Meeting 1.e4: Open Games

Mar 4, 2008, 12:00 AM |
4 | Opening Theory

Hi everybody,

having given an overview over meeting both 1.d4 and 1.c4, I can't resist the temptation of trying to characterize the possible answers to 1.e4 as well. I trust that most of you already have a reliable defence against this, but still I feel this may help some of us who may be looking for another option.

Right, so let's start.

1.e4 e5

is the classical way of opening the game. Once more I should mention that playing this way at least for a while is supposed to be a step on the ladder to mastery. Apart from 2.Nf3 you have to be ready for:

1.e4 e5 2.f4

The venerable King's Gambit, a weapon of the old masters, but still in use at times. 2...exf4 is the most frequent choice: 3.Nf3 (3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 has been played, too. Especially famous is the „immortal“ game Anderssen-Kieseritzky, which features this line.) 3...g5 (there are several other 3rd move options for Black including 3...Nc6, 3...h6 or 3...d6) 4.Nf3 Play can become absolutely wild after 4...g4 5.0-0, which is the famous Muzio Gambit, where White often sacrifices even several pieces but gets a ferocious attack against f7.

You may also want to have a look at the Falkbeer Counter Gambit 2...d5, which stirs things up in a very romantic way. However, it is still a valid answer to the King's Gambit.

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3,

in the Vienna Game White doesn't play his hand right away, but will decide later whether to play f2-f4 or Bc4, which are in fact his main 3rd move options. Black needs to know his theory, but doing so, he has a clear path to equality.

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4

is the Bishop's Opening, which can transpose to the Italian Game, but has some independent theory as well, usually including a f2-f4 push after securing the e4 pawn with d2-d3. This opening should not be underestimated.

1.e4 e5 2.c3,

the Ponziani aims for a strong centre after d2-d4. The most frequent recipe used to counter this is early pressure against the e-pawn, which cannot be defended by Nc3, consequently: 2...d5 or 2...Nf6.

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4 (3.Nf3)

The Centre Gambit is supposed to yield nothing to White. Still it can't hurt to know what to do against it.

Your main options after 2.Nf3 are:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 (3.d4)

The Philidor Defence is rather passive, yet you can drive the attacker nuts with an annoying set-up including the moves g7-g6, Bg7, Qe7 and Nf6. Although passive, this variation is fully playable and may appeal to those of you who like defending tricky positions.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6

is the Petroff. Instead of defending his attacked pawn, black lashes out at White's instead. Make sure you don't fall for 3.Nxe5 Nxe4? 4.Qe2 Nf6?? 5.Nc6+, winning. The correct follow-up is 3...d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4. Additionally there is another highly popular mainline beginning with 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Nxe5. This opening has a reputation of being very drawish, owing to the symmetrical pawn structure that often arises. However, masters like Shirov and Morosevich have shown that it can lead to very interesting games as well.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6

gets you to the absolute classics:

3.Bb5 is the Ruy Lopez, which has developed to a vast body of theory. Being able to play this can be very rewarding, as possibilities range from solid positional lines to fierce counterattacks like the Marshall Attack or the Jaenisch Gambit 3...f5. There is a huge variety of plans and systems for both sides, with almost as much theory as in the Sicilian, but as I have played the Ruy Lopez neither as White nor as Black, I'm afraid I can't give many details. I would ask someone of more experience to provide this in this thread or elsewhere.

3.Bc4 is the move players of our level will probbaly meet most of the time. Here you have either the venerable Italian 3...Bc5 or the Two Knights Defence 3...Nf6

After 3...Bc5 you can face the Evans Gambit 4.b4, which is probably not entirely correct, but will still test your defensive abilities fircely, or the Giuco Piano including Nc3 and d3, which may be boring but not without venom, or the old mainlines with 4.c3, to which you answer best with an immediate attack on White's centre by 4...Nf6.

If you choose 3...Nf6, the main lines will continue with 4. d4 exd4, after which the Max-Lange (5.0-0) is the most testing line, but you will have to have something ready for 5.e5 d5 6.Bb5 Ne4 7.0-0 as well.

Apart from that you must expect White to play 4.Ng5, which looks like a caveman approach and should indeed give Black the initiative after 4...d5 5.exd5 Na5! Note that 5...Nxd5? gives White a ferocious and probably winning attack by both 6.d4 or 6.Nxf7! If you are keen on learning a few more long, forcing lines, you can opt for 4...Bc5 as well, which is the Traxler Counter Attack. After 5.Nxf7 Black sacrifices a considerable amount of material while the first player faces mate around every corner, but if both players know their stuff, the outcome will be a draw by repitition. So I ultimately doubt it is worth learning all this, especially since White can play 5.Bxf7+ as well, when play remains much more controlled and Black's compensation only nebulous.

3.d4 is the the Scottish Opening

After 3...exd4 4.Nxd4 (there are dangerous gambit continuations including 4.Bc4 and 4.c3 as well) play can become very original and positional. Blacks players play most frequently 4...Bc5 or 4...Nf6, but the relatively untried 4...Bb4+ has been successful as well. Even the old Steinitz suggestion 4...Qh4 may be worth a shot.

3.Nc3 can transpose to all sorts of Open Games, but there is some independent theory as well. 3...Bb4 would be the Three Knights, whereas 3...Nc6 is called guess what? Right, the Four Knights Game. White usually goes for the positional 4.Bb5 or the sharper 4.d4 exd4 5.Nd5!?

Since I never defended 1.e4 e5 apart from my very first year of playing chess, there definitely is plenty of room for improving this overview. If you feel a temptation in that direction, please have a go!

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