the most important chess opening principles we should always remember since the King is actually exposed in the middle board as soon as the center pawns have been captured. There are lots of chess openings in which the basic line is to castle immediately after developing center pieces to avoid direct attack and lessen vulnerability.

Opening Transposition

One of the players deviate from the opening theory and create a position in which he/she is comfortable playing and/or transpose the opening he/she has prepared.

Piece Development

Active pieces on important squares is one of the main plans in the opening. A player mobilize his pieces to create strategic plan and look for tactics which will create imbalance on the game. Knights in c3, f3, c6 and f6 usually plays an important part in this stage. Other openings maneuvered Bishops in fianchettoe.

Coordination of Major Pieces

Chess masters make sure that their pieces are synchronized towards controlling the squares or according to strategic plan. Major pieces like Bishop, Knight and Rook should have proper coordination in planning an attack since chess opening is not just development of pieces but harmonious attack according to plan.

Avoid Creating Weak Pawns

Weak pawns normally are isolated, backward, doubled, etc. There are openings that deliberately allow weak pawns in the main line to consider an immediate attack or sometimes create a comfortable middlegame. Semi-open chess opening like the Sicilian Defense creates unbalanced opening to somehow gain small advantage.

There are tons of strategies and counterplays aside from ideas above. The basics are: gaining Bishop pair; creating good pawn structure; controlling target squares; exchange bad pieces to favorable pieces; mobilize pieces to gain space advantage; and a lot more. But high level tournaments requires creating active imbalances on both sides, which will favour middlegame strategies.

Opening Repertoires

Some chess players are limited in terms of preparation for their chosen openings since every chess player needs to consider certain number of openings they deeply understand which leads to positions that they prefer.

A very limited repertoire makes a player restricted to play against different opponents. It is easy to prepare an opening for these type of players. It is very important to specialize in variety of openings to become effective even at the master level.

What are the Best Chess Openings to Learn?

The Best chess openings all depends on the player’s familiarity and study on the subject opening. We learn from the basic lines and become comfortable as we play over and over on that same opening we decide on to play. As we encounter opponents who knows how to transpose a particular opening to different one will create problems on our side if we are not familiar with other opening.

Grandmasters suggests that we need to be familiar in every chess opening we encounter. Familiar in a sense we can apply the basic principles behind the opening in play. Beginners comfortably play with Open openings such as Ruy Lopez or the Scotch, or Semi-open like the Sicilian or French Defense. Closed games requires more understanding and preparation since these openings tested our familiarity and knowledge in closed pawn structure and limited mobilization of our pieces.

Based on statistics, White scores better than Black for the main four opening moves 1. e4, 1. d4, 1. c4 and 1. Nf3 with 56% winning chances. But this statistics are based on classical time control since it is irrelevant in rapid and blitz games.

Grandmasters argued that d4 has the best winning percentage, might be something to do with the fact that grandmasters who played it repeatedly mostly likely to win or draw, but not lose.

Personally, I always play with the main lines to get to the positions I am very familiar, I studied up-to-date theory based on chess engines to gain even a small advantage. So the best chess opening (best might suggest best play) is the one you know very well move-by-move and you understand the theory and system.

We need to understand and consider as well that time is a factor in every game, in all time-format, the game will not be decided from the best chess opening.

Classification of Chess Openings

White can open with 1. c4, 1. d4, 1. e4, 1. Nf3, or 1. b4, and has twenty (20) possible first moves from the starting chess position. Today, statistics shows that many players favored 1. e4 with 35% of players comfortably playing in this opening move while some pick 1. d4 with 23% of players. This shows that the best opening for White might be taken under the opening move 1. e4 or 1. d4 especially for beginners or intermediate players.

On the other hand, Black has twenty (20) possible responses to White’s opening move. The most common replies are Defenses which begins with semi-open move 1…c5, 1…e6, or 1…c6, normally followed by 2…d5 in some opening.

Chess openings are normally categorized by move sequences. The most popular, I have mentioned above, 1. e4 and 1. d4, but some grandmasters now are at ease playing 1. c4 (English Opening) in which they find more winning chances.

