I've only played 1.e4 as white so far (in clubs, tournaments, online, everywhere!), in the past 5 years since I learned chess. And it has been very fun, but I want to explore the dark side as well, as I do enjoy watching good positional play in GM games.

I'm sure some of you have attempted this before. I'd like to know what your experience was. Was it radically different? Did you experience withdrawal symptoms from not playing 1.e4? Did you have to learn a lot of theory just to get a playable position against well prepared Nimzos/Slavs, etc?

P.S. I know pretty much no theory in most openings beyond, say 4 or 5 moves.


10 Answers 10


I don't think 1.d4 itself really makes the game slower; you can use 1.d4 to play aggressive chess. Kasparov and Alekhine did. Likewise, you can play positional chess with 1.e4, e.g. Ruy Lopez, (especially Karpov's handling of it).

So if you want to practice positional chess you don't need to switch to 1.d4, and if you switch to 1.d4 without changing your mindset, you won't necessarily be playing positional chess.

I first tried 1.d4 after playing for about a 1 year. I was really fascinated with the Qd3 and Bc2 (or Bb1) set up and tried to drive away black knight form f6 and mate on h7, basically my whole plan revolved around that. I didn't find 1.d4 much harder to play or anything like that, but I am sure you are a stronger player than I was back then :).

  • 2
    This is a very important distinction to make. I consider myself a tactical and aggressive player, and I currently play 1.d4 in about 60% of my games as White. An early f3 can create dynamic positions against the Nimzo-Indian, Grunfeld, and King's Indian Defense (Samisch).
    – user3135
    May 23, 2014 at 1:05

If you have no real opening knowledge anyway, switching shouldn't be any special problem. Just start playing it, and afterwards you lookup what the pros do in the opening you played.

You could also get a book. I think that until you're rated 1900 or so (and possibly until much higher), all you need is a book that explains the ideas behind all the openings. I also think that Van der Sterren's Fundamental Chess Openings (FCO) is fantastic for that purpose. It goes way further than what you already know about 1.e4, and you can use it to learn about all the openings. It's all text, no tables of moves.


Allow me to suggest 1. c4. You can aim for a number of Sicilian Reversed positions that will be familiar already, from the other side of the board, and with a move in hand.

  • 1. ...c5, and I have to face the English, which I dread. Jan 16, 2013 at 21:00
  • @chubbycantorset, that's one way to look at it, though of course you'd have an extra tempo compared to when your opponent plays 1.c4. And hey, if you dread facing the English as Black, why not inflict that on your opponents? :)
    – ETD
    Jan 27, 2013 at 3:34

I made the switch to 1. d4 when i started getting on online chess teacher, if you can afford it, i highly recommend 2 hours per week with a GM or IM.

GM Vladimir Kosyrev (Tankist on ICC) taught me all my opening knowledge as black and as white, it was extremely helpful.

Although it is very important to know ideas of early opening moves as well, GM Yasser Seirawan helped with that, read his books, study the games he goes through. Brillancies is one of them

  • 1
    For the cost of two hours a week with an IM or GM you could buy an awful lot of really good books and even videos that you could go over many times not just seefor one class. Very few players can get that much from a GM and their high cost (up to 250usd/hr) as they can from a local uscf expert or even some good books.
    – yobamamama
    Dec 14, 2019 at 16:31

An e4 opening tends to lead to more open, tactical games, featuring attacks on the king. D4 leads to more closed, positional games, featuring endgame advantages on the queenside.

To become a "good" player, you need to learn to play both types of games well. If you're good at one kind, but want to progress, learn to play the other. Even if it is the "dark" side for you.


1 d4 in combination with 2c4 (usually) may require more memorization to actually be fully 'booked' than 1 e4 does, however, it tends to be much more 'forgiving' if you don't memorize loads of variations but instead 'understand' what's going on. I had good success with it. There is a reason it's the 'work horse' of the grandmasters.


I also started with e4, because all of the quick mates started with it and checkmated on f7. I started playing d4 when the chess program (Houdini 3) showed me with move 22 analysis that d4 was slightly stronger. I found from several games that d4 actually put black into trouble by move 12 against Deep Rybka 4 chess engine. e4 games tended to be over by move 40. d4 games tended to be over by move 32. I found that d4 used more of the chess principles of King Safety, Center Control, Time, Space, Pawn Structure, FDR, Piece Activity, and Material because d4 blocked Black's Bishop from c5 and attack on White's f2 (King Safety). d4 allowed for quicker attacks by white because white did not need to castle early (Time). I am convinced that d4 is the better opening for white. Did I have problems adjusting? Yes. My whole opening repertoire as White was based on e4. Therefore, I needed to learn a whole new set of opening responses by Black. I needed to learn about middle game "Critical Positions", and I learned from d4 that in general, you should move into a protected square (Queen protects) instead of moving into a square and trying to protect it later as in e4.

  • 3
    Computer analysis of the starting position is known to be essentially useless. Thousands of games of grandmaster practice still count for more than your computer sitting and crunching away—even for a couple of days.
    – kahen
    May 19, 2014 at 12:12
  • 1
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt is a chess principle??
    – bof
    May 27, 2015 at 11:01
  • 1
    Flight Data Recorder? False Discovery Rate? Formal Dining Room? Full Depth Reclamation? Final Design Review? First Degree Relative? Frequency Domain Reflectometry? Flood Damage Reduction?
    – bof
    May 27, 2015 at 11:57

As a beginner, I always play with 1. e4, and have been trying to understand most of its variation, 1...e5, 1...c5, etc.

I am also trying to switch to 1. d4 now. But the variation is very rich compared to 1. e4. So I study it one by one. After 1...Nf6 2. c4 for example, I have been trying to understand Benoni Defence and Benko's Gambit. Or after 1...d5 2. c4, it might become a Queen's Gambit declined with 2...c6 or 2...e6. Try to understand it, get as deep as I can. Once I feel that is enough, move to other variation. And so on. Don't try to memorize everything at once.


Me myself switched from being an 1.e4 player to a 1.d4 player.

Usually with 1.d4 you will get more space and it is very many interesting setups against most black responses. I haven`t learned much theory yet, but I know some plans, and I have better success with 1.d4 than 1.e4 already.

Actually, today GM Jon Ludvig Hammer said he recommended queen`s gambit for ANY player. He backed up his comment with claiming it is very logical and follows the traditional principels (Control the center, develop pieces, get you king in safety).

I can recommend you to look at chessexplained`s videoes about 1.d4. In fact, he has made a almost complete repertoire for you! Search for "chessexplained d4 repertoire" on youtube, and there you go.


I started with P-K4 openings (e4) as they had no algebraic notation back then. That is what our beginner books started teaching in the 50s.

After playing over every game in the 1953 candidates tournament that had 16 GMs in a double round robin for the world championship I started playing d4. I was an 'expert' with the Nimzo after seeing so many GM games with it, but then black started playing many other defenses so I was working harder to find good moves.

Later I switched back to e4. It is just easier and more natural with less burden on my memory. More fun too:)

Surprisingly I am now more positional with my e4 games and much less tactical than when I first started playing.

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