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  1. Forum
  2. General Chess Discussion
  3. Help with Openings as Black

I've played chess for about a year, and I think I'm a pretty good player. However, I've noticed there's one thing I need to do - memorize some opening lines and variations and know what moves to make to get an advantage.

Knowing good defenses as Black is necessary for progress. What should I play against 1. e4 ? If I were to play a certain opening, how should I play - aggressively, or calmly? Should I try to open or close the position?

How can I get an advantage while still knowing what I'm doing? Please give me a few openings I can study, and perhaps the ideas behind the moves? (Just memorizing moves is useless.)


1) What's your rating? (specify FIDE/USCF/ECF/online).

2) Whether you open or close the position depends entirely on... the position itself. Both can happen in different instances of the same opening, or in different openings.

3) You don't get an advantage, especially as Black, unless your opponent makes a mistake.

4) The best openings against e4 are 1... e5 and 1... c5, though of course there are a number of good responses (French, Caro-Kann...) I recommend you start off with 1.e5, as it's probably the most principled and pure, though the Sicilian is also a good choice.

5) What do you currently play against e4? Do you enjoy the positions you get?

"I've noticed there's one thing I need to do - memorize some opening lines and variations"
Kasparov said that a player should study openings after he has become a grandmaster. Also Capablanca and Lasker and Nimzovich expressed contempt for openings. It is really unnecessary to memorize opening lines.

"know what moves to make to get an advantage."
It is an illusion wanting to gain an opening advantage by studying opening lines. Carlsen also plays unambitious lines: 1...Nc6 or 1...b6 as black, 1 a3 as white.
Just think about your moves in the opening and apply the general principles: develop pieces and control the centre. Play pawns, knights, bishops in that order, castle, activate your rooks and last but not least find good use for your queen.

"What should I play against 1. e4 ?"
1...e5, 1...c5, 1...e6, 1...c6, 1...d5, 1...d6, 1...g6, 1...Nf6, 1...Nc6, 1...b6, 1...a6 are all playable and have been successfully played by top grandmasters. Just pick one and stick to it. Play it on all occasions so that you gain experience.

"how should I play - aggressively, or calmly"
That is up to you. Anderssen, Alekhine, Tal, Fischer, Kasparov played aggressively. Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca, Petrosian, Karpov, Carlsen play calmly. It is like in any sport: you can play solid defence or you can play attack and you can win with both attitudes.

"Should I try to open or close the position?"
That is up to you and according to the demands of the position. As white you have influence. If you like closed positions you can open 1 d4. If you like open positions you can open 1 e4. Black must follow. You can win or lose in open positions as well as in closed positions.

You've played for a year. That's a relatively short time with such a complex game. I recommend playing 1. e4 as white and respond 1. ...e5 with Black. That will expose you to open, tactical games which is perfect for learning. It'll hurt, a lot, probably. The point is not giving up.

Play the dutch defence, its against d4 but u can spend some good games trying to figure out whats going on, thats what I am gonna do tomorrow or today play the dutch which I did not played in a while, Its not the best opening but whatever
and against e4 I play e5, pretty boring, solid or nuance or simmetrical, I recommend u to play e5 despite that but I am changing to sicilian I am getting bored of playing simmetrical I want to have the initiative, I already played e5 a lot not a bad player for my rating, the thing is that with e5 white is always on command, its just rich but difficult it will be the same with the french or the sicilian but I want to play with two central pawns and an open c file thats why, I think sicilian defence is the best choice I am more in the mood or used to e5, but with e5 he has italian, he has ruy, he has scotch, he has kings gambit and with sicilian defence, except things like c3 and so alapin,
it feels more that black chooses the middleboard game
because u can pick inside the sicilian whether is dragon,
sheveningen, taimanov, kan, sveshnikov
or I may focus on the modern defence because it suits more my mood the fianchetto but thats me
if u are looking for long term understanding of chess,
stick to sicilian, french or e5, only one of those, and e5
is probably the best choice which is what I am currently playing
the thing about e5 which may occur in other openings is that
I am interested on this type of idea where one has a knight and another has a bishop or viceversa and there are some pawns on the board, carlsen style but as an amateur,
the thing is to be true one does not need a big advantage to win a game if one knows how to grind it, so its a personal choice but in order to choose u need to know a little beforehand, sicilian defence is probably too complicated for anyone under 2000, not saying it cant be played but, its advanced stuff
french defence seems a good idea if u like to attack in the queenside or attack the pawn chain and so, the problem with e5 is that u are half a tempo down but besides that its a good opening because if u equalize then u can outplay in the endgame or try to
U see when u have like three pices rook bishop knight there is a lot of play there, its like between a middlegame and an endgame, queenless games thats what I mean, when u play a game without queens, there is a lot of potential in e5 its just that its subtle but most players even still play it, its not like u have to smahs white to win, u can just grind it, even with half a tempo down, u can squeeze as black I guess if u pick the right moves, because its very difficult for the oponet to always play right because if he plays like 18 good moves then he will have a very good rating, very good and even if u face
Play e5 is fundamental, because it also teaches u for e4 if u want to play e4 as white, and leave sicilian or whatever french, caro, modern for later.
Its like e4 e5, if d4, c4 is not played, for my understanding which is amateur, its like the central question, because c5 is not really a central question it is an assimetrical question and I think understanding simmetry in the game of chess is the first thing because its a simmetrical game, so things like the french exchange, because its about the thought process if u dont want to play a simmetrical game at least u should know why,
or u should know what u are missing ritght?
Ok so french defence, sicilian defences are great openings
but while u are playing them u are not playing them the simmetrical question, and u should know why u dont play e5
because u dont like it, because its boring or are not good at it
or is it because u are already an stage that u know that u can fianchetto and play the dragon for example I dont know
The thing is that e5 is like key of some many games 18th century or even Carlsen kasparov recent era, its one of those things that its gonna stay its like a good bet,
u cant go wrong if u play e5, its what im saying it may be boring
it may be dull, but its good choice and u are gonna learn a lot even if u get beaten up and then u can play e4.