Other opening moves aside from 1. c4, 1. d4, 1. e4 and 1. Nf3 are less reliable since it does not justify some of the chess opening principles. Chess openings are classified by codes assigned by Encyclopedia of Chess Openings which is important for deep understanding in any chess opening.

The codes are divided into group since each categories has wide range of opening tree:

Open games: 1. e4 e5

White begins with 1. e4 and Black replies with 1… e5, which is called an open game. The next common move is 2. Nf3 attacking Black’s e5 pawn and preparing for an early castle. Black’s normal response is 2… Nc6, which popularly leads to: Ruy Lopez with 3. Bb5; Italian with 3. Bc4; and Scotch with 3. d4.

Petroff’s Defense, 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6, maintains equality and counterplay, which was popularize by GM Fabiano Caruana in his game against GM Magnus Carlsen in their 2018 World Championship Match, which proves that Petroff’s Defense is still a vital alternative for Black’s defenses.

Philidor’s Defense, 2…d6 allows White an easy advantage while Black’s position remains overcrowded and passive. The most popular options to 2. Nf3 are the Bishop’s Opening, 2. Bc4, Vienna Game, 2. Nc3 and the King’s Gambit with 2. f4. These opening replies frequently transposes to variations of the Vienna Game.

In the opening Center Game, 2. d4, White desires to open the center and creates counterplay.

See list of openings below after 1.e4 e5:

· Ruy Lopez – 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5

· Scotch Game – 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4

· Italian Game – 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4

· Petroff’s Defense – 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6

· Philidor’s Defense – 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6

· Bishop’s Opening – 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4

· Danish Gambit – 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3

· Center Game – 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4

· Four Knights Game – 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6

· Vienna Game – 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3

· King’s Gambit – 1.e4 e5 2.f4

Semi-open games: 1. e4, Black other replies

Black immediately halts symmetry by responding a move other than 1… e5. In Semi-open games, the most tactical reply to 1. e4 is the Sicilian Defense, with 1… c5. Sicilian Defense has been the most widespread chess openings for many years because of its active play from both sides.

The Pirc, 1…d6 and the Modern, 1… g6 are somewhat related since it normally be transposed to its main lines. Alekhine’s Defense, 1…Nf6 and the CenterCounter Defense, 1…d5 are also popular for beginners and club players.

The French Defense, 1…e6, followed by 2. d4 d5, is also popular due to its double-edged and dynamic play. The Caro–Kann, 1…c6, followed by 2.d4 d5 is also very popular.

See list of common openings below after 1.e4:

· Pirc Defense – 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6

· Modern Defense – 1.e4 g6

· Center Counter Defense (Scandinavian Defense) – 1.e4 d5

· Alekhine’s Defense – 1.e4 Nf6

· Sicilian Defense – 1.e4 c5

· French Defense – 1.e4 e6

· Caro–Kann Defense – 1.e4 c6

Closed games: 1.d4 d5

I personally practice 1.d4 when I was in high school because it gives me enough composure in the center squares. I play a lot of 1.d4 openings and studied traps and novelties in the Queen’s Gambit Declined, 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 and Queen’s Gambit Accepted, 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4, giving up the center to gain development. I find it easy to play for beginners like me at that time and has high win-rate to my opponents compare to 1.e4.

The effect on the opening when starting with 1.d4 is tremendous since it immediately affects the center and your opponent can transpose to other openings in which they are prepared for. Opening repertoire in this line (1.d4) is very important because it can lead to different variations and opening tree, that’s why Queen’s Gambit is still one of the best opening even in top tournaments.

The beginning move 1.d4 is classified under closed game since the variations and transpositions normally leads to a very close position in which a player should be familiar in the strategy and tactics ahead. Closed games involves deep understanding of the opening and lots of practice that once a player masters, it will be difficult to beat that opponent.

There are lots of possibilities that we will encounter in the Queen’s Gambit family, 1.d4 d5 2.c4, and transposition to different openings such as the Slav, 2…c6, and Queen’s Gambit Declined, 2…e6 which requires deep study to become familiar and play exceptionally well.

