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  1. Forum
  2. General Chess Discussion
  3. "Beginners should play Open games (1.e4 e5) if they want to improve" ¿Why?

Recently I read somewhere this piece of advice. (Not only that, but I have even read that start playing stuff like the English if you are a novice can hurt your chess learning process because of a lack of "the fundamentals")


The two main reason behind this piece of advice should be:

1. Open games tend to lead to tactical games

2. e4 e5 is the fundamentals/basics of pawn structures, and more complex form can be really understood if you got the basics. The optimal learning order should be something like this: open games, closed, semi-open, semi-closed or indians, and hyper-modern stuff


And this is WHAT I DON'T UNDERSTAND:

1. got it, beginners need first of all improve tactics, but don't you get tactics in every game?

2. Why double king's pawn structures are the basics? Why something like the English is considered to be more complex and difficult to understand?

This is bad advice.
Beginners shouldn't play e4, or e5.

First of all: It requires too much theory.
You need to be prepared to play against 5 or so defenses just from the first move, and even if they do play something like a ruy lopez, the game requires a lot of theory.

It's much easier for beginners to learn a system (such as KIA, stonewall attack) or at least an opening that generally plays the same unless the opponent plays badly (openings such as the queens gambit, or the English.)

And, tactics aren't everything. It is much more important for a beginner to learn how to form a strategic plan, learn endgames, and translate an advantage into a win. What's the point of using a tactic to earn a knight if you don't know how to win with the extra piece?

I recommend that beginners learn to play the english opening.
It is simple, requires little theory, and is powerful, and has a clear plan right from the beginning.

As for when you are black, playing e5 is alright for beginners, but it might be more advisable to learn a different defense, if one chooses to do so (for example when I started playing I learned Alekhine's defense.)

Well if they were playing something stupid on move 1 then ya it's going to up there game a bit. However if they are playing something solid I don't see the benefit to it.

Here are some 1st moves, and how I'd rank them.

Top Tier: e4, d4, c4, Nf3 (I think about 98+% of GM games are these 4 moves... There may be some GMs that open something else because they studied some line in it, and have prep or they are playing something desperate to throw opponent out of prep)

Playable, but not optimal tier: Nc3, d3, e3, g3, b3

I don't think much else is playable...

h4 and f3 are terrible tier.

It all really depends on your style. It's best to not limit yourself to 1 opening. Try different openings... When I was a beginner I played exclusively 1. e4 and I still play it often, but it's not nearly the only thing in my diet anymore. It's a good move, but there are others. Explore them all.

I wrote somewhere in this forum:

...
But as mentioned before, 1.e4 is a more direct approach. I gave this move-by-move understandable example. Whereas 1.d4 is more subtle and hiding the intentions for the time being.

Or see it in a different way: explain to a weaker player Ruy hopeless (Spanish): attacking (in move 2!) and defending the e5 and „forcing“ exd4. Or Italian: attacking f7. Defense: don‘t get mated, there are no further long-term weaknesses.

Explain Queen‘s Gambit to a beginner for white: well, carrying out a „minority attack“ in the middlegame, weakening the pawns and winning the endgame. There‘s no easy way to explain to defend for Black because sitting still is not sufficient. Countering a non-stoppable minority attack is a tough nut to crack. ...

Move-by-Move, direct approach:

1. e4 (opening lines) e5 (dito)
2. Nf3 (attacking) Nc6 (defending)
3. Bb5 (attacking) and so on.

To follow what @Sargon said, this sort of advice typically has you playing and learning openings more or less in the order in which they became common historically.

The open games became popular very early on for reasons like @Sarg0n gave; they're a bit easier to comprehend and explain, at least the way they were played then, with straightforward attacks and such.

Obviously some of the lines of the Ruy Lopez are complicated positional nightmares and there are simpler, easier-to-understand ways of playing 1.d4, so it's not as though this is some advice descended from the gods on high :)

I think most of it really is coming from the "learn the openings in the order they were discovered historically" way of thinking.

For me, I've always thought the most important thing about choosing openings for amateur players was finding an opening where you enjoy playing the resulting positions.

As with diets, it's less important exactly what you're doing than that you stick with it; having the world's most scientifically perfect diet (if there even were such a thing) that is 10% more effective than the others doesn't matter at all if you hate it and can't stick to it for very long.

It's the same with openings; if you don't like the positions you get and you're just going to abandon the opening before acquiring any sort of reasonable understanding of it, or your lack of interest in the resulting positions means you don't study them much, then it doesn't matter how objectively great the opening is.

