Names of Chess Openings
Here is a long list of the names of most of the chess opening moves, and the official name of that chess opening.
The main pawn moves are:
- 1. e4 … King Pawn Openings (very popular with beginners through to masters)
- 1. d4 … Queen Pawn Openings (very popular, beginners to masters)
- 1. c4 … English Opening (not very popular, deserves more usage)
Other less common pawn moves for White are:
- 1. g3 … King’s Fianchetto Opening (“g3 opening”). Unusual but OK. Leads to the Modern Attack or King’s Indian Attack.
- 1. g4 .. Grob Opening (“g4 opening”): attacking; playable but odd and tricky.
- 1. b3 … Larsen Opening (“b3 opening”). Not common, but playable.
- 1. b4 … Orangutan Opening or Sokolsky Opening (playable “b4 opening” but weird and tactical)
- 1. f4 .. Bird Opening (“f4 opening”): playable but different; can be tactical or positional.
Pawn moves that are weak and don’t really deserve an official name, although some of them have one:
- 1. c3 … Saragossa Opening (“c3 opening”). Not good, waste of time, but could lead to a King’s Indian Attack or Reverse Caro Kann.
- 1. d3 … (“d3 opening”) A weak beginner move, but can become a King’s Indian Attack.
- 1. e3 … (“e3 opening”) A weak beginner move, maybe it will become a French Defence Reversed.
- 1. h3 … Clemenz Opening (“h3 opening”). Not good, waste of time.
- 1. a3 … Anderssen’s Opening (“a3 opening”). Not good, waste of time.
- 1. f3 … Barnes Opening (“f3 opening”). Not good, waste of time, needlessly weakens the White King. See: Fool’s Mate.
- 1. h4 … Odd king rook pawn line. Sometimes called the “Bayonet Attack” or “h4 opening”.
- 1. a4 … Ware Opening. Odd queen rook pawn line (“Queenside Bayonet” or “a4 opening”).
It should be noted that some of these first moves by White are not as bad as their reputation. At worst, White has simply wasted their first-mover advantage, and it’s like White is now playing Black with a reverse opening.
The Knight move openings for White are:
- 1. Nf3 … Reti Opening (not very popular, but is very good, deserves more outings, this is like the 4th best White opening after e4/d4/c4, it really is good!). Often seen in master chess tournaments.
- 1. Nc3 … Dunst Opening or Queen’s Knight Attack (unusual, very rare, but in theory it is strategically fine).
- 1. Nh3 .. Amar Opening (not good).
- 1. Na3 .. Durkin’s Opening (Not good).
The main and common Black openings (“defences”) against “e4” are:
- 1.e4 e5: King pawn openings. Popular with beginners. Ancient openings that have been played for centuries, and are still good.
- 1.e4 c5: Sicilian Defence. A very popular aggressive opening for Black. The most popular opening for Black against e4 at both the master level and in club play.
- 1.e4 c6: Caro-Kann Defence. A solid and slower defence for Black, but very good.
- 1.e4 e6: French Defence. A solid but sometimes tactical defence for Black; very popular and good.
- 1.e4 d5: Center Counter Defence. Tactical defence with open positions. Popular at club level, but less so at master level.
- 1.e4 d6: Pirc Defence. Tactical attacking opening for Black, but not very popular.
- 1.e4 g6: Modern Defence. Tactical attacking opening for Black, similar to the Pirc, and also not very popular.
Common King Pawn openings (“1.e4 e5”) are:
- Ruy Lopez
- Scotch Opening
- Giuoco Piano
- Two Knights’ Defence
- Max Lange Attack
- Evan’s Gambit
- Petroff Defence
- Bishop’s Opening
- King’s Gambit
- Latvian Gambit
- Queen Pawn Counter Gambit
Common versions of the Sicilian Defence (“1.e4 c5”) include:
- Nadjorf Defence
- Poison Pawn Variation
- Sicilian Dragon (and Accelerated Dragon)
- Scheveningen Variation
- Keres Attack
- Pelikan Variation
- Kan Variation
- Lowenthal Variation
- Taimanov Variation
- Richter-Rauzer Attack
- Sozin Sicilian
- e6 Sicilian Variations
- c3 Sicilian
- Smith Morra Gambit
- Closed Sicilian
- Grand Prix Attack
- b3 Sicilian
- Wing Gambit
Unusual Black defences against “e4” that probably won’t go well against a master, but are playable at club level, include:
- 1.e4 Nf6: Alekhine’s Defence. Tactical and unusual, but quite playable.
- 1.e4 Nc6: Nimzowich Defence. Odd but playable.
- 1.e4 g5: Basman’s Defence. Obscure, rare, looks less playable than it is.
- 1.e4 a6: Baker’s Defence (St George) is “1.e4 a6, 2.d4 b5”. Obscure and rare. Better than it looks.
Bad black openings against “e4” that don’t even really have an official name include:
- 1.e4 f6
- 1.e4 f5
- 1.e4 h6
- 1.e4 h5
- 1.e4 a5
- 1.e4 Na6
- 1.e4 Nh6
The main and common Black openings (“defences”) against “d4” are:
- 1.d4 d5: Queen Pawn Openings. Long-standing openings for centuries. Still very good. Very popular.
- 1.d4 Nf6: Semi-open queen pawn openings. Leads to numerous sub-variations. These are good and very popular.
- 1.d4 f5: Dutch Defence. Aggressive and very playable opening, but not hugely popular.
Common variations in the double Queen pawn openings (“1.d4 d5”) include:
- Queen’s Gambit
- Queen’s Gambit Declined
- Queen’s Gambit Accepted
- Slav Defence
- Semi-Slav Defence
- Tarrasch Defence
- Semi-Tarrasch Defence
- Catalan System
- Colle System
- Bg5 Attack
- Albin Counter Gambit
- Blackmar-Diemer Gambit
Common black openings in the “1.d4 Nf6” lines include:
- King’s Indian
- Queen’s Indian
- Old Indian
- Benko Gambit
- Trompowski / Hodgson Attack / London Attack (Bf4 attack)
Less common Black openings against “d4” include:
- 1.d4 c5 (Old Benoni): Immediate “c5” often leads to a Benoni or similar setup, but without White having played “c4”. Or transposes to Smith-Morra Gambit if White plays “2.e4”.
- 1.d4 d6: Old Indian Defence (or Pirc Defence if White plays “2.e4”)
Odd openings that are not usually regarded as good (well, not good against masters anyway):
- 1.d4 e5 … Englund Gambit. Attacking opening, but probably not a really sound gambit.
- 1.d4 b6: Owen’s Defence (“1.d4 b6, 2.e4 Bb7”) or maybe a Queen’s Indian.
- 1.d4 h6 (with 2.e4 g5): Basman’s Defence
- 1.d4 Nc6: Queen’s Knight Defence. Odd and provocative, but playable.
- 1.d4 b5 (with 2.e4 a6): Polish Defence / Baker’s Defence (St George Defence)
- 1.d4 a6: Transposes to Polish/Baker’s after “2…b5”
Rarely seen Black openings against “d4”:
- 1.d4 c6. Rarely seen. Invites transposition to Caro Kann or Slav Defences.
- 1.d4 e6. Rarely seen. May transpose to French Defence or Queen’s Gambit.
Bad black openings against “d4” include:
- 1.d4 f6
- 1.d4 h5
- 1.d4 a5
- 1.d4 g5 (allows Bxg5!), but h6 and then g5 is Basman’s Defence.
So there are plenty of good openings to choose from for Black or White. Just try to avoid the bad ones!