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Article: Types of Chess Openings: Tips & Insights

Types of Chess Openings: Tips & Insights

Chess Openings offer a framework and structure to a chess game. It determines how the game will unfold—which side will hold an advantage or if the players will share the spoils of the game. The progress and outcome of the game can be independent of how the Opening unfolded, but when considering games at the highest level, the Opening must be taken seriously.

 

Understanding Chess Openings 

Chess Openings can be the most complex chess theory to learn if a player does not understand the core of every chess opening. At a fundamental level, chess openings are about space. Any opening that does not offer enough space to develop pieces and coordinate attacks/development is terrible.  

Rather than cramming a wide range of lines, this core understanding will guide players, especially amateurs, into building a solid repertoire and foundation for adding to that repertoire. Ideally, players should focus more on studying the most popular openings before graduating to less popular and more complex openings. 

There are several platforms for learning chess openings, but specific websites like Lichess.org and chessdoctrine.com have integrated the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings into their system so players can learn chess openings here at will and in-depth. 

Chess openings are generally classified into;

  • Open Games
  • Semi-Open Games
  • Closed Games
  • Flank Openings

 

Open Games

Any opening that starts with the two king pawns confronting each other (1.e4 e5) is called an Open Game. Amateur players instinctively opt for the Open Game without special training because it creates an outward development path for the Queens and the f-bishops. 

Scotch Game, a popular and reliable Open Game

However, Wikipedia points out that we must not confuse the "Open Game" noun with the adjective "open game." The capitalized Open Game refers to a specific opening structure, while an open game refers to several avenues of exploratory activities across files, ranks, and diagonals.  

The following is a list of popular openings that fall under the Open Game;

  • Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5)
  • Italian Game (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4)
  • Giuoco Piano (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5)
  • Scotch Game (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4)
  • Philidor Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6)
  • King's Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4)

And so on.

 

Semi-Open Games

The French Defense, a reliable Semi-Open Game

A Semi-open Game is an opening where Black disregards symmetry when responding to White's 1.e4 move. Semi-open games are usually exciting and offer attacking opportunities to both sides. Unlike the Open Game, center activity is less pronounced, and there is often a mix of center and flank coordinated attacks.

Some popular Semi-Open Games include;

  • Sicilian Defense (1.e4 c5)
  • French Defense (1.e4 e6)
  • Caro-Kann Defense (1.e4 c6)
  • Scandinavian Defense (1.e4 d5)
  • Pirc Defense (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6)
  • Nimzowitsch Defense (1.e4 Nc6)

And so on.

Many irregular chess openings also fall under this classification, such as Owen's Defense (1.e4 b6), Fred's Defense(1.e4 f5), Carr's Defense(1.e4 h6), etc.

 

Closed Games

A Closed Game is the Queen's version of the Open Game. The Opening characterizes a Closed Game by the moves 1.d4 d5. It is also essential to apply the noun-adjective differentiation in this case, whereby we distinguish between Closed Games and closed games.

A closed game, without word capitalization, describes a position with limited attacking opportunities to exploit. Some analysts go a step further to describe closed games as "drawish." Meanwhile, not all close-knit games end in draws.

Some popular examples of Closed Games, according to Wikipedia, include; 

  • London System (1.d4 d5, Nf3, Bf4)
  • Queen's Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4)
  • Colle System (1.d4 d5, Nf3, e3, Bd3, c3)
  • Torre Attack (1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bg5)
  • Chigorin Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6)
  • Marshall Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nf6)

and so on.

The loved and hated London System

Most amateur players need to become more familiar with the majority of closed games, and this ultimately affects their overall strength in games.

 

Flank Openings

Any opening focused on something other than the center at the start of the game is a flank opening. d4 and e4 pawns take the backseat in Flank Openings, and we see pawns from a-c and f-h rise first along with the knights.

The English Opening, the most popular and effective flank opening

Flank Openings offer a slight element of surprise because out of 10 games, you are likely to experience flank openings just once or twice, so having a solid understanding of this Opening helps players diversify as they face different styles in different players.

Chessdoctrine.com highlights some popular flank openings, which include;

  • English Opening (1.c4)
  • Bird's Opening (1.f4)
  • Zukertort Opening (1.Nf3)
  • Nimzowitsch-Larsen attack (1.b3)
  • King's Fianchetto Opening (1.g3)
  • Grob Opening (1.g4)

and so on 

 

Summing Up

While it is not recommended to randomly cram up openings, understanding their classification is the first step to preparing a solid repertoire that strategically combines the major openings across the classifications.

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