Speed: Bullet to Correspondence Rating:
1. Nf3 develops a piece and acts against 1. ...e5 while at the same time not making any commitment for the White pawn structure. A variety of openings can be reached from 1. Nf3 and they can roughly be classified by whether White intends to reach a central pawn opening by transposition, or a flank opening with e5 ruled out.
Players looking for transpositions often have a broad opening repertoire and use 1. Nf3 to get Black to define their pawn structure before deciding themselves whether or not to maintain symmetry.
- After the most popular 1. ...d5, White can transpose to the Queen's Pawn Game with 2. d4 and aim for a small advantage based on better control of the center. An alternative is to break symmetry with 2. c4 and attack the Black central pawn, leading to unbalanced positions more quickly.
- After 1. ...c5, Black can choose the Symmetrical English with 2. c4, again trying to get some advantage out of the better control over the center. Radically different in scope is 2. e4 with a transposition to mainline Sicilians with many highly unbalanced and highly theoretical variations.
- Even 1. ...Nf6 is not entirely without commitment as 2. c4 could lead to an English Opening where the knight is in the way for plans with early e5 or f5 pushes.
A completely different approach is to use 1. Nf3 without any transposition in mind and just follow it up with a fianchetto on one or two wings.
- 2. b3 leads to the Nimzo-Larsen setup where an early e5 has been made much harder for Black to achieve.
- 2. g3 usually leads to a Kings Indian Attack where White aims to set up with Bg2, 0-0, d3, e4 before defining the queenside. Here the Nf3 is meant to not only stop an early e5, it also retains the option to break in the enter with d4 if Black commits to c5 and Nc6.
The various flank openings have relatively few theoretical lines. It is possible to reach highly theoretical lines from transpositions to other openings but the wealth of options for either player in the early stages often makes games reach a novel position rather early. All of this makes 1. Nf3 best suited for players who prefer improvisation at an early stage of the game rather than trying to prove an objective advantage.