I am a novice at chess. I am around 1400-1600 chess rating. I have struggled to find any sound aggressive openings for black against E4. As white I play the Scotch Gambit which I have great success with.

Can anyone recommend any sound openings for black that are aggressive and could you explain the theory behind it also? I prefer openings that don't need a lot of lines to remember.

  • 2
    There are 2 openings that fit your criteria -> Alekhine's defense and Scandinavian defense. Both have the same disadvantage: With precise and restrained play, White gains small but permanent advantage. This means that in the end you will be left without counterplay and will have to defend for a long time. Still, it is very hard to maintain this type of advantage so games always end in a draw. If I were you, I would open calmly and strike aggressively in middlegame. French or Sicilian defense might suit you better ( sound and offers sharp play, but not so aggressive in the beginning ). Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 9:24
  • 3
    How Scandinavian is agressive?! Come on! It's "I will pray for draw" kind of openning...
    – Pijotrek
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 18:51
  • 1
    The Scandinavian is aggressive as is one of the e4 defens that features faster development of all (and active) and castling for black. Unfortunately, also for white. Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 20:23
  • 1
    @user3447603: It is aggressive response to 1.e4 as Black radically solves the task of fighting for the center by offering White to split the power by exchanging pawns. It also immediately strikes at White pawn, I don't know if there is anything more aggressive than that. It is tough to crack, but as I have stated, only White can play for a win. Black is usually solid and has counterplay but must "wait" for White to "waste all the ammo", if you get what I mean... Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 14:11
  • I must disagree. immediately strikes at White pawn this sounds like cut from a nice book for absolute beginners. The problem is, what kind of aggression was that, when at the end of opening you end up, as you said, "waiting for White to waste all the ammo". Okay, your 2nd move was agressive, now you "wait". I played a lot of Scandinavian in my life. Both Qa5 and Qd6. Have win ratio about 15%, 35% draws, 50% loses(standard long games). Against stronger oponents it's really unlikely to win. At 1400-1600 he can play every opening successfully, that's ugly(or not) truth
    – Pijotrek
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 18:40

14 Answers 14


White is one move ahead, and attacking. You can't be aggressive yet, or you'll just lose!

You have two choices: either you try to contain white, and when that is done and the position is equal, then you try to become active yourself. Or, you let him expand, but make sure you'll have your own trumps as well. The first way will lead to more or less symmetric positions, the second way is only possible if you make the position as asymmetric as possible: then he can have his trumps, and you can have yours.

The most famous asymmetric way of playing against 1.e4 is the Sicilian.

[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pp2pppp/3p4/8/3NP3/8/PPP2PPP/RNBQKB1R b KQkq - 0 4"]

Example Sicilian after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4.

If white goes for this (he has plenty other options that are very strong too, black has other 2nd moves with the same idea), then he played 3.d4 to open the center, he'll have extra space, open diagonals for his bishops and great chances of an attack -- but you'll have your trumps too. You have 2 pawns vs 1 in the center, can move a rook to the c-file, and you have no weaknesses. You're very far away from having your own attack, but if white expands too much... BOOM. Not easy to play, but white has no way to simply control the game from here, he needs to attack.

Another way is the Pirc / Modern, characterized by putting a bishop on g7. With Nf6 in it's a Pirc, without it's a Modern. E.g.,

[FEN "rnbqk2r/ppp1ppbp/3p1np1/8/3PPP2/2N2N2/PPP3PP/R1BQKB1R b KQkq - 2 5"]

Again a very asymmetric position, white and black are doing very different things. But white has much more space, and he's looking for an attack. Black is thinking that he will be able to defend, and then, white will have thrown too many pawns ahead, leaving behind all kind of empty space... again, counter attack coming up, if black survives.

So those are ways to play for the counter attack; counter attack is only possible if you manage to weather the attack first.

Otherwise, forget about attacking for now, and try to get an equal position.

  • This is certainly the right way to play (although I don't fully agree with "you can't be aggressive", since the Najdorf is extreme aggression on both sides of the board), but this involves loads of theory that the OP wishes to avoid. Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 11:08
  • 1
    I don't see the extreme aggression from black's side in the Najdorf, until the moment where white's attack has been slowed down. And a good, aggressive, non-theoretical defence against 1.e4 is a pipe dream. Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 12:58
  • Well, the variations with an early b5 - b4 - a5 - Qc7 - Rfc8 - a4 do seem kind of intimidating from white's point fo view. I do agree on theory knowledge being necessary for a good defense. Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 20:22
  • Only if white castles long. You rely on several moves by white (3.d4, x.0-0-0) where white consciously chooses to go for the sharpest game possible in order for you to be able to attack, and you don't mention the scary six moves that white also gets to play in the meantime. You only have that attack because white believes he has an even better one. Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 20:48
  • 1
    I only entered a FEN copied from Scid, apparently whatever the site uses displays them this way because it's black to move. Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 7:41

