Chess Openings

Nov 29, 2007, 12:00 AM |
1 | Opening Theory

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History shows us that chess players first started analyzing openings in the 1400s, and possibly earlier. A lot of openings were named after countries or people, and most openings have a term attached to them that helps categorize them further, such as Defense, Gambit, or System. Let’s look at these categorizations first.

The word “Opening” refers to a chess opening where White initiates the sequence of moves. A “Defense” occurs when Black initiates the series of moves that begins the opening. A “Variation” describes a specific set of moves that a player can make within another opening, such as the Exchange Variation within the Queen’s Gambit Declined Opening.

A “Gambit” opening always includes a sacrifice of pawns or other pieces. Many Gambit openings are available for both White (i.e. King’s Gambit) and Black (i.e. Latvian Gambit). Gambit openings are sometimes labeled differently depending on whether the other player accepts or rejects the bait, i.e. Queen’s Gambit Accepted and Queen’s Gambit Declined. Some gambit openings do not involve a very significant sacrifice of pieces because the material is gained back quickly within the sequence, as in some variations of the Queen's Gambit Accepted.

Some of the oldest studies of chess openings were simply called “Games.” Some examples are the Four Knights Game, the Scotch Game, and the Vienna Game.

As would be expected, an “Attack” opening includes many aggressive moves or moves that provoke the other player (i.e. Albin-Chatard Attack and Fried Liver Attack). Some Attack Openings, however, are much less threatening, such as King’s Indian Attack or Durkin’s Attack.

A “System” opening refers to an opening in which there are many responses to the other player’s moves. Examples include Réti System and Colle System.

“Inverted” or “Reversed” openings look like other openings except that the colors are reversed, i.e. Sicilian Reversed and Inverted Hungarian.

Some openings are specially designed to combat another player from using a specific opening. With these types, the prefix “Anti” is always added to the name of the opening. For example, in the Anti-Marshall opening, the player is able to prevent the Marshall Attack from occurring.

Every chess player needs to know these set rules about the classification of openings. Specific names of openings are less predictable, but we will look at them anyway.

Some openings are named based on the characteristics of the game, such as Giuoco Piano (“Quiet Game”), Two Knights Defense, or Queen’s Gambit.

Numerous openings are named because of the person who designed them or promoted them, such as the Ruy López Opening, Alekhine Defense, Réti System, and Caro-Kann Opening. You will also see many openings named after geographic areas or countries where the opening became popular, i.e. English, French, Dutch, Scotch, Italian, Vienna, Siclian, etc. In many cases, the designer or promoter was from that country—the Ruy López is also called the Spanish Opening because López lived in Spain.

Many more recently introduced openings have more unusual names, such as Elephant or Hedgehog.

Obviously, these labels have no particular pattern to them, and so chess databases and chess textbooks use different methods to identify them, such as classification by opening move or the usual ECO codes.

Why is all this important?

Mainly because if you don't understand the basic concept of chess openings, you'll be spanked in a huge percentage of your games.

Most of your opponents, if they have any experience at all, will have a basic understanding of the opening, and its impact on the rest of the game.

How you set up your pieces in the opening can make or break the rest of your game. Mistakes made during this portion of the game will haunt you until checkmate, so pay attention to your opening moves!

Free Chess Openings Videos Here: Chess Openings

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