Chess Stuff

Table of Contents

1 Practice with Purpose - 10,000 hours*

1.1 My White Openings (Choose d4):

1.2 My Black Defenses:

1.3 With every move:

  1. Look at own Kings position first
  2. Look for Forcing Moves - Checks | Captures | Threats … In that order
    1. Check and Threat to Checkmate
    2. Capture
      • If you have a Check and a Capture as options, first Check then Capture.
    3. Threat to capture
    4. Pawn promotion
  3. Look for undefended pieces

1.4 To avoid blunders, with Every Move:

  1. Is my King getting checkmated if I make this move?
  2. Will I lose my Queen if I make this move?
  3. Check if any of the opponents pieces "see" that square and if so, check if the same amount of your pieces see that square as well. This eliminates most one move blunders.

2 Chess Annotations

2.1 Chess Notation

Table 1: Chess Pieces/Notation/Value
Piece Notation Value
King K  
Queen Q 9
Bishop B 3
Knight N (because K is already taken) 3
Rook R 5
Pawn [No notation] 1
  • The letters must be capitalized to indicate a piece; otherwise, they indicate a square.
  • The pawn doesn't get its own designation. If a move indicates only a square, you can assume that the move involves a pawn.

2.1.1 Square names:

Black Side

a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 g8 h8
a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7
a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6
a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5
a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 h4
a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3
a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2
a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 h1

White Side

Example (Ruy Lopez opening):

  1. e4, e5
  2. Nf3, Nc6
  3. Bb5…

2.2 Move evaluation symbols, by increasing effectiveness of the move:

  1. ?? (Blunder)
    • The double question mark "??" indicates a blunder, a bad mistake. Typical moves which receive double question marks are those that overlook a tactic that wins substantial material or overlook a checkmate. A "??"-worthy move usually results in an immediately lost position. Occasionally, the sign is used for a move which transforms a won position into a draw, perhaps because the annotator feels that the mistake is unworthy of the player's skill level. They occur at all levels of play to all human competitors.
  2. ? (Mistake)
    • A single question mark "?" after a move indicates that the annotator thinks that the move is a poor one that should not be played. These often lead to loss of tempo or material. The nature of the mistake may be more strategic than tactical; in some cases, the move receiving a question mark may be one for which it is difficult to find a refutation. A move that overlooks a forthcoming brilliant combination from the opponent would rarely receive more than one question mark, for example.
    • Whether a single or double question mark is used is subjective and may depend on the player's strength. For instance, if a beginner makes a serious strategic error (for instance, accepting gratuitous pawn weaknesses or exchanging into a lost endgame) or overlooks a tactical sequence, this might be explained by the beginner's lack of skill and be given only one question mark. If a master were to make the same move, some annotators might use the double question mark to indicate that one would never expect a player of the master's strength to make such a weak move.
  3. ?! (Dubious move)
    • This symbol is similar to the "!?" (below) but usually indicates that the annotator believes the move to be objectively bad, albeit hard to refute. The "?!" may also indicate that the annotator believes the move is deserving of criticism but not bad enough to warrant a "?". A sacrifice leading to a dangerous attack which the opponent should be able to defend against if they play well may receive a "?!". Alternatively, this may denote a move that is objectively bad, but sets up an attractive trap.
  4. !? (Interesting move)
    • The "!?" is one of the more controversial symbols. Different books have slightly varying definitions. Among the definitions are "interesting, but perhaps not the best move", "move deserving attention", "enterprising move" and "risky move". Usually it indicates that the move leads to exciting or wild play but that the objective evaluation of the move is unclear. It is also often used when a player sets a cunning trap in a lost position. Typical moves receiving a "!?" are those involving speculative sacrifices or dangerous attacks which might turn out to be strategically deficient.
    • Andrew Soltis jokingly called "!?" the symbol of the lazy annotator who finds a move interesting but cannot be bothered to work out whether it is good or bad.[2]
  5. ! (Good move)
    • While question marks indicate bad moves, exclamation points ("!") indicate good moves—especially ones which are surprising or involve particular skill. The symbol may also be interpreted as "best move". Annotators are usually somewhat conservative with the use of this symbol.
    • Reasons for awarding the symbol vary widely between annotators; among them are strong opening novelties, well-timed breakthroughs, sound sacrifices, moves that set traps in lost positions, moves that avoid such traps, and good psychological choices in the opening.
  6. !! (Brilliant move)
    • The double exclamation point ("!!") is used for very strong moves such as sound sacrifices of large amounts of material and counter-intuitive moves that prove very powerful. For example, in what is known as the Game of the Century, 13-year-old Bobby Fischer's decision to sacrifice his queen for a strategic attack was awarded by annotators a double exclamation point.

2.3 Positions

These symbols indicate the strategic balance of the game position:

  1. = (Equal)
    • Even position: White and Black have more or less equal chances.
  2. +/= or (Slight plus for White)
    • Slight advantage: White has slightly better chances.
  3. =/+ or (Slight plus for Black)
    • Slight advantage: Black has slightly better chances.
  4. +/− or ± (Clear plus for White)
    • Clear advantage: White has much better chances. It is also written as ±; the other similar symbols can be written in this style as well.
  5. −/+ or (Clear plus for Black)
    • Clear advantage: Black has much better chances. It is also written as ∓; the other similar symbols can be written in this style as well.
  6. + − (Decisive advantage for White)
    • Decisive advantage: White has a winning advantage.
  7. − + (Decisive advantage for Black)
    • Decisive advantage: Black has a winning advantage.

3 General Tips

  • Loose pieces drop off
  • "A knight on the rim is dim"
    • Might be good as long as you have a way back out
  • Emanuel Lasker, a former world champion, said: "When you see a good move, wait…look for a better one!"

3.1 Steinitz's Four Rules of Strategy

  1. The right to attack belongs to the side that has a positional advantage, which not only has the right to attack, but the obligation to do so, else the advantage will evaporate. The attack should be concentrated on the weakest square in the opponent's position.
  2. If in an inferior position, the defender should be ready to defend and make compromises, or take other measures, such as a desperate counterattack.
  3. In an equal position, the opponents should maneuver, trying to achieve a position in which they have an advantage. If both sides play correctly, an equal position will remain equal.
  4. The advantage may be a big, indivisible one, or it may be a whole series of small advantages. The goal of the stronger side is to store up the advantages, and then to convert temporary advantages into permanent ones.

3.2 Chess pgn's/mentoring

The best first chess moves for White are: 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.Nf3, 1.c4. Forget the rest, they are dubious. Don't waste your time with rubbish moves.

  • You can see in the image above the most common opening moves. I suggest you play first move 1.d4 because this way you can play a quiet positional game most of the time and have a slight long-lasting advantage if you play correctly.
  • The second advantage is that you cut your workload into half because you don't have to learn e4 opening lines like the Sicilian Defence, the French, The Pirc, the Ruy Lopez, the Caro Kann etc.

If you want to avoid big errors in the beginning of your game then follow these guidelines below.

  1. Start first move playing 1. e4 or 1.d4 (1.c4 is for advanced positional players)
  2. Put your light pieces (bishops and knights) to a good square so that they control vital center squares. For example: Place the knights to their natural squares which are for White the squares f3 and c3. For Black the squares f6 and c6. Don't place knights at the edge of the board.
  3. Don't move the same piece TWICE or more in the opening! This wastes valuable development time!
  4. Don't get your queen out too early. Develop first knights and bishops and castle to bring your king into safety.
  5. Don't move pawns in the opening as it is stronger to get out a knight or bishop than pushing pawns. You must push the e- or d-pawn to be able to bring out the bishops and to have a firm grip in the center. But that's it.
  6. Castle early to protect your king.
  7. Try to control center squares e4, d4, e5, d5
  8. Don't attack before you have developed all your pieces.
  9. Don't grab material in the opening

Remember: There are always exceptions to any rule.

3.3 GM Anan Hambleton: Building Habits

  • Playing Chess Following Rules

Rule Set 1 - Beginner

  • No premoves
  • No tactics
  • No gambits
  • No Sacrifices
  • Know how all the pieces move
  • Control and move towards the center
  • Castle as soon as possible
  • Don't hang free pieces + Take free pieces
  • Activate King in the endgame + Attack pawns
  • Capture pieces of equal or greater value whenever possible (Avoid Queen for 2 Bishop trade for now)
  • Remember, Pawns do not count as pieces
  • Always attack a Bishop or Knight on g4/g5/b4/b5 with the A or H Pawn immediately
  • Make an escape square for the King once finished development
  • Spend just as much time on moves as your opponent (or less) Use your time to think, but don't get low on time
  • Spend a lot of time at the beginning to follow all the rules

Rule Set 2 - Moving up towards 1000 ELO

  • No gambits
  • No Sacrifices
  • Never resign
  • Basic Tactics (Forks, Pins, Skewers, Discoveries)
  • Capture towards the center with Pawns
  • Maintain pins instead of taking immediately
  • Control and move towards the center
  • Castle early (but not ASAP)
  • Don't hang free pieces + Take free pieces
  • Continue taking most available trades
  • Develop your pieces to more aggressive squares
  • Make an escape square for the King once finished development
  • Rooks belong behind passed Pawns
  • Premove captures and can premove when under 10s
  • Know all the basic checkmates (Queen, Rook, Q+R, R+R)
  • Expand in the center early with Pawns in order to gain space

Rule Set 3

Additional Rules/Ideas:

  • When up material - goal is to simplify
  • Random Pawn moves - Often: a3, h3, or c3
  • Use the opposite knight as your opponent
  • Endgame is <12 points
  • Take the thing for free over a trade - For example a free knight or a Rook for a trade

3.4 How to Improve in Chess

Developing a healthy training routine is essential to chess improvement. Here are 8 training methods with which you should be able to improve every aspect of your game.

  1. Analyze games – this one can’t be stressed enough. Studying middlegames is what most people struggle with. Some don’t have any idea how to go about studying them at all. Middlegames are very complex in comparison to endgame or opening play. They revolve around positional or strategic play and require in-depth thinking and understanding. Analyzing chess games is the best way to improve your middlegame play. You will improve your pattern recognition, planning, calculation and visualization.
  2. Solve tactical and positional problems – this training method will speed up your calculation during a real game, and it will also create a knowledge base in your mind which you will then be able to draw from when a similar situation arises.
  3. Read books – believe it or not, books are still the best way to study chess. You are able to delve much deeper into a position if you have to imagine it or set it up on a real board. Chess books will also broaden your general knowledge of chess culture!
  4. Endgame study – this is the simplest part of chess study because it’s finite. Learn them all and be done with it!
  5. Openings – building a repertoire is essential so that you don’t waste time dwelling over the first moves. Create a narrow repertoire your opponents are going to fear! Here is a video on how to study openings:
  6. Play practice games and analyze them afterwards
  7. Play blindfolded chess – this will greatly increase your visual perception, memory and calculation.
  8. Watch videos – this should be left as a last resort. Even though watching chess videos will help you learn, it’s the worst way to improve because it doesn’t require you to get involved. One piece of advice is that you have a board next to you while watching, and that you try to come up with your own ideas, pausing the video and thinking for yourself.

3.5 IM Levy Rozman Tips

  • When you are losing, there are 2 ways to play:
    1. Defend stoutly
    2. Create chaos
  • If you're not gaining anything with a capture, don't capture
  • In general: Pawn's take towards the center
  • Check before capture

3.5.1 Get better at Chess from Levy Rozman

  • At 750 - Focus on Fundamentals
    • Develop a solid Opening Base
    • Do puzzles: 10-15/day
    • Basic Checkmate Patterns
    • Practice: Do 10-15 min games (Quality > Quantity)
  • At 1250 - Openings are important
    • Cut variance of accuracy in games
    • Begin to learn gambits
  • At 1600
    • 15 puzzles a day - work 3-4 min/puzzle if needed
    • Focus on what you're good at using statistics page
      • Pick 1-3 openings to focus on (each black and white)

3.6 NM Nelson Lopez Tips

3.6.1 Top 35 Chess Principles by NM Nelson Lopez

  1. Control the center
  2. Develop pieces quickly
  3. Knights before Bishops
  4. Don't move the same piece twice in the opening
  5. Don't bring your queen out too early
  6. Castle before move 10
  7. Connect your rooks
  8. Rooks should go on open or half open files
  9. Knights on the rim are grim (or dim)
  10. Try to avoid doubled pawns
  11. Try to avoid isolated pawns
  12. Try to avoid backward pawns
  13. Don't trade a bishop for a knight without a good reason
  14. Avoid moving pawns in front of your castled King
  15. Don't open the center if your King is still there
  16. 2 minor pieces are usually better than a rook and a pawn
  17. 3 minor pieces are usually better than a queen
  18. Rooks are good on the 7th rank
  19. Doubled rooks on an open file are very strong
  20. Bishops are better in open positions, knights are better in closed positions
  21. The best way to deal with a flank attack, is with a counter attack in the center
  22. When 2 pawns can capture the same piece, capture towards the center
  23. The King should be activated in the endgame
  24. Rooks go behind passed pawns
  25. 2 connected passed pawns on the 6th rank will beat a rook
  26. Attack the base of a pawn chain
  27. Knights are usually the best piece to use to blockade a pawn
  28. If your position is cramped, trading pieces can help
  29. Trade your passive pieces for your opponent's active pieces
  30. When ahead material, trade pieces, not pawns
  31. When behind material, trade pawns, not pieces
  32. Games with opposite colored bishops are dangerous in the middlegame and drawish in the endgame
  33. Don't play "hope" chess
  34. When you see a good move, look for a better move
  35. A really good chess player knows the right time to ignore a chess principle

3.6.2 10 Top Middlegame Plans by NM Nelson Lopez

  1. Break open the center
  2. Attack opponent's king with a pawnstorm
  3. Trade your weak pieces for opponent's stronger ones
  4. Create a battery on a half-open or open file
  5. Create a battery on a long diagonal
  6. Rook lift
  7. Relocate a knight for an outpost
  8. Locate opponent's weaknesses
  9. Eliminate your own weaknesses before get your opponent attacked
  10. Make opponent's pieces ineffective

