Best Chess Openings for Beginners: The Definitive Guide
One question that pops up all the time when considering an effective chess training method is “what are the best chess openings for beginners to play”?
After all, not all chess openings are as suitable for beginners as they are for experts. Many openings require intimate knowledge of deep, strategic ideas and move-order subtleties.
It doesn’t make sense to copy the chess openings of your favorite players if you don’t understand the underlying concepts.
For beginners, there is no need to reinvent the wheel in the opening. It’s much better to focus on classic chess principles like controlling the center and developing the pieces.
This will do far more for your chess than trying to memorize an exact sequence of moves.
Let’s take a look at the best chess openings for beginners:
The Ruy Lopez or Spanish Opening.
The Ruy Lopez has been one of the most popular openings in chess for a long time, it begins with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Ab5. The main idea for White is to put pressure on the e5 pawn very early, White also develops the bishop in a good square and prepare to castle kingside.
The Giuoco Piano or Italian Opening.
The Italian Opening or Giouco Piano is not only one of the oldest chess openings but it’s also one of the most frequently played -at all levels. It starts after the following moves: 1. e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4.
One of the key ideas of this opening is to quickly control the center. This is achieved by placing a pawn in the center on the first move (1.e4), a move which also liberates the White’s light-squared bishop and queen.
By playing 2.Nf3, White immediately attacks the Black central pawn on e5. Afterward, White moves his bishop to the dangerous c4 square (3.Bc4) from where it eyes Black’s potentially weak f7 pawn. Moreover, by bringing the bishop into play, White prepares to castle on the next move.
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Following these ideas, White achieves the 3 main goals of any opening: control of the center, rapid development, and preparation for castling to safety. Over the course of the next moves, White can continue by castling, playing his knight to c3, the d-pawn to d3 and then bringing the dark-squared bishop into play.
The Four Knights Opening.
The four knights opening is fairly popular chess opening among beginners who adhere to the principle “develop knights before bishops”. The four knights opening usually leads to quiet positional play although there are some fairly sharp variations.
The games usually start with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6, after these moves White usually develops the Bishop with 4.Bb5 and blacks does the same with 4… Bb4.
The Two Knights Defense or “Fried Liver”.
This position comes to the board after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6, this is a very typical move order in games that start with 1.e4, from here we could reach The Ruy Lopez opening or even the Giouco Piano.
After the moves 3.Bc4 Nf6, the main position of the two knights defense has been reached. This defense is a dynamic one for Black in which many variations result in the loss of a pawn for more activity.
The Queen’s Gambit Accepted.
The Queen’s Gambit Accepted is a very old chess opening, even as old as chess writing. Definitely one of the best chess openings for beginners who want to challenge White’s knowledge in this type of openings, and try to win with the black pieces.
Many beginner players actually play the Queen’s Gambit without really knowing how to execute the strategies that give White an active play, after temporarily sacrificing a pawn.
This opening was first mentioned in the 15th century by chess writers and became a feature in the Steinitz-Zukertort match of 1886. Here black accepts the gambit pawn by white. However, as we will see, black will be unable to hold onto this extra pawn.
Furthermore, by capturing away from the center, this gives White free control of the space in the center. It is argued, however, that black will later play for some positional pluses by creating an isolated pawn for white.
Although this isolated pawn gives chances for both players, in the endgame, this positional weakness can turn out to be problematic for white as it becomes increasingly difficult to defend.
The Queen’s Gambit Declined.
The Queen’s Gambit Declined (or QGD) is a chess opening in which Black declines a pawn offered by White in the Queen’s Gambit: 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6
This is known as the Orthodox Line of the Queen’s Gambit Declined. When the “Queen’s Gambit Declined” is mentioned, it is usually assumed to be referring to the Orthodox Line.
Playing 2…e6 releases Black’s dark-squared bishop, while obstructing his light-squared bishop. By declining White’s temporary pawn sacrifice, Black erects a solid position; the pawns on d5 and e6 give Black a foothold in the center.
The Queen’s Gambit Declined has the reputation of being one of Black’s most reliable defenses to 1.d4. In this situation, White will try to exploit the passivity of Black’s light-squared bishop, and Black will try to release it, trade it, or prove that, while passive, the bishop has a useful defensive role.
An eventual …dxc4 by Black will surrender the center to White, and Black will usually not do this unless he can extract a concession, usually in the form of gaining a tempo, by capturing on c4 only after White has played Bd3 first.
In the Orthodox Line, the fight for the tempo revolves around White’s efforts to play all other useful developing moves prior to playing Bd3.
The Queen’s Gambit Declined: Slav and/or Semi-Slav.
The Slav Defense in the Queen’s Gambit Declined is defined by the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6. This opening is very solid for black and it needs a lot of strategical and tactical understanding to play it right.
