What are good openings/defenses to study for both black and white for beginners. I've messed around with the sicilian defense and it is not bad, there's just so many variations and different types of defenses/openings its overwhelming. I understand the only way to learn is to play one for a little while. Are there any sites with virtual chess boards that show step by step examples of some of the popular styles. It's not easy to learn when all you get e4, e5 nf3 etc. Are there any viable openings for white other than d4/e4, these seem overused and very cliche

  • 1.c4 and 1.Nf3 are both viable for White, but require a lot of work. As for Black, French defense seems simple to understand and has small number of sharp variations to learn. As for Black's answer to 1.d4 perhaps Queen's gambit declined can help you. Its themes are positional and there really are not too many of them to learn. Opening is quite solid and is imune to transpositional tricks. As for chess sites try to find something on YouTube, there is always some lecture on those defenses that is good enough for a beginner. Good luck! Best regards. Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 17:46
  • The issue with playing the Queen's Gambit Declined, in my opinion, is that it will lead to many passive black positions. This is a problem for anyone who wants to play it at any level.
    – Diisciiple
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 18:40

5 Answers 5


In my opinion this is a pretty hard question to answer, because there is no single correct answer to it.

The choice of opening repertoire for a player should be determined by his play style, e.g. do you prefer to be aggressive always on the offense or are you more of a tactical player, looking for strategic weaknesses in your opponent's position, do you prefer closed over open positions, etc.

So my answer to your question would be to follow the basic principles of opening play:

  • control the center;
  • develop your minor pieces to their best squares;
  • get your king to safety;
  • do not move a single piece too often in the opening, unless there's a pretty good reason to do so;
  • do not bring your queen out too early.

From there on pick an opening that fits your play style and study the ideas behind it, not just memorize the moves, understand what each of them accomplishes.

Are there any viable openings for white other than d4/e4, these seem overused and very cliche

These opening moves are most certainly not cliche. Although you might see these moves as the first move in almost every game there are lots of variations that follow. Therefore my recommendation for you would be to play an opening from the family of The Italian Game as White and maybe The French Defense as Black.

From my experience as an amateur I came to the conclusion that one shouldn't focus too much on openings. After you pick an opening that fits your style, focus on the endgame and various tactics and strategic ideas. This seems to be more efficient in the long run.

Good luck!


When I was just starting out in chess, I was barely able to beat people low rated, Thats very very low. But slowly, and with much practice, after about 1000 games of chess with little opening/defense knowledge, I was able to reach the mid 1200's quite easily. To make the new transition over to the 1300's, I had to try even harder to remember openings and tactics. The self training took me months, and plenty of hours out of my spare time, but I learned enough opening knowledge and pawn tricks to improve way over 1300.I wondered what the best types of openings and defences would have helped me the most along the way. Well, after careful analysis, I have concluded that 5 different openings were the best for me to use during my "beginner" days. Be aware that ALL of the openings below have been used and tested by many GM's, and are in use in today's most serious of tournaments. Below are the openings, and the reasons why beginners should use them =]

[FEN ""]
     1. e4 

1.e4 * Kings Pawn Opening is the most widely used opening in chess, because of the feature to open up both the light square bishop and the queen at the same time. Also, the pawn grabs for the center, causing tension for black. After moving e4, just develop your minor pieces and you should do fine.

[FEN ""]
     1. d4 Nf6 

When playing as black, if white should make their first move d4 (queen's pawn) then you should try to use this move fairly often. In most games, the knight moving to Nf6 is inevitable most times, so doing it first will save you time in the long run. Don't try this when white plays e4, because that would transition to the Alekhine defense, a much more advanced defense ;)

Please be aware, this is only a recommended read for those under 1200 in rating, and basically only just starting out in chess. Of course, those above 1200 can read this and learn something new, but those of you above 1200 should seek Intermediate opening guides that are recommended for those between 1250-1400.

  • Thank you for the response. I see everybody always talking about ratings. Where does the rating system come in place. Is it talking about player's chess.com rating??
    – CSharper
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 21:51
  • There is FIDE rating ( for live chess )
    – Panzer
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 21:54

Knowing which openings to study can be a pretty daunting task.

My advice would be to not take on too much at once. There are a huge number of openings and if you try to take on too many you'll end up being overwhelmed, and won't learn anything.

When first learning opening you're best to go with the odds. Learn opening that are likely to come up more often first. I don't have exact figures to back anything I'm saying up but when I started to learn openings I decided to learn one basic opening as white, and two as black (one in response to e4 and one to d4).

As white I tried to stick to the Scotch Game. Again. I can't back it up but sticking to a fairly standard opening seemed to happen more often than with a lot of other games. There's no point focusing on depth, because you'll rarely see the line you want. Instead, learn the first three moves and as many variations and responses you can think of. Then work on going to 4 moves deep. You'll find your repertoire being used a lot more than if you learn one variation to a depth of 8.

It doesn't really matter what openings you use but like I said, go with the odds. There's plenty of software or web sites that tell you the most common reply to e4. Then the most common reply to that etc. etc. until you're pretty proficient at the most common outcomes. Then you can worry about less common variations.


White- Bishop's opening (very versatile). Alapin and exchange variations vs french.ck, alekhines. Main lines vs cc and nimzo. 150 attack vs pirc/robatsch.

Black- vs e4 play the classical vs the Ruy and against everything else look for lines that play a quick d5.

d4- Choose between either the tarrasch or dutch. Both are system-type openings in that you can play them against anything.

This is a very simple opening rep that allows you to get playable games against almost anybody while at the same feeing you up to study the parts of the game that will give you the most improvement.


The d4/e4 openings are definetly not overused. They are used because they are the best openings. You should learn the stonewall attack and there is a great video on youtube about how to defend d4.

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