Okay so, I'm rated around 1950 on the FIDE rating list, and I struggle finding a good opening with black so basically my game with white is more or less perfected (3 different openings where I learned tons of variations through practice and books) and with black I just keep improvising: whatever I do in serious games against 2100+ players gets me into a really passive position. So far I've tried out Robatsch (1. ... g6) or Pirc but both get me in really passive positions. 1. e4 bothers me most, because when it comes to d4 d5 is a decent response. Anyways I planned on playing the Scandinavian but it doesn't seem like grandmasters play it so it must have tons of flaws.French and Caro-Kann both seem passive so.. any suggestions? :/

Edit: With white I like playing the slightly modified London system (d4 without c4, g3 + lg2 etc) or english opening :) Also, I studied 1. ...g6 quite some time and most times against stronger players i get pretty passive, but c5 and then e6 sounds kind of good. I'm naturally a positional player, i like strangling my opponents by small attacking, changing my weak bishop/knight and earning a pawn then taking it to the end, that's at least how most of my victories are, yet I have studied tactics excessively to improve on that as well :D thanks for you answers though!!

  • 5
    Could you edit the question to include the openings you like as White? Maybe that will give us a clue as to what will suit you as Black.
    – user1108
    Mar 13, 2015 at 11:43
  • Also, what have you found after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 that you like as Black?
    – Cleveland
    Mar 13, 2015 at 13:50

5 Answers 5


You say you've looked at most of the major defenses to 1. e4 except the two best, 1... e5 and 1... c5.

It sounds like what you're looking for is just about any Sicilian variation. Most of them require a lot of theory to not get killed on a regular basis but it sounds like you're fine with that. The Taimanov or Paulsen would be a good starting point because 2... e6 avoids White's 3. Bb5 tries that can be so annoying after 2... d6 or 2... Nc6.

If you have an aversion to the Sicilian for some reason, I wouldn't be so quick to reject the French or Caro-Kann. There is plenty of active play in each of them if you choose the right variations.

  • 1
    Another aspect of the Caro–Kann is that White doesn't really have any safe lines if he wants to play for an advantage. Any attempt to win against it entails some risk. For example in the classical 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 there's often opposite side castling which gives Black chances for a counter-attack. GM Lars Schandorff (German Wikipedia) wrote an excellent book on the opening and playing for a win with it.
    – kahen
    Mar 14, 2015 at 13:07

I've studied Pterodactyl (1...g6 & Bg7 & c5) and it seems to be rather active, especially when it transposes to accelerated Sicilian Dragon. Default Sicilian can be very active too. For example, when you allow white to play English attack or something as aggressive as that you will definitely have fun during the GAME.

For more information about Pterodactyl look for Charlie's Storey bok in the Everyman Chess.

Also there is possibility that you have some theoretical issues with 1...g6. Maybe you get passive position because you do wrong move order. Nobody can be sure about that without viewing your games.

  • If you're looking for more resources on this it's also known as the Sniper.
    – Cleveland
    Mar 13, 2015 at 13:43
  • Yeah, Storey's book was called something ilke this.
    – Kakadu
    Mar 13, 2015 at 13:45

There's not so much wrong with the Scandivanian, but I agree with the answers recommending the Sicilian for your level. If you're still interested in researching the Scandinavian then try Jovanka Houska's book - Starting Out: The Scadinavian which is very detailed. Sometimes in this opening you will get a bad pawn structure and White gets quite active but no immediate winning chances. It's for this reason that the Caro is sometimes called an improved Scandinavian.

  • It's funny, because I've also called the Scandinavian called an improved Caro (because there's no Advance or Panov-Botvinnik to worry about). Mostly, it plays like the French Fort Knox - you give up the bishop pair, put pawns on e6 and c6, and sit tight in a somewhat passive position with no weaknesses.
    – adedqwd
    Oct 1, 2019 at 20:39

Sicilian especially Najdorj and Taimanov/Kan have currently have a good reputation. You're not likely to get a passive position from these openings. They are very sound openings. Try the Marshall Gambit in the Ruy Lopez if you don't want to play Sicilian.


If you play d5 vs 1.d4 and want a positional game that is also active the French seems like the natural choice. Alekhine's defense might be another choice if avoiding theory is the main concern.It is both active and fairly positional. Simple to learn and probably playable up to GM level.

There are 10 "normal" responses to 1.e4. 1...c5 and 1...e5 are what most people play and there is a wide variety of openings that fit what you want within both of those choices.

Next are the French and ck. I agree the ck is too passive but outside of the above two the French sounds like the best fit for you.

Then you have the Pirc and Robatsch which you already said you didn't like but neither is all that passive. When I get a Pirc from the white side the game is frequently some of the most aggressive games I play (by both sides). Maybe its the lines you're choosing.

Lastly, you have Nf6, Nc6, d5 and b6. All 4 are reasonable choices to avoid theory. Alekhine's is probably the most respectable of the group. 1...b6 is interesting because there is so little theory and it can be played against virtually anything but it is probably not completely sound. The other two (Nc6 and d5) are similar in a lot of ways . I would probably choose 1...Nc6 between the two.

The other choice would be be to choose more than one opening. Choose an active opening and a more positional one and then vary them depending on the opponent.

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