See list of common openings below after 1.d4:

· 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 Slav Defense

· 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 Colle System

· 1.d4 d5 Double Queen’s Pawn Opening or Closed Game

· 1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.f4 (a typical move sequence) Stonewall Attack

· 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Queen’s Gambit

· 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 Queen’s Gambit Declined (QGD)

· 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 Queen’s Gambit Accepted (QGA)

Indian defenses: 1.d4 Nf6

One of my favorite openings under Indian defenses is the King’s Indian, especially the time when World Champion GM Gary Kasparov and his all-time rival at that time, GM Anatoly Karpov battle for the World Chess Championship in 1985 and 1990 in which they have played numerous King’s Indian and Grünfeld.

Indian defenses become the most popular answers to 1.d4 due to unbalanced position which gives chances for both players. White normal second move is 2.c4, but black has alternatives as well: (a) 2…e6, the Nimzo-Indian Defense, Bogo-Indian, Queen’s Gambit Declined and Queen’s Indian Defense; (b) 2…g6, Grünfeld and the King’s Indian Defense in which the Bishop is fianchettoed; and (c) 2…c5 3.d5 e6, the Modern Benoni.

The Benko Gambit, 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5, has become popular as well wherein Black plays on queenside and add pressure for White by gambit. The Catalan Opening, 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3, can be reached by transpositions from Queen’s Gambit Declined, Reti or Queens Gambit.

See list of common Indian Defenses below after 1.d4 Nf6:

· 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 Benko Gambit (or Volga Gambit)

· 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 Modern Benoni

· 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 Queen’s Indian Defense

· 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 Catalan Opening

· 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 Nimzo-Indian Defense

· 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 King’s Indian Defense (KID)

· 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 Grünfeld Defense

Other Black responses to 1.d4

There are two (2) common responses to 1.d4 aside from 1…Nf6, in which Black can create imbalance and dynamic play, and those are the Dutch, 1…f5 and the Benoni Defense, 1…c5. These two defenses was popularized by World Champions in 1950s and still occasionally played in the 1990s.

Flank Openings

Flank openings are openings established to play on one or both flanks in which attacking the center coming from flank pieces. The first move 1.Nf3 normally transposes to Reti and King Indian’s Attack and are commonly ended up to the positions of Indian Defenses.

The popular English Opening, 1.c4, also transposes often to one of the 1.d4 openings, but there is a line called Symmetrical Four Knight’s Variation, 1.c4 c5 and Sicilian reversed, 1.c4 e5 considered as one of the main lines of English Opening.

See list of common Flank openings:

· 1.c4 English Opening

· 1.g3 Benko Opening

· 1.b4 Sokolsky Opening

· 1.b3 Larsen’s Opening

· 1.Nf3 Zukertort Opening

· 1.Nf3, 2.g3, 3.Bg2, 4.0-0, 5.d3, 6.Nbd2, 7.e4 King’s Indian Attack(KIA) 1.f4 Bird’s Opening

White Unusual First Moves or Irregular Openings

Irregular openings other than what is commonly used are viewed as ineffective ways and therefore are not recommended by chess masters or chess teachers. Some examples of irregular moves are: (a) 1.a3, 1.a4, 1.h3, or 1.h4; (b) 1.d3, 1.e3, 1.c3, or 1.Nc3; (c) 1.Na3 or 1.Nh3; and (d) 1.a3, 1.a4, 1.h3, or 1.h4.

My Recommendations

One of the best ways to choose a first move or first opening is to check statistics and survey all the common replies of your opponents after the first move 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4, 1.Nf3 and other flank opening. By doing this, you will have a good picture of the middlegame and structures of each opening. The strategic concept and most tactical recommendation for each opening can be studied through courses or chess programs.

Once you make a decision to choose your first move, practice it and play it numerous times. It is best to become familiar with the positions and pawn structure, and different scenarios you may encounter better than your opponent.

The goal is to become an experienced player on the first opening you have chosen and understand theoretically the common responses to other openings you come across.

List of Chess Openings Encyclopedia of Chess Openings


Ariel

Ariel Arrieta is an avid chess fan and a varsity chess player who loves promoting Chess everywhere. He founded www.mychessset.com (Chess Set Online) to help promote the game of chess anywhere in the world.

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