The question is closely related to this one, but not exactly the same, since in that question the topic is addressed perhaps more from a computer science point of view.

During my chess studies I always wondered how to be sure to classify a position as closed or open in order to make my choices and create my plans, e.g.: I know I may start and attack on my opponent's king castled kingside if the position is closed, but I'm unsure if the position yet is closed AND it wil stay close (i.e.: could the center be opened soon?...)

Some insights on how to evaluate the "openness" of the position are given in the question I linked before, but could you help me to find a "way of thinking" to be used during a game to establish if the position is open/closed and if it will still be the same in the future?

3 Answers 3


I think you are looking at this a bit backwards. You're asking whether or not the position is likely to remain open or closed and want to use that to direct your plans. The game is yours to make. You should instead be looking at your position (and your own strengths as a player) and let that guide you on whether an open or closed position would be in your favor. If it doesn't seem feasible for you to exploit the benefits of an open position, try to keep it closed. If it doesn't seem feasible to exploit the benefits of a closed position, open it up.

I think people oftentimes think about open/closed positions as a way to determine whether or not certain actions are advisable (e.g. trading a knight or attacking a king). But you could also look at it the other way. Look at the ways the strategies differ for open and closed positions and judge which one is more feasible to work with based on what you have going so far. Once you know that, figure out what you need to do to reach an open or closed position. Then, once you've achieved that goal, work on exploiting the strengths that led you to pursue this position.

The key thing to remember is that the game isn't something that just happens. You are making choices on what to do. It's not so much a question of whether or not the position will be open or closed, it's a question of which position should you be working towards.

However, that is more towards your question about "if it will still be [open or closed] in the future?" For that, you should decide which is preferable and try to find strategies to move the game to whichever state you want.

As for how to determine if a position is open or closed, it all comes down to the pawns. If several pawns have been exchanged and there are few pawns in the center, it is open. If most of the pawns are still present on the board, and the center pawns in particular are blocked and not able to be exchanged, it is closed. You can open up a position by exchanging pawns, and you can close a position by blocking pawns.


In the old days, I remember reading that open games were those that started 1. e4 e5 (actually, P-K4, P-K5, this was a while ago!) Semiopen were 1. e4 anything else and closed were ones that started with a move other than 1. e4.

More recently, a lot of people (e.g. Gotham Chess) talk about the sheer number of pawns. The more pawns, the more closed. That's a much better guide. Maybe it's as good as you can do with a simple rule.

Really, though, it's about how easily the pieces can move around. That depends not only on how many pawns are on the board, but how they are configured, and also on which pieces are still on the board and where they are placed.

In particular, a "bad" bishop could be pretty good, if it is outside the pawn chain. There was a great example of this in one of Yasser's courses, but I forget which course.


Well, we really don't. We can use some heuristics like:

  • The number of pawns currently in the center.
  • Whether those pawns are attacking or blocking each other.
  • How easy/convenient it would be for either side to push their pawns forward.

But we can't really find objective criteria that classify positions into open or closed and expect that to tell us anything useful about how to play. The plan to choose in a specific position can change completely due to tiny specific details.

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