I generally play 1.Nf3 as white . I actually wonder whether there would be any major difference if I play 1.Na3 instead of 1.Nf3 . I am a novice player . An illustration will definitely help me in understanding the reason behind this.
To answer your question:
Experience has shown that it is a good idea in the opening phase of the game to:
- develop minor pieces (bishop/knight) quickly
- and to occupy the centre (squares e4, d4, e5, d5 and thereabout) with pawns and/or to attack the centre with minor pieces
In this sense Nf3 is the better (and by far more popular) move. It attacks central squares (d4 and e5) and thereby prevents black from occupying the center with e5 immediately and potentially could also support a white pawn push to d4.
Na3 on the other hand does little to get hold of the center and in addition (as with any knight on the rim), it has fewer squares to go to: 4 instead of 8.
Occupying the center is important among others because it can:
- limit the space of your opponent
- allow pieces stationed around there to quickly reach other parts of the board as needed
For a novice player the first move(s) don't matter. It is highly unlikely that you win/lose a game because of the difference between 1. Nf3 and 1. Na3, rather because of some tactics later on. That's why it is recommend for beginners to focus on tactics first.
1. Nf3 is used to instantly get a grip on the center. It for example answers
1. ... e5 with
1. Na3 on the other hand, does not develop the piece towards the center, giving Black an easy opportunity to attempt to control the center. A better move would be
1. Nc3, still having control on the center.
1.Nf3 , player has the chance to transpose the game into a large number of other openings which usually start with
1.c4 . If Black is not careful, there is the risk of running unprepared, according to me, into a highly tactical opening, e.g. after
1.Nf3 c5 White can play
2.e4 leading to the Sicilian Defense (Mainline) . Other common transpositions are to various lines of the Queen's Gambit Declined (
3.c4) or the Catalan Opening (