Against a king pawn opening, one of the most straightforward and aggressive ways to defend is the Scandinavian. If you don't want much theory, I would suggest the Bronstein (also called Pytel-Wade) variation:

[Title "Scandinavian, Bronstein variation"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 {This is the move that characterizes the Bronstein variation among the rest.} 4.d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 a6 {This is the usual position you'll find when playing Qd6. Simple development, nothing fancy.} 6. g3 Bg4 7. Bg2 Nc6 8. O-O O-O-O

This is an easy opening to play, without much (if any) theory, as black's plan is very easy: Bg4, Nc6, O-O-O and go crazy against almost any development scheme that white adopts. Definitely a line worth consideration, albeit a risky one. As white possesses as much counterplay as black, plus more development (as his dark-squared bishop doesn't need any pawn moves to get out of the first rank).

If you wish a more challenging option for white and not let him get his way so easily, you may try a variation of the Sicilian of your choice. To get the initial grasp of the Sicilian, I recommend the Taimanov variation, which is not extremely theoretical but needs some studying:

[Title "Sicilian, Taimanov"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 {This move order avoids studying the Rossolimo variation, which is a little annoying variation in my opinion.}

However, if you are looking for something crazy, the Pin variation (which I do not recommend for serious play, but you asked for an aggressive opening without too much theory...) is a very aggressive one, and there is only one line that's worth mentioning (which is really not much in means of theory volume). Despite this, this line is almost a refutation of the variation, so you may try to gamble your way out if white doesn't know what he's doing or die a horrible and painful way. Here you have an outline of the variation:

[Title "Sicilian, Pin variation"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 {This is the starting position of the variation. Not many people know the correct continuation for white, and this plays in your favor. However, against correct play this line is probably just losing.} 6. e5 Nd5 7. Bd2 Nxc3 8. bxc3 Be7 9. Qg4 O-O {Yes, here black's best option is to simply sacrifice the exchange. If white accepts, black has unquestionable influence over the dark squares, but he is still not in extremely good shape.} 10. Bh6 g6 11. h4! {This is the main tabiya of the variation. The discovery of this move has "doomed" the whole pinning the Nc3.} Qa5 {The only reasonable move is to look out for counterplay.} 12. Qg3 d6 13. Nb5 Nc6 14. h5 Nxe5 15. f4! {Here theory begins to get blurry, but this move unquestionably hands white the initiative and a very very dangerous attack.}


  • I recommend you try the Scandinavian and aim for messing things up in the early stages of the game. It is always fun playing for mating attacks and on these lines you'll certainly have many chances to do so.
  • If you are a gambler and like risks and do not mind playing (almost-surely-)flawed lines, try the Pin variation. You will get a taste of what playing the Sicilian is, and maybe upgrade your repertoire to the Taimanov or other in the future.
  • 1
    I don't think your pin variation line is remotely appropriate for players who still at the level of asking for aggressive responses to 1.e4. For players at that level, just going up the exchange with 11.Bxf8 and then developing normally is likely to be a winning plan for White. Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 7:29
  • 1
    I agree, and that's why I didn't recommended it. However, with players of that level (as you said), the chance that he encounters an opponent that actually knows the theory for this line is extremely slim. This is why I said that if he wanted to gamble his way onto the game, he might as well try it. Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 14:00
  • 1
    I just don't understand how playin an opening that leaves you down in development with an inferior position can be considered aggressive
    – David
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 6:15

SICILIANS. Most of variations in Sicilian defense are double-edged. The problem is I'm not sure if 1400-1600 is good level to play Najdorf or Dragon for example. Well, you can try. The problem is, your oponents are likely to not know theory very well. Would you have enough understanding to take adventage of not too accurate moves?

One "funny" variation I used to play is 1. e4 - c5 2. Nf3 - e6 3. d4 - cd4. 4. Nd4 - Nf6. 5. Nc3 - Bb4 This variation is rather BAD for black. But white has to know theory, otherwise you can easily equalize or even get adventage.

More solid (and times more complex) is Taimanov. A great book by John Emms was written on this topic. I would suggest this one.

Considering your opponent are <1800 and I have faced players over 2000/2100 not knowing anything about above variations I would suggest you having a look at one of many of 1. e4 - c5 2. Nf3 - e6. Take a look what fits your style.

