Chess Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for serious players and enthusiasts of chess. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Grouping of initial moves of a chess game are well known, though I've never seen analysis of the worst possible opening move, any thoughts? If so, please provide more than just a move, but the exact reason why such a move would be the worst assuming such a move was against a GM.

share|improve this question
The worst opening move is pulling out a gun and shooting your opponent. Not only does this violate chess etiquette and display unsportsmanlike conduct in the extreme, it is also a violation of local law and will likely result in your incarceration. – Michael Sep 30 '14 at 4:04

10 Answers 10

up vote 18 down vote accepted

1. f3 is almost certainly the single worst move. It irrevocably weakens white's king position without doing anything useful.

Other moves like 1. b3 and 1. g3 prepare to develop a bishop, so they're not so bad. 1. c3 doesn't do too much for white, but it also doesn't hurt him.

1. a4 and 1. h4 both ignore the center, but they do help develop the rooks, and there are positions where 1. a4/h4 can be useful (especially when the kings have castled on opposite sides of the board.

share|improve this answer

I agree with Andrew on 1. f3 (Barnes Opening). No first move can be decisively wrong, but some first moves are questionable. In Chess Opening Theory (Wikibooks):

Quite a rarely played passive starting move that gives up White's first move advantage. White's position is slightly weakened by the White King exposure to a check on the h4 - e1 diagonal. The Kingside Knight's favourite developing square f3, is also not currently possible. In fact, this is arguably the worst possible first move by White.

No stats as 1. f3 occurs rarely among serious chess players.

Next on the list would probably be 1. h4 (Desprez Opening):

1. h4 is a rather useless move that does nothing to assist the important central squares. No top masters have ever used it in professional play, although some, most notably Hikaru Nakumura, play it during blitz. It could be said that White has made his position worse, as castling Kingside is now less attractive.

This move is rarely seen among serious chess players.

share|improve this answer

I agree 1. f3 is quite bad, but 1. Na3 and 1. Nh3 ain't pretty either, especially as they have to move again to avoid a double pawn after ...d5 or ...e5.

share|improve this answer
Still, it develops knights (for which f4 or c4 are nice squares), so it doesn't lose as much of a tempo. b3 or g3 are then good moves not to double pawns. – Nikana Reklawyks Nov 13 '12 at 8:58

1. h4 has been deemed the worst move by John Watson (author of the Mastering the Chess Openings series). Other people are saying 1. h3 and 1. a3. That is not true. Michael Basman is a noted unorthodox player that opens with 1. a3/h3, etc. and is rated >2400. 1. a3/h3 come out to be useful in a variety of openings, but it's certainly not what I would start with.

share|improve this answer
Not only is 1.a3 perfectly playable, but 1.a3 e5 2.c4! is a serious try for the advantage, with the additional appeal of offering familiar paths to a White player who plays the Sicilian Defence as Black. Of course after 1. a3 g6 White is struggling to prove that he's done anything useful on move 1, but he certainly need not come out of the opening worse. – Evan Harper Jan 19 '13 at 2:10

The worst move is 1. resigns. It goes from equal to lost in one move, much worse than moves like 1. f3 which go from equal to slightly worse.

share|improve this answer

The idea of the opening moves is to allow an early development of pieces. Therefore the worst moves would be the ones that allow you the least opportunity to do so. So I would say 1. a3, 1. h3, and 1. f3 would be the worst. You not only lose the race in developing your pieces quickly (the only piece you can develop after these moves is the knight), but you also give up control on the central squares.

share|improve this answer
Following your logic a3 or h3 would be worse. – Landei May 2 '12 at 21:09
yes that is correct...a3, h3 will be even worse...i will update the answer. – NoviceProgrammer May 2 '12 at 21:23

I would say 1. Na3. The reason is that it is the most useless move as far as building a setup around it. Even moves mentioned like 1. h4 and 1. f3 can be useful in some contexts - 1. f3 can be useful if you play d4 and Nc3 and plan e4. 1. h4 can be useful because you discourage your opponent from fianchettoing his bishop, and you can push it again for cramping effect. It is difficult, however, to imagine any setup where 1. Na3 is a helpful move, and furthermore after ...e5 you will have to move the knight or play b3 to avoid getting doubled a-pawns, which are probably the worst doubled pawns since the open b-file is rarely useful and they are not supporting anything or guarding any important squares.

share|improve this answer
This is sometimes called the Sodium Opening: The Durkin or Sodium (Sodium due to the algebraic notation Na3, Na being the chemical symbol for sodium) is rarely played. The move does little to enhance the White position, although some sources consider it to be better than its reputation. Black's best response is 1...d5, although 1...e5 is sometimes seen. White may continue with 2.b3, preparing to fianchetto with 3.Bb2, or with 2.c4. Alternatively, if black plays 1...e5, white may choose 2.Nc4 to put pressure on the e5 pawn. – Daniel May 30 '12 at 16:59
Incidentally, there is actually a system against the Sicilian which involves early Na3 (1. e4 c5 2.Na3). Iirc this is proposed by Nigel Davies in one of his opening books – prusswan Oct 22 '12 at 13:36

I'm just trying to protect a move that's mentioned above as being perhaps one of the worst. Grandmaster Mednis years ago wrote a little opening theory book in which he states that


is one of White's perfect opening move choices, when followed by


Unfortunately, the book's name escapes me. He does mention some of White's awful first move choices, but doesn't rank their badness.

share|improve this answer
"How to play good opening moves," Edmar Mednis, ISBN-13: 978-0679141099. And yeah, 1.g3 is a little passive but it's a perfectly logical first move, and it has the advantage of allowing White to channel the game down a preferred path, instead of facing goodness-knows-how-many sharp defences to 1.e4 or 1.d4. – Evan Harper Jan 19 '13 at 2:07

1H3 and 1A3 (Ammonia attack, Sodium attack) are REALLY bad. It breaks the "move one piece one time" rule, and 1H3 blocks H3, a good move to prevent back-rank mate.

share|improve this answer
Do you mean 1. Nh3 and 1. Na3? – Dag Oskar Madsen Jun 17 '15 at 19:33

For an objective take on this question, one might take a look at the Chessok Opening Tree:

  1. 1.f3 -0.33
  2. 1.g4 -0.29
  3. 1.Nh3 -0.22
  4. 1.b4 -0.18
  5. 1.h4 -0.18

Given that white should be able to achieve a plus of 0.11 (according to the Tree) these are the only moves that not only lose the first move advantage but more than reverse it.
Of course these computer evaluations have to be taken with a grain of salt, but they do bear out the intuition of experienced players and provide some food for thought (especially to adherents of the Sokolski …).

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.