What do you think is the "simplest" opening for black against 1.e4?

With "simplest" I mean an opening which is solid enough to bring you equality (or even give you an advantage if your opponent messes things up) but also "easy" to learn, i.e. with just some basic ideas (eg. tactical/strategical patterns, specific weaknesses to look for ecc...) you can learn and keep in mind in every game instead of tons of lines to know by heart one by one...

3 Answers 3


Well there's almost no opening you can play like that against e4, but the closest by elimination is caro kann. Reasoning is as follows Open games - too many semi sound gambits Sicilian - Immense theory French - can get very strategically complex and sharp The other defenses against e4 like pirc, modern are not in the best theoretical shape, plus hypermodern openings arent generally "solid" so I recommend staying away for now.

The caro kann is solid enough and not uber theoretical, if you know how to pick your lines, for eg

the classical with Nc3,play the tartakower with exf6, its actually hard to take advantage of black's doubled pawns and black gets simple development and fairly active pieces. This is a somewhat modern approach so check out Alireza's games in this line.

The advance, play the botvinnik Carls attack defense, if white takes and tries to hold on the pawn too hard which often happens OTB, you will end up with an objectively better position where you will mostly have the bishop pair and a strong centre and can recover the pawn later.

The exchange caro, Learn about the Carlsbad structure and the queen side minority attack. Look at Kasparov's QGD exchange games to understand your play.

For the Panov attack, learn about how to play against an IQP, watch karpovs games, for learning the caro as a whole and for playing against IQP, especially his matches against korchnoi, he often tortured Korchnoi in worse endgames because Korchnoi was fond of playing with an IQP.

This covers more or less any critical tries by white, best of luck.

  • adding to that, there is a Chessable course "Keep it Simple for Black by IM Sielecki"
    – Hauptideal
    Commented Feb 14 at 20:16

I am no kind of expert, but I think the Scandinavian might fit the bill.

  • 1
    As an e4 player this would be my first recommendation followed by the Caro-Kann - in fact they are quite closely related, the Caro is probably a bit better, but the Scandi is still solid enough and to me looks simpler to learn from the Black side
    – Ian Bush
    Commented Feb 12 at 9:29
  • 2
    I personally believe in the caro a bit more but scandi isn't bad, its just that if white plays uber actively,black will have some trouble equalizing to the best of my understanding but most white players don't play as actively as needed Commented Feb 12 at 13:08
  • I would never recommend the Scandi. It's really bad. I don't understand its popularity (at beginner level) at all, especially given that one could play a proper, solid opening like the Caro-Kann or the French instead if going after the lights squares in the center, both of which don't require too much theory and will carry you a long way. The Scandi is viable if and only if White doesn't know how to step on the gas pedal. I rarely face the Scandi, but when I do, I usually get a very nice advantage out of it as White.
    – Hauptideal
    Commented Feb 14 at 20:25
  • Exactly, the only reason black gets away with it is because white players don't play actively enough. Look at Fischer vs Addison palma de Mallorca 1970. Fischer destroys Addison in the Scandinavian, legitimately looks like a master vs amateurs crush Commented Feb 15 at 5:16
  • In the chess dot com database of master games, White wins 43%, Black 29% and 28% draws in the Scandi. chess.com/games/… This isn't as good (for Black) as some other openings, but it's hardly an automatic loss.
    – Peter Flom
    Commented Feb 15 at 12:48

It really depends on your level, if you are below and ELO of 1400, I would recommend the Philidor defence, it was literally designed for the purpose of novice chess players not blundering in the opening, it's a solid opening and will lead to balanced games. The Caro-Kann though my preferred defence, has a number of variations that white get's to choose. So if you are going to focus on opening theory you have to know: The Classical The Advanced The Hillbilly
at least those are the three I see the most, but there is even more advanced response like the Karpov that can really cause black a lot of headaches if they are unprepared. In short if you are going to go Caro-Kann you really have to commit to it, whereas the Philidor, is far simpler to master and also ends up with a strong pawn structure, but with less theory to learn (or memorise, depending on your perspective).

anyway all that said, be a bad ass and play the 2 knights defence

  • 1
    The Karpov variation or the smyslov arises after black plays Nd7 in the classical, it is black's choice to enter the variation, thus making it incorrect to say that it can cause black headaches as black can simply not play it Commented Feb 13 at 15:30
  • sensitive, but yes you are correct, it is black's choice to enter the Karpov, but right after Nd7, how many options does white have to continue? how many traps can black fall into, the answer is a lot; the Caro-kann is not something I would recommend for a novice player, much like the Sicilian or the Ruy Lopez, these are openings for advanced players.
    – Paweł
    Commented Feb 13 at 16:08
  • Exactly, so black can simply avoid all of them by going for the modern line with Nf6. Also the hillbilly is a sideline and there is no real theory there. OP said he wants an opening which allows him to equalize, the philidor is inferior to the CK in that regard and white will have an edge there Commented Feb 13 at 16:42
  • You're focusing on equalising, I'm focusing on simplest, neither one of us is wrong, I predominantly play the Caro-kann as black, so I'm definitely a fan of the opening. My point is that often times, player such as yourself who are probably hovering between 1600 and 1900 have a tendency to give advice that is far too advanced for novice players, the whole walk before you run argument. Philidor is walking, Caro-Kann is running
    – Paweł
    Commented Feb 13 at 20:52
  • 1
    Fair enough, I see your point about simplicity but I personally maintain that it's better to try running with giants than stroll along :) Commented Feb 14 at 3:35

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