Playing white is simple in certain aspects. On a blank canvas, you get the initial move, the first brush stroke. You take the initiative at the start of the game, and black must react to your plays and intentions. When it comes to white, making a mistake typically signifies the position is equal. Black, on the other hand, might get you into problems if you make a mistake or two early on. Everything you’ve learned about rapidly growing and being castled applies twice as much to black. At the start of the game, black is only trying to level the playing field and reduce white’s early lead. Black press for an edge is usually done only after this has been accomplished.
We’ll look at how to reply to white’s greatest opening movements, 1. e4, 1. d4, and 1. c4, in this lesson. While 1. Nf3 is also a solid move, white will almost always find himself unable to do so without also moving a crucial piece. If you’re playing black and white is making a different move, simply remember the ideas from the beginning of this instruction. Control the center, develop your components, and avoid wasting time by repeatedly moving the same piece.
1. e4 e5 – King’s pawn openings
If white moves the king-pawn two squares to begin, you should do the same in response. This is the most basic and easy method of play. Other defenses, like as 1… c5 or 1… e6, are certainly workable, but they generally have more complex plans and concepts behind them, which you should avoid until you’ve gained a little more expertise. White can play in a variety of ways after the initial pawn movements.
We’ll take a look at the most prevalent ones here:
2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 – Giuoco Piano/Italian Game
This is one of the most well-known openings in chess theory. The Italian Game, also known as Giuoco Piano (‘quiet game’ in Italian), is one of the most logical and simple ways to play. Black should do the same as white in bringing out pieces to excellent squares:
Black will castle next, and can then think about developing the queenside.
2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 – The Scotch Game
The Scotch Game is a classic opening in which white makes an early break in the center. As is customary for black, pieces should be developed as follows:
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4
Here, black is advised to capture on d4, or else the white pawn can push on to d5 and cramp your position, e.g. 3… d6 4. d5
4. Nxd4 Bc5
Black will bring out the other knight and castle soon. Capturing the knight on d4 isn’t such a great idea here: 4… Nxd4 5. Qxd4 – the white queen is drawn into the centre, and while it is usually bad to bring out the queen early on, here black no longer has a knight on b8 that can attack it, so the queen is left on a powerful square in the centre of the board where it stops black’s bishop coming out to a good square.
2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 – The Ruy Lopez/Spanish Game
Ruy Lopez was a 16th century Spanish priest and one of his era’s most powerful actors. The Ruy Lopez or Spanish Game, which he named after himself, is the most popular style to play at the top level. White sends out a bishop to assault the protecting knight of black. The Ruy Lopez, being one of the oldest and most prominent openings, includes a lot of theory, but we’ll focus on a basic answer called the Classical or Cordel Defence:
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Bc5 4. O-O
Black shouldn’t worry about white trying to capture the e-pawn here: 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. Nxe5 doesn’t work, because black can play 5… Qd4 attacking both the knight and the pawn.
Black’s pieces are nicely developed, ready to castle next move.
1. d4 d5 – Queen’s pawn openings
The game takes on a different tone if white starts with the queen’s pawn. Because the pawn is protected by the queen (unlike the king’s pawn, which advances two squares), games tend to start slowly and entail more maneuvering. In response to 1. d4, you should move your queen’s pawn two squares. In queen’s pawn openings, you often aim to develop your knight to f6, your bishop to e7, and your castle as soon as feasible. Consider the following scenario:
1. d4 d5 2. c4
This is the Queen’s Gambit, the most popular way of playing at higher levels (although you may see it less often at beginner level). White wants to draw black’s pawn away from the centre. You can capture, but it’s easier to decline the gambit.
2… e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7
Black will castle next. You can play the same way even if white doesn’t play the Queen’s Gambit:
1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 e6 4. Bg5 Be7
One thing to keep in mind while playing queen’s pawn openings is to avoid blocking your c-pawn with your knight, as white has done above. This is because you should attack the opponent’s center with your c-pawn, for example:
5. e3 O-O 6. Bd3 c5
When the pawns are exchanged, black’s rooks can come into action on the c-file.
1. c4 e5 – The English Opening
The first move The English opening is named after the 19th century English master Howard Staunton, whose name you may recognize from one of the earliest sports sponsorship partnerships, in which he contributed his name to promote the Staunton pattern chess pieces – the standard chess set that is still in use today! This is a tricky opening that experienced strategists like, but there is a straightforward approach to counter it that you should be familiar with from the king’s pawn openings:
1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 Bc5 4. Bg2 O-O
Yes, much like in the king’s pawn openings, black may develop the knight, bishop, and castle. Almost always, this basic approach of quick growth and castingling is safe and practical.
I hope you learnt some chess openings in a new light with the black pieces!