So that was like a lot of nonsense, which summarizes to play e5 as an amateurish opinion, so that u understand simmetry, tempo, the value and coordination of minor pieces, ways white has to attack in the early game, even facing gambits, how to position ur king before the endgame

A good well played e5 game It has classical beauty, whether if u play french defence or sicilian defence it may look like a race of who attacks first, promotes first etc
Its not as simple as that but

Play e5 u cant go wrong there, and if u are wrong everybody else is too, including supergrandmasters.

@Rrhyddhad (#2)

1) My rating is 1400-1600, relatively low.

2) OK, thanks.

3) It's possible to find advantages and increase the advantage if white makes a weak move and gives you the initiative.

4) I understand 1. ... e5 but what is the point of 1. ... c5 and how should I play after it?

5) 1. ... e5 in most games I beat my opponents (because they are weaker, but online you can find stronger ones) because they make great mistakes. If white plays well then white will always maintain a slight advantage.

Ur problem is not in the opening, its in the middlegame, endgames blunders, everywhere no offence
thats why sticking to any of the well known options such
as french, sicilian or e5 its gonna be good for u because u will learn in any opening, its just that maybe some things are better to learn before others, because if u play sicilian u are gonna have to look at the whole board the queenside the kingside
u are always gonna have to look at the whole board, but things of how evaluating an isolated pawn, a passed pawn, two central pawn, a backward pawn, what is a weakness, what is a strenght what is assimetry, should I attack on the c file while he attacks on the g file, those are difficult questions and chess is always difficult, its just e5 maybe is easier in that regards to understand the plan of the game because in french which I am a completely newbie for either colour white has the winawer
french is solid u can play french, its just that I feel e5 is like the right choice for any amateur, its like the logical thing and in order to not play the logical thing its because ur thought process should be advanced,
ok so u play the alekhine defence Nf6 but then u need to evaluate white space advantage whether it is a weakness, is he overextending or it is strength, those are complicated concepts
thats why I recommend e5, simple games like trading rooks on an open file, spotting forks, grabbing pawns, promoting and so
until u get the superbasics first and then u can ask again what shall I play
I started more or less with scandinavian or caro kann so u can start anywhere, nothing wrong with any opening, play scandinavian then he attacks ur queen, u are always gonna have the pieces under attack if u play chess, its just some options are easier to play than others.

@tpr always says don't study openings, so I only have 1 line with white and my first 9-10 moves are always same (NO! NOT LONDON ! IT IS BAD ! ) . As black, I play French Winawer against e4 and Grunfeld-style against any other opening and I'm quite comfortable with those lines.
Find a plan that you are comfortable with;
For me, that is d4,nf3,e3,b3,bb2,bd3,nbd2,0-0.
It sometimes gives positions that are suitable for double bishop sacrifices (I just played one OTB today, drew a probably won position).
As black, look for some openings, choose the one which is unexplored or unknown in your level or area. I play Grunfeld because noone plays it in my city. I don't know much theory but I sometimes look up Avrukh's books to refresh.
I play the Winawer French because any other defense made me uncomfortable.
1...e5: Scotch gambit. Even though it is better for black, positions are ultimately complex and white will probably win because he is more familiar with those positions.
1...c5: there are at least 20 sidelines that club players LOVE. Main lines also have plenty of theory.
1...c6: No. I'm an aggressive player (as my username suggests) and I tried Caro-Kann
And it is passive (for me)
1...d6(without king's fianchetto) : I didn't ever try this but I don't like endgames that arise straight our of the opening.
1...d6/g6( king's fianchetto) : I had played this for 2 years but being attacked is not comfortable.
There are no other reasonable 1's moves.

Completely disagree with @tpr . Openings study is essential and beneficial to you as a chessplayer - both understanding AND a little memorisation.

If you understand your opening, you will understand the arising positions, and be better equipped to play the middlegame. You will also get better positions to play from!

tpr mentions that Carlsen is successful with offbeat openings, but fails to mention that in his formative years he played main lines, because these simply teach you more about chess... you are making better moves! Also, the reason he plays these openings is to avoid super-GM preparation, which will never be a concern at all to 99% of chessplayers.
I guarantee that if you read a single book about 1.e5 you will know more about it than any 1400-1600 player.
I recommend these:!-Nigel-Davies/9781857444018?redirected=true&utm_medium=Google&utm_campaign=Base3&utm_source=UK&utm_content=Play-1-e4-e5!&selectCurrency=GBP&w=AFC7AU963XJ3JXA80R7PA719&pdg=kwd-104398008339:cmp-706833756:adg-37221470619:crv-162343711180:pid-9781857444018&gclid=Cj0KCQiA-ebSBRC8ARIsAGuxJIp0i_XD8ElLjW-CaHAk9p15DUCaOYSSITAMO48TGAPA0xaKM7d5J2QaAm_rEALw_wcB

For both theory and ideas. Middlegame/endgame/tactics study is even more essential, but don't neglect your openings.

@Rrhyddhad (#9)

Thanks! Oftentimes the opening determines what happens in the middle game.