3.6.3 Top 25 Endgame Principles by NM Nelson Lopez

  1. Watch out for stalemate
  2. Activate your king
  3. Centralize your king
  4. Passed pawns should be pushed
  5. Try to create passed pawns
  6. Passed pawns should be supported by your pieces
  7. King and Queen checkmate idea - Create a box with queen to push king to edge
  8. King and Rook checkmate idea - Create a box with rook to push king to edge
  9. Two Bishops checkmate idea - move bishops/king to push king to edge then to a corner
  10. Knight and Bishop checkmate idea - Can only checkmate in corner of same color bishop - use knight (protected by king) to block opposite color corner
  11. Two Knights checkmate idea - If king moves to corner, checkmate is possible, otherwise this is a draw
  12. Flank pawns are hard to stop (especially for Knights)
  13. 2 Connected pawns on 6th rank beat a rook
  14. Further advanced pawns are more valuable
  15. Opposition is important in King and Pawn endings
  16. Rooks go behind passed pawns
  17. Connected (next to) passed pawns are best >> protected >> flank (side - a or h)
  18. Opposite colored bishop endings are drawish
  19. Bishops better than knights with pawns on both sides of board
  20. In Queen endings, watch out for perpetual check
  21. In Rook endings, cut off opponent's king
  22. Rooks should be put far away from other pieces
  23. Wrong bishop and flank pawn is a draw
  24. Zugzwang!
  25. Knights can't lose a tempo

3.6.4 Improve Your Rating by NM Nelson Lopez

  1. Break 600
    Table 2: 600 Rating Mistakes
    Blundering 84%
    No Protecting King 16%

    Get better:

    1. Blundering (>2 point mistake)
      • Pay attention to what changed each move
    2. Not protecting King
      • Always watch f2 and f7 squares
      • Castle before move 10
  2. Break 800
    Table 3: 800 Rating Mistakes
    Blundering 64%
    Not castling early 38%
    Not completing development 22%

    Get better:

    1. Blundering
      • Most from hanging pieces
    2. Not castling early
      • Castle before move 10
    3. Not completing development
  3. Break 1000
    Table 4: 1000 Rating Mistakes
    Blunders 41%
    Not castling 24%
    Tactics Mistakes 45%
    Too many pawn moves 7%
    Lack of Endgame Knowledge 7%
    Queen out too early 6%

    Get better:

    1. Blunders
    2. Not Castling
    3. Tactics Mistakes
      • Thought they were making a good move, but miscalculated
      • Do puzzles! Train your brain to recognize these patterns.
    4. Too many pawn moves
      • Develop your pieces
    5. Lack of Endgame Knowledge
      • Endgame principles
        • Activate your king
        • Watch out for pawns - your pawns are much more valuable
        • Passed pawns are extremely important
    6. Queen out too early
  4. Break 1200
    Table 5: 1200 Rating Mistakes
    Blunders 37%
    Couldn't defend King 23%
    c2/c7 and f2/f7 Forks 10%
    Back Rank Mate 7%
    Endgame Mistakes 7%
    7th Rank Problems 5%

    Get better:

    • Blunders
      • Do a blunder check:
        1. If I move, will my King be in danger?
        2. If I move, will my Queen be in danger?
        3. If I move, will my piece be in danger?
        4. Does the last move my opponent made create any threats?
    • Couldn't defend King
      1. You can delay castling to see how opponent might attack
      2. Don't always be defensive - look for a counterattack
      3. If you're being attacked on the flank, attack from the center
      4. Let your opponent make the first pawn push and then create a blockade
    • c2/c7 and f2/f7 Forks by knights
    • Back rank mate
    • Endgame Mistakes
    • 7th Rank Problems
  5. Break 1400
    Table 6: 1400 Rating Mistakes
    Tactics Mistakes 37%
    Blunders 35%
    Forks 9%
    Discovered Attacks 7%
    Time Trouble 6%
    Opening Traps/Tricks 5%

    Get better:

    1. Tactic Mistakes
      • Practice, practice, practice
      • First move is probably not the best move
    2. Blunders
      • Do a blunder check:
        1. If I move, will my King be in danger?
        2. If I move, will my Queen be in danger?
        3. If I move, will my piece be in danger?
        4. Does the last move my opponent made create any threats?
    3. Forks
      • Often by pawns and knights
    4. Discovered Attacks
      • Can only happen with Queens, Rooks, Bishops
      • So - look at the long range pieces and pretend the squares are open
    5. Time Trouble
      • Play longer time games
      • Use your time at most beneficial time of game
    6. Opening Traps/Tricks
      • Analyze games when you fall for a trap
  6. Break 1600
    Table 7: 1600 Rating Mistakes
    Blunders 41%
    Tactics Mistakes 26%
    Lack of Opening Knowledge 16%
    Time Pressure 7%
    Bad Endgame Technique 6%

    Get better:

    1. Blunders
      • Do blunder checks!
    2. Tactics Mistakes
      • Practice puzzles!
    3. Lack of Opening Knowledge
    4. Time Pressure
    5. Bad Endgame Technique
      • Pawns are most important thing in an endgame
  7. Break 1800
    Table 8: 1800 Rating Mistakes
    Tactical Errors 36%
    Blunders 26%
    Endgame 25%
    Rook Endgame 18%
    Minor Piece Endgame 12%
    Lost on time 11%
    Poor Opening 9%

    Get better:

    • Tactical Errors
      • Do puzzles!
    • Blunders
    • Endgame - 1 out of 4 games decided in endgame
    • Rook Endgame
    • Minor Piece Endgame
    • Lost on time
    • Poor Opening
      • Work on opening theory

3.7 Steps to Evaluate Chess Positions (Hanging Pawns - HPY)

This, I think, can be trained. Practicing this approach would definitely speed up the thinking process in your head and the result should be finding better moves more quickly.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent way too much time in a position in which I had two or three perfectly fine and obvious moves (which I could have played instantly). Instead of playing one of them, I wasted time trying to find the perfect move which didn’t exist. Another problem I have is that I tend to overcalculate variations and then discard them or play a completely different move I almost didn’t look at at all.

Following this thought process should reduce the number of such mistakes significantly. I recommend taking any random position somewhere in the middlegame (it has to be equal or about equal) and doing the same thing. I try and solve as many as I can. This should make you faster and better in real games! Here are the stages:

  1. General assessment
    1. king safety
    2. pawn structure
    3. material
    4. piece activity
  2. Concrete assessment
    • Are there any immediate threats/opportunities?
  3. Weaknesses
  4. Candidate moves
    • Look at checks, captures and forcing moves first.
    • Then search for developing moves or attacking moves.
    • Look at defensive moves last.
  5. Calculation

3.8 Steps to Evaluate Chess Positions (IM Rozman)

  1. Compare material
  2. King Safety
  3. Piece activity - Future prospects
  4. Space advantage - pawn structure

3.9 Thoughts To Keep In Mind As You’re Getting Into Positions And Once They’re Achieved

Always be aware of the possible tempo moves for you and your opponent on every move

  • Every check, capture, and queen attack for both sides should always be in the forefront of your mind so that you’re not blundering
    • That’s how you avoid blundering
  • Everything after this — about strategy and thought process — comes second to being aware of the possible tempo moves that you and your opponent can make — that's the caveat
  • Next, the two plans you can pay attention to in the game, beyond the obvious tempo move tactics are these:
    1. Get Your Pieces On Their Most Open Lines
      • Ask yourself, “Are all of my pieces on their most open lines? Are they on the correct open files or open diagonals?”
      • If the answer is no, ask yourself, “Is there a safe path for me to get them there?”
      • Why are open files and open diagonals important? They give your pieces more options, so basically everything comes down to this one thought process:
      • Are all of my pieces on their best squares?
        • How do we define the best squares? Let’s say the center isn’t available because we’re playing a good opponent — then we ask ourselves, are our pieces on their best open files and diagonals starting on the center and going out from there?
    2. Follow The Pawn Chain
      • Next advanced thing: Maybe there’s a piece that isn’t ideal, but I don’t see a clear way to move it — the next thing to think about is going in the direction of your pawn chain.
      • No matter what position you’re in, you’re going to have pieces facing a certain direction.
      • If there are ways to bring pieces to that area of the board, you should think about doing that.
      • Which area of the board? The area of the board where your center pawn chain is facing.
      • When you have a pawn chain, you’ve created a side of the board that has space for your pieces — so bring your pieces to the side of the board with that space.
      • This shouldn’t be that advanced. You should be able to look at a position and see which way the river is flowing.
      • If there isn’t an obvious direction, you’re probably playing an open center game, in which case you’ll probably want to bring your pieces to the center.

3.10 Tips from GM Arthur Bisguier

  1. Look at your opponent's move.
    • Every time your opponent makes a move, you should stop and think: Why was that move chosen? Is a piece in danger? Are there any other threats I should watch out for? What sort of plan does my opponent have in mind?
  2. Make the best possible move.
    • When you are considering a move, ask yourself these questions:
      1. Will the piece I'm moving go to a better square than the one it's on now?
      2. Can I improve my position even more by increasing the effectiveness of a different piece?
      3. Does this move help to defend against my opponent's threats?
      4. Will the piece I move be safe on its new square?
        • If it's a pawn, consider: Can I keep it protected from attack?
        • If it's another piece, consider: Can the enemy drive itaway, thus making me lose valuable time?
  3. Have a plan.
    • Your pieces have to work together to be effective. Just imagine each instrument in an orchestra playing a different tune!
    • If you threaten something here in one move, something over there in the next move, and so forth, your opponent will have an easy time defending.
    • When you develop a plan, your men can work in harmony.
  4. Know what the pieces are worth.
    • When you are considering giving up some of your pieces for some of your opponent's, you should think about the values of the men, and not just how many each player possesses.
  5. Develop quickly and well.
    • The player whose men are ready for action sooner will be able to control the course of the game. If you want to be that player, you have to develop your men efficiently to powerful posts.
    • Instead of just moving pieces out, try to determine the best square for each piece and bring it there in as few moves as possible. This may save you from wasting moves later in the game.
  6. Control the center.
    • The center controls more of the board than one that is somewhere else.
    • Control of the center provides an avenue for your pieces to travel from one side of the board to the other
  7. Keep your king safe.
    • It's generally a good idea to place your king in a safe place by castling early in the game.
    • Once you've castled, you should be very careful about advancing the pawns near your king. They are like bodyguards; the farther away they go, the easier it is for your opponent's pieces to get close to your king.
    • Attack pawns in front of opponent's King
  8. Know when to trade pieces.
    • The best time to trade men is when you can capture men worth more than the ones you will be giving up, which is called "winning material"
    • If you have the initiative (your pieces are better developed, and you're controlling the game), try not to exchange men unless it increases your advantage in some clear way. The fewer men each player has, the weaker the attacking player's threats become, and the easier it is for the defending side to meet these threats.
    • Another time not to trade pieces is when your opponent has a cramped position with little space for the pieces to maneuver. It's tough to move a lot of pieces around in a cramped position, but easier to move just a few.
    • One sort of advantage you can often gain by trading pieces is a weakening of your opponent's pawn structure. If, for example, you can capture with a piece that your opponent can only recapture in a way that will give him doubled pawns it will often be to your advantage to make that trade.
    • The player who is ahead in material will usually benefit from trades.
    • It's usually good to trade pieces:
      • if your opponent has the initiative
      • if you have a cramped position
      • if you can weaken your opponent's pawn structure
      • if you are ahead in material
  9. Think about the endgame.
    • Concentrate on your immediate plans, as well as your opponent's—but always keep the endgame in mind!
  10. Always be alert.
    • There is a tendency for people to relax once they have reached a good position or to give up hope if their position is very bad.
    • If you have a better position, watch out! One careless move could throw away your hard-won advantage.
    • If you have a worse position, don't give up! Keep making strong moves, and try to complicate the position as much as possible

3.11 To get good as a beginner

To get good as a beginner:

  1. Learn different checkmate patterns
  2. Learn tactical motifs like pin,fork, discovery and many more.
  3. Learn opening principles. Don't dwell to much at opening lines.
  4. Study endgames
  5. Get a book so your study material is organized.

Chess Books:

  • Play Winning Chess by Seirawan.

4 The Opening

Opening Principles:

  1. Control the center
  2. Knights before Bishops
  3. Develop all minor pieces before attacking

Lichess openings:

  • B07 - Czech opening
  • Hippo
  • B10/B12 - Caro Kann

4.1 My d4 repertoire

Queen defends d4 - e4 not defended

d4 - Popularity on defense:

  1. Queen's Gambit
  2. Slav
  3. King's Indian
  4. Nimzo Indian

Responses to d4:

