As a beginner I've found that it is psychologically really nice playing QGA as white simply because I have a clear task at hand in the early game - namely recapture that pawn. Similarly, hedgehog for black is satisfying because you are aiming for a layout rather than a sequence.

I often find it quite hard to stumble through the early game when there is no clear objective - many openings the objective is simply to "develop pieces onto good squares". I'm not yet good enough to visualise that task so play pretty aimlessly.

What other openings should I look at that have clear, understandable, short term objectives to get you to the mid-game?

2 Answers 2


Technically speaking ALL openings have an objective other than developing your pieces. For example

Italian Game/Italian Opening goes like so:

[fen ""]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 

From this position you would think it's simply development of pieces however that's not the case. In the Italian game, the opening itself for white is pin pointed on the f7 weakness in black's structure, when black played e5 in response to white's e4 it opened up a weakness in the structure which is the f7 pawn. That f7 pawn ends up being a pinned pawn in many cases if the player castles on the king side normally, or even sometimes turns in to a bishop sacrifice if you have a good rook lift and an attack going on (however that's too complicated for a beginner in chess). In short Italian Opening's objective is simple, attack the king side's weaknesses and is an aggressive opening most of the time when it goes into the mid game phase.

You also have the Ruy Lopez one of the most famous openings in the history of chess. The opening focuses on ruining the pawn structure for Black and gaining a potential advantage with the pin on Knight on c6.

You also have the French Defense which is also a famous opening

[fen ""]

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5

The entire purpose and reputation of the French Defense is based on defense and counter play. Usually players of the french prefer a closed game, however that's a conversation for another thread. In the french black's objective is usually counter attack on the queen side while white usually focuses his attack on the king side. French defense also a solid pawn structure which upholds its reputation for defense.

I truly can't give you a list since almost every single opening out there has an objective or a reason for every move. Posting more openings and their objectives + explanation would definitely take too long. However I will leave you with these 3 openings that I was able to mention in this long post and hopefully I helped. If you have any further questions feel free to ask and I will attempt to answer as best I can

Edited part to answer the questions in the comments section :)

King's Gambit (Polerio/Villemson Gambit line is shown below, not the classic line)

[fen ""]

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3. d4

This opening focuses more on offense, with white's move of 2.f4 he is hoping to accomplish mostly 2 things, 1.) ruin the pawn structure (doubled pawns on the f file) and 2. Clear the way to push down the middle. However King's Gambit has 2 variations, Accepted and Denied gambit (accepted is when black takes the f pawn and accepts the sacrifice, Denied is when black continues and ignores the pawn).

If black takes the pawn (which is mostly what white wants) white will in most cases sieze the opportunity and push down the middle with d4 hoping to occupy space and make space for his pieces to enter the game. However in response black usually focuses on the f2 spot weakness where the pawn was sitting before it was sacrificed. Black's objective after the sacrifice is usually have his black bishop hitting that diagonal and unless white can somehow defend it will become a problem (that's why it's called a gambit). From white's point of view however that open f column is also a weapon, it is basically a semi opened column (unless black's f pawn was taken back which would make it a completely open column) for the king side rook. And since King's gambit is usually an open game with bishops this is a dangerous combination.

Here is also the Queen'g Gambit, however instead of me typing the explanation here, you might have a more enjoyable time reading and listening to this http://www.thechesswebsite.com/queens-gambit/

Hope I helped :) If you have even more questions feel free to ask :)

  • Thanks, that is helpful - I think the Italian example you give is a perfect example of what I am thinking of - "attack the f7 pawn", so that suggests thinking how to get the knight to g5 perhaps etc. The French example is really rather an example of what I meant by unclear objectives. "Attack on the kingside" could mean anything, moving any/all pawns forwards, knight out, queen out, bishop across... and I would have no real way to decide between them.
    – Corvus
    Apr 2, 2015 at 10:50
  • Sorry chessbrain - I see you rejected the edit. I didn't mean to "deface" your answer. I thought it was clearer using the chess boards for the openings - just the algebra can be a little hard to understand for some of us!
    – Corvus
    Apr 2, 2015 at 10:56
  • Ah I see what you mean. If that's the case, what you need isn't really a list of openings that have those objectives, you need a little more knowledge in the middle game in chess. Although the question is about openings your problem is "insight", and that is gained from learning attack patterns and training in some calculations. However I will list some openings with more explanations in a moment :) And I apologize I did not know it was you who suggested the edit I didn't see anyone's name and to make it worse the chess table that was shown was definitely bugged cause it lookedREALLYstretched
    – Chessbrain
    Apr 2, 2015 at 10:59
  • 2
    When you look at edits the chessboard always looks stretched. It will be alright in the post. Apr 2, 2015 at 11:06
  • @Corone I truly apologize yet again, didn't mean any of it, I just truly thought it was a troll. Now off to the next opening according to your request :) King's Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.f4... This opening focuses more on offense, white's objective right off the bat is to gain an advantage by sacrificing the f4 pawn afterwards white pushes towards the center, usually white ignores the sacrificed f4 pawn and focuses on pushing on to attack. After exf4 by black white soemtimes pushes with d4 attempting to dominate the middle. Due to the character limit in the comment section I can't explain more :(
    – Chessbrain
    Apr 2, 2015 at 11:08

I think this question divides into two parts:

  • Openings with "mini objectives" early in the game.

  • Openings that go for a layout instead of a sequence.

The second part is easier to tackle: There are a lot of openings, usually called "systems", that go for a certain structure without bothering too much with what the opponent is doing. Some examples:

  • The London System
  • The Colle-Zukertort
  • The Stonewall-Dutch
  • The Stonewall with white

Also in many sicilian lines (most notably the dragon) white just castles long and starts to march his kingside pawns --> sac,sac,mate as Bobby Fischer famously said. But these are much more dependent on move order issues and concrete tactics. You could interpret "long castles" as a mini-objective for white in the English attack, which is almost always achieved by playing f3, Be3, Qd2.

Mini-objective vary from variation to variation, but I think there is one mini-objective that is almost always relevant, especially when playing black: pawn levers.

For example if you play the black side of a QGA, you might go for the pawn lever c5. In a King's Indian black prepares the pawn lever f5, and sometimes c6 (whereas white goes for c5). In a Benoni he goes for b5 and sometimes f5. In a Meran you will always play c5 or e5 at some point, while white usually plays e4, in a Italian or Spanish game white prepares e4, in a French black goes c5 and white hopes for f5 … they are all over the place!

So my advice would be to look out for pawn levers in the openings you play. They should very often provide the mini-objective that gets you from the opening into the middlegame.

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