Which opening move out of 1. e4, 1. d4, 1. c4 and 1.Nf3 has given the best scoring percentage for White in World Championship matches? What are the percentages?

  • 1
    How chess is played by the top players has changed a great deal from the time of Steinitz. Looking at particular time periods may be more informative. Breakpoints might be pre-Botvinnik, Botvinnik through Fischer, Fischer up to Anand.
    – newshutz
    Apr 17, 2014 at 12:08
  • 3
    The number of games played in World Championship matches is small, and the differences in the result from first moves may not be statistically relevant.
    – newshutz
    Apr 17, 2014 at 12:41
  • This won't exactly tell which opening move is the highest scoring. It's more my opinion about how the opening move doesn't really matter, and how it depends on your opponent. You should probably do the one you like the best. For example, I don't know a lot of 1. d4 openings, so I choose 1. e4 usually. I then prefer to continue with either the Guicco Piano, Two Knights, or the Sicilian (if he does 1... c4). Anyways, just the move you prefer the most would be best. For example, some people are comfortable doing 'flank openings' such as 1. Nf3, 1. c4, 1. g3, 1. f4, 1. b3,
    – Vangelis
    May 7, 2014 at 16:19
  • @user3361640 That may be true, but Wes is not asking the more general question you address (which move is best to play). He just wants to know which move historically scored best in World Championship matches.
    – Potato
    May 9, 2014 at 6:00
  • 2
    To figure out the answer to this, someone could go to mark-weeks.com/chess/wcc-indx.htm , download the games of all the matches, and use a tool like Scid's "Tree Window" to see the numbers. May 9, 2014 at 7:37

1 Answer 1


1. b3 has the greatest scoring percentage (100%), although it's statistically insignificant because it only appears in one game out of 1,506.

The successful openings played more regularly are:

Nf3 (61.7%, 102 games)
c4 (59.3%, 129 games)
e4 (57%, 631 games)
d4 (55.4%, 632 games)

That data's compiled after downloading all 1,506 World Championship games from 1886 to 2013 from the chessgames.com WCC archive. Here's what Scid's Tree Window shows:

Scid's Tree Window for all 1,506 World Championship Chess games


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