  1. d5
    1. d4 d5
      • c4 dxc4 (Queen's Gambit Accepted)
        • e3 b5
          • a4 c6 (a6 hangs rook)
          • axb5 cxb5
          • Qf3!
        • e3 Nf6
          • Bxc4 e6
          • Nf3 Be7
          • O-O O-O
          • Nc3 c5
      • c4 c6 (Slav defense)
        • Nf3 dxc4
          • e3 b5
          • a4! Bb7
          • b3 cxb3
          • axb5 cxb5
          • Bxb5 Ne7
          • Qb3 (Plan: O-O, Double rooks on a file)
        • Nf3 Nf6
          • e3 e6
          • b3 Nd7
          • Bb2 Bd6
          • Nd2 O-O
          • Bd3 h6
          • O-O (if Black e5, take on e5 and avoid fork)
      • c4 e6 (Queen's Gambit Declined)
        • Nc3 Nf6 (Know this line as it will happen frequently)
          • cxd5 exd5
          • Bg5 Be7
          • e3 c6
          • Bd3 O-O
          • Qc2 Nd7
          • Ne2 Re8
          • h3 h6
          • Bf4 b6
          • g4! Bb7 (Going after the King)
          • O-O-O c5 (When Castle opposite, fling the pawns and rip them open)
          • g5 c4
          • Bf5
        • Nc3 Be7
          • cxd5 exd5
          • Bf4 Nf6
          • Nf3 O-O
          • e3 c6
          • Bd3
      • c4 e5 (Counter Gambit)
        • dxe5 d4
        • Nf3 Nc6
        • a3! Ne7 (stop bishop from coming out to attack King)
        • b4 Ng6
        • Bb2 Ngxe5
        • Nxe5 Nxe5
        • Qxd4 Qxd4
        • Bxd4 Nxc4 (Bishop is looking at key squares)
        • e3 (Plans: Nd2, Rac3)
  2. Nf6
    1. d4 Nf6
      • c4 e6
        • Nc3 Bb4 (Nimzo Indian)
          • Qc2 O-O
          • Bg5 d5
          • e3 h6
          • Bxf6 Qxf6
          • cxd5 exd5
          • a3 Bf5
          • Bd3 Bxd3
          • Qxd3 Bxc3
          • Qxc3 c6
          • Nf3 Nd7
          • O-O Nb6
          • Ne5 Qf5 (Plan to make minority attack on a/b files)
          • a4 f6
          • Nd3 a5
          • Nc5
        • Nc3 c5
          • d5 exd5
          • cxd5 d6 (Straight Benoni)
          • Nf3 g6
          • Bf4 Bg7
          • h3 O-O
          • e3 Re8
          • Be2 a6
          • a4 Qc7 (Always look for a4 if they play a6)
          • O-O Nh5 (d8 is weak point of Benoni)
          • Bh2 f5
          • Nd2 Nd7 (Moving N to c4)
          • Nc4 (concentrating on d4 with N and B)
          • (Plan: R e1, Bf3, e4)
      • c4 g6
        • Nc3 Bg7 (King's Indian Defense)
          • Nf3 O-O
          • Bg5 d6
          • e3 Nbd7
          • Be2 e5
          • Qc2 c6
          • O-O h6 (Plan is for Q-side attack - don't move pawns in front of K if attack is coming from center)
          • Bh4 Qe7
          • Rfd1 Re8
          • b4 g5
          • Bg3 Nh5
          • c5 Nxg3
          • hxg3 d5
          • b5 (Minority attack)
        • Nc3 d5 (Grunfeld)
          • Bg5 Ne4
            • Nxe4 dxe4
            • e5 c6 (Don't hang B with Black Qa5)
            • Qd2
          • Bg5 Bg7
            • Nf3 Ne4
            • cxd5 Nxg5
            • Nxg5 e6
            • Nf3 exd5
            • b4! O-O (playing for minority attack)
            • e3 c6
            • b5 Nd7
            • O-O …
      • c4 c5
        • d5 e5 (push and grab space) (Czech Benoni)
          • Nc3 d6
          • e4 Be7
          • Bd3 O-O
          • Ne2 Ne8
          • h4 a6 (preventing trade of dark square Bishops) (plan to work Q to K side for mate)
          • a4 g6
          • Bh6 Ng7
          • Ng3 (Planning on attacking g6 with h5)
        • d5 b5 (Benko Gambit)
          • cxb5 a6 (if Black takes axb5 - take back with Bxb5)
          • e3 g6
          • Nc3 Bg7
          • Nf3 O-O
          • a4 d6
          • Ra3 Nd2 (Plan to move R over after e4)
          • Be2 axb5
          • Bxb5 Ba6
          • O-O Bxb5
          • axb5 Rxb3
          • bxa3 … (Run these pawns)
  3. Nf6 - Budapest Gambit
    1. d4 Nf6
    2. c4 e5
    3. dxe5 Ng4
    4. Nf3 Bc5
    5. e3 Nc6 (protecting f2 from B and N)
    6. Nc3 Ngxe5
    7. Be2 O-O
    8. b3
  4. f5 - The Dutch
    1. d4 f5
    2. Nc3 Nf6
    3. Bg5 d5
    4. BxNf6 exf6 (mess up pawn structure)
    5. e3 c6
    6. Bd3 Be6 (put bishop on good square)
    7. Ne2 Nd7
    8. Qd2 … (able to castle either way)

4.2 General Opening Strategy

Control the center, develop your minors, get the king safe

  1. Attack (or control) the center of the board
    • The center squares on the board are d4, d5, e4, and e5
  2. Develop all of their minor pieces as quickly as possible
    • The minor pieces are bishops and knights
    • As a rule, get all four minors out before you move a piece twice
  3. Get the king safe as soon as possible
    • Castle

Best Moves:

The reason e4, d4, c4, or knight f3 will be played in 99.9% of chess games is that each of those moves fights for immediate control over the 4 more critical squares in the center of the board.

The Basic Core Concepts Of Every Chess Opening

  • Whenever someone makes a move, you are gaining control and losing control over certain critical areas of the board.
    • As a beginner, you want to begin to understand cause and effect in chess. It’s the chess version of the principle, "To every action is an equal and opposite reaction."
  • Every move should take advantage of either:
    • Something that is vulnerable for the taking or less guarded than it should be
    • Moving to where your pieces might have a chance to work together

5 Tips for Improving Your Chess Opening

  1. Control the center.
    • Though there are positional styles of play that control the center from the outside, for beginners it’s important to learn the value of attacking and holding the middle of the board.
  2. Focus on developing your minor pieces.
    • This means your knights and bishops. If the game looks relatively open, bishops will be your best bet. If there are lots of pawns clogging up the center, then you’ll want to rely more on knights.
  3. Protect the King.
    • Part of the early game is finding a way to get your king to safety. Ignoring the King can force you to sacrifice pieces or delay development due to a quick attack. For a good example of what can happen to an undefended King, look at the Scholar’s Mate.
  4. Move each piece only once.
    • Remember, every time you move a piece you’ve already moved, you’re not developing another piece. It’s nearly always better to have more material in the center of the board than to focus on two or three pieces.
  5. Don’t bring the Queen out too early.
    • It may be tempting to get your Queen into the center of the board as soon as possible, but the more you rely on the Queen to mix it up with minor pieces, the more opportunities for trouble you create.

Master Patterns:

  • Bring out pieces to fight for control over the middle of the board
  • The method, or the way to control the center is what changes
  • Tip: If someone starts to play a series of weird moves to start a game, you should just grab control over the middle of the board and "own everything."

Pawn tip:

  • When you move pawns, try to move them with a dual purpose:
    • Open up your pieces
    • Limit your opponent's pieces

Material advantage tip:

  • As soon as you have a material advantage (more valuable pieces than your opponent), your goal should be to simplify the position. You don’t necessarily want to trade, but you want to keep the plan simple so you limit the risk of making mistakes on the way to checkmate.

You have to learn some basic opening moves that are recommended by statistics and by what people have done previously.

4.3 Open Chess Games (Early attacking)

In chess, open games are defined by the moves 1.e4 e5. Many of these chess matches feature open files, ranks, or diagonals that facilitate piece movement. People who enjoy attacking early and often are typically drawn to open games.

Opening Name Opening Moves
Alapin’s Opening 1.e4 e5 2.Ne2
Bishop’s Opening 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4
Center Game 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4
(Center Game) Danish Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4
Damiano Defense 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6
Elephant Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3
Four Knights Game 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6
Greco Counter Gambit (or Latvian Gambit) 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5
Italian Game 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4
(Italian Game) Evans Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4
(Italian Game) Giuoco Piano 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5
(Italian Game) Hungarian Defense 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Be7
(Italian Game) Two Knights Defense 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6
King’s Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.f4
(4.3.4) Falkbeer Counter-Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5
Three Knights Game 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Bb4
Petroff Defense 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6
Philidor Defense 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6
Queen’s Pawn Counter-Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5
Ruy López 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5
Scandinavian Defense (or Center Counter Defense) 1.e4 d5
Scotch Game 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4
(Scotch Game) Göring Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3
(Scotch Game) Scotch Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4
Vienna Game 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3

4.3.1 Center Game

  1. e4 e5
  2. d4 exd4
    • Universal sequence:
      • 3. Qxd4 Nc6
        • Paulsen's attack:
          • 4. Qe3
    • Danish Gambit Accepted:
      • 3. c3 dxc3
        • Alekhine Variation:
          • 4. Nxc3
        • Lindehn's Continuation:
          • 4. Bc4
    • Danish Gambit Declined:
      • 3. c3 d6 OR
      • 3. c3 Qe7 OR
      • 3. c3 d5

Danish Gambit

  • 4. Bc4

4.3.2 Four Knights Game

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Nc3 Nf6
    • Spanish Lines:
      • Double Spanish
        • 4. Bb5 Bb4
      • Rubenstein:
        • 4. … Nd4
      • Classical Variation:
        • 4. … Bc5
    • Schotch Four Knights Game:
      • 4. d4
        • Main Line:
          • 4. … exd4
          • 5. Nxd4 Bb4
          • 6. Nxc6 bxc6
          • 7. Bd3

4.3.3 Italian Game

First developed in the 1600s and perhaps the oldest chess opening, the Italian game also called the giuoco piano, "the quiet game" in Italian.

By developed his Bishop to c4, White target Black’s f7 pawn, the weakest point in Blacks position (being only protected by the King). This allows White to get a really strong attack early.

The Italian Game is divided into three major categories based on Black's response

  • The Hungarian Defense (Be7)
  • The Two Knights Defense (Nf6)
  • The Giuoco Piano (Bc5)

Italian Game:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 …
    • Hungarian Defense - mainly to prevent White from doing a Fried Liver Attack
      • 3. … Be7
      • Plan to:
        • Castle Kingside
        • Push c3-d4 to gain control of the center
    • Two Knights Defense - lack lets White go for an attack with 4. Ng5 but can gain the initiative.
      • 3. … Nf6
        • Main line:
          • 4. Ng5 d5 (Best)
          • 5. exd5 Na5
        • Modern Bishop's Opening:
          • 4. d3 Be7
          • 5. O-O O-O
          • 6. Re1 d6
    • Giuoco piano - Black and White both have imbalances they try to exploit
      • 3. … Bc5 - Pin Knight if Black castles, then put Knight on outpost
        • Avoid exchanging material and avoid going toward an endgame
          • Should be putting pressure on Black’s f7 square with his Queen and bishop. By exchanging pieces, White will lose that initiative.
        • Put pressure on f7
          • Put pressure on Black’s f7 square with his Queen b3, together with the Bishop on c4.
      • Giuoco pianissimo:
        • 4. c3 Nf6
        • 5. d3
        • Some of the most common ideas are to open the centre with c3 and d4, to expand on the Queenside with a4 and b4, and to bring the Bishop from c4 to c2 via b3, in Ruy López style.
      • Evan's Gambit - White offers a pawn to distract black’s bishop on c5.
        • 4. b4 Bxb4
        • 5. c3

White should retreat his Bishop to c2 for two reasons:

  • It protects the bishop from potential attacks from Blacks knight
  • Allows the bishop to be on the b1-h7 diagonal (to directly attack Black’s king)

It remained popular through the 19th century but today has been supplanted by the Ruy Lopez as white's favorite choice on the third move. In this 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. This opening is still used at all levels and is quite popular among club players.

  • White and Black both occupy the center with their e pawns and support them with their knights.
  • Then White develops the bishop to the c4 square, and controls the important diagonal a2-g8.
  • However, Black is fine here and has many moves at his disposal, such as 3…Bc5, 3…Nf6, 3…Be7 and 3…d6.


  • Natural play
  • Focus on the center
  • Rapid development


  • The bishop on c4 might be exposed
  • Black's center is not under immediate pressure


4.3.4 King’s Gambit

  1. e4 e5
  2. f4
    • 2…exf4 (King's Gambit Accepted)
      • Paris Attack:
        • 3. Nf3 g5
        • 4. h4
        • Other:
          • 4. Bc4
          • 4. Nc3
      • Modern Defense:
        • 3…d5
      • Bishop's Gambit:
        • 3. Bc4 Nf6 OR
        • 3. Bc4 d5
    • 2…d5 Falkbeer Countergambit (King's Gambit Declined)
      • 3. exd5 e4 OR
      • 3. exd5 c6
    • 2…Bc5 Classical Variation (King's Gambit Declined)
      • 3. Nf3 d6

4.3.5 Petroff Defense

The Petroff Defense is the exception to the rule because is one of the most drawish chess openings.

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nf6
    • Classical Variation:
      • 3. … d6
      • 4. Nf3 Nxe4
    • Steinitz Attack:
      • 3. d4 Nxe4
      • or
        • 3. d4 exd4
        • 4. e5 Ne4

In the Petroff, Black opts for a symmetrical structure that allows him to play in a positional fashion.

But the Petroff Defense is full of hidden bite as well. That’s why it’s one of the most trusted openings in chess, popular at all levels from beginner to strong grandmasters. 2018 World Championship challenger Fabiano Caruana regularly relies on the Petroff.

4.3.6 Philidor Defense

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 d6
    • Main Line:
      • 3. d4
        • Philidor Countergambit:
          • 3…f5
        • Exchange
          • 3…exd4
        • Nimzowitch:
          • 3…Nf6
        • Hanham Variation:
          • 3…Nd7

4.3.7 Ruy López

Named for Ruy López de Segura, a 16th-century Spanish bishop.

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bb5
    • Morphy Defense:
      • 3. … a6
      • Main line:
        • 4. Ba4 Nf6
        • 5. O-O Be7
        • 6. Re1 b5
        • 7. Bb3 d6
        • 8. c3 O-O
      • The Morphy Defense (3. … a6) is by far Black's most popular third move in the Ruy Lopez. It immediately puts the question to White's bishop, and after 4. Ba4, Black may choose to break the pin on his knight by playing b5.
    • Berlin Defense:
      • 3. … Nf6
      • Main line:
        • 4. O-O Nxe4
        • 5. d4 Nd6
        • 6. Bxc6 dxc6
        • 7. dxe5 Nf5
        • 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8
      • The Berlin Defense is reached if Black plays Nf6 on his third move. It gained a great deal of popularity after chess grandmaster and former world champion, Vladimir Kramnik, used it in his victory over chess legend Garry Kasparov in their match for the 2000 World Championship. Known for being very solid, the Berlin Defense is often used as a weapon for drawing as Black by strong players who are familiar with the
  1. Ruy Lopez   edit

    Ruy Lopez also known as the Spanish game (e4)

    Named after Rodrigo (Ruy) Lopez de Segura, a Spanish bishop who analyzed this opening in his 1561 work, "Libro de la Invencion Liberal y Arte del Juego del Axedrez," the "Book of the Liberal Invention and Art of the Game of Chess."

    Nearly half a millennium later, the Ruy remains one of the most popular chess openings. Chess experts have come up with numerous variations, and a wide variety of strategic plans are available to both white and black.

    The starting position of the Ruy Lopez is reached after the following moves:

    1. e4, e5;
    2. Nf3, Nc6;
    3. Bb5.

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

    The Ruy Lopez or Spanish Game Opening (1. e4, e5 2. Nf3, Nc6, 3. Bb5…)

    This is the most popular chess opening.

    Learning and mastering this opening is a must for every chess player because everybody, from beginners up to the professionals, uses this opening.

    The Spanish are an enjoyable opening that promises direct play with plenty of tactics involved.

    However, it isn’t going to set the board on fire like some other openings.

    One of the reasons why this opening is grand for beginners is because it is simple, and it follows the rules of thumb very closely.

