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|Top 10 Popular Chess Openings|
|Ten chess openings all players should be familiar with.|
What's hot? What's not? Here are ten chess openings all players should be familiar with. Are you?
Sicilian Defense - ...d6 Variations
Since the most popular first move in chess is 1.e4, it follows that many of the most popular openings are King's Pawn Openings. Similarly, since the most popular response to 1.e4 is 1...c5, variations of the Sicilian Defense easily make any list of the top 10 openings.
Following this logic, the first of our most popular openings is 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 as shown in the diagram. The popularity of this variation is due to the combined popularity of the four well known variations that Black can choose with the next move.
For more about the diagrammed position, see Sicilian Defense - ...d6 Variations in our Repertoire Recommendations.
Sicilian Defense - Black avoids an early ...d6
Another popular way of playing the Sicilian Defense is by avoiding an early ...d6. Two ways to do this are by playing 2...Nc6 or 2...e6 instead of 2...d6 as in the previous variation.
The move 2...Nc6 is slightly more popular than 2...e6, and usually leads to 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 as shown in the diagram. Now Black has at least four acceptable ways to continue.
For more about the diagrammed position, see Sicilian Defense - Black avoids an early ...d6 in our Repertoire Recommendations.
Ruy Lopez 4.Ba4
In response to 1.e4, the move 1...e5 is only slightly less popular than 1...c5. The family of openings that start 1.e4 e5 are often known as Open Games.
After the natural 2.Nf3 Nc6, attacking and defending Black's Pawn on e5, White continues the attack with 3.Bb5. This is called the Ruy Lopez, known in some languages as the Spanish Game.
The most popular continuation is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O as in the diagram. Here Black has three popular continuations.
For more about the diagrammed position, see Ruy Lopez 4.Ba4 in our Repertoire Recommendations.
Instead of attacking Black's e-Pawn as in the Ruy Lopez, White can attack Black's sensitive Pawn on f7. This shouldn't be done by playing Qh5, which exposes the Queen to an attack by ...Nf6, but rather by Bc4, which develops a minor piece at the same time that it attacks f7.
White can play 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4, but a more popular continuation is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 as in the diagram. Now Black has two excellent continuations.
For more about the diagrammed position, see Italian Game in our Repertoire Recommendations.
The last of our popular openings which start 1.e4 is the French Defense (1...e6). It is considerably less popular than either 1...c5 or 1...e5, but considerably more so than any of the alternatives.
The French usually starts 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 as in the diagram. Now White has four good moves.
For more about the diagrammed position, see French Defense in our Repertoire Recommendations.
Nimzo Indian or Queen's Indian?
Black must also be prepared to play against 1.d4. There are two great families known as the Indian Defense (1.d4 Nf6) and the Closed Game (1.d4 d5). Since the various Indian Defenses taken together are more popular than the Closed Game, two of our top 10 popular openings are in the Indian family.
The first is where Black plays 2...e6, 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 as in the diagram. Now White decides whether to allow an immediate pin on the Queen's Knight.
For more about the diagrammed position, see Nimzo Indian or Queen's Indian? in our Repertoire Recommendations.
King's Indian or Gruenfeld?
The second of our popular openings in the Indian family is where Black plays 2...g6 The most popular variation is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 as in the diagram.
Black has two popular responses.
For more about the diagrammed position, see King's Indian or Gruenfeld? in our Repertoire Recommendations.
The Closed Game usually starts 1.d4 d5 2.c4 as in the diagram. This is better known as the Queen's Gambit. Black has three responses which have different characteristics.
For more about the diagrammed position, see Closed Game in our Repertoire Recommendations.
Are you surprised to find that one of our top 10 popular openings is a single move? In fact we have two first moves for White in our top 10. The slightly more popular of the two is 1.Nf3 as shown in the diagram. We have three reasons for choosing a single move.
First, although 1.Nf3 is played less frequently than 1.e4 or 1.d4, it is far more popular than the next group of initial moves for White. It can't be overlooked or ignored.
Second, while there are several good responses to it, the most popular response is 1... Nf6. Now if White continues 2.d4 or 2.c4, the game will often transpose into an Indian Opening or a Closed Game. In other words, the most popular response leads back into popular openings that we have already chosen.
Finally, none of the alternatives to 1...Nf6 are as popular as our other top 10 openings. Taken together they have many adherents.
For more about the diagrammed position, see Reti System in our Repertoire Recommendations.
Our last opening is again a single move. White often plays 1.c4, as in the diagram.
We include 1.c4 for the same reasons as 1.Nf3 : (1) although played less frequently than 1.e4 or 1.d4, it has a considerable following; (2) the most popular response leads back to the 1.d4 openings; and (3) none of the alternate responses are as popular. There is one additional consideration : there are so many good responses that no single move is considerably more popular than any other.
Many of these moves lead to less popular responses to 1.d4. The moves 1.c4 c6 will often transpose to a Slav Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6), while the moves 1.c4 f5 will usually transpose to a Dutch Defense (1.d4 f5).
Only 1.c4 e5 and 1.c4 c5 lead to systems not often seen after 1.d4. Taken together, they represent an important branch of chess openings.
For more about the diagrammed position, see English Opening in our Repertoire Recommendations.