What are the Best Black Chess Openings?
- The 5 best chess opening moves for Black are 1…e5, 1…d5, 1…c5, 1…e6, and 1…Nf6.
- The best chess openings for Black with 1…e5 are the Italian Game, The Scotch Game, the Petroff Defense, and the Ruy Lopez (Spanish Opening).
- The best chess openings for Black with 1…d5 are the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Queen’s Gambit Declined, and the Slav Defense.
- The best chess opening for Black with 1…c5 is the Sicilian Defense. Here there are many options to choose from such as the Sicilian Dragon, Sicilian Najdorf, Sicilian Taimanov, and more.
- The best chess opening for Black with 1…e6 is the French Defense.
- The best chess openings for Black with 1…Nf6 are the King’s Indian Defense, Bogo-Indian, Nimzo-Indian, Queen’s Indian, and Grunfeld Defense.
Estimated reading time: 17 minutes
If you want to win more games then it makes sense to stick to the best chess openings for Black. You will get better positions and find it easier to create problems for your opponents.
In the past, we have already discussed the best chess opening moves for White.
In this article, we will focus on establishing which are the best chess opening moves for Black and why.
All the chess openings we will present to you are sound, proven and solid.
If you decide to master any of these you can expect to start getting much better results in your games.
So buckle up and let’s start right now!
1…e5: Italian Game, Scotch Game, Petroff Defense, Ruy Lopez (Spanish Opening)
The move 1…e5 is the most common response for Black right after White has played 1.e4.
It usually leads to very open chess games full of tactics and combinational opportunities for both sides.
If you enjoy playing exciting games, 1…e5 is the way to go.
After you play 1…e5, it’s going to be White who decides how the game continues, but most of the times it will be one of these 4 options:
- Italian Game.
- Scotch Game.
- Petroff Defense.
- Ruy Lopez (Spanish Opening).
Let’s take a quick look at them one by one.
The Italian Game is characterized by the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4.
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.
The Scotch Game begins with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4.
White quickly takes control of the center with both of his central pawns developed.
After 3.d4 the main option by far is 3…exd4.
White usually takes with 4.Nxd4 and now Black can meet this opening in various ways, being the most popular ones 4…Nf6, 4…Bc5, and 4…Bb4+.
The Petroff Defense is the exception to the rule because is one of the most drawish chess openings.
It starts with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6.
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.
Ruy Lopez (Spanish Opening)
The Ruy Lopez is probably the main 1.e4 e5 chess opening in the game.
It begins with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5.
One of the greatest chess players of all time, Vishy Anand, says if you are starting in chess or want to see real improvement, you have to know how to play the Ruy Lopez.
Because of its strategic nature and the fact that it leads to both open and closed positions, it is perfect for deepening general chess understanding.
Here is GM Damian Lemos showing you how you can play the Spanish Opening with black without having to know a lot of mainline, cutting-edge theory. GM Lemos recommends the Deferred Steinitz with 4…d6.
Want to know more about playing against both the Spanish and Italian chess openings? Then this Lemos Deep Dive course will provide you with everything you need to know to meet these popular openings with confidence.
1…d5: Queen’s Gambit Accepted/Declined, Slav Defense
The move 1…d5 is one of the best ways to fight against 1.d4.
It gives you a ton of possibilities to play for the win or in a more positional manner, depending on your goals for each particular game.
Next we will cover 3 of the most common and solid lines to play as Black after 1…d5, but bear in mind there are many other possible options as well.
- Queen’s Gambit Accepted.
- Queen’s Gambit Declined.
- Slav Defense.
This is what each of these 1…d5 chess openings are about:
Queen’s Gambit Accepted
The Queen’s Gambit Accepted is reached after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4.
It looks like White is giving away the c-pawn but Black will not be able to hang on to the extra pawn for long.
By playing c4, White threatens to exchange the c-pawn (a flank pawn) for Black’s d-pawn (a center pawn).
By immediately capturing White’s c-pawn we are getting rid of that pressure, and now White has to decide how to continue the game.
Accepting White’s sacrifice with dxc4 is totally fine and it’s not necessary to try to defend that pawn afterward.
It’s better to keep developing pieces and put pressure on the center with moves like …e6, …Nf6, …Be7 or …Bb4.
