Chess Openings - Best to Worst.

Feb 13, 2012, 1:01 AM |

With the full realization that there is no meaningful difference in goodness among the best opening moves, that players well-versed in unorthodoxy are apt to play great wtih "lesser" moves, and that all openings are playable in amateur competition, I thought I'd entertain myself and hopefully one or two of you with my rankings.  Feel free to chime in with disagreements or amendments...

1. The King's Pawn Opening (e4) - Pros: occupies the center, frees up a lane for the kingside bishop, allows for quicker castling. Cons: the e-pawn is needier than many others with no immediate back-row guard.

2. The Queen's Pawn Opening (d4) - Pros: achieves the same as e-4, but with natural Queen protection.  Cons: None (actually more popular than e-4 with many masters), but castling more difficult than with e-4.

3. The Reti Opening (Nf3) - Pros: develops a back-row piece, stakes an indirect claim on the center.  Cons: None, but the two central pawn openings arguably achieve more on the first move with both central occupation and back-row semi-development.

4. The English Opening (c4) - Pros: Indirectly claims space in the center; very flexible in the possible continuations.  Cons: Achieves nothing immediate in the way of back-row development. 

5. Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack (b3) - Pros: Prepares to develop a back-row piece to a deceptively good location with Bb3, provides support for a potentially healthy pawn structure later on, allows a sound game against opponents booked up in more popular lines. Cons: Nothing in the way of a central claim, allows black great flexibility in choice of play.

6. Benko's Opening (g3) - Pros: Similar to b3, but the pawn implications aren't as positive.  Cons: similar to b3, plus if white wants to castle kingside later, the pawn support provided by g3 isn't so hot, since f4 is suboptimal.

7. Bird's Opening (f4) - Pros: Stakes an indirect claim in the center, supports aggressive early play by white, allows for sound progress against more traditionally booked-up opponents.  Cons: Weakens kingside pawn protection, does nothing to develop back-row.

8. Dunst's Opening (Nc3) - Pros: Develops a back-row piece.  Cons: Stakes no claim in the center as d5 remains perfectly playable, allows black complete freedom of movement.

9. Van't Kruij's Opening (e3) - Pros: Openings up development for the kingside bishop, provides extra support for d4.  Cons: Blocks off development for the queenside bishop, allows black complete freedom.

10. Mieses Opening (d3) - Pros: Same as e3 but reversed.  Cons: Same with additional factor that kingside castling is now a harder affair.

11. Anderssen's Opening (a3) - Pros: Does nothing to impede white's further development of pieces, can help support a future queenside pawn push, can be useful against opponents fond of black-square bishop attacks and against those not used to carrying the initiative as black so early.  Cons: Cedes tempo, achieves nothing of immediate, tangible value.

12. The Clemenz Opening (h3) - Pros: Same as a3.  Cons: Same as a3, and weakens kingside pawn fortress, albeit only very slightly.

13. The Saragossa Opening (c3) - Pros: Provides extra support for a d4 push.  Cons: Develops no back pieces and actually blocks off the queen's knight's natural development, cedes tempo to black.

14. Barnes' Opening (f3) - Pros: Supports e4.  Cons: Weakens kingside pawn defense for much less positional gain than f4, blocks off king's knight's natural development, cedes tempo to black.

15. The Ware Opening (a4) - Pros: None.  Cons: Achieves nothing (rook development easily thwarted by black).

16. The Sokolsky Opening (b4) - Pros: Opens up development for the queen's bishop, a bit trappy for the unwary opponent.  Cons: With e-5, black immeidately puts white on the defensive, foricng white to either cede material for at-best speculative positional gain or follow with another passive tempo-wasting move.

17. Grob's Attack (g4) - Pros: Same as Sokolsky, for king's bishop.  Cons: Same as b4, plus badly weakens kingside pawn structure.

18.  The Desprez Opening (h4) - Pros: None.  Cons: Badly weakens kingside pawn structure for no reason, develops nothing.

19. The Sodium Attack (Na3) - Pros: None.  Cons: In effect, an early decommission of an important opening piece.  The knight can be moved again to a better spot, but probably no better than c3, and, if this was the plan, maybe it would be better to just ask the opponent beforehand if he'd mind you skipping the first move.

20. The Ammonia Attack (Nh3) - Pros: None.  Cons: All the same as Na3, plus the king's knight is arguably of slightly more potential importance in the opening than the queen's since the e-pawn needs extra protection in ways the d-pawn doesn't.