You would be surprised how many people don't know anything about Sicilians with e6! Wish you good luck with your reppertoire!

  • I learnt the scotch gambit from the book 'Chess Openings for White Explained'. I also have the book for black openings. In that book it recommend to play the hyper accelerated dragon since it shortcuts a lot of theory and is sharp. Would you recommend a person of my skill to learn it?
    – Stash
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 11:57
  • I would surely pick it over standard Dragon, Najdorf and Scandinavian, but still my top would be Taimanov. But well, try that accelerated dragon, a lot of people plays it like it was standard one and ends up with crucial tempo less. And it's always nice to have more than 1 variation in your reppertoire!
    – Pijotrek
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 18:19
  • @Stash: it's great up to ~2000 level or so, when suddenly all the white players start going for the Maroczy Bind. Then it's time to look for something else. Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 20:50
  • Thanks for the advice. I think i will try the hyper accelerated dragon. I would try the Taimanov but i won't be able to find any lines for it where else i have an entire book on the dragon including lines against the Maroczy Bind.
    – Stash
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 11:52

If you want an aggressive opening which constantly attacks at the white king I would recommend Latvian Gambit. p.s. In the Scandinavian it is not necessary to capture on d5 with the queen; you can play the Icelandic Gambit and many other cool gambits after 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6?! which leads to many interesting lines.


1400-1600? Just responding e5 will get you aggressive, open games more often than not. The chances that you'll actually wind up defending the kind of theoretical, slightly inferior cramped positions that result from best play in the open game are very low. Your opponent will probably just trot out pieces and allow you to equalize or even seize the advantage pretty easily if you know what you're doing.

The suggestion of the Scandinavian is also not bad. I don't like the Sicilian at this level because it will probably just degenerate into some kind of irregular closed Sicilian that's fine for Black but hardly "aggressive."

Honestly, worrying in detail about the "style" of opening you should be playing at this level is a symptom of misplaced priorities. Games at this level are won by 2- and 3- move tactical shots. That's another reason to favour e5, it leads quickly into the kind of games where these shots are most prevalent, without a lot of byways.

  • Whole problem in this case is that... if white wants "peace" he gets it. 1. e4 c5 ? Okay, here we go: 2. Nc3. So let's try another way: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 (black wants complications after 4. Ng5) but heeey, I can play 4. d3 keeping it peaceful. If white is Ruy Lopez player and black wants to complicate with Janisch Gambit (3. f5), white can play peaceful 4. d3. It's white who deals cards. But still 1. e5 is better than 1. d5 if you want to keep it complicated and double-edged.
    – Pijotrek
    Commented Sep 27, 2014 at 11:07
  • I don't know why you think this is an objection to my answer. I said that at his level of play the open game will more often than not lead to aggressive tactics. "But it's possible for White to push towards a closed position!" Yeah, so? I even acknowledged that in my answer. Commented Sep 27, 2014 at 12:10

The Sicilian defense is probably your best choice, since you want aggressive play. However, there is a lot theory and lines but probably knowledge of a few lines and some plans is good enough for your level. I play the scotch gambit as white as well. I play e5 however, which has a lot of aggressive lines too.


Give me something sound but aggressive. Give me the moves, too, but I don't want to learn lots of lines.

You'll save maybe years of study time after you figure out that all you need to get out of the opening is a playable middlegame (most often attributed to Teichmann).

You're not a 1400 player because you're bad at openings, you're a 1400 player because you're bad at tactics. You can play an opening perfectly, then drop a rook to a two-move combination, you lose. In fact, you can wheel your entire openings library up to the board and play with open books, and it won't help you a bit. Your opponent will step out, and make you think for yourself, and even you reach the magic +=, you're on your own.

Openings literature, and whatever anyone gives you on Stack Exchange, is a map into the middlegame forest, where you wander lost unless you know the path to the other side of the forest (the endgame). You can't play a proper middlegame unless you can recognize a favorable or unfavorable ending on the horizon, because how are you supposed to know whether to complicate or simplify? If all you really need from an opening is a playable middlegame -- one with rough equality in center control, development, and king safety -- then it's a matter of judging the positional imbalances better than your opponent does, while being better at tactics.

If you want a recommendation for Black, consider this: If I gave you the White pieces and two moves in a row to the start the game, which would those be?