Queen’s Gambit Declined
In the Queen’s Gambit Declined we won’t accept White’s sacrifice and we just play a more neutral move like 2…e6.
That way, we leave our options open and we can then continue in a variety of different ways: …Nf6, …c6, …Be7, and so on.
The ultra-solid Slav Defense arises after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6.
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.
1…c5: Sicilian Defense
The move 1…c5 after White has played 1.e4 is called the Sicilian Defense.
This is one of the most-played defenses of all time.
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.
The number of Sicilian variations and lines are enormous, so today we will focus on just 3 of the main Sicilians:
- Sicilian Dragon
- Sicilian Najdorf
- Sicilian Taimano.
Let’s go over each of these extremely viable openings:
The Sicilian Dragon is one of the most powerful lines of the Sicilian Defense.
It goes 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6.
This line is a declaration of war to any e4-player and usually leads to breathtaking dynamic and double-edged positions.
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.
The Sicilian Najdorf is a legendary chess opening for Black.
It’s characterized by the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6.
The Sicilian Najdorf is quite aggressive and offers amazing flexibility.
Black can often choose between …e6 setups, …e5 setups, or even …g6 setups!
It is considered one of the best lines against 1.e4.
The Sicilian Taimanov begins with the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6.
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.
Some other viable alternatives in the Sicilian Defense are the Accelerated Dragon, Sicilian Paulsen, and Sicilian Sveshnikov, amongst others.
1…e6: French Defense
The move 1…e6 after White’s 1.e4 is called the French Defense.
This is one of the best chess openings for Black as it prepares 2…d5, challenging White’s central pawn.
The French Defense is solid and one of the most trusted openings in chess, popular at all levels from beginner to strong grandmasters.
It starts with the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5.
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.
There are several lines available you can play, but these 4 are the main ones:
- Exchange Variation: 3.exd5.
- Advance Variation: 3.e5.
- Tarrasch Variation: 3.Nd2.
- Main Line: 3.Nc3.
Would you like to know more about each of these lines? Here we go!
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.
Advance Variation: 3.e5
Here, things get interesting.
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!
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.
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.
Black has three main options against White’s setup, 3…dxe4 (the Rubinstein Variation), 3…Bb4 (the Winawer Variation), and 3…Nf6 (the Classical Variation).
1…Nf6: King’s Indian Defense, Bogo-Indian, Nimzo-Indian, Queen’s Indian, Grunfeld Defense.
The move 1…Nf6 allows several solid and sharp defenses for Black against White’s 1.d4.
It’s an extremely flexible move, and Black can choose to play many good proven openings that will guarantee you excellent possibilities of winning.
We recommend you start by mastering any of these:
- King’s Indian Defense.
- Bogo-Indian Defense.
- Nimzo-Indian Defense.
- Queen’s Indian Defense.
- Grunfeld Defense.
Wow! So many Indians! Let’s check them out:
King’s Indian Defense
The King’s Indian Defense arises after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7.
The King’s Indian Defense is one of the best chess openings for Black and was a favorite of the ultra-competitive chess World Champions Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov.
If you want to win as Black against 1.d4, this is a weapon you would do well to know.
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.
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.
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.
It starts with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4.
The Nimzo-Indian Defense offers Black high chances for double-edged positions with rich resources for fighting for a victory.
Queen’s Indian Defense
The Queen’s Indian Defense begins with the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6.
After this, 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.
The Queen’s Indian is one of the most flexible and dynamic ways for Black to meet 1.d4.
The Grunfeld Defense has been the choice of many chess champions.
It begins with the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5.
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.
As we’ve seen, by choosing one of the five best chess openings for Black you have many ways to play for the win.
This is an introductory article that aimed to present you with a brief summary of all the best chess openings for Black you can use.
We strongly recommend you click on the useful links we’ve included in this article to dig deeper into the openings you are more interested in.
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Also, check out:
- What are the Best Chess Opening Moves? – The Definitive Guide
- Chess Openings for Black – How to Win with Black
- 5 Best Beginner Chess Openings
- 3 Best Chess Openings for Beginners
- The iChess Club is a membership that offers chess lovers like you a wide variety of premium benefits. Check it out.