The biggest reason why so many players choose to play Slav Defense is that it offers a lot of possibilities and a high chance of winning the games.
Black has a few problems:
1.) Developing his Queenside bishop can be very difficult and if not developed, often going into loss.
2.) Black’s pawn structure offers white a lot of targets. Especially so-called ” Pawn minority attack” [ White pawns: a3-b4 Black’s pawns: a6-b5-c6 ]
I will make 3 main lines for Slav Defense:
1.) Pure Slav ( Mainline Slav )
2.) Exchange variation
3.) Semi-Slav ( the most complicated line )
4.) Other responses such as 4. Qc2 or 4.Qb3
I will avoid Chebachenko 4. .. a6 for black as I think it gives more options to white than to black. I avoid playing it as it is proved that after white plays 5.c5 has huge space advantage and Bf4 can keep the strong diagonal from h2-b8.
The London System.
The London System is definitely considered one of the best chess openings for beginners who don’t have time to study many opening systems and want to have a solid opening to play with white, no matter what black plays.
This opening usually arises after 1.d4 and 2.Bf4 or 2.Nf3 & 3.Bf4. It is a “system” opening that can be used against virtually any black defense and thus comprises a smaller body of opening theory than many other openings.
The London System is one of the Queen’s Pawn Game openings where White opens with 1.d4 but does not play the Queen’s Gambit. It normally results in a closed game.
The Sicilian Defense.
The Sicilian Defense is the most popular defense against white’s opening 1.e4 and is used extensively at top level play. It is a very aggressive defense and immediately stakes claim at the center, denying white the double pawns on e4 and d4.
Many chess champions actually prefer to start with 1.d4 because of how well the Sicilian Defense plays against 1.e4.
Eventually, black’s c-pawn is usually exchanged, creating a semi-open c file for black to bring his queen or rook to add pressure to the queenside attack.
White not only has to worry about black’s defense but also the counter-attack that the Sicilian Defense presents. White tends to have the advantage on the kingside while black will usually look to attack on the queenside.
The Dutch/Stonewall Defense.
The Stonewall Defense is an extremely effective chess opening for black against 1. d4 – representing a solid system that is very difficult for white to crack.
The Stonewall Defense involves black placing pawns on the light squares d5, e6, and f5 to establish an iron grip on the center, specifically restricting a potential breakthrough by white involving an e4 push.
Even if you aren’t crazy about playing the Stonewall Defense against every set-up by white in the Queen Pawn opening systems, the Stonewall Defense is exceptionally versatile and very easy to transpose to from various chess openings for black against 1. d4, 1. c4, 1. Nf3, etc..
Also, take a look at the following video by GM Damian Lemos:
How To Play And Study Chess Openings?
- Don’t play too many chess openings; become an expert in the few chess openings you prefer to play.
- Don’t only memorize moves; understand your chess openings main ideas.
- Play according to the basic opening principles.
- Don’t only study chess openings, but test them in real games, blitz games also help.
- The Italian Game, the Sicilian Defense, and the Queen’s Gambit are some of the best chess openings for beginners to start with.
Want to learn the best traps to trick your opponents in an early stage of the game?
The following video will show the 5 best chess opening traps beginners fall into, but more importantly, it will get you prepared so that you don’t fall for it yourself.
How Many Chess Openings Should I Know?
There are plenty of chess openings out there and one would need way too much time to master them all. Hence, it is definitely not advisable to play too many openings. It is a common occurrence that many beginners play have more than one reply to certain opening moves, but in none of their chess openings, they know about common plans and ideas. They simply react to whatever their opponent is doing without having their own “pet line”.
These players are never truly in control of the game because their opponent obtains the initiative and controls which direction the game will go in. A much better approach is to try to acquire more and more knowledge in the one opening you play and to refrain from playing several different ones you only have some superficial knowledge about.
How To Practice Chess Openings?
Of course, it is of paramount importance to test your openings in real games. Collect playing experience with your opening while sitting at the chess board, thinking for yourself without the help of chess books or a chess engine.
While doing this, many questions on your chess opening will come up in your head. You can check all of them after the game. In order to collect playing experience, you’ve got several good options.
You can join a chess club, find players at your level and play as many chess games in your opening against them as possible. Another possibility to gain playing experience is to play chess online. On chess playing websites like chess24 or chess.com, you can participate in an opening themed tournament, for example.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive chess course on chess openings for beginners to deepen all the chess opening tips for beginners from this article, we’ve got a fantastic offer for you.
All chess players were beginners at some point, including Grandmaster Damian Lemos.
With hard work, persistence and the right training, Damian was able to obtain the FIDE Master title at 14 years old, then went on to become an International Master at 15, and a Grandmaster at 18.
It was a journey of pain, sacrifices, determination, and triumph.
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