    Learning this opening will give you an idea of what the battle in the opening is really like. Ruy Lopez Opening Chess Moves Explained

    It starts with 1. e4. White quickly looks to control the center by putting a pawn up there. Black matches this effort by playing e5.

    Whites next move is 2. Nf3.

    This is an excellent defense for many reasons.One, it develops a minor piece. Two, it helps control the center. And three, it puts pressure on black’s pawn on e5.

    If black doesn’t do anything about it, white can capture it and be a pawn up. There are several ways to defend the pawn

    The most popular and arguably, the best way to do this is by playing Nc6. This is because not only does the knight on c6 protect the pawn, but it also develops a minor piece and helps to control the center as well!

    Remember, make active moves, even when you are defending. The third move is the signature move of the Spanish game, bishop to b5. This move is what sets the tone for the rest of the game

    The move bishop to b5 is an excellent move. It not only develops a piece, but it also asks black a lot of questions.

    How is black going to deal with the threat of the bishop taking the knight on c6, followed by the knight on f3 taking the pawn on e5?

    Those moves make the Spanish game. From here, black does have several great responses: the main-line (3… a6), the Berlin defense (3… Nf6), or the Steinitz defense (3… d6). Each variation is going to give you a different game out of the Ruy Lopez chess opening. However, the overarching theme of this opening is that it is a constant battle for the center

    White tries to establish an active center, while black does what its best to counter this.

    The Ruy Lopez (also called the "Spanish" opening) starts out as

    1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5

    The Ruy Lopez is an old opening; it is named after Ruy Lopez, a 16th Century Spanish clergyman and chess enthusiast. He made a systematic study of this and other chess openings, which he recorded in a 150 page book. However, although it is named after him, this particular opening was known earlier; it is included in the Gottengen manuscript, which dates from 1490. Popular use of the Ruy Lopez opening did not develop, however, until the mid 1800's when Jaenisch, a Russian theoretician, "rediscovered" its potential. The opening is still in active use; it is a favorite of Gary Kasparov and Bobby Fischer. In it, White creates a potential pin of the d-pawn or Knight and starts an attack immediately, while simultaneously preparing to castle.

    White generally directs pressure on Black's e-pawn and tries to prepare for a pawn on d4. It's known that Black's best reply on move 3 is a6, which attacks White's attacking bishop. After that, White can back up (Ba4) or exchange pieces (Bxc6).

    1. Steinitz Defense

      The Steinitz Defense ​(3…a6) was popularized by the first world champion, Wilhelm Steinitz. While it is solid, it leaves Black with a passive position, making it an unpopular defense in modern play. Steinitz Defense move Illustration: The Spruce / Tim Liedtke

    2. Bird Defense

      The Bird Defense (3. … Nd4) is an offbeat try for Black that can sometimes surprise an unprepared White player. However, after 4. Nxd4 exd4, White will usually emerge with a small advantage due to having a better pawn structure. Bird defense in chess Illustration: The Spruce / Tim Liedtke

    3. Schliemann Defense

      The Schliemann Defense (3 … f5) is a popular try for Black in the amateur ranks. This gambit leads to wild positions in which White must know certain theoretical lines to escape with an advantage. Conversely, an unprepared White player will struggle to navigate the challenges posed by Black. White's best response is 4. Nc3, but Black certainly has many ways to create an interesting and tactical game. At higher levels, where White is more likely to be prepared, the Schliemann Defense is used only rarely as a surprise weapon.

      This opening is also known as the Jaenisch Gambit. Schliemann defense in chess Illustration: The Spruce / Tim Liedtke

    4. Exchange Variation

      While White's most popular 4th move is to retreat the bishop to a4, 4. Bxc6 is also common. Black will usually recapture with the d-pawn, although it is also possible to do so with the b-pawn.

      The Exchange Variation was popularized most recently by American chess legend Bobby Fischer. White damages Black's pawn structure, and will usually try to trade pieces to get into a favorable endgame. However, despite its reputation, some lines of the exchange variation also allow for middlegame attacking chances. Exchange variation in ches Illustration: The Spruce / Tim Liedtke

    5. Closed Variation

      The Closed Ruy Lopez (beginning with 4. Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7) is a popular system at all levels, and offers a variety of plans for both sides. It is extremely flexible for Black; both players will have a complex game. The mainline continues ​6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 0-0. Closed variation in chess Illustration: The Spruce / Tim Liedtke

    6. Open Variation

      The Open Variation (4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Nxe4) is not quite as popular as the Closed Ruy Lopez, but it does have its adherents. Black typically does not intend to hold onto his extra pawn, but rather improve his position while While spends time regaining the lost material. There are numerous complex sub-variations available for both sides, some of which have been analyzed beyond the 20th move for each player. Open variation in chess Illustration: The Spruce / Tim Liedtke

    7. Marshall Attack

      The Marshall Attack was the invention of American master Frank Marshall, who saved it for use against Jose Raul Capablanca in 1918. While Capablanca refuted it over the board and won that game, further refinements to the opening have turned it into one of Black's most feared weapons in the Ruy Lopez.

      The Marshall Attack is reached after 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 0-0 8. c3 d5. It features many forcing moves that require players to know theory to successfully navigate the opening, and because of this, many White players choose to play "anti-Marshall" systems that avoid these lines. There are also some lines in which White may force early draws. Marshall attack in chess Illustration: The Spruce / Tim Liedtke

      It should be clear now just how complex the Ruy Lopez can be – and we've only scratched the surface of the lines available in this rich opening system.

4.3.8 Scotch Game

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. d4 exd4
    • Main Line:
      • 4. Nxd4
      • Classical:
        • 4. … Bc5
      • Schmidt:
        • 4. … Nf6
      • ??
        • 4. … Bb4+
    • Scotch Gambit:
      • 4. Bc4
    • Göring Gambit:
      • 4. c3

White quickly takes control of the center with both of his central pawns developed.

4.3.9 Vienna System

This is the e4 game with Nc3 for move 2.

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nc3



  • C25 Vienna Game
  • C26 Vienna Game, Falkbeer Variation
  • C27 Vienna Game, Frankenstein–Dracula Variation
  • C28 Vienna Game
  • C29 Vienna Gambit, Kaufmann Variation including Würzburger Trap

4.4 Closed Chess Games (Applying Strategy - Delayed pawn exchanges)

Chess openings that occur after the moves 1.d4 d5 often result in closed games. These games emphasize maneuvering because pawn exchanges are delayed. Players who prefer strategic clashes to tactical melees like closed chess games.

Opening Name Opening Moves
Albin Counter-Gambit 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4
Blackmar-Diemer Gambit 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.f3
Chigorin Defense 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6
Colle System 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.c3
London System 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4
Queen's Gambit Accepted 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4
Queen's Gambit Declined 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6
Slav Defense 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6
Stonewall Attack 1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.f4

4.4.1 Queens Gambit

Queen’s Gambit For White

  • The pawns go to d4 and c4, controlling as many central squares as possible.
  • The knights go to their natural squares, c3 and f3.
  • The dark-squared bishop goes to f4 or g5…
  • After which, e2-e3 is played to fortify the d4-pawn.
  • The light-squared bishop goes to d3, ruling over the b1-h7 diagonal and preparing a potential e4-break.
  • The queen goes to b3, c2 or e2, depending on the chosen plan.
  • And the rooks set up shop on c1 and d1.

Queen’s Gambit For Black

  • The pawns go to d5 and e6, maintaining Black’s share of the center.
  • The kingside knight goes to f6 while the other goes to d7 to prepare the …c7-c5 break.
  • The dark-squared bishop often settles at e7 to break the g5 pin, instead of d6 to avoid e4-e5.
  • The light-squared bishop goes to b7 to control e4 after …dxc4 and …b7-b5.
  • The queenside rook supports the c5 break from c8, while the other rook and queen often stay put until the position breaks open.
  1. Queen's Gambit Accepted
    1. d4 d5
    2. c4 dxc4
      • Main Line:
        • 3. Nf3 Nf6
        • 4. e3 e6
        • 5. Bxc4 c5
        • 6. O-O a6

    Accepting White’s sacrifice with dxc4 is totally fine and it’s not necessary to try to defend that pawn afterward.

    For Black, it’s better to keep developing pieces and put pressure on the center.


  2. Queen's Gambit Declined

    In the Queen’s Gambit Declined black does not accept White’s sacrifice and plays a more neutral move.

    Beginners should go for the Queen’s Gambit Declined if their opponent opens with d4.

    1. d4 d5
    2. c4 e6
      • Main Line:
        • 3. Nc3 Nf6
        • 4. Bg5 Be7
        • 5. Nf3


4.4.2 Slav Defense

The Slav Defense is a chess opening which many players choose to employ as their main weapon against the Queen’s Gambit. It gives Black a chance to develop his pieces freely and achieve a supported center.

3 major variations are:

  • Semi-Slav
    • Play with e7-e6, creating a triangle of pawns in the middle of the board. It is the most solid option, but also the least ambitious one.
  • Chebanenko Slav
    • A more daring option is to play the Slav with a7-a6, which is called the Chebanenko Variation. The idea is to break through with b7-b5 and play for activity.
  • Main line of the Slav Defense
    • Consists in taking the pawn on c4, and then bringing out the Bishop to f5.

Slav Defense

  1. d4 d5
  2. c4 c6
    • Semi-Slav - A solid variation for Black, whose main focus is to keep a strong and stabilized center with a "triangle" of pawns on e6, c6 and d5.
      • 3. Nf3 Nf6
      • 4. Nc3 e6
    • Chebanenko Slav - The most aggressive variation for Black
      • The idea is to quickly breakthrough on the Queenside with b7-b5 giving Black many chances of playing for a win by disrupting White’s solid center.
      • 3. Nf3 Nf6
      • 4. Nc3 a6
    • Main Line - Black takes White’s pawn on c4, since this pawn cannot be taken back immediately, this move forces White to waste a couple of moves before being able to take the pawn
      • Black’s idea is simply: he wants to bring the Bishop out of the pawn chain (namely to f5) before playing e7-e6 and castling.
      • 3. Nf3 Nf6
      • 4. Nc3 dxc4
      • 5. a4 Bf5
      • 4. e3

Here Black decides to support his central pawn with another pawn to solidify the center.

The Slav Defense is one of the toughest structures for White to break through, so it’s a great choice for players at all levels.


  • D10 QGD; Slav Defence
  • D11 QGD; Slav Defence, 3.Nf3
  • D12 QGD; Slav Defence, 4.e3 Bf5
  • D13 QGD; Slav Defence, Exchange Variation
  • D14 QGD; Slav Defence, Exchange Variation
  • D15 QGD; Slav, 4.Nc3
  • D16 QGD; Slav accepted, Alapin Variation
  • D17 QGD; Slav Defence, Czech Defence


4.4.3 Stonewall Attack

  1. d4 d5
  2. e3 Nf6
  3. Bd3 c5
  4. c3 Nc6
  5. f4

Regardless of how Black defends!

4.4.4 Colle System

  1. d4 Nf6
  2. Nf3 d5
  3. e3 e6
  4. Bd3 c5
  5. O-O Nc6
  6. Re1 Bd6
  7. c3 O-O
  8. Nbd2

Regardless of how Black defends!

4.4.5 London System

The London System is an opening where White aims to achieve a solid set up by placing his pieces in the same squares, regardless of what moves black plays.

It is called a “System” for this reason - opening theory is not very important, and neither are move orders, and that is why it is the preferred weapon of many chess players.

  1. d4 d5
  2. Nf3 Nf6
  3. Bf4 c5
  4. e3 e6
  5. c3 Bd6

The three major variations are:

  • London System with g6 (if 2. Nf3 g6)
    • The Bishop is fianchettoed on g7, the Knight goes to f6 and the pawn to d6. (King's Indian Defense)
    • After developing pieces and castling, Black will want to do a pawn break by playing either c7-c5 or e7-e5.
    • A rule of thumb in nearly all variations of the London System is to play h3 in order to create an escape square for the Bishop on h2.
  • London System with e6 - no c5 (Play if responding to London!)
    • In the London System with e6 (so c5 isn’t played), Black decides not to fianchetto his Bishop and puts it on the e7 or d6 squares instead.
    • By not breaking through in the center - at least right away - with c5, Black is playing in a more modest and solid way
  • London System with e6 - c5 (See move #3 above)
    • In the London System with e6 and c5, Black sets up a counter attack by using an early pawn break in the center.

In the long run, after developing all of his pieces, White’s plan will be to open up the center by playing e3-e4.


  • A46
  • A48
  • D02


4.5 Semi-Open Chess Games (Enjoying complications)

Semi-open chess games are those in which White plays 1.e4, but Black doesn’t respond with 1…e5. These chess openings typically result in asymmetrical games where finding the right plan may be difficult. Players who like complications, and mixing it up, often adopt a semi-open defense.

Opening Name Opening Moves
Alekhine’s Defense 1.e4 Nf6
Caro-Kann Defense 1.e4 c6
French Defense 1.e4 e6
Modern Defense 1.e4 g6
Nimzowitsch Defense 1.e4 Nc6
Owen Defense 1.e4 b6
Pirc Defense 1.e4 d6
Sicilian Defense 1.e4 c5
Scandinavian Defense 1.e4 d5 2.exd5

4.5.1 Sicilian Defense

This is one of the most-played defenses of all time.

  1. e4 c5
  2. Nf3
    • 2…d6
    • 2…Nc6
      • 3. d4 cxd4
      • 4. Nxd4
        • 4…Nf6 (Common move)
        • 4…e6 (transposed Taimanov Variation)
        • 4…g6 (Accelerated Dragon)
        • 4…e5 (Kalashnikov Variation)
    • 2…e6

Black decides to fight for the center in a different way, putting pressure with one of the flank pawns instead of a central pawn.

The Sicilian Defense usually allows very active play for Black, who can fight for the win from the very beginning of the game.

What Are the Advantages of the Sicilian Defense?

  • This is a highly aggressive opening for black, one that can set an unprepared white player back on his or her heels.
  • The Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense is an extremely popular and well-studied variation that both Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov used to great effect.
  • If white opens with 1.d4, black has more than a half-dozen solid responses, which can lead to a number of well-studied defenses.
  • The response 1.d4 Nf6 is a flexible response that begins the popular set of Indian Defenses. These so-called hypermodern openings cede much of the center to white with the intention of picking that defense apart over time.
  • The response 1.d4 c6 may lead to the popular and solid Caro-Kann Defense, where black relies on a superior pawn structure to set up a favorable endgame.

