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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.

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    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
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    @Michael whether it violates local law or not would depend on the place you are playing in, and, possibly, the skin colour of your opponent. – Evargalo Dec 14 '17 at 15:51

12 Answers 12

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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.

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    I think 1. f3 is better than 1. a4 or 1. h4 because the f3 pawn can defend a future e4 pawn. I also question the idea that 1. a4 and 1. h4 help develop the rooks. Sure, you can follow 1. a4 with 1. Ra3, but that doesn't really help the rook do anything useful. An irrelevant development is as good as none. – Kef Schecter Sep 21 '17 at 19:15
  • 1.h4 it does not ignore the center, its by consecutive pawn moves. Here is one Opening named Kadas or Desprez in which I'd played, and made strong center and dragged the game upto 54 moves by upholding all checks and also no single check from my side, and I won on time in 10 mins pact of game. So it does not ignore the center, its by consecutive pawn moves. – Dev Anand Sadasivam Jan 10 '18 at 18:32
  • Moreover 1.h4 pawn falls on Queen side. – Dev Anand Sadasivam Jan 10 '18 at 18:42
  • 1.a4 Ware Defense and even 1.a3 Anderssen's Defense gives good results for one who knows tactical play. I played both, few times in chess online. – Dev Anand Sadasivam Jan 10 '18 at 18:48
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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.

  • Yes. In a time placated games, which is of type not Bullet, but Blitz basically, the advantage we get Time to make the game strategical by Convolution. As a convention op may think its weaker, but the one who plays feels heats up, and convulsion and predominate time loss of not making neat strategy,- say fall back and play in fast track. That's what I think while play,- Barnes Opening game. This one. – Dev Anand Sadasivam Jun 14 '18 at 1:45
  • Another placation, where more sacrifice & strategy made my opponent strong,- Gedults Opening,- Barnes Defense, however he lost in TIME. Maybe while 25.* Be2 I would cut down his Bishop, so this wouldn't have be. – Dev Anand Sadasivam Aug 1 '18 at 21:53
  • Here is one 14 day per Move Game, what chess.com call it,- Online Game, where lichess.org call this Correspondence game, from lichess.org – Dev Anand Sadasivam Aug 4 '18 at 1:53
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The other moves cited, especially 1.f3, are bad, but I would rather plead the case of the ugly Grob opening, 1.g4?.

Pawns do not go back, so this double step weakening is much more commiting than a one step pawn move. After, say 1...e5, White has not only lost time, he has also:

  • Self-destroyed the most natural shelter for his own king, reached by short castle.
  • created weaknesses for himself, as Pg4 can and will be targeted by Bc8 or Ph5.
  • got himself a disadvantage in the fight for the center.

If, in some kind of handicapped game, I could choose my opponent first move in order to maximize my chances, I would rather force him to play 1.g4 than anything else.

7

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.

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    Resigning on the first move is technically a valid move, so I'll have to give you points for that. However, it's not an opening move you accidentally try in creative playing. – user4361 Dec 14 '17 at 13:37
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    "1. Resigns" might mean you don't lose rating points, though, since zero moves were played on the board. So maybe that alone makes it better than some other choices, depending. – D M Feb 24 at 18:17
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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 …).

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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.

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    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
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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.

  • 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
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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.

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    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. – sidprasher May 2 '12 at 21:23
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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.

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    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
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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

1.g3

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

2.Bg2.

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

  • "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
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1. g4 ... 2. f3??

This is a horrendous opening (especially in combination with the second move) because it severely undermines the ability to castle on the king's side, very aggressively throws a pawn into action where it has no defenders and isn't helping any cause in particular.

g4 allows to fianchetto the light-square bishop, as well as hide the dark square bishop behind it later, if needed, which is an odd, but somewhat redeeming quality, but as soon as it's followed by 2. f3, the light-square bishop is entombed and white have ZERO center control or active development for whole 3 tempi, allowing black to gain a MASSIVE center presence and advantage. And after 1. ...d5 followed by 2. ...h5 the g4 square now belongs to the black and sets a great entry point to a king-side attack. If white tried to take on g5, black now has a semi-open file without ever moving the rook. Thanks for that!

Such a horrible game would typically go like this: 1. g4 d5 2. f3 e5 3. Bg2 h5 - and black is 2+ points in the lead without having taken a single piece yet, according to any decent engine. White would need a major miracle and a blunder from black to have any chance to recover from that.

Example: Hou Yifan throws game

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    This doesn't answer the question. You should explain why this is a bad opening move, and not just link to a video. – Herb Wolfe Dec 13 '17 at 21:13
  • 2. e3 *, makes the fence. Grob opening,- has variation namely,- Grob Attack, Grob Gambit...., Moreover making pawn move in front of Knight shows the real potential. It can't be the worst so,- 1.g4 is the best I can say. Refer,- Grob Opening Strategical by me & in this starting is good, in progression blunders by time constraint can be notified. As per your notation denoted, maybe position *...d4 may turn to something in of start. Maybe let me explore on *..Bg2 while or so. – Dev Anand Sadasivam May 25 '18 at 23:16
  • I played Grob a lot in the past. For fun. Makes for a great pet opening against low-rated players. But it's a death sentence against a skilled opponent. Typically, it's played g4 -> Bg2. With notable exception g4->g5 if Nf6. But g4 -> f3 is a total positional suicide against a reasonably skilled opponent. – Gregory Klopper May 27 '18 at 0:05
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1.Nh3 and 1.Na3 (Ammonia attack, Sodium attack) are REALLY bad. It breaks the "move one piece one time" rule, and 1.Nh3 blocks h3, a good move to prevent back-rank mate.

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