I'm a beginner and I haven't gotten into memorizing games. I don't like the idea of memorizing but now I think I have to learn a few to get to a higher level. Can someone give me a list of prophylactic defenses that a beginner should learn. Taking into account the basics like the control of the center, early development of minor pieces et cetera.

I don't play aggressive. I like building up positions (prophylaxis). I need a few defenses that are an answer to most openings and doesn't block my minor pieces. Maybe I'm being naive?

3 Answers 3


You're not being naive.

It sounds like you're a positional player. You'll probably favor closed games. Closed games are ones where there are pawns in the center, reducing the long-range power of many of the pieces on the board.

Too much memorization is unhelpful. You will need to memorize a a few openings, and not too deeply. As long as you understand what the openings are trying to accomplish and you know basic principles you'll be fine.

For openings, play 1. d4, and work through some main lines of the Queen's Gambit. From this link, you'll see that your play won't change much for the first few moves; there's a theme.

If you're on the black side of the board, you have more choices. You'll probably see 1. e4 more than 1. d4. For the latter, look at the 'closed game' and similar:

1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bg5 Be7
5. e3 O-O
6. Nf3 Nbd7

See how black avoids lines where the center pawns get traded off?

Against 1. e4 you'll be looking for the same thing - lines that leave the pawns on the board or at least, like this Caro-Kann, leave a solid position:

1. e4 c6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 dxe4
4. Nxe4 Bf5
5. Ng3 Bg6
6. h4 h6
7. Nf3 Nd7
8. h5 Bh7
9. Bd3 Bxd3

Here's a link for a plethora of e4 openings.

Which opening to pick? Narrow down the field by examining games of Anatoly Karpov, Tigran Petrosian, Aron Nimzovitch, and Mikhail Botvinnik. Nimzovitch is the godfather of the 'prophylactic' style you describe. You might get a copy of 'My System', one of the first books to collect, state, and explain the principles of positional play. Be advised this book (and many others) are old and were written using the now-obsolete 'descriptive' notation. You probably want your copies to be in algebraic or figurine algebraic notation. If you buy a copy off of e-bay etc you should verify what you're getting.

  • I guess you can't be perfect while defending. Queens gambit declined 2...e6 blocks light squared bishop and 4...Be7 would not be considered development of minor pieces. But that's how it is playing black right?
    – AWE
    Jul 1, 2012 at 4:10
  • There are other options than 2. ... e6. For example, the Slav sports 2. ... c6 (which blocks a knight) or a Chigorin 2. ... Nc6. The links I posted above show all these variations.
    – Tony Ennis
    Jul 1, 2012 at 4:19

I think playing 1... c6 against just about any move by White would be a good example of a prophylactic defense. Against either 1. e4 or 1. d4 if White follows on with advancing the other center pawn on move 2, you can follow on with 2... d5, the Caro-Kann defence, albeit in the case of the move order 1. d4 c6 2. e4 d5 the defense has been reached by transposition, the normal move order being 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5.

In any case see the Wikipedia page.

The 1. d4 player will probably be more inclined to respond to 1... c6 with 2. c4, in which case following on with 2... d5 gives you the Slav Defense (see Wikipedia).

I believe these lines meet your qualifications of "defenses that are an answer to most openings and doesn't block my minor pieces".

  • Thanks, it would be nice if someone with the privileges to create tags would create a prophylaxis tag and a defense tag.
    – AWE
    Jul 2, 2012 at 16:42
  • @AWE I added defense, though I'm not sure prophylaxis should exist. It only means prevention.
    – Daniel
    Jul 2, 2012 at 16:58
  • 1
    Wikipedia has an article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophylaxis_%28chess%29
    – AWE
    Jul 2, 2012 at 17:13
  • OK. I'd never heard the term as pertaining to chess. I added the tag to the question.
    – Daniel
    Jul 2, 2012 at 23:31

The Petroff Defense (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6) is a very defensive opening that tends to limit White's chances.

Playing against d4, I like ...Nf6, because it gives me the choice of either transposing into a Queen's Gambit, or playing an Indian (fianchetto) defense.

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