Instead of responding with e5 though, you can take the game on a completely different direction by playing c5! The idea of this c5 move is terrific. Instead of pushing a center pawn right away, black uses his side pawn to put pressure on the center.

What usually happens is white, eventually, castles queenside, while black goes kingside.

This opposite side castling allows players to push their pawns up the board to join in on the attack of the king. In the Sicilian, it is checkmate or be checkmated. Playing this opening is going to force you to be on your toes at all times

One slip and you could find your king trapped. But if you are someone who wants to set the board of fire, the Sicilian Defense is going to be perfect for you.

The Sicilian is popular at the master level.

  1. Sicilian Dragon

    The Sicilian Dragon is one of the most powerful lines of the Sicilian Defense.

    This line is a declaration of war to any e4-player and usually leads to breathtaking dynamic and double-edged positions.

    Black finachettos a bishop on the h8-a1 diagonal. Named for the formation of pawns from h7 to d6 (which were noted to look like the stars in the Draco constellation), the Dragon Variation is one of the sharpest openings in chess.

    Perhaps the most challenging line for both sides is the Yugoslav Attack, where white plays 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3. Both sides typically launch fierce attacks: White on the kingside, Black on the queenside.

    It is an opening you either love or hate and one of those chess openings that you cannot play casually, but it’s an opening to be passionate about.

  2. Sicilian Najdorf

    The Sicilian Najdorf is a legendary chess opening for Black. The most popular line in the Sicilian. Named after Grandmaster Miguel Najdorf, this system is designed to exert control over b5 and later put pressure on White's e4 pawn.

    Black can often choose between ..e6 setups, ..e5 setups, or even ..g6 setups!

    The Sicilian Najdorf is quite aggressive and offers amazing flexibility.

    It is considered one of the best lines against 1. e4.

  3. Sicilian Taimanov

    It’s flexible, tricky and gives Black many ways to challenge White and play for the win. It’s also one of the Sicilian Defenses that has the least amount of theory.

  4. Alapin Variation

    The Alapin Variation is reached if White plays 2. c3. While this supports the d4 advance, it takes away the c3 square, usually a good place for White's queenside knight.

  5. Closed Sicilian

    Another alternate second move for White is 2. Nc3, which typically ushers in the Closed Sicilian. This system, popular at all levels, allows White to keep the center closed. Typically, White plans to play 3. g3 and attack on the flanks.

    Another alternative for White is 3. f4, which is known as the Grand Prix attack

  6. Classical Sicilian

    The Classical Sicilian (reached from many move orders, such as 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6) is one of the soundest lines of the Sicilian for Black, if not always the most enterprising. White has several options beginning on the sixth move, such as the Richter-Rauzer attack and the Sozin attack.

  7. Sveshnikov Variation

    Popularized by Evgeny Sveshnikov in the 1970s, the Sveshnikov is marked by an early e5 thrust by Black (for instance: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5).

    This is one of the riskier Sicilians for Black to play, but also one that gives the second player many chances to play for a win. For that reason, the Sveshnikov Variation is quite popular at the top levels of chess.

  8. Accelerated Dragon

    The Accelerated Dragon allows Black to adopt a Dragon setup without having to fear the Yugoslav Attack. By playing g6 earlier (usually in ​line 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6), Black retains the ability to play d5 in just one move (rather than having previously played d6 in the standard Dragon), saving a tempo.

    Conversely, this setup allows White to play the Maroczy Bind (5. c4), making this opening a much more positional one than the standard Sicilian Dragon.

    If Black really wants to play g6 as soon as possible, an even faster way is the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon, where black plays g6 on the second move (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6).

  9. Scheveningen Variation

    The Scheveningen (reached by move orders such as 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6) is a popular and ambitious system that allows Black to have a solid but flexible position that offers plenty of chances for counterplay on the queenside. Conversely, White has an obvious central space advantage and can choose from a variety of plans.

    The Scheveningen variation is popular at the highest levels of chess, due to its complex and creative nature.

4.5.2 French Defense

The French Defense is solid and one of the most trusted openings in chess, popular at all levels from beginner to strong grandmasters.

The French defense concedes central space to white and limits the scope of his king's bishop but prevents tactics against f7 while allowing black to have activity on the queenside and counterplay in the center. This is definitely one of the best options to play as Black against 1. e4.

Learning the French Defense is a great time investment because it can be used at the amateur level all the way to the highest levels of chess.

The four major variations are:

  • Advance Variation (3. e5)
  • Exchange Variation (3. exd5 3xd5)
    • Good for strategic > tactical players: Knowing less opening theory
    • The Exchange Variation is a safe line to play against the French. White goes for a symmetrical structure right from the third move, which means that this variation leads to neutral positions
  • Tarrasch Variation (3. Nd2)
  • Main line (3. Nc3)

The French Defense:

  1. e4 e6
  2. d4 d5
  3. Nc3 (Main line)
    • 3. Nd2 Nf6 (Tarrasch)
      • 4. e5
    • 3…Bb4 (Winawer)
      • 4. e5 c5
      • 5. a3 Bxc3+
      • 6. bxc3
    • 3…Nf6 (Classical)
      • 4. Bg5 dxe4 (Burn Variation in Classical Line)
      • 5. Nxe4 Be7
      • 6. Bxf6 Bxf6
      • 7. Nf3
    • 3…dxe4 (Rubinstein)

The good thing about the French Defense is that it does not force you to learn an enormous amount of theory, because it’s more important to know the key strategic ideas and plans in the middlegame.

The idea behind the French Defense is to create a locked up position. Black wants to create a closed match, where pawns are head to head with pawns, and their pieces are behind them.

This is why when white plays e4, black response with e6. This encourages white to grab the center by pushing d4, which they almost always do. And black follows this up with 2. d5 Black offers an exchange of pawns which white usually doesn't accept.

This is because taking this exchange often leads to boring games where nobody has an advantage. Instead, white can go for the Advance French (3. e5), the Winawer (3. Nc3), the Tarrasch (3. Nd2), and more.

The game can go anywhere from that stage. But in most French Defense games, white will eventually push their pawn up to e5 and create the famous French pawn structure.

This pawn structure completely locks up the center, forcing both players to find creative ways to attack from the flanks.

Once the French pawn structure is in place, it becomes a strategic battle. The one who can shuffle their pieces to be in the right place at the right time will ultimately emerge victoriously.


  • C00 French Defence
  • C01 French, Exchange Variation
  • C02 French, Advance Variation
  • C03 French, Tarrasch
  • C04 French, Tarrasch, Guimard Main line
  • C05 French, Tarrasch, Closed Variation
  • C06 French, Tarrasch, Closed Variation, Main line
  • C07 French, Tarrasch, Open Variation
  • C08 French, Tarrasch, Open, 4.exd5 exd5
  • C09 French, Tarrasch, Open Variation, Main line
  • C10 French, Paulsen Variation
  • C11 French Defence
  • C12 French, MacCutcheon Variation
  • C13 French, Classical
  • C14 French, Classical Variation
  • C15 French, Winawer (Nimzovich) Variation
  • C16 French, Winawer, Advance Variation
  • C17 French, Winawer, Advance Variation
  • C18 French, Winawer, Advance Variation
  • C19 French, Winawer, Advance, 6…Ne7


  1. Main Line: 3. Nc3

    The main line allows a huge amount of possibilities for both sides.

    It’s characterized by the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3.

  2. Exchange Variation: 3. exd5

    The Exchange Variation simplifies the game dramatically.

    It arises after the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5.

    If White chooses to go for this line, it’s very likely they are okay with drawing the game.

    Black might be able to find some counter-play but in general, this line leads to drawish positions.

  3. Advance Variation: 3. e5

    After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5, White decides to maintain the tension in the center by playing 3.e5.

    This is the Advance Variation.

    This way the position remains closed and Black plan is to break the center with ..c5!

  4. Tarrasch Variation: 3. Nd2

    The Tarrasch Variation arises after the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2.

    Here White just keeps his center pawns on the e4-d4 squares, and simply continues developing his pieces.

    One of the main continuations for Black here is to play 3..c5, to put pressure in the center.

    Another valid alternative is playing 3..Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 first, and only then attacking the center with ..c5.

4.5.3 Caro-Kann Defense

The Caro-Kann is like the 4.5.2 - Black lets White build control of the center, and Black tries to get a pawn at d5.

If Black plays correctly, White probably can't achieve any substantial attack and will go into a disadvantageous position in an endgame (since Black ends up with better pawn structure).

  1. e4 c6
  2. d4 d5
    • 3. Nc3 dxe4 (main line)
    • 3. Nd2
    • 3. e5 (The Advance Variation)
      • Black has a solid central structure and White has more space in
    • 3. exd5 (The Exchange Variation)
      • This is the safest option for White (if he is looking to draw) because White has conceded most of his opening advantage and made the position symmetrical.
      • Black wants to put his dark squared bishop on the long diagonal, castle kingside (to protect the king), and put his light-squared Bishop on g4, from where it pins the Knight on f3 and hinders White’s development.
    • 3. f3 (The Tartakower or Fantasy Variation)

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.

Black gets to eliminate one of White's central pawns and can get his pieces developed, which is an advantage over the French Defense.

Black's pieces end up with more of a passive defensive role, so players of this opening are often looking for White to make a mistake.


  • B10 Caro-Kann Defence
  • B11 Caro–Kann, Two knights, 3…Bg4
  • B12 Caro–Kann Defence
  • B13 Caro–Kann, Exchange Variation
  • B14 Caro–Kann, Panov–Botvinnik Attack, 5…e6
  • B15 Caro–Kann Defence
  • B16 Caro–Kann, Bronstein–Larsen Variation
  • B17 Caro–Kann, Steinitz Variation, Smyslov Systems
  • B18 Caro–Kann, Classical Variation
  • B19 Caro–Kann, Classical, 7…Nd7


4.5.4 Pirc Defense

Originally considered an inferior opening, the Pirc Defense is now accepted as a solid choice.

Black allows white to build an imposing center, then attempts to turn that center into a target for attack.

  1. e4 d6
  2. d4 Nf6
  3. Nc3 g6
    • 4. f4 Bg7 (Austrian attack)
      • 5. Nf3 O-O
    • 4. Nf3 Bg7 (Two knights system)
      • 5. Be2 O-O
      • 6. O-O

4.5.5 Modern Defense

  1. e4 g6
  2. d4 Bg7
  3. Nc3 d6
  4. f4 c6
  5. Nf3 Bg4

This is a relatively new opening. In the 1930s this was considered inferior, but by the 1960s it was found to be quite playable.

Black lets White take the center with the view to undermining and ruining White's""wonderful" position.

This opening is tricky to play and correct play of it is counter-intuitive (immediate center control is not a goal, since Black is trying to undermine that control).

4.5.6 Scandinavian Defense

  1. e4 d5
  2. exd5
    • 2…Qxd5
      • 3. Nc3
        • 3…Qa5
        • 3…Qd8
        • 3…Qd6
    • 2…Nf6
      • 3. d4 Nxd5
      • 4. c4

4.6 Restricting Movement with Semi-Closed Chess Games

Semi-closed chess games are those in which White plays 1.d4 and Black responds with anything other than 1.…d5. As with semi-open games, these openings can result in asymmetrical positions that can become quite complicated. They appeal to the player who likes to counterattack.

Opening Name Opening Moves
Benko/Volga Gambit 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5
Benoni Defense 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5
Blumenfeld Gambit 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 b5
Bogo-Indian Defense 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4+
Budapest Gambit 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5
Catalan System 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3
Döry Defense 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Ne4
Dutch Defense 1.d4 f5
Grünfeld Defense 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5
King's Indian Defense 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7
Nimzo-Indian Defense 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4
Old Indian Defense 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6
Queen's Indian Defense 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6
Torre Attack 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5
Trompowsky Attack 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5
Veresov Attack 1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5

Indian defenses: These defenses are sometimes not recommended for beginners as they don’t follow the rules of thumb directly.

4.6.1 Benko/Volga Gambit

  1. d4 Nf6
  2. c4 c5
  3. d5 b5
  4. cxb5 a6 (Main line)
  5. bxa6 Bxa6

4.6.2 Benoni Defense

  1. d4 Nf6
  2. c4 c5
  3. d5 e6
  4. Nc3 exd5
  5. cxd5 d6
    • 6. Nf3 g6
      • 7. e4 Bg7 (Classical)
        • 8. Be2 O-O
        • 9. O-O
      • 7. e4 Bg7 (Modern main line)
        • 8. h3 O-O
        • 9. Bd3
    • 6. e3 g6

4.6.3 Catalan System

  1. d4 Nf6
  2. c4 e6
  3. g3 d5 (Classical line)
  4. Bg2 dxc4
  5. Nf3 Be7

See this video

Essentially: A King's Indian Attack combined with a Queen's Gambit Accepted (wait for Black to accept dxc4 and then own the middle files)


  • E00 Queen's Pawn Game (including Neo-Indian Attack, Trompowsky Attack, Catalan Opening and others)
  • E01 Catalan, Closed
  • E02 Catalan, open, 5.Qa4
  • E03 Catalan, open, Alekhine Variation
  • E04 Catalan, Open, 5.Nf3
  • E05 Catalan, Open, Classical line
  • E06 Catalan, Closed, 5.Nf3
  • E07 Catalan, Closed, 6…Nbd7
  • E08 Catalan, Closed, 7.Qc2
  • E09 Catalan, Closed, Main line

4.6.4 Grünfeld Defense

The Grünfeld Defense has been the choice of many chess champions.

  1. d4 Nf6
  2. c4 g6
  3. Nc3 d5
    • 4. cxd5 Nxd5 (Exchange variation)
      • 5. e4 Nxc3
      • 6. bxc3
    • 4. Nf3 Bg7 (Russian system)
      • 5. Qb3 dxc4
      • 6. Qxc4 O-O
      • 7. e4
    • 4. Nf3 Bg7 (Taimanov's variation)
      • 5. Bg5

Black does not try to control the center early on with his pawns but spends some time fianchettoing his dark-squared bishop and only then attacks the center with his pieces.

To put it into a simple formula:

  • Black first leaves the center to White and then tries to conquer it back due to his better development.

4.6.5 King's Indian Defense

This is a classic. It is a popular opening choice at all levels.

