The Worst Chess Opening (Barnes Opening)

The Worst Chess Opening (Barnes Opening)

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Barnes Opening
Barnes Opening is a chess opening where White opens with:

     1. f3

The opening is named after Thomas Wilson Barnes (1825–1874), an English player who had an impressive eight wins over Paul Morphy, including one game where Barnes answered 1.e4 with 1...f6, known as Barnes Defense.
It is considered an irregular opening, so it is classified under the A00 code in the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings.

Of the twenty possible first moves in chess, author and grandmaster Edmar Mednis argues that 1.f3 is the worst. Grandmaster Benjamin Finegold teaches "Never play f3". The move does exert influence over the central square e4, but the same or more ambitious goals can be achieved with almost any other first move. The move 1.f3 does not develop a piece, opens no lines for pieces, and actually hinders the development of White's king knight by denying it its most natural square, f3. It also weakens White's kingside pawn structure, opens the e1–h4 diagonal against White's uncastled king, and opens the g1–a7 diagonal against White's potential kingside castling position.

Since 1.f3 is a poor move, it is not played often. Nonetheless, it is probably not the rarest opening move. After 1.f3 e5 some players even continue with the nonsensical 2.Kf2, which is sometimes called the Fried Fox Attack, Wandering King Opening, The Hammerschlag, Tumbleweed, the Pork Chop Opening, or the Half Bird as it is often called in the United Kingdom, due to its opening move f3 being half that of the f4 employed in Bird's Opening. One example of this is the game Simon Williams versus Martin Simons in the last round of the British Championship 1999, where Williams had nothing to play for. In 2020 Magnus Carlsen played 2.Kf2 against Wesley So in a blitz game, for the psychological effect. So commented, "It's hard to forget the game when someone plays f3 and Kf2 and just crushes you. That's so humiliating." Also played is 2.e4, called the King's Head Opening.

Despite its obvious deficiencies, 1.f3 does not lose the game for White. Black can secure a comfortable advantage by the normal means – advancing central pawns and rapidly developing pieces to assert control over the center.

If Black replies 1...e5, the game might proceed into a passive line known as the Blue Moon Defense. It usually occurs after the moves 1.f3 e5 2.Nh3 d5 3.Nf2 (avoiding 3...Bxh3 4.gxh3 weakening the kingside) 3...Nf6 4.e3 Nc6 5.Be2 Bc5 6.0-0 0-0. White has no stake in the center, but hopes to make a hole to break into.

Fool's mate
If White plays poorly and leaves too many lines open against his king after 2.Kf2, he might be quickly checkmated. One example: 1.f3 d5 2.Kf2 e5 (Black places two pawns in the center to prepare for quick development) 3.e4 Bc5+ 4.Kg3 Qg5#.