I was reading this question: How to know how good an opening defense scores, and it got me wondering...Have there been very lopsided opening scores in the lower levels. For example, if we found out that the Halloween Gambit: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nxe5 scores 90% in under 1800 level category it would be quite an anomaly.


One kind of an anomaly that I can think of at the top-level is the Traxler:

    [FEN ""]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 Bc5

According to chessgames database black scored 60.1 % wins and 15.9 % draws in 308 games. Of course we don't know relative strength of the players, maybe stronger players had black pieces.


Tony Ennis pointed out that according to 365chess.com there is no advantage for black in the Traxler.

  • There are no easy wins. :-)
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 2:14
  • Actually there are easy wins, for example if one player falls into an opening trap.
    – Akavall
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 2:59
  • 2
    If a Black player allows this he could possibly be well prepared.. or not; no conclusion can be drawn here. Also, 308 games is not statistically significant.
    – prusswan
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 6:30
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    @akavall, if one is reduced to depending on cheapshots and poor play from one's opponent in order to score points, one has other problems than the choice of opening.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 15:07
  • I checked the opening out on 365chess.com. It is called, "C57 two knights defence, Wilkes Barre (Traxler) variation". The most common moves for white are Nxf7 and Bxf7+, with even chances. There are 255 and 205 games with those moves, respectively. If I look at master games only, there are only 8 with equal chances. I think the Traxler is a good choice for either side - if one is booked up.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 15:23

4 Answers 4


In order to answer your question, I put together a database archive of 30000+ games played in over-the-board tournaments where both players were rated less than 2000. Only one game had the Halloween, and there were few Traxlers. Black died quickly in a handful of Fried Liver Attacks. There were no Parhams 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 nor Fool's mates.

The Triangle/Noteboom complex scored very well for Black as did the Benko Gambit. 1.d4 d5 2.Nc3?! looked to be a bust, and the Sicilian Grand Prix Attack 1.e4 c5 2.f4?! didn't fare well for White. In the Ruy Lopez, the Steinitz defence 3...d6?! and Cozio 3...Nge7?! led to a lot of Black losses. Rubinstein's line in the French 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4?! didn't do well either. A lot of patzers fell for 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d5?! 3.cxd5! and ended up getting overrun. 1.e4 c6 2.c4! did well against the Caro-Kann.


I don't think that you can statistically prove which openings are better or worse at the lower levels just because of the nature of players themselves. The lower you go, you are going to get the following situations:

  1. Haven't studied very many openings
  2. Aren't familiar with many positions (open/closed/tactical etc)
  3. More likely to fall for or make known move mistakes in later analysis (moves 12+)

As players get more experienced (and thus higher rated), they are much more likely to be able to think their way out of mistakes in openings they are not familiar with, more likely to see forks, skewers, "hidden" threats, that a newer player won't be familiar with. All of these are going to skew any opening validity analysis.


I don't think anomalies can really exist. The reason is that it takes two people, and The Other Guy will not play the variation where he gets smoked. Fool's Mate and Legal's Mate are great examples. A lot of beginners fall for them once, but I suspect that isn't what you're looking for.

Of course, with any opening a player can make a bad move and lose. But I also suspect this isn't what you're looking for.

In my mind, what you're looking for are openings that reward the skilled tactician who studies hard and learns openings well. With the Black pieces, the Sicilian Defense springs to mind - Black opts for an asymmetrical game where "ok" moves by either side can be punished. The King's Indian is similarly aggressive.

On the White side, try sound openings that are not the Ruy Lopez. I've seen some very booked-up beginners. Play an English and see if how they handle it.

Make the opening razor sharp, where the opponent has LOTS of bad choices :-D

  • 1
    Anomalies could come from traps, but more likely source, IMO, would be positions that are practically easier to play for one side than the other, even though the position might be objectively equal.
    – Akavall
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 16:25
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    The reason I am curious about anomalies, is that if they exist then it is a clear evidence that openings should be evaluated differently at different levels.
    – Akavall
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 16:28
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    Your second comment is worth it's own question. I think it is true, and one can see this easily - beginners get mated by e4, Bc4, Qf3, Qxf7++, a sequence that exploits the weakness of Black's f7. When this stops working on a player, the player has reached a new level. Now he loses to slightly more sophisticated play such as the common Qh5+ Qe5 Qxh8 double attack. Then he learns to punish those early adventures by the Queen... another level is gained...
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 16:36

one opening which ive used against many beginner's ( i have used this many times on ppl younger than me ) is queens gambit, which can give a very big advantage.

many times Fanchette works as well, because beginners may not properly understand it, and therefore underestimate it.

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