  1. d4 Nf6
  2. c4 g6
    • 3. Nc3 Bg7 (Classical variation)
      • 4. e4 d6
      • 5. Nf3 O-O
      • 6. Be2 e5
    • 3. Nf3 Bg7
    • 4. g3 O-O
    • 5. Bg2 d6
    • 6. O-O

The King’s Indian Defense promises Black active play.

Black is able to avoid early simplifications and can enter unbalanced positions, which allows him to play for more than equality.


  1. Bogo-Indian Defense

    This is a good opening with which you can surprise your opponent.

    It goes 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4+.

    The idea for Black is to delay the placement of his pawns in the center and instead develop the kingside rapidly.

    The Bogo-Indian Defense is flexible, sound, and doesn’t require learning a lot of theory.

4.6.6 Nimzo-Indian Defense

The Nimzo-Indian is similar to the Bogo-Indian except for the fact that Black plays …Bb4 when the White knight is already placed on c3.

  1. d4 Nf6
  2. c4 e6
  3. Nc3 Bb4.
    • 4. e3 (Rubinstein System)
    • 4…O-O
    • 5. Bd3 d5
    • 6. Nf3 c5
    • 7. O-O

The Nimzo-Indian Defense offers Black high chances for double-edged positions with rich resources for fighting for a victory.

4.6.7 Queen's Indian Defense

The Queen's Indian is one of the most flexible and dynamic ways for Black to meet 1.d4.

  1. d4 Nf6
  2. c4 e6
  3. Nf3 b6
  4. g3 Ba6 (Main line)

Black can fianchetto the bishop and put pressure on White’s center or play the bishop to a6 and attack the c4 and e2 pawns.

4.7 Favoring the Sides with Flank Chess Games

In chess, the openings for flank games avoid or delay moving either the d-pawn or the e-pawn to the fourth rank. They appeal to chess players who want to play their system regardless of how Black responds.

Opening Name Opening Moves
Anderssen Opening 1.a3
Barcza System 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3
Bird Opening 1.f4
Dunst Opening 1.Nc3
Durkin Opening 1.Na3
English Opening 1.c4
From Gambit 1.f4 e5
Grob Attack 1.g4
King’s Fianchetto 1.g3
Larsen Opening 1.b3
Réti Opening 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4
Saragossa Opening 1.c3
Sokolsky’s Opening 1.b4

4.7.1 English Opening

The English opening is a flexible choice for white.

  1. c4

Here White hopes to control the center by first gaining support on the side. A common response for Black is "c5".

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 defense if black responds with e5, where white is playing the Sicilian defense with an extra tempo.

One well-known setup that can arise from the English opening is the Hedgehog defense.

4.7.2 Réti Opening

The Reti opening (1. Nf3) is named after the great chess master Richard Reti.

  1. Nf3 d5
  2. c4

The Reti also generally leads to closed positions.

One possible formation for white is the king's Indian attack.

4.7.3 King's Indian Attack (KIA)

  1. Nf3 d5
  2. g3 …
  3. Bg2 …
  4. 0-0 …

The fastest way to fianchetto the king's-bishop and castle is the King's Indian Attack - the reverse of the King's Indian Defense. White just plays Nf3, g3, Bg2, and 0-0, before seeing how to proceed. Normally Black puts some pawns in the center and White hits back with e2-e4.

The idea is:

  • After the development is completed, White usually goes for a central break or, more commonly, for a Kingside attack.
  • Usually White’s expansion of the Kingside leads Black to perform an attack on the other side of the board, leaving us with an unbalanced game, with lots of different strategic themes.


  • Flexible
  • May lead to a kingside attack
  • Not very theoretical


  • Allows Black a strong center
  • Gives Black many different options
  • Does not put immediate pressure on Black


  • A07
  • A08


4.8 Fried Liver Opening

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 (4… Bc5 5. Bxf7+ (5. Nxf7) 5… Ke7 6. Bb3) (4… Qe7 5. Bxf7+ Kd8 6. Bb3) (4… Nxe4 5. Bxf7+ Ke7 6. d4 h6 7. Nxe4 Kxf7 8. d5) (4… h6 5. Nxf7) 5. exd5 Nxd5 (5… Na5 6. Bb5+ (6. d3 h6 7. Nf3 e4 8. Qe2 Nxc4 9. dxc4 Bc5 10. Nfd2 O-O) 6… c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3) (5… b5 6. Bf1 h6 (6… Nd4 7. c3 Nxd5 8. cxd4 Qxg5 9. Bxb5+ Kd8 10. dxe5 (10. Qf3 exd4 11. Bc6 Nf4 12. Bxa8 Bg4 13. Qe4 Bd6)) 7. Nxf7 Kxf7 8. dxc6 Be6) (5… Nd4 6. c3 b5 7. Bf1 Nxd5 8. cxd4 Qxg5) 6. Nxf7 Kxf7 7. Qf3+ Ke6 8. Nc3 Ncb4 9. O-O c6 10. d4 *

4.9 Chess Opening Moves Are Counter-blows

When you’re thinking about chess openings, think of each move as a counterblow. Let’s walk through an example.

Why Black Plays c5 (The Sicilian Defense) After White Plays e4

  1. Someone plays e4, the most common opening move in chess.
  2. Black plays c5 in response. (Known as the Sicilian defense.)
    • c5 is played because black is trying to attack the dark squares.
    • That’s a logical thing to do, because white has overextended on the light squares, and that makes d4 weak.
    • That’s why black responds with c5 or e5 after e4: to challenge an area of the board that is currently unchallenged.

5 The First Move

By far the two most important first moves in chess are 1.e4 and 1.d4. With these moves, White occupies as much of the center as possible (a key component in opening principles). Lines are opened for the queen and one of the bishops, and a potential square to develop a knight is made.

In addition to these first two moves, we have 1.c4 and 1.Nf3. White forgoes immediately occupying the center squares (e4, d4, e5, and d5), but they are nevertheless controlled from the flank, which is strategically just as important.

These four moves comprise the lion’s share of opening theory. Established opening theory also exists for 1.g3, 1.b3, 1.f4, and 1.Nc3, while the rest remain in dubious terrain.

5.1 The King’s Pawn Opening

The most popular first move in chess. This move was described by Bobby Fischer, one of the greatest players to ever play the game, as “best by test”.

Popular at all levels, everyone has played 1.e4 at some point in their chess career. It has been the most popular first move for centuries.

Though it may be a severe generalization, King’s Pawn games are often considered more tactical and attacking than Queen’s Pawn games.

King’s Pawn games are further divided into open games, in which Black plays the symmetrical move 1…e5 and Semi-Open games, in which Black plays anything other than 1…e5.

We will start now by looking at the open games.

5.1.1 The Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5

This is without a doubt the most studied and theoretical opening of the Open Game, if not in all of chess. This is an ancient opening whose opening theory dates back to around the time of the codification of the modern rules of chess in the mid-16th century, and it is still the top variation of the Open Game in master play to this day.

While the theory on this opening may seem daunting for beginners, this should not mean you should shy away from learning the Ruy Lopez; the ideas and tactical motifs are more natural than in other heavy theory openings, making it a great opening for both beginners and masters.

  1. The Marshall Gambit

    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.c3 d5

    Venturing into the subvariations of the Ruy Lopez (and there are many), we have the Marshall Gambit/Attack. This has proven to be a highly effective weapon for Black against the Ruy Lopez, so much so that much of modern Ruy Lopez theory revolves around Anti-Marshall lines today.

    Having been first played in 1918 by Frank Marshall against José Raúl Capablanca, the Marshall came back into fashion when Boris Spassky played it in his match against Mikhail Tal in 1965. Spassky did not lose a single game in which he played the Marshall Gambit, which really speaks for its powerfulness.

5.1.2 The Italian Game

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4

Before the Ruy Lopez came to dominate the modern Open Game, there was the Italian Game. For centuries, this was the chess opening, in fact, it did not even have a name for a long time. Although the Ruy Lopez has overtaken it in popularity, it still remains a bastion of sound, principled chess.

White immediately placed pressure on Black’s vulnerable f7 square, and almost all beginners have fallen for traps surrounding this. Many masters still use this opening, while it is probably the single best Open Game opening to play for beginners to learn the principles of tactics and strategy.

  1. The Jerome Gambit

    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5

    This unsound and wild gambit might be a fun try in casual bullet or blitz games, but it is completely refuted. White gives up a whole two pieces to try to have the initiative and maintain an attack, but Black must play inaccurately for this cavalier opening to work. Black does not even have to play the correct move to be better off.

    Arising out of the Italian Game, this unsound gambit has never been popular, and for good reason. White will have a very hard time getting compensation for sacrificing two pieces.

  2. The Lolli Attack

    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.d4

    The Lolli Attack is a subvariation of the Italian Game, particularly of the Fried Liver Attack, an aggressive attack on Black. The Lolli Attack ups this aggression by quite a bit with a piece sacrifice.

    The Lolli Attack was first pioneered by renowned chess theoretician Giambattista Lolli, who lived in the 18th century. The attack shows the aggressive potential of the Italian Game. The opening was played by Bobby Fischer in several games in a simul.

5.1.3 The Scotch Game

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4

The Scotch Game is a fantastic opening for beginners. Less played, but just as playable, as the Ruy Lopez or Italian Game, the Scotch makes a direct strike on the center.

Players looking to really learn chess tactics and development will adore this opening. Lines can get quite aggressive. The only drawback is that the opening offers Black the same positives it offers White; chances to take advantage of open lines and develop rapidly. The player with better tactical vision and positional awareness often comes out on top in the Scotch Game.

5.1.4 The Four Knights Game

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nf3 4.Nf6

This is another great opening choice for beginners as development is natural, and theory is minimal. This opening has been played since the mid-19th century and was a favorite of Capablanca and Tarrasch.

The Four Knights game is still popular, even at the top level. Today it features in the opening repertoires of Shirov, Ivanchuk, and Glek.

  1. The Belgrade Gambit

    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nd5

    The Belgrade Gambit may arise after out of the Scotch Game or the Four Knights Opening. It is a rare, yet sound opening gambit that will surely take opponents out of their prep.

    Black may sidestep this gambit with a move like 5…Be7 and thereby avoids complications. If however, Black takes the knight with 5…Nxd5 White recaptures with the pawn, and games can get very interesting and tactical.

5.1.5 The Petrov Defense

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6

Also known as the Russian Game, the symmetrical Petrov Defense has a reputation of being dry and drawish, but this does not have to be the case.

Development is natural in this opening, and theory is minimal. If Black wants to spice things up, they have some gambits at their disposal as well. Many beginners also fall for traps in this opening, so it is a good idea to acquaint yourself with it.

  1. The Stafford Gambit

    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nc6

    An exciting subvariation of the Petrov Defense, the Stafford Gambit has risen massively in popularity in online chess over the last few years due to it being a mainstay in streams of Eric Hansen.

    The gambit is slightly dubious, but many a player have been caught out by this trick. If White does not know what they are doing, they may find themselves in a dizzying fight trying to hold on for dear life.

  2. The Cochrane Gambit

    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nxf7

    An even-more daring sacrifice in the Petrov is the Cochrane Gambit. White sacrifices a piece on move four. Whilst dubious, if Black is not careful, White can acheive a quick win.

    This is a far cry from the drawish reputation the Petrov has. Few games in this bold gambit end in draws. This can be a very fun weapon to try out in fast time controls.

5.1.6 The King’s Gambit

1.e4 e5 2.f4

Back in the 19th century the notion of romantic chess dominated the game, typified by this double-edged fighting opening.

In today’s positional and engine-tested understanding of the game, the King’s Gambit has fallen out of favor at the top level because it is so dangerous. However, those with a fighting spirit will take a shine to this swashbuckling opening. It makes for some seriously interesting games.

5.1.7 The Vienna Game

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3

An opening played in only 5% of games at the top level, but this is a great secret weapon to employ. It can be sort of a beefed-up King’s Gambit as oftentimes White will play 3.f4, known as the Vienna Gambit.

2.Nc3 looks like a quiet move, but the Vienna Game leads to very complex tactical games. Black is often immediately taken out of their prep.

The Vienna is best summed up as a flexible opening and a sound one at that. It has something for everyone. Aggressive players and positional players alike will find something in it for them.

5.1.8 The Bishop’s Opening

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4

This is an ancient opening that many times brings Black out of their preparation as it is only played in 5% of games. The opening has seen a resurgence in popularity, as White’s setup with a quiet d3 has a lot to offer.

The opening can also transpose to other more mainline openings such as the Italian Game. 2.Bc4 is a natural developing move and targets the f7 square. It is completely sound, and it is not bogged down with heaps of theory featured in other mainline Open Games.

  1. The Wayward Queen Attack

    1.e4 e5 2.Qh5

    The Wayward Queen Attack is an opening that is mostly all bark and no bite. No top-level player is using it in their regular repertoire, as it is easily refuted.

    The second move by White violates the opening principle of developing the queen too early. However, beginners should know what to do against this, as it can result in one of the quickest possible mates in chess (should Black be so foolish).

5.2 Semi-Open Games

Semi-Open Games are games that begin with 1.e4 but do not follow with the symmetrical 1…e5.

Any move other than 1…e5 is a Semi-Open Game, but there are three principal moves making up a bulk of the theory of Semi-Open Games. These are 1…c5, 1…e6, and 1…c6. We will take a look at all of them and their subvariations below.

5.2.1 The French Defense

1.e4 e6

The French Defense is an opening in which Black lets White occupy the center with pawns as 1…e6 does not stop 2.d4.

Calm as this move may seem, there is a lot to it. Black will invariably strike directly at this pawn center on the next move with 2…d5, and a battle ensues. By playing 1…e6, White has no targets Black sacrifices space for security, but Black by no means is passive!

5.2.2 The Caro-Kann Defense

1.e4 c6

This move can be considered a cousin to French Defense, as it has the same purpose, though with a different outcome. Black cedes the ideal pawn center to White but props up the d5 push with the c-pawn.

This opening is as ancient as the French, but it did not get recognized until the 19th century and only became popular in the 1920s due to play by Aron Nimzowitsch and José Rául Capablanca.

The Caro-Kann, simply put, is one of the most important and respectable replies to 1.e4. It has an advantage over the French in not closing in the light-squared bishop.

5.2.3 The Sicilian Defense

1.e4 c5

The Sicilian Defense is maybe the most important of all chess openings. There is probably no other opening with more material written on it in all of chess, and study of this fighting opening is constantly growing. The Sicilian Defense deserves its own library in the realm of chess openings.

