Surviving the Opening as White

Apr 18, 2011, 10:25 AM |

A "One-Size-Fits-Most" Opening Strategy for White

The opening is the most important part of the game.  While white enjoys the first move initiative, black sets the pattern of play with a variety of defense strategies. Without a solid opening strategy, you may never get to the middle game or endgame. To play better than average chess you must "survive" the first several moves and provide a safe haven for your king.  Most often king safety means castling.  So how can you navigate these dangerous opening waters? 

Most Expert and higher rated players study all the various black defenses: main lines and sub-lines. This can literally take years of study and practice to perfect. Fortunately, there is a simple "One-Size-Fits-Most" (OFSM) approach for the rest of us. 

Basic opening strategy is to control the center while developing minor pieces.  So let's take a simple "One-Size-Fits-Most" (OSFM) approach.  While my method may not lead to the very best strategic positions, it will take you to solid, playable positions.  It will also let you survive the various opening traps and give you an opportunity to win the middle game with your superior tactics.  You have been studying tactics, right? ( - Tactics Trainer.)

Ideally, you would like to play center pawns (e4, d4/d3, c3/c4), King's Knight (Nf3), and King's Bishop (Be2/Bd3/Bc4), in preparation for a king side castle.  However, black's various defenses usually interfer with your plans.  So the order of your moves may vary and alternate defensive
moves may be required.  However, these are the only moves you need consider in the early opening.  By-the-way, since we know we are planning for a king side castle, don't move the castle pawns: f2, g2, and h2.  In "kiddies chess"  these are known as "Freddy, Gerry, and Harry."  Leave them alone.  They will protect your king later. Now let's prepare our opening strategy and take one move at a time.

It's a no brainer - e4.  After all, Fischer said e4 was the "best by test."  And, who can argue with his logic?

After e4, white can be presented with several responses from black.  The six most popular are c5, e5, e6, c6, d6 & g6.  With so many choices what should you do?  The answer is simple.
1. If your e4 pawn is attacked, either capture the pawn or advance to e5, in that order.
2. If you can play d4 without losing it, play d4.
3. Otherwise, play Nf3.

So far so good, you're already two moves into a solid opening. Now what? Once again, the "one size fits most" strategy is simple.

1. If your e4 pawn is attacked, advance if it can't be captured, or defend it.
1. If your d4 pawn is attacked, defend if it's not already well defended.
2. If you haven't played d4 and can play d4 without losing it, play d4.
3. Otherwise, play Nf3, Bc4/Bd3/Be2, c3/c4, d3, if the pawn or piece can't be taken.
4. If all your opening pieces have moved, then castle.

There you have it.  Now let's see how it works out over the board. Here are examples of black's more common responses after each of our "One-Size-Fits-Most" strategy moves.

Italian: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 Be7 5.c3 O-O 6.O-O
Sicilian: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 Nc6 5.c3 g6 6.O-O
French:  1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.Be2 cxd4 7.cxd4 Nge7 8.O-O
Caro-Cann: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Nd7 6.c3 Ne7 7.O-O
Pirc Defense: 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bc4 O-O 6.O-O
Modern: 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.Nc3 O-O 6.O-O


If you want some more fun, go to game explorer or similar databases and try out my OSFM approach. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised how well it works. Now go have FUN! Chess is supposed to be FUN!

Copyright 2011 Garrett All rights Reserved