After you have accumulated many dozens of chess games and have seen lots of different players and the styles they use during their gameplay, you may at times find yourself wondering what the absolute best chess opening could be. After all, if you could just find the one, single best opening in the entirety of the game of chess, surely you could win each and every game you play, correct? This is a question to which many (in fact, probably most) chess players have tried to find the answer at one time or another during their chess careers. It is one which makes sense to ask, since observing the great openings of some of the best chess players in the history of the game has led many to wonder if the first move is in fact the most important.
The fact of the matter, however, is that there really is no single “best opening move” in the game of chess. There are many good moves, and there are moves which are better than others, but there is no single opening which is the “end all, be all” of the game. The reason for this is pretty straight forward, but we are going to discuss it in this article to make sure that you fully understand the concept.
The first thing to realize is that there are, in fact, bad opening moves. This does not mean, of course, that they should never, ever be played – there are so many different ways a chess game can go, that it is worth experimenting with a variety of openings – but it is important to realize that there are some openings which just do not have a high chance of working in your favor. These are often referred to as “unplayable” openings, simply because in a professional, serious game of chess, they will most likely end up hurting you. Besides this, however, there are not many rules which dictate which openings you should or should not play.
Aside from the so-called “unplayable” openings, there are “playable” openings. These types of openings encompass just about every other opening in the game, and this category is so broad because just about any opening can be workable if you make it work. The success or failure of an opening depends entirely on the mind of the person controlling it. As we have said many times here, you cannot simply memorize a large set of successful moves, tactics, openings, or games as a whole and expect to win every time. Chess is a game of intuition as much as it is a game of strategy, and you must be able to intuit your opponent’s thought process if you can hope to win. This means, simply put, that you are not going to be able to memorize your way to victory.
So what does this all mean when it comes to openings? It is quite simple, really. It means that you should, instead of memorizing the opening moves of the chess greats, decide which openings you like best for yourself, and which ones work best for your playing style. Then, you should put those moves to work for you. You will have to try out a large variety of openings – pitting different strategies, tactics, and angles of attack against your various enemies. From there, you will slowly start to accumulate data on what works best for you. Once you have found the opening moves which work best for you, guess what? You have found the best openings in chess.
That is the real secret to nearly every aspect of chess. It is not about what moves, strategies, play styles, or tactics work best in general so much as it is about which of those things work best for you. You have to carve out your own play style, while simultaneously learning from the mistakes and successes of others and incorporating those lessons into your own play style, if you hope to become one of the greats of the game, or even just a better chess player. No one can tell you what will work best for you, apart from yourself and the sum of your experiences with the game.
Of course, this is all just so much philosophy if you do not make it work for you. As with all aspects of the game, practice makes perfect! Play as many games of chess as you can, against as many different opponents as you can find. Over time, those experiences will add up and you will begin to realize that your own play style has been there the entire time – these lessons just help you bring that style up to the surface.
So, now we should dive into how you can discern a chess opening which is deemed “unplayable” from one which is “playable”. The answer here is probably disappointingly simple for you as well. It really just comes down to whether or not the opening in question is based on solid chess principles or if it is not. That is all there is to it – if the move is based on good reasoning, it is playable. If it is not, it is unplayable. For example, many great openings try to use the principle of controlling the center to their advantage. As you almost certainly are aware by now, controlling the center is a highly effective strategy for a variety of reasons which we have discussed at length in other articles on this site. However, that does not mean that all good chess openings go for center control.
Another major principle which a good opening move will abide by is king safety. Your king must remain safe at all times, and your opening move should develop while simultaneously maintaining king safety. Failure to do so will almost assuredly deem an opening “unplayable”. This is why many beginner players choose to castle as early as possible. A castled king is usually safer than one which has not been castled, so doing so could help you avoid a quick checkmate from your opponent.
These are, of course, merely examples. As we discussed above, the best openings are the ones which you are comfortable with, which abide by the key principles of chess, and which work well for your overall strategy. In order to figure out which moves those are for you, you’ll have to play some chess!