How many moves does an opening consist of?


I am new to the serious study of chess. I just recently started putting some time into reading and studying the various aspects of the game. I am a bit confused on how you study openings. I watch many games and read about openings but am unsure how many moves does an opening consist of. Do I follow a pattern for 2, 3 moves? When would an opponents move make you want to change your opening moves? Sorry for such a complex question. I am just trying to wrap my mind around what an opening really is. THanks!


Well, experiment with different lines and find some you like.  I usually respond to 1.e4 with e6, or the French Defense.  Then, it all brancehs out from there.

Some openings have theory that goes past move 20.  Should you learn that much?

No, stick to opening principles instead.


"When would an opponents move make you want to change your opening moves?"


Always! I would never decide what my second move is going to be without seeing what my opponent did. For example, as white I play the queen's gambit which starts 1. d4 d5 2. c4.  If instead the game starts 1. d4 Nf6 I will often play 2. Nf3 instead of 2. c4.


The opening ends when you have developed your pieces.  it is possible for one player to have finished their opening while their opponent is still in the opening.  It is normally about 10 moves.  Opening theory does not extend 'into the middlegame'.  Chess theory extends into the middlegame, when it becomes middlegame theory derived from the opening in question. 

A word of warning - don't become obsessed by opening theory.  Just learn the basic principles (plenty of posts elsewhere) and learn to play chess.  when you master the mechanics of the game, opening study becomes massively easier.

I know about 4 openings to any great extent, by the way, and I get some good games just by using general principles and being able to play sensibly.

P.s. if you want a game, challenge me unrated.  All the best.


"I watch many games and read about openings but am unsure how many moves does an opening consist of."


Well, the opening is the phase of the game where you decide how to develop your pieces and place pawns. It usually lasts 8-12 moves.


"Do I follow a pattern for 2, 3 moves? When would an opponents move make you want to change your opening moves?"


My opening moves almost always take into account my opponent's moves.


"I am a bit confused on how you study openings."


Memorizing "If I play X and then he plays Y, I play Z" from an opening book is almost worthless at your level because (1) the advantages you gain from memorized lines are very small, often on the order of 1/2 pawn and if you put that same time into tactical and endgame study you are much more likely to score and (2) your opponents will often play lines that are not even covered in an opening book, and won't play many lines that are covered extensively. In other words, the moves people at your level play are different.

A couple useful study ideas:


1. Important! - Read and practice opening guidelines


2. Memorize the first 2-3 moves of your opening, so your games will take similar paths. Each time you play a game, lookup where you went astray and why. This will gradually increase your knowledge of the positions you encounter most in your games.


great thanks guys. those are exactly the answers I was looking for! appreciate all the responses. :)



In the opening you want to develop all of you pieces as quickly as possible control the center and put you king in to sately by castling. How many times have we all heared that? However, once that is achieved we can safely say the open has come to a close. Which can take about 8 to 10 moves. Sometime 12 moves depends on how many pawns  or exchanges were move in the opening.
I'd say 8-10 moves usally

i dont know how else to break it to people. im not trying to memorize the opening. i just want to learn the ideas aka themes aka logic behind each of the main 10-20 master level openings and defenses, in a concise but nutrient rich fashion. is that too much to ask, my brethren.


10-15 moves.


I suppose it depends. on which opening and variation. I studied meran semi slav and some of its variation branch to 26 moves. I also ever studied a najdorf variation which branches to 20+ moves.


In my case, there are 11 moves. But I'm an inventor. I've been developing my own system for three days. I needed to understand what works and how. For me, chess is a brain game. You can memorize, but you can understand. Understanding is better than memorizing. I didn't learn anything, I invented something that no one thought of before me.