Chess comes in many forms, both with respect to the clock and the board format.

But why don't we have chess tournaments where we play different openings? That is, a certain list of openings is picked (it could be publically announced prior to the tournament, or perhaps a surprise reveal), and then both players play games with those openings (each opening is played twice, once as black, once as white).

This seems like quite a fun thing to do and an obvious extension to the many forms of chess we already have?

What's the drawback?

  • FYI: this is a counter-suggestion to chess960 in this CMV reddit post
    – BCLC
    Nov 5, 2021 at 22:17

6 Answers 6


There are thematic tournaments. For example, I recall a GM tournament where they had to play an open Sicilian.


Back in the 1980s, in correspondence chess, thematic tournaments on a certain opening or defence were frequent, I don't know the current status, however. In classical chess they are a rare occurrence indeed, however in 1994 there was the Lev Polugaevsky thematic tournament on the Open Sicilian. Top players of the period played.


Over the summer when there was no league chess I organized weekly themed blitz tournaments in our club. They are a lot of fun, encourage players to play openings they wouldn't normally play, get them playing people they wouldn't normally play and get more players coming in to the club. So, win-win-win on many levels.

They could not be rated because the FIDE laws of chess are not obeyed. In particular article 2.3 is not obeyed in themed tournaments. In the modern, rating-obsessed world I suppose this is a reason why they are not more popular.


This is exactly how many computer chess tournaments are setup. For instance, I believe both TCEC, and Chess.com's CCC are run exactly as you described.

The main reason this isn't done with human competitions is because (a) the mindgames that go into openings add a new level of meta-strategy to the game, and (b) humans don't have the time to play 2 x n games against every opponent (where n = number of openings to play vs each opponent).


Actually while learning more about chess you will understand that on high level the problem with chess is opposite, that's why Fisher invented random-chess, chess960; because games started to become the memory competition, who can better remember variations from home analysis; so at least not knowing what opponent will play makes greater use for human chess than announcing opening in advance; also important reason why thematic tournaments are not very popular is that not every opening is suitable for everyone's style and GM is not going to spend 100 hours to study opening only for 1 tournament unless you put like 1 million prize money :) or so. As the result thematic tournaments for rare, crazy variations don't attract serious players, only hobby group; but for popular variation you don't need thematic tournament - it's popular anyway :)


While there have been (and still are) thematic tournaments there are mainly three reasons why these have not been adopted in mainstream chess:

  1. How do you pick the openings? How many moves do you put on the board already?
    While these questions may sound silly now, for professional tournaments they have actual relevance. Answering them (specially with regard to the other two points) is quiet hard.
  2. It is not illegal to outsmart your opponent in the opening.
    This includes learning an opening that your opponent doesn't know (if you are playing on a hobby level), learning more more moves than your opponent (relevant for all players) and learning a sequence of moves where you know that your opponent makes mistakes (also relevant for all players). If you set up the game after an opening (or fix the opening moves to play), you take away this advantage from some players. Another allowed strategy is to learn one opening very well (often seen in hobby players). Then you know all the moves of your opening and no other openings. Especially for these players it would also take the fun away to play an opening that they don't know.

  3. People have different strengths in chess.
    For example some players are good at learning openings, others are good at the endgame. And there are openings that draw out the opening phase for a long time or that go towards the endgame quickly. Seeing two players battle to keep the game in their style is something really interesting to look at (and if you know what to look for even more so on GM level). Other players might prefer an open position or a position or a position with a lot of tactical motives, while others would rather play closed or maybe strategically. Again forcing these players to play openings that are against their preferences may be educational but takes a lot of the fun away.

That is not to say that you can't find people who might enjoy these kinds of things but usually it will be only a fraction of all people playing chess. It certainly sounds good for some kind of internet variant with probably short thinking time, but as a general addition to chess it takes away too much freedom (and interesting developments).

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