Chess Openings – An Introduction To The Opening Phase

A game of chess can be roughly split into three distinct phases:

1) Opening Phase
2) Middlegame Phase
3) Endgame Phase

The Middlegame phase is where the heaviest fighting is usually conducted; the pieces will be whittled down, until there's perhaps just a couple of them on either side, plus a scattering of Pawns, which roughly signifies the transition into the Endgame phase, where the game will either be Won / Lost or Drawn.

Now to the purpose of this article – the Opening phase.

During the Opening phase, the objective for both players is to develop their Pawns and Pieces into positions which they believe will stand them the best possible chance of winning the Middlegame battle, which will then, hopefully, be converted into a Win during the Endgame phase .

Chess has been evolving, in one form or another, for over 1400 years. In that time, the various chess masters have explored different sequences of moves, for developing their respective armies.

These sequences are collectively known as the Chess Openings (or, Openings, for short) and the ones that proved successful have been further explored and studied throughout the centuries, as the game of chess evolved from competitive hobby, into a worldwide, competitive sport.

With such an intense level of study, by players whose livelihood depends on playing in chess tournaments, some of the earliest Openings that once proved successful, have since been refuted, as leading to significant material loss, a position of extreme disadvantage, or even the loss of the game – an example of this is the King's Gambit, which former World Chess Champion, Bobby Fischer, declared as being "Bust".

Because of the importance of getting a good start, all the notable Openings have been recorded and documented, in order to do away with unnecessary trial and error that previous chess masters once faced. Now all we have to do is study and explore these documented Openings, to find sequences which suit the way we want to develop our army, in readiness for the Middlegame battle.

In addition to the basic Openings lines, the study done by previous chess masters gradually uncovered sub-lines that built upon these solid opening maneuvers. These sub-lines are known as "Variations". So, you'll get the root Opening move (s), then at some point, they'll branch off into different sub-lines or sub-sequences (one root Opening sequence can have multiple Variations).

We Must Know Algebraic Chess Notation

In order to make sense of the various Chess Openings, we need to know Algebraic Chess Notation – the efficient system of recording actions (moves, captures, etc.) during games of chess.

Firstly, here's how the squares are referenced on a chessboard, using Algebraic Notation:

| 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 |

The Pieces (Knights, Bishops, Rooks, Queens, and Kings) are all given a CAPITAL letter, to help identify their actions:

N = kNight
B = Bishop
R = Rook
Q = Queen
K = King

When one of the Pieces moves, Algebraic Notation records the capital letter of the Piece, follow by the square it finishes upon. So, for example, Nf3 means a Knight moved to the 'f3' square.

As for the Pawns, they're not given any capital letter. The only way to recognize their movement is by an absence of any capital identify; just the square reference is given. So, for example, e4 indicates that a Pawn has advanced to the 'e4' square.

Take a look at the following Opening sequence, written in Algebraic Notation:

1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. Nc3 g6

That's an example of what you're typically faced with, when you look through Opening reference books, or databases containing the various Opening sequences.

It's written with the number of the Move, followed by a full stop / period; then White's action is recorded; then Black's action is recorded … and then the next Move is written, and so on.

From that example, we know that White's first Move was to advance the Pawn to 'e4'; on Move 2, White brought out the kNight to 'f3'; and on Move 3, White brought out the other kNight to 'c3'.

As a test, I'll leave you to figure out Black's moves in this example sequence.