The group of early moves in a chess game is known as a chess opening. White refers to recognized sequences of beginning movements as openings, while Black refers to them as defenses. The term “opening” is often used as a generic phrase.
There are hundreds of identified versions and dozens of alternative openers. There are 1,327 named openings and variants in the Oxford Companion to Chess. These can range from modest positional play to frantic tactical maneuvering. The opening, in addition to referring to specific move sequences, is the first phase of a chess game, with the middlegame and endgame following.
“The book moves,” or simply “book,” refers to a conventional set of opening moves. Various move sequences are frequently presented in simple algebraic notation, opening trees, or theory tables in these reference works. The players are said to be “out of book” when a game begins to diverge from established opening theory. The optimal moves for both sides have been worked out for twenty to twenty-five moves or more in some opening lines.
As in the classic King’s Indian Defense and the Sveshnikov and Najdorf variations of the Sicilian Defense, some analysis goes to thirty or thirty-five moves. As opening theory evolves, professional chess players spend years studying openings and continue to do so throughout their careers. At the club level, players study openings as well, but the importance of the opening phase is lessened because games are rarely determined in the first few minutes. If tactical training and middlegame and endgame strategy are neglected, the study of openings might become unbalanced.
Theoretical novelty refers to a fresh set of moves in the opening. When kept hidden until it’s used in a competitive game, it’s known as a prepared variation, and it’s a powerful weapon in top-level competition.
The opening’s objectives
In the beginning of the game, there are a few common goals.
Regardless of whether they are attempting to gain the upper hand as White and equalize as Black or to create dynamic imbalances, players often focus their efforts in the early rounds on:
- Development: One of the key purposes of the opening is to mobilize the pieces on relevant squares where they will have impact on the game. Knights are typically developed to f3, c3, f6, and c6 (or occasionally e2, d2, e7, or d7), and both players’ king and queen pawns are relocated to allow bishops to grow (alternatively, the bishops may be fianchettoed with a manoeuvre such as g3 and Bg2). The trick is to mobilize quickly. The queen, and to a lesser extent the rooks, are normally not moved to a central position until the game has progressed and several smaller pieces and pawns have been eliminated.
- Control of the center: It is unclear at the outset of the game which section of the board the pieces will be required for. Control of the central squares, on the other hand, allows pieces to be moved to any section of the board reasonably simply and can also put pressure on the opponent. The traditional belief is that the best way to achieve central control is to place pawns there, ideally on d4 and e4 (or d5 and e5 for Black). The hypermodern school, on the other hand, demonstrated that occupying the center in this manner was not always necessary or even desirable, and that an overly broad pawn front could be attacked and destroyed, leaving its architect vulnerable; an impressive-looking pawn center is worthless unless it can be maintained. Instead, the hypermoderns supported controlling the center with pieces from afar, breaking down the opponent’s center, and only taking control of the center later in the game. In a line like 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4 (the Four Pawns Attack), White has a solid pawn center for the time being, but Black aims to destroy it later in the game, leaving White’s position exposed.
- King safety: In the middle of the board, the king is somewhat exposed. To lessen his vulnerability, steps must be done. As a result, it is typical for both players to castle in the opening (simultaneously developing one of the rooks) or to artificially castle the king to the side of the board.
- Preventing pawn weakness: Most openings try to avoid pawn vulnerabilities such isolated, doubled, and backward pawns, as well as pawn islands. Some openers put endgame concerns on the back burner in favor of a fast attack on the opponent’s position. The Dutch and the Sicilian, for example, are unbalanced openings for Black that make use of this concept. The Alekhine and the Benoni, for example, allow the opponent to overextend and generate pawn weaknesses. In exchange for compensation in the form of dynamic play, many openings tolerate pawn deficiencies.
Coordination of the pieces: As the players move their pieces around the board, they try to ensure that they are all working together to control key squares.
Create positions in which the player is more at ease than the opponent: one typical method is to transpose.
More about chess openings – various middle game methods can be used. Some of these strategies include preparing pillar breaks to create counterplays, creating weaknesses in the opponent’s pillar structure, taking control of key squares, making advantageous small piece exchanges (e.g. getting a pair of bishops) or gaining a space advantage in the centre or on the flanks.
Objectives at the highest level
For many years, the major goals of beginning play at higher levels of competition were to acquire a superior position when playing as White and to equalize when playing as Black. The concept is that playing first offers White a minor edge in the beginning; for example, if the game starts symmetrically (Black mirrors White’s movements), White will be the first to strike.
Since the 1950s, a different goal has progressively taken precedence. The goal of the beginning, according to IM Jeremy Silman, is to generate dynamic imbalances between the two sides, which will influence the character of the middlegame and both sides’ strategic goals. White will try to use his bishop pair and space advantage to mount an attack on Black’s kingside in the mainline of the Winawer Variation of the French Defense (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3), while Black will seek to simplify exchanges (in particular, trading off one of White’s bishops to blunt this advantage) and counterattack against the weakened pawn This was a chess doctrine of the Soviet school.
A third purpose, which is complementary to the previous ones and has been frequent since the 19th century, is to draw the opponent into situations with which the player is more familiar and comfortable than the opponent. This is frequently accomplished by transpositions, in which a game that appears to begin with one opening might end up in a position that is normally formed by another.