Chess Openings

Since given names of chess  openings  are not very systematic other methods of classification has to be adapted for study and analysis purposes. The most common methods of such systematic classification class the  openings  according to the actual  opening  moves made.

From the  opening  position White can make twenty moves. However, only a few of these moves are popular since only they are conducive to implementing the general principles of  opening  which advocate control of center and rapid development of pieces. Most popular moves are 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.Nf3, and 1.c4.

In addition some of the other moves while they break the  opening  principles can give the player certain advantages. For instance 1 Nc3 or Dunst  Opening  places the Knight in a good position but prevents the c pawn from advancing. 1 f4 or Bird’s  Opening  while increasing the pressure on center weaken the King side. The 1.b4 or Sokolsky  Opening  and 1.b3 and 1.g3 or the Queen’s and King’s fianchetto  Openings , aims to develop the Bishops through fianchetto but does not directly dispute the control of center using pawns.

Each move has to be analyzed to learn its strengths and weakness. After such analysis twelve of the possible  opening  moves are judged to result in weak positions for White and are very infrequently used in major tournaments.

In reply to White’s  opening  move Black too can make twenty moves. Most popular  Opening  moves for Black are exact counterparts of the White’s  Opening  moves. However since Black is responding to White, Black can use other  opening  moves advantageously as well without breaking  opening  principles. For instance 1…c6 and 1…e6, can be coupled with 2… d5 for good effect, or 1…d6 coupled with a fianchetto of King side Bishop.


One of the most widespread and accepted methods of classification of  openings  used by professional players is the classification by Encyclopedia of Chess  Openings  (ECO) codes. ECO uses a unique coding system to classify the  opening  according the  opening  moves. The codes are classed into five main categories, and with hundred sub categories under each of them, according to the moves. For instance,  openings  beginning with 1.e4 comes under categories B and C with 1.e4 e6 (known as the French Defense) under sub categories C00-C19, 1.e4 e5 (Double King Pawn) under C20-C99, 1.e4 without 1…c5, 1…e6, 1…e5 under B00-B19, and 1.e4 c5 (Sicilian Defense) under B20-B99. All the possible  openings  are categorized in this way.

While ECO classification is useful to serious chess players, it can be too confusing and too technical for beginners and middle level players getting to grips with chess  openings . It also separate related  openings  with similar features under different categories. For instance, Indian Systems can be found under both A and E categories.

Simpler Classification

So for educational purposes and better understanding of the theory, a simpler  opening  move based classification is used. This divides the  openings  to three categories; King’s Pawn  Openings  (those that start with 1.e4), Queen’s Pawn  Openings  (1.d4), and Others.

However since this categorization is too broad it is further sub-divided. King’s Pawn  Openings  are divided into Open or Double King Pawn Games ( opening  moves 1.e4 e5) and Semi-Open or Single King Pawn Games (1.e4 without 1…e5). Queen’s Pawn  Openings  are divided into Closed or Double Queen Pawn Games (1.d4 d5), and Semi-Closed or Single Queen Pawn Games (1.d4 without d5).  Openings  with moves b3, b4, c4, Nf3, f4, and g3 are termed Flank  openings , while the rest of the  openings  are classed under “Unusual  openings “. Sometimes Indian Systems, which begins with the moves 1.d4 Nf6, which should come under Semi-Closed Games are classed separately since their breadth and importance require such study.