The move 1…c5 prevents the ideal pawn center. The Sicilian is a fighter’s weapon. It is the way to fight for a win at the top level as games result in highly imbalanced positions. Tomes of volumes have been written on Sicilian subvariations alone.

  1. The Sicilian Najdorf

    1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6

    The Sicilian Najdorf is a subvariation of the Open Sicilian. Known as the Rolls Royce or the Cadillac of chess openings, this is maybe the richest variation in all of chess.

    Theory is heavy in this one. Beginners are often encouraged to shy away from it, as the ideas are not as clear-cut as in many Open Game openings. Advanced theoretical study is almost a must for the Najdorf.

    That said, players that decide to dedicate some time to Najdorf study will find one of the most beautiful and complex variations in the game. The opening is constantly evolving and new sublines of sublines are found regularly.

  2. The Closed Sicilian

    1.e4 c5 2.Nc3

    Less played than the Open Sicilian and thus containing less theory is the Closed Sicilian. The Closed Sicilian is considered an “Anti-Sicilian”, i.e. not an Open Sicilian.

    The Closed Sicilian scores just behind the Open Sicilian (51% vs 53%), though it has the advantage that players are far more likely to book up on Open Sicilian Theory rather than Closed Sicilian, so this opening may well be a nice surprise weapon.

  3. The Grand Prix Attack

    1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4

    A subvariation of the Closed Sicilian, the Grand Prix Attack is a great weapon for beginners to use against the Sicilian Defense. White employs a kingside attack from the getgo, sometimes getting very aggressive and sacrificing their f-pawn to target Black’s weak f7 square.

    This ambitious opening has just a 44% win rate for White, so it entails a bit of risk. However, with risk comes reward for those willing to put in the time to learn it.

  4. The Alapin Sicilian

    1.e4 c5 2.c3

    Perhaps the most formidable of the Anti-Sicilians is the Alapin. 2.c3 prepares a d4 push for White, and many beginners may play a seemingly natural developing move like Nc6, which will allow White the ideal pawn center.

    The Alapin has been played by former World Champions Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. Garry Kasparov lost his first game against the supercomputer Deep Blue against an Alapin.

  5. The Smith-Morra Gambit

    1.e4 c5 2.d4

    In contrast to the Alapin, the Smith-Morra throws positional considerations out the window and is a tactician’s dream. The opening is far from refuted, though this gambit must be played with a keen tactical eye.

    Extremely exciting games arise from this opening, and while it probably has the most value at fast time controls, it may certainly prove rewarding for those brave enough to employ it at classical time controls. One small misstep by either side can see evaluation swing wildly and lead players into a dark and sharp forest of tactics.

  6. The Accelerated Dragon

    1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6

    Another opening for tacticians is the Accelerated Dragon. This is an opening to light fire on the board, and those looking for sharp, tactical combinations with a relatively easy-to-understand setup will take a shine to this opening.

    This combative approach is a great way to learn tactical chess for beginners.

  7. The Wing Gambit

    1.e4 c5 2.b4

    This unsound gambit is not seen at top level play hardly ever, though it is played at the amateur level.

    White gives up their b-pawn for rapid development and control of the d4 square via a fianchetto of their dark-squared bishop. Black can safely accept it.

    Like most offbeat gambits, the main appeal of the Wing Gambit lies in its ability to take your opponents out of their preparation.

5.2.4 The Scandinavian Defense

1.e4 d5

If Black wants to make an immediate fight for the center then the Scandinavian Defense is maybe the best way to do so. White basically must take the pawn here and Black is in the driver’s seat.

The Scandinavian Defense has many devotees, though it lags behind other mainline responses to 1.e4. For those not wanting to learn heaps of theory, the Scandinavian can be a great option for those that like the resulting structures.

5.2.5 Alekhine’s Defense

1.e4 Nf6

This odd-looking opening remained in the shadows of opening theory for many years until Alexander Alekhine began to play it in 1921. From then, it has received some serious consideration.

Most players are taken immediately out of their preparation upon seeing this move. White in this position basically must play 2.e5, meaning Black is basically in the driver’s seat from move one.

5.2.6 The Nimzowitsch Defense

1.e4 Nc6

This unusual and rare opening is not bad per se. It usually takes White out of their usual preparation, though many times this opening transposes to more mainline openings.

The move is kind of a waiting move in the opening which asks White what their intentions are. Black may be looking for a d5 push resulting in a sort of delayed Scandinavian Defense.

5.3 The Queen’s Pawn Opening


This is the second most popular first move in a game of chess, but this does not mean it is the second-best.

Today, choosing between 1.e4 and 1.d4 is a matter of taste. Again, speaking very generally, this is considered a more strategic-oriented first move. White’s plans are slower. They set out to devise a long-term positional strategy. As such, 1.d4 did not become a mainstream move until the 19th century.

Black has two main responses. 1…d5, the symmetrical approach, is called the “Closed Game”. All other moves fall under “Semi-Closed Games”, including the most popular response to 1.d4, 1…Nf6, a category of Semi-Closed Games called the Indian Game.

5.3.1 The Queen’s Gambit

1.d4 d5 2.c4

The Queen’s Gambit is basically the opening of the Closed Game. White may play something other than 2.c4, but White chooses it in 55% of games after 1…d5. Even if White plays something else, they will usually play c4 later.

This is a great opening for players looking for a positional game. Ambitious without sacrificing safety, this is the opening masters and beginners have chosen for hundreds of years to learn classical strategic chess.

  1. The Queen’s Gambit Declined

    1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6

    This is one of the sturdiest defenses against the Queen’s Gambit. Whether you’re rated 1000 or 2800, you will find this opening. It does a phenomenal job of teaching beginners the principles of strategic chess.

    By the turn of the 20th century, this became the most important opening in all of chess. Today it remains one of them, without a doubt.

  2. The Semi-Tarrasch

    1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5

    This subvariation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined is about as positional as an opening can get. For those looking to shy away from dangerous and sharp tactical games, this can be a good option.

    Players that like to reach the middlegame by simply developing naturally may like this opening. At the top level, it has the reputation at the top level of being a drawing weapon. Positions resulting from the Semi-Tarrasch are generally fairly equal.

  3. The Chigorin Defense

    1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6

    Named after the great player Mikhail Chigorin, the Chigorin Defense is an opening that has been around for a while, but has grown in appreciation with computer-assisted opening preparation.

    Black sidesteps the slow positional play of most Queen’s Gambit Declined games and looks for a tactical and unbalanced game. Black assumes some positional risk, but this often pays off. Our Cheeky Chigorin course can show you the ropes of this solid, yet perhaps underplayed, opening.

  4. The Queen’s Gambit Accepted

    1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4

    In the other camp of Queen’s Gambit responses is the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. Like the Queen’s Gambit Declined, this opening is suitable for all levels and teaches a great deal about positional play.

    The opening dates all the way back to the 15th century, though it received more recognition in 1886 when the first-ever World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz played it against Johannes Zukertort. Since then, the QGA has remained a mainstay in 1.d4 theory.

5.3.2 The Slav Defense

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6

The Slav Defense is an excellent opening played by beginners up to Super-GMs. It is similar to the Queen’s Gambit Declined, but Black tends to be more active and does not enclose their light-squared bishop.

While not as old as the Queen’s Gambit Declined, the Slav has an excellent record and is considered one of the classical replies to the Queen’s Gambit. Black scores similarly with the Slav as with the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

5.3.3 The King’s Indian Defense

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7

If you are looking for an opening as Black to fight for the win against 1.d4 and are willing to take risks, then the King’s Indian Defense is a great option.

This opening is not an attempt to maintain equality, it is a violent option to seize the initiative for White. It has been played since the 19th century, but it only began to become popular in the 1940s after play by David Bronstein and Isaac Boleslavsky.

5.3.4 The Nimzo-Indian Defense

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4

This can be savage torture for 1.d4 players, so much so that many times White will attempt to completely avoid it by playing 3.Nf3.

It’s flexible for Black, and can really leave White with problems if played inaccurately. After 3.Bb4 Black scores an impressive 48%. By playing this move, Black prevents White from playing e4 and threatens to saddle Black with doubled c-pawns.

5.3.5 The Benoni Defense

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5

The Benoni is an aggressive opening that allows Black to launch a counterattack as soon as move two. The Benoni can be risky, but as with other risky openings, it can be rewarding. Players looking for dynamic positions and to avoid mainline 1.d4 theory will take a shine to the Benoni.

The Benoni sacrifices space for a chance to seize the initiative.

5.3.6 The Benko Gambit

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5

The Benko Gambit differs from other gambits in that it does not sacrifice material for immediate attacking chances. Rather, this is a positional gambit in which Black hopes to open the queenside and have long-term attacking possibilities.

If there was ever a gambit for positionally-minded players, then this is it.

5.3.7 The Trompowsky Attack

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5

Named after a Brazilian chess player who used it in the 1940s and 1950s, the Trompowsky Attack is a good way to deviate from mainline 1.d4 theory.

It was not taken seriously until the 1980s when it underwent a reappraisal, and since then its value has only grown. World Champion Vishy Anand successfully played the Trompowsky against another World Champion, Anatoly Karpov.

5.3.8 The Torre Attack

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5

The Torre Attack is named after Mexican player Carlos Torre, who had much success with it in the 1920s, and even beat World Champion Emanuel Lasker with it in 1925. The ideas in the Torre Attack are quite simple, pinning Black’s knight on f6. It is an opening with a lot of attacking potential.

5.3.9 The Grünfeld Defense

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5

An extremely theory-heavy opening, the Grünfeld is often not recommended for players rated below 2000.

The ideas in the Grünfeld are very complex, and beginners may have a hard time grasping them. Sacrifices and counter-sacrifices are common in many variations of the Grünfeld Defense.

Players that enjoy a tactical battle and who are willing to put in some deep study may find the Grünfeld rewarding. The positions reached can be highly imbalanced and sharp. The Grünfeld Defense is a favorite of French Super-GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

5.3.10 The Colle System

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3

The Colle System is one of several systems to take a setup-based approach to chess. This means that whatever your opponent plays.

In the Colle System, theory is minimal and you keep the opening as simple as possible. This has advantages for beginners as they do not have to memorize specific lines of theory.

The Colle System has been advocated by the mysterious Spanish chess Youtube phenom, the “Rey Enigma”.

5.3.11 The London System

1.d4 d5 2.Bf4

The London System is quite possibly the most popular of the system-based openings. Like other systems, the London is played against virtually anything Black plays, so it may be reached via various move orders.

What the London does feature is an early Bf4 with pawns on e3 and c3.

Some describe the setup as boring and uninspired, while some players as Black find it to be a nightmare to play against.

5.3.12 The Dutch Defense

1.d4 f5

The Dutch Defense is a divisive opening in chess. It is like a reversed Sicilian Defense against 1.d4 but entails a significant amount of risk for White as their kingside is immediately opened up.

It is for this reason that the Dutch remains relatively rare at the top level. That said, exciting and attacking games arise from the Dutch where equality is a mere afterthought and imbalances are a main feature. Some lines can get very theoretical in the Dutch.

5.4 Flank Openings

While 1.d4 and 1.e4 comprise the bulk of opening theory, there is a significant amount of theory regarding Flank openings. Some of these openings have just as much theory as Queen’s Pawn and King’s Pawn openings, while others do not deserve much more than a mere mention, if even that.

Flank openings, in the end, try to do what 1.d4 and 1.e4 do, they fight for control of the center, but “from the flank”, i.e. from a distance with pieces or flank pawns. Let’s take a look at some of the more important flank openings.

5.4.1 The English Opening


The English Opening is maybe the most important of the flank openings. It was popularized by Howard Staunton in the 19th century when 1.e4 was considered to be the main (and practically only) firsts move in the game.

It did not become accepted as a mainstream opening until the 1920s however, and since then has been played by many World Champions. The English Opening can provide many attacking chances, and the nature of the opening depends on whether Black plays a Symmetrical English (1…c5) or a Reversed Sicilian or King’s English (1…e5).

5.4.2 The Reti Opening

1.Nf3 d5 2.c4

This is the starting position of the Reti, though many people believe that 1.Nf3 by itself is the Reti, that opening is actually the Zuketort Opening.

The Reti is somewhat related to the English Opening, and it even helped to revolutionize the English Opening. The ideas of hypermodern chess advanced significantly with the Reti. The move showed what flank openings were capable of, that pieces could control central squares from the outset, and that pawns were not necessary to do this.

5.4.3 Larsen’s Opening


About as hypermodern as hypermodern openings get is Larsen’s Opening, or the Nimzo-Larsen Attack.

1.b3 intends to fianchetto the dark-squared bishop to b2, which will serve as a long-range cannon controlling the central squares from afar. Bobby Fischer won all five games he played with Larsen’s Opening in 1970.

6 Middlegame

What to do in the Middlegame

  1. The Center has the Answer to your Questions
    • Closed
    • Open
    • Static
    • Direction of pawn chain
  2. Improve your Worst Piece
    • Find your weakest piece and make its position better
  3. Spot and Attack Weaknesses
    • Add more attackers to their weak pieces
  4. What if there are no Weaknesses?
    • Look to create a weakness for them
  5. Make Beneficial Trades
    • Trade your worst pieces while keeping your opponent's worst pieces
    • Keep your best pieces and take your opponent's worst pieces
  6. Prophylaxis is Part of the Plan
    • Prevent your opponent's plans

6.1 Middlegame Tactics

Indicators for potential tactical opportunity:

  • an unsafe or exposed king
  • a harmonious constellation of your pieces around the opponent’s king
  • your opponent’s undeveloped pieces or pieces on the opposite side of the board, away from the king
  • a weak back rank and a king with no escape square
  • open diagonals towards the opponent’s king
  • pinned pieces
  • a strong minor piece in your opponent’s position – most often a knight which can provide tremendous attacking support
  • passed pawns on the 6th or 7th rank
  • pieces fulfilling multiple roles – overworked pieces
  • when you have a double check available
  • when you have a move which makes two threats


  • Never push pawns where you're being attacked
  • The move that hits both pawns is usually better


  • A fork is a tactic whereby a single piece makes two or more direct attacks simultaneously. Most commonly two pieces are threatened, which is also sometimes called a double attack.
  • The attacking piece is called the forking piece; the pieces attacked are said to be forked.


  • An absolute pin is when a piece is pinned to its king and can't move without exposing its king to a check from an opposing piece on the same line or diagonal.
  • A relative pin is one where the piece shielded by the pinned piece is a piece other than the king, but it's typically more valuable than the pinned piece. Moving such a pinned piece is legal but may not be prudent, as the shielded piece would then be vulnerable to capture.