Was it e2-e4 plus d2-d4? Very good. So go ahead and do that as Black with the QP Countergambit: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d5. It's not popular, so other people will say 'oh don't do that, it sucks, play the Najdorf', but they're obeying grandmaster fashion more than having listened to thousands of club level players go through this same thing. If White plays well against that, he'll wind up with a space advantage at the end of the opening, but White's going to emerge from the opening with a little something, no matter what you do. If you start with the e- and d-pawns two squares forward, you're giving yourself a shot at the center and you don't have to make any more pawn moves to complete your development.


I would concentrate on maintaining a strong center. e4 Match it with e5. THe different moves in the the beginning should be a move to control the center. Pawn moves or knight moves. Develop knights before bishops. Don;t get your queen out too early. Ther;s a lot of players that think that they can dominate the board with their queen. Instead of developing they're having to move their queen because it's under attack. Castle early. #1in the game is kingsafety.

  • 4
    This is good advice but it doesn't seem to answer the question. Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 7:30

Alekhine's Defense (1. e4 Nf6) is a very agressive way to play for the win. It's not uncommon to see a line that draws less than 5-10% of the time.


I've been playing the Alekhine for a while now, and unless white plays it safe, you can get a very agressive game. The idea is for you to develop your pieces quickly while white wastes its time sending pawns up front. I personally enjoy playing lines with my light squares bishop on f5. Then (especially in fast paced games) you can often get a nice fork with your knight on c2.

As for the scandinavian, I believe it's quite bad if you want to get active pieces (which is usually necessary for agressive play). The only way you'll get a sharp game out of this opening is if you manage to play a gambit (icelandic or scandinavian). But you'll rarely get a chance to actually play that.

In the end, I believe that you can turn any opening into an agressive opening. You just have to play agressively. The question then turns into: How do I play agressively? Here are some ways of doing that: try to open lanes for your rooks (sometimes at the cost of a pawn. Keep your pieces active. Try to set up outposts for your knights. Keep your bishops on open diagonals.

Lastly, if you want to make sure you get a very sharp game with agressions from both sides. Just castle on the opposite side! No matter what opening you choose.


Goldsmith Defense I do not know this one could be more aggressive, but I feel like kind of strategical.

The straightforward Answer to your Question could be, King's Gambit, Polerio Gambit, I played this games in my chess online, this leads to much chaos in center of the board, so the game will be either wild or its of more precautionary moves which are time consuming. And still Knights are ready for Scottish as you specify, but will bring up complication and could open up Chess Mega Database and could've different name, based on how much knights out of four comes up in front.

Here is one sample game for Goldsmith Defense. In this game, white had blundered and lost the Queen. I do not know how effective the other moves are, however I personally feel, its comparatively effective.

[fen ""]
[Event "Live Chess"]
[Site "Chess.com"]
[Date "2018.04.16"]
[White "Joshyopl"]
[Black "BramStokers"]
[WhiteElo "992"]
[BlackElo "1162"]
[TimeControl "600"]
[Termination "game_result.won_by_resignation"]
[Result "0-1"]
[CurrentPosition "8/5kp1/p1pb4/6B1/3pq3/8/PPPK1n1r/R7 w - - 0 23"]

1.e4 h5 2.Nc3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.Nf3 fxe4 5.Nxe4 Bf5 6.Bd3 Nh6 7.h3 Nc6 8.g4 hxg4 9.hxg4 Bxg4 10.Bb5 a6 11.Bxc6+ bxc6 12.Rh4 e5 13.Nfg5 Bxd1 14.Kxd1 exd4 15.Ne6 Qxh4 16.Nxc7+ Ke7 17.Nxa8 Qxe4 18.Bg5+ Kf7 19.Nb6 Ng4 20.Nc4 Nxf2+ 21.Kd2 Rh2 22.Nxd6+ Bxd6  0-1

I would recommend 1. e4, e5 for your level. In general, aim for lines that play Bc5 and d5 as soon as possible. Against the Ruy you have both the classical and the Archangel Defence which will stick to those basic ideas. If you want something more aggressive try the Schlieman.

There's also the Latvian and believe it or not there are some very aggressive lines in Petrov's defense like the Stafford gambit

Most lines in the Sicilian are aggressive.

Hyper-modern openings like the Pirc, modern and Alekhine's tend to be more aggressive although you need to understand that attacking the center is your first goal.

The Nimzovich is similar to the above although the types of positions can vary.

There are some lines in the Scandinavian Defense. The main lines aren't that aggressive but there are some off-beat lines like the Portuguese Gambit that are.


The Sicilian Defence might be suitable for you too. 1.e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6
You might try the black lion too. You can be passive or aggresive depending on how you play!


Try the Stafford Gambit; not famous amongst GMs but for beginners and intermediate its a gambit which gives a lot of options.

[FEN ""]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 Nc6



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