Does anybody know what the oldest openings are/where I could find a list of them? I'm pretty sure the Ponziani ranks up there. Some other old ones might be the Spanish Game (Ruy Lopez), Italian Game, Queen's Gambit, Sicilian Defence?
Perhaps you may find this of interest: http://www.chess.com/forum/view/general/the-oldest-chess-game
And this: http://www.chesselo.com/openings/ponziani-opening.pdf
I'm sure the French defense should be on that list.
Ok, so we can add the King's Gambit, the French, and the Scandinavian. Any idea exactly how old these openings are, or maybe ranking them oldest-newest?
The French only got officially introduced in the 1834 correspondence match between London and Paris, so it's not among the oldest. The oldest known openings are probably the ones mentioned in the Gottingen manuscript, which was written in the late 15th or early 16th century.
That is very interesting. I find it hard to imagine that the first ever manuscript on chess had all those popular openings in it with the rules barely established. Obviously the openings had no names at the time. Greco made the case for 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 the best wasn't it? I thought he was the first.
The Queen's Gambit seems particularly out of place to me. It was not established at that point about the value of the centre or working to bring about an ideal centre. The mate in x moves I can believe.
The rules were in fact quite well established by then, with the changes since being minor compared to those before.
No, the openings rarely bore names in those days, that came later. But remember there weren't many books available, and not many more who could read them. Chess in Europe at the time was a game of the ruling classes. It is hardly surprising to see the first books include a section on opening ideas, even without the nomenclature.