Improving your openings is one of the most important ways to boost your chess. Whether it’s learning new variations or improving your starting strategy, openings are some of the most important aspects to chess.
Of course, if you don’t learn the most accurate openings you may be giving yourself a disadvantage in the game. Below is my list of the best chess openings (please remember this is my own opinion and is only here to help you improve), which are in no particular order; it is just a list.
10. Ruy Lopez
The Ruy Lopez is a very old and popular opening. It starts out after the moves 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5. Games that start out with the Ruy Lopez tend to be tactical in nature. Also, variations can be very long and complicated. However, if you learn this opening well and are comfortable with the variations that follow, you can be unstoppable.
9. Queen’s Gambit Declined (QGD)
This opening, like many double queen pawn openings are less tactical and more positional in nature. It is very important to know this if you are going to play the QGD. Even though I personally don’t like to play the black pieces in this opening and prefer the Slav, some professional players use(d) this in their repertoire.
8. Slav/Semi-Slav Defense
The Slav/Semi-Slav Defenses are very strong and arise from 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6. These are my personal favorite double queen pawn openings for the black pieces. It is very sound and many grandmasters use it. The idea is that Black doesn’t want to shut in the light-squared bishop with …e6 like in the Queen’s Gambit Declined so the d5 pawn is defended on move 2 by 2…c6.
In the Semi-Slav, Black usually tends to play …e6 at some point, but with ideas of playing …b5, the light-squared bishop can be very active on b7.
7. French Defense
Another personal favorite, the French Defense arises from the moves 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5. The idea is that Black wants to prepare an advance in the center by playing 1…e6 and then 2…d5 instead of just playing 1…e5. This, however, does allow White to put pawns in the center with 2. d4.
To play the French, however, you have to be comfortable playing potentially tactical (especially in the Winawer variation) and cramped positions. Playing the French Defense as Black can be very scary sometimes, since you are giving you opponent extra space and in some variation also sacrificing pawns (Poisoned Pawn variation).
6. King’s Indian Defense
The King’s Indian Defense is a very complex and modern opening. It employs ideas developed during the hypermodern era in chess. Although many play it, this opening has very deep ideas and if you are not able to use them, it will be difficult to get an advantage as Black. If you are interested, here’s a video about the King’s Indian Defense.
5. Nimzo-Indian Defense
The Nimzo-Indian Defense starts out after the moves 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4. Like the King’s Indian Defense, this opening is also one developed and improved during the hypermodern era of chess.
Unlike other openings labeled “Indian” defenses, it does not have the usual fianchetto but does share the fact that Black is not the first to occupy the center with pawns in the beginning.
4. London System
Many consider the London System a sub-optimal opening, because it tends to not be as active as some of openings. However, this is one of my personal favorites because it is basically the same setup every game for White and many of the ideas are the same.
The London System is very flexible and can be used in many situations. It starts off with moves 1.d4 d5 (or Nf6) 2. Bf4. Then, if Black allows White to do so, White will place a pawn on e3, a Nf3, a Bd3, a Nbd2, a pawn on either c3 or c4 (depending on the situation), and Qe2 or Qc2.
This is what, in my opinion, makes it one of the best chess openings.
3. English Opening
An opening that I recommend for more advanced (1500+ Elo) players, the English Opening is played by many strong players worldwide. I do not suggest beginners to chess play this because there are very deep ideas at play and it would be easier for a higher rated chess player to use them, since they have likely studied them before.
This opening features large battles for central control is generally slower than other e-pawn openings.
2. Caro-Kann Defense
For a less experienced player, Black’s first move, 1…c6, might seem a bit strange. The purpose of this move is for Black to be able to fight White in the center with 2…d5.
This opening does not have many positional weaknesses for Black and it is possible for that player to develop pieces without creating weaknesses. For example, by playing 1…c6, Black retains the possibility of getting the light-squared bishop out through the c8-h3 diagonal. This option is not available for Black in the French Defense because of the move 1…e6, blocking the diagonal.
None of this is to say that the Caro-Kann is superior to the French, just that they both have positive and negative aspects.
1. Sicilian Defense
Finally, no list of the best chess openings would be complete without mentioning the Sicilian. The Sicilian Defense is one of the most famous in the history of chess. It has countless variations and is considered one of the strongest in chess. The Sicilian is the most popular response to 1.e4 by Black, for both amateur and professional chess players.
With the move 1…c5, Black is trying to control the center square of d4 with the c-pawn instead of the e-pawn. Many times the player with the Black pieces will go on to have an open c-file and two center pawns.
If you liked this list of the best chess openings, check out this openings book by Nick de Firmian. Please share this link with your friends and leave comments on the post. Good luck with your chess endeavors!