Of course, if your ambitions are very high, you'll want to have an understanding of all sorts of positions, but even for becoming a strongish amateur player, it's more important to find something you'll stick with and come to understand.

What that is will be different for different people.

Concerning #2...

"Beginners shouldn't play e4, or e5 [...] It requires too much theory."
Every opening requires you to learn theory if you want to play it well. The good thing about 1. e4 e5 is that the moves that are considered "theory" here are easier to understand for beginners than in other openings. If a beginner makes an early mistake in an 1. e4 e5 game, chances are relatively high it was a tactical mistake that he can understand and learn from when analyzing the game afterwards. On the other hand, if white plays for example 1. d4 d5 2. e3 c5 3. Bb5+?! followed by trading off his bishop on d7 or c6, that's the kind of mistake he's less likely to understand when analyzing with the computer afterwards.

"It's much easier for beginners to learn a system (such as KIA, stonewall attack) or at least an opening that generally plays the same unless the opponent plays badly."
Playing an opening system teaches a beginner to not care about what the opponent is doing and just make the same moves regardless. That is a terrible habit to get into. A chess game starts at move 1, not move 10. It might be over at move 10 if one side thinks that way.

"And, tactics aren't everything."
Sure, but it's more important for a beginner to know the basic tactics like simple 1-move forks & skewers and such than to know how to give the opponent a backwards pawn.

"What's the point of using a tactic to earn a knight if you don't know how to win with the extra piece?"
To expand on the example above, what's the point of giving the opponent a weak pawn (and maybe winning it eventually) if you can't win the endgame a pawn up? In both your example and the one I gave, the problem is not a lack of positional understanding, but a lack of technique. And tactics are key to a good technique.

If you start playing at a very young age, there is more or less a consensus among trainers that 1.e4 e5 is recommended. The idea is to form the intuition about single moves, when plans are less important (i.e. you have maybe five moves before all tensions disappear and the game is dull). A sense of the initiative and of the turning points of the game is easier to acquire as a kid and much harder to acquire later.

When you start playing later, or after a happy chess childhood, it is much more important to go your own way, to select the type of positions that will improve your skills according to your own criteria. According to Watson, there seems to be another consensus among trainers that you can't play 1.e4 only if you want to improve. At some point, you have to play something else. Seirawan tells his own story under the label "go west" (1.e4, then 1.d4, then 1.c4). Yermolinsky was forced to play 1.e4 as a kid, then he adopted 1.Nf3 as a rebellion against his "e4-minded" trainer, and finally he converted to 1.d4/2.c4.

To sum up, a consensual answer to the original question is : very young beginners will benefit from starting with 1.e4 e5 (but not for too long).

@Requir
Real beginners shouldn't bother about "theory" at all. None of their opponents will know much of that theory either.

Also, don't underestimate tactics. The point of learning them is not only to get better at winning pieces, but also to get better at avoiding to lose them (by spotting possible threats in advance). This is a very vital skill for beginners (and also very useful for one's strategical abilities anyway).

In general, trying too hard to avoid the "hard work" will usually backfire eventually. It is exactly that work that teaches one the most.

With this in mind, one should have a good look at each kind of opening to explore the different facets of the game, and it simply makes the most sense to start doing so in historical order - similar to how one typically learns about Newton's ideas before Einstein's, for example, in science classes. Most ideas are in some way developed from previous ones (either to reinforce or refute (part of) them). It's much easier to follow the historical train of thought than to start with, say, the English in a complete vacuum (even if you could still do that, sure). One is always free to pick a favorite opening later on when they have some overview already.

Key is to choose openings for black. I would recommend to play 1...e5 on 1 e4 and that is also the preferred opening at top level (world championship) nowadays. I recommend to answer 1...d5 on 1 d4 and that has also been a preferred opening at top level.

With white it is often easy to play reverse systems. If you play King's Indian Defence 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 with black, then it is easy to play the King's Indian Attack 1 Nf3 2 g3 3 Bg2 4 d3 5 o-o with white. If you play the Sicilian Defence 1 e4 c5 with black, then it is easy to play the English Opening 1 c4 with white. If you play the Dutch Defence 1...f5 with black, then the Bird Opening 1 f4 is easy with white. If you play the Nimzovich Indian 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 with black, then it is easy to play the Rossolimo Variation 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 4 Bb5 with white. If you play the Queen's Indian Defence 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 with black, then it is easy to play the Nimzovich-Larsen-Fischer attack 1 Nf3 2 b3 with white.

Kasparov has said a player should study openings only after he becomes a grandmaster. Studying endgames first is much more efficient in terms of strength gained per time spent.

Easy to say that if you became GM in your teens already, though. ^^