Thursday, November 10, 2005

Winning Chess Opening Moves

How does one remember the plethora of chess openings? I for one, can never remember names, leave alone names of chess openings! Is there a way out; a solution to this? I follow some basic principles (KISS Principle - Keep it simple, silly) while playing and that with time has helped me to become a better player.

This time around I decided to look at a few winning chess opening moves with the help of Chessgames Chess Opening Explorer.

As white, I always tend to play 1.e4 as there's a 37.3% chance of winning one's game with this (based on 164,858 recorded games). Ofcourse black's responses can be varied, but let's do an abc analysis of the expected moves based on the assumption that he/she would want to control the center and would like to play the popular moves. This leaves us with the following responses: 1...c5 (winning chances 35% and 64,855 recorded games) or 1...e5 (winning chances 39.2% and 54,651 recorded games) or 1...e6 (winning chances 38.6% and 18,558 recorded games) or 1...c6 (winning chances 35.7% and 10,078 recorded games). Now, let's look at some of the various openings based on the above moves.
  • Sicilian, Najdorf (B94)
    1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5
  • Ruy Lopez (C88)
    1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Be7 6 Re1 b5
    7 Bb3
  • French, Exchange (C01)
    1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 exd5 exd5 4 Nc3 Nf6 5 Bg5
  • Caro-Kann (B15)
    1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3
The number of chess openings and its variants could run into thousands (or is it millions?) and humanly impossible to master.

Now, based on the above brief analysis is it safe to assume that by studying the Sicilian, Najdorf, Ruy Lopez, French, Exchange and the Caro-Kann a chess player stands a slightly better chance of winning while playing white? Are these the best openings to begin one's study with? What's your opinion or your assessment of the analysis?
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Blogger Pawn Sensei said...

Hey Satish,

It would depend on your rating. But if you are fairly new like me:

1. e4 as white
2. e4 e5 or d4 d5 as black

Can't get more KISS than that. Other than that, don't worry about memorizing names (I don't). The names will come with time, but it's not important at lower levels.


2:03 AM  
Blogger Pawn Sensei said...

Oh, and forget the Ruy in the beginning. Go with gambits. King's gambit is a good starting place.


2:04 AM  
Blogger SatishTalim said...

PS thanks for the post. Remembering names is not important but don't you think that one should know the 'tricks/traps' of a particular opening or just rely on the KISS principle? Incidentally, have you come across any online article which talks about some of the most important openings that a beginner should know?

6:20 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

You could spend your life studying the Ruy. I enjoy playing it but I feel it would take a long time to even scratch the surface. Also one is immediately taken out of your game by Petroff or Scandanavian. It would be interesting to see what is the most winning % against e4 from the black perspective

4:42 PM  
Blogger Pawn Sensei said...

Knowing traps is important but you'll learn the traps as you start playing the same openings. Usually if it's a simple trap it doesn't take more than a couple of times before you learn it. It's more important to learn the positions that arise out of your openings.

As far as articles, probably Dan Heisman is a good place to start. But really, it's more important to just start making your rep. I use e4 as White and stick to the basics with Black. You'll see once you start building your rep. I know it seems daunting at first but it's not as hard as it sounds. Don't get too caught up in theory in the beginning. Just follow the opening databases. I used MCO14 to build mine.

Since building mine six months or so ago, I have only had to make minor adjustments a few times. Most players don't get past six moves or so before breaking book.

Oh, and another thing. To limit your rep. start with no more than six moves (12 half moves) for each opening. You can add to it once you or your opponent passes that point, but you know what? That only happend a couple times with my rep. so far.


4:44 PM  
Blogger SatishTalim said...

Interesting observations from both PS and TC. Thanks.

6:17 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

As white, I always tend to play 1.e4 as there's a 37.3%

37.3% of winning for White? I think your statistic is incorrect.

11:31 PM  
Blogger SatishTalim said...

Josh, if you check this URL -
You will see that for e4 the number of wins has been 37.3% from all the recorded games in their database. Am I making some mistake; kindly correct me please?

5:50 AM  
Blogger Chetan said...

Hi Satish,

This is a very interesting analysis - to find the best of the openings and find which one wins how many times.

The only hassle here is that Chess being an innovators game, it is more important for beginners to think differently. If you happen to think on the lines of any existing openings, you are already biased and hence a bit away from pure innovation. I beleive that even after centuries of chess being played, a lot remains to be found out. Agreed one needs to know the basic for advancing, but that limits the innovation to some extent.


12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My opinion (whatever that is worth :-0) is that if you are an aspiring beginner you should learn the first few moves of one or two openings (like the Scotch) and then look up move orders after every game you play. That way you will gradually learn new systems against e4. If you are looking to experiment with gambits, I would recommend starting with the queen's gambit, as you can almost always win the pawn back with easy development or punish black for trying to hold on to the pawn (of course this involves 2. d4). Finally, I think that you should raise tactical strength, it is not possible for anyone to come up with "innovations" in openings before they are fairly tactically strong.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, some great opening sites are:

----> this website has most main lines in most openings with explanations. They don't have some of the weirder lines you may encounter, but definately good since they still have a lot of variations for all major opening systems.

---> I would recommend going to this website and checking out the forum once you think that you are ready to build a serious repertoire. There are many strong players there, including IMs and GMs. There are interesting discussions of offbeat lines that you are likely to encounter. Also, the people are very nice and will usually answer opening questions.

----> You probably know about this one, but just in case: this is a great database with opening statistics.

10:30 AM  
Blogger masugly said...

I will also want to recommend Chess Opening Explorer i use it a lot and I like the site look and feel :)

2:52 PM  

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