How do I identify a position as open, semi-open, or closed?


Any thoughts would be much appreciated!


That's how I understand it...

Metaknight251 wrote:

I would think that the first one would be semi-open and the second one open. 

Yeah, better :)


Maybe open positions come from "Open" openings 1 e4 45, Semi Open from semi open openings 1 e4 anything except e5, and closed from d4 and other openings?


Generally, open games start with e4..e5, and closed games start with d4..d5.

Semi-open: e4..other, semi-closed: d4..other.

That's only generally though. It depends on if the pieces are in front of the pawns in the middle game or behind them.

rooperi wrote:

Maybe open positions come from "Open" openings 1 e4 45, Semi Open from semi open openings 1 e4 anything except e5, and closed from d4 and other openings?


Exactly right.  The terms "open," "semi-open," and "closed" all refer not to specific positional characteristics, but to the sort of opening involved.  1 e4 e5 is the "open game" which Morphy asked his opponents to stipulate would be at least half their match games. 

"Semi-open" is 1 e4 anything else but ...e5, as the positions are generally somewhat open but involve less direct central contact, at least initially.  And anything else, but especially 1 d4, was considered a "closed" game as it takes a bit longer to mount the sort of tactical attacks popular when these terms came into use in the 19th Century.


Very interesting! Thanks very much!  That helps a lot.


It occurs to me that the question wasn't about identifying the openings, but positions.  There is a slight difference in the answer.

True, "open" games - 1 e4 e5 - lead to open positions, and the "semi-open" games (other defenses) can be called "semi-open."  And the old rule was 1 d4, 1 c4 or anything else was a "closed game."

But a position is only closed when the central pawns are locked into a chain.  For instance, e5-d4 v e6-d5 or d5 v d6-c5.  When the center pawns are blocked they act like the bumpers in bumper pool, you cannot shoot through those squares anymore, you have to work around them.  That is the essence of a truly "closed" position.

So you can get to a closed game through 1 e4, like many French lines or the "Closed" Ruy Lopez (Spanish Game), and there are many 1 d4 openings where one side or the other has the opportunity to open the position in the center.


Oook.  That makes sense- more sense.  I feel this will help me to identify where I struggle most in chess so am glad I was able to get such detailed explanations!


The easiest way to tell is this:

If my knights are kicking your butt, it's probably closed.

If it's my bishops, probably open.

(Of course, if it's both, semi-open.)Laughing

lol jk


1.e4 e5 isn't always open, 1.d4 isn't always closed.  1.e4 e5 can lead to the "Closed Ruy Lopez", which is more of a "Semi-Closed" defense.

Think of it this way. 

"Open" tends to see the central pawns liquidated.  The other possibility is that one flank is completely liquidated of pawns, and the pawns in the center are still fluid.  Often there are open files for Rooks to travel from one end of the board to the other.

"Semi-Open" tends to see one or two pawns by each player traded off, often on different files.  For example, in the Sicilian, cxd4, White has a half-open d-file while black has a half-open c-file.  The board isn't locked up, but heavy pieces don't go flying across the board nearly as easily.

"Semi-Closed" tends to see very few, if any, pawns traded off, but there is still the opportunity for it to open up.  An example would be lines of the Nimzo-Indian with an early ...d5.  Fireworks aren't going off yet, but theys till can.

"Closed" tends to see no pawn trades, and the center completely locked.  The best example of this is the Classical King's Indian Defense.  1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.Be3 (or 10.Nd3 is also an option) f5 11.f3 f4 12.Bf2 g5.  Notice how locked up the center is.  Closed positions tend to lead to opposite wing attacks.  Here, White attacks Queenside, Black attacks Kingside.  Closed positions usually feature a concept called "Pawn Pointing".  No matter where your own King is, or your opponent's, you should attack the side in which your pawns point.  In the example above, the White pawns point towards the Queenside, the Black pawns toward the Kingside.  A common example of the opposite scenario is the Advance Variation of the French Defense, where White attacks Kingside, and Black Queenside, even in the lines where White plays 6.a3 and Black responds with 6...c4.  Black will castle Queenside, White Kingside, but even then, Black should attack the Queenside, and White the Kingside.

Hope this helps.