  • A skewer is an attack upon two pieces in a line and is similar to a pin. A skewer is sometimes described as a "reverse pin"; the difference is that in a skewer, the more valuable piece is in front of the piece of lesser value.
    • If the piece being attacked is not a king, then it is a Relative Skewer.
    • If the piece being attacked is a king, then it is an Absolute Skewer. The king is said to be skewered.

Discovered Attacks

  • A Discovered Attack is an attack that is revealed when one piece moves out of the way of another. Discovered Attacks can be extremely powerful, as the piece moved can make a threat independently of the piece it reveals.
  • Like many chess tactics, they succeed because the opponent is unable to meet two threats at once. While typically the consequence of a discovered attack is the gain of material, they do not have to do this to be effective; the tactic can be used merely to gain a tempo.

Overloaded Pieces

  • A piece is Overloaded (also known as "overworked") if it has more than one responsibility, e.g. defending a piece, defending a square, blocking a check, and blockading a piece.


  • Whether you call it Zwischenzug (from German), Intermezzo (from Italian), an intermediate move or just an in-between move, it's all the same thing.
  • It's a very common tactic that you need to know because it happens in almost all chess games. A Zwischenzug is when a player, instead of playing the expected move, often a recapture, plays another move that makes an immediate threat that the opponent must answer, before playing the original expected move.
  • A Zwischenzug that is also a check, is called a Zwischenschach, Zwischen-check, or simply an in-between check.


  • The word "Zugzwang" comes from German, and means "being forced to make a move". A player is in Zugzwang when it's their turn and every possible move makes their position worse.


  • Interference occurs when the line between an attacked piece and its defender is interrupted by sacrificially interposing a piece - typically on a protected square.

Greek Gift

  • The Greek Gift sacrifice is a common tactical theme, where one side sacrifices their bishop by capturing the rook pawn of a castled king position (white playing Bxh7+ or black playing Bxh2+) usually in order to checkmate the opponent or gain significant material advantage.

6.2 Middlegame Strategy   edit

Strategy means long-term planning and thinking of ways to change the position in your favor, and creating plans is what differentiates the good players from the weak ones.

Middlegame plans can rarely revolve around tactics. Most often, they include strategical or positional thinking and coming up with ways to improve which are 5 or 10 moves deep. Beginners tend to make a common mistake of playing aimlessly and simply moving their pieces around without considering the key aspects of a position or planning in advance.

Good players, on the other hand, spend most of their time coming up with plans and not thinking or calculating one single variation or move. I’m not saying that you should come up with a plan and stick to it blindly, not caring about the dynamics of a position, but that having a plan in mind will greatly decrease the chances of careless, aimless play, blundering or spending large amounts of time meditating over a single move.

There are two types of plans – positive and negative ones. The positive plans include any ideas which might improve your position or any single aspect of it, and negative plans are the same, only applied to what your opponent might want to do to improve his position, and you trying to prevent that.

Very often during a game, if you can’t think of a good plan, you can look for a negative strategical plan. Think of what the person on the other side of the board wants to do. Surely you can find something that worries you. Once you do, create a strategical plan to prevent that.

Using positive and negative plans will leave you less prone to being startled by a move your opponent makes, because you will know what’s coming. It will also improve your middlegame play significantly. Having plans and maneuvering your pieces accordingly simplifies the thinking process significantly.

The easiest way to improve at creating strategical plans is to analyze! Look at random games. Put them on move 20 and find plans. Once you’re done with your own ideas, look at what the players did. Think of what their plan was while making that move. Trust me, most often, every single move a grandmaster makes was part of a plan! Reconstructing what they were thinking will make you stronger and faster. And remember, a bad plan is better than no plan at all! at 2:10

7 Endgame   ToDo

Double check

  • A Double Check is when two pieces are delivering check simultaneously. A Double Check is generally more powerful than a normal check, because the opponent can only respond with a king move. (The pieces that are delivering check cannot both be captured or blocked with one move.)

Pawn Endgames:

  • If the pawn is on the second, third, or fourth rank, there are three key squares – the square two squares in front of the pawn and the squares to the left and right of that square.
  • If the pawn is on the fifth or sixth rank, there are six key squares: the square in front of the pawn and the squares to the left and right, as well as the square two squares in front of the pawn, and the squares to the left and right of it.
  • There is an exception to the key squares rule when a knight pawn is on its sixth rank, and the defending king is in the corner.
  • When the pawn is on the seventh rank, the key squares are the squares on the seventh and eighth rank that touch the pawn's square.
  • An advanced rook pawn generally has two key squares: the two squares on the adjacent file that touch the promotion square.
  • With a king and pawn versus a lone king, it is important to get the attacking king to any key square and the path to a key square is not always direct.

King Opposition:

  • Direct Opposition is a position in which the kings are on the same rank or file and they are separated by one square. In such a situation, the player not having to move is said to "have the opposition". The side without the opposition may have to move the king away, potentially allowing the opposing king access to important squares.
  • Distant Opposition is a position in which the kings are on the same rank or file but are separated by more than one square. If there are an odd number of squares between the kings, the player not having the move has the (distant) opposition.

7th Rank Rook Pawn:

  • If the pawn on the 7th rank is a Bishop pawn, and the side with the Queen has their King on one of the green squares on their move, they can win the game.
    • The side with the Queen can allow the pawn to promote and deliver checkmate. When both Kings are on the long side, the attacker can accomplish this by having their King on one of the orange squares (f3, f2, f1) when the pawn promotes.

When one side has a Queen and the other side has a pawn on the 7th rank. We're going to look at the following situations:

  • Queen in front of the pawn = Win
  • Not a Bishop or Rook pawn = Win
  • Rook or Bishop pawn without King assistance = Draw
  • Rook or Bishop pawn with King assistance = Win

8 Puzzles

  1. Take stock: Assess pieces/material
  2. Look for Checks, Captures, and Attacks
  3. Guarantee you win material or get checkmate
  4. Take the free pieces (loose pieces fall off)
  5. Watch for move order issues

Chess Puzzle Steps:

  1. Look at own Kings position first
  2. Look for Forcing Moves
    1. Check
    2. Threat to Checkmate
    3. Capture
    4. Pawn promotion
    5. Threat to capture
  3. Look for undefended pieces

9 Chess Book Idea

Table 9: Ideas
Piece Original Representation Possible 1 Possible 2 Possible 3 Possible 4 Possible 5
Rook Chariotry Artillery Missiles Tanks Tanks light armored vehicle
Knight Cavalierly Helicopters Tanks Drones Helis/Drones Mortar team
Bishop Elephantry Tanks Airforce Snipers Artillery Machine gun unit
Pawn Infantry Infantry   Infantry Infantry attacking/advancing Infantry units
Queen Prime-minister Airforce Marines SF Minister attack helicopter
King King Country as whole Commander in Chief Leader Capital Army HQ or Mobile HQ

Game Options:

10 Other [0/3]

10.2 Add Stockfish to SCID   edit

[2021-01-12 Tue 21:28]

Try configuring the UCI engine from the menu: Tools->Analysis Engine (Ctrl+Shift+A). You may not find your engine listed there, so hit "New" in the dialog box. I chose the following params and it worked for me:

  • Name: Stockfish 1.6 (I use 1.6 from the ubunutu repositories)
  • Command: stockfish
  • Directory: home/Sas3.scid (hit the ~/.scid button, it will fill this for you)
  • ELO: 3100 (perhaps you could tweak this too; it should be higher for 1.8 ).
  • UCI: select the checkbox.

10.3 Stockfish ELO   edit

Estimated (9 years ago):

  • Level 1 AI = ~850
  • Level 2 AI = ~950
  • Level 3 AI = ~1050
  • Level 4 AI = ~1250
  • Level 5 AI = ~1700
  • Level 6 AI = ~1900
  • Level 7 AI = ~2000
  • Level 8 AI = ~2250

10.4 Old config notes

From header:

11 Organize

11.2 Process To Solve Puzzles

  • Look for forcing moves.
    • Checks – Thanks to the rules of the games, a player has to deal with a king in check, and any other move which doesn’t address this problem is illegal.
    • Captures – When you capture material, the opponent needs to recapture it back or else they’ll be behind in material. While capture isn’t as forcing as a check, the opponent’s choice is still restricted.
    • Attacking moves – What’s your first instinct when someone attacks your queen? Do you ignore it or you make sure that your queen is safe? Under normal circumstances, any player would move their queen away(unless you’re Mikhail Tal!). So basically when you attack something, your opponent has to respond to your threat. Once again, this puts a limit on their number of options.
  • Look at what each piece is doing.
  • Look at what would be left at the end.

11.3 Important Middlegame Principles

  • Centralize Pieces
  • Improve Pawn Structure
  • Occupy Opponents Weak Squares While Avoiding Creating Them
  • Avoid Pawn Weaknesses While Attacking Opponents Weak Pawns
  • Place Knights on Strong Outposts
  • Use Rooks To Control Open Files
  • Favor Bishops over Knights

11.4 Find the best move:

  1. Find 5-7 possible candidate moves in your position
  2. Delete any candidate moves that do not follow a plan or follow a bad plan
  3. Calculate!
    • Instead of focusing on every one of our opponent's moves, think about the threatening ones!
    • If you see one bad variation, move on to the next candidate move. Don't hope your opponent won't see it.
  4. Make your Decision/Move

11.5 Blindfold Chess

Learn Blindfold Chess

  1. The first step is to learn to visualize an empty board - know the colors of the squares. To do this, Koltanowsky (In the Dark and The Adventures of a Chess Master) recommended learning the 4 quadrants - - maybe draw these now an then when you're doodling, or visualize a bishop or knight wandering around on it when you're falling asleep.
  2. Know the diagonals of the chessboard These should be a single perceptual unit - like a2-g8 is a white diagonal with 7 squares. You often see strong annotators make comments like "White will break through on the h4 - d8 diagonal". You could do this by following a bishop around an empty board when falling asleep - maybe choose a White bishop one night and a black bishop the next. A pianist said "it's not enough to know the scales like the back of your hand; you have to know them like the front of your hand." So it is with diagonals for the chess player.
  3. A Chess Meditation That's Lev Alburt's term for this type of exercise in his book Chess for the Gifted and Busy. He gives an example of visualizing a Knight's path between 2 squares - for instance, given the squares f1 and c4, the path f1-d2-c4. This one's easy, but how about a path from a1 to g8. You can make up your own exercises, like finding all shortest paths between 2 squares; for instance between a1 and d4, there are 2 paths, a1-c2-d4 and a1-b3-d4, much like the electron that is supposed to take all paths between 2 points with different probabilities - I guess I thought of this exercise because Alburt is also a theoretical physicist.
    • A knight's tour is a sequence of moves of a knight on a chessboard such that the knight visits every square exactly once.
    • Knight Obstacle Course - This is a variation many students love – especially those who love chess mazes. I place a Knight and a King of the Opposite Color on the board in any position except a Knight’s move apart. I then add many obstacles in the form of all the other pieces (it doesn’t matter their color – only the Knight and the Opposite Color King matter). The Knight has to make as many consecutive Knight moves as it takes to “capture” the King.
    • The “Chess IQ” test - Perform a "knight tour" of legal White Knight moves to land, in order, from a1 to b1 to c1 to … h1 to h2 to f2 to c2 to a2 to a3 …zig-zagging right, up, then left and then back again until reaching all of the squares along the first rank (a8 is the final square). You must avoid moving to any squares where the black pawns reside AND the squares the black pawns attack. In other words, g2, e2, d2, b2, f3, c3, etc. can never be landed upon during the entire exercise – they are neither target squares nor can be used to get to target squares! The test is timed.
  4. Learn to play over games without a board Start out with short games. You could go over them once just to know where all the pieces are and what are all the legal moves at each stage. I had to see what pieces changed their range of motion with each move. For instance, after 1.e4 "now the pawn can move to e5 or capture on d5 and f5. The Bishop on f1 can now move to e2, d3, c4, b5 and a6. The knight on g1 can now move to e2, and so can the K/e1 and Q/d1, which can also move to f3, g4 and h5". This tedious verbal exercise helped me isolate the skill of visualization that takes relaxation, from analysis which causes tension. When a game is stored in your memory this way you can do a more detailed analysis without strain, and you may see a surprising amount of tactics on the first pass.
  5. How to recall the position Koltanowski recommends starting from the first move mentally each time when you're starting out, if you have trouble recalling the moves. Later he did this in blindfold simultaneous exhibitions until the games reached distinctive positions. It is easy to get 2 games interfering in your mind, especially when 2 early positions are the same but reached through transposition.

Tips to master blindfold chess

  • Identify the color of a square: Consider every blind chess board square and determine if it is a light square or a dark square. This practice will undoubtedly improve your awareness of the entire blind chess board as long as you discover the square's color by seeing the chessboard rather than employing a mathematical formula.
  • Attempt basic piece tours: The goal is to simply plot a path for any piece to get from one square to the next. How would a Bishop, for example, go from g1 to f8? g1-c5-f8 would be the answer. If the Bishop is the piece you've chosen, the start and finish points must, of course, be the same color.
  • Review memorized opening theory: As your game improves and your rating rises over 1000-1400, relying only on opening principles to get you through the initial part of the game will become increasingly challenging. You'd have to learn a few basic openings. Despite the fact that your ideal opening repertoire would be built on ideas rather than precise moves, you will undoubtedly need to memorize a few key lines. When compared to other types of positions, these vital lines are generally highly sharp and need considerably more precise technique. As a result, it's critical that you master them, and what better method to do so than with this exercise? All you have to do now is mentally recite the lines you've memorized.
  • Practice endgame theory: There are a couple of potentially winning endings that can be difficult to grasp. The Queen versus. Rook endgame, for example, or the Bishop and Knight checkmate. After reviewing these endings, you can reinforce the patterns by blindfolding yourself and playing these positions against yourself. When playing moves for the defending side, make sure to give it your all.
  • Complete the Knight vs. Queen tour: In this exercise, your Knight begins on the h1 square, while your opponent begins on the d4 square with a Queen. The goal is to transfer the Knight to every tile that the Queen does not control while avoiding being attacked by the Queen. After a few tries, you can swap the Knight's starting square for a new one.

And a cool story about Timor:

11.6 Learn:

Author: Matthew Rensberry, MD, MBA

Created: 2022-08-07 Sun 20:40