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Famous Opening Chess Moves that will Blaze your Path to Victory!

If you’re an avid chess player then you’ll want to give some serious thought to your opening move. Your opening move will dictate the pace of the game and there are a lot of factors for you to consider as well. Do you want to go on the offensive? Or would you rather play a more defensive game? Are you going to line-up moves for checkmate or are you going to drag the game out in hopes of wearing your opponent down? Little things like this can influence the endgame more than you realize. If you want to make sure that you end up increasing your chances of winning the game, then you need to plan your first few moves carefully.

Opening Theory

Chess is an ancient game of strategy. It has been cloaked in mysticism, as grandmasters are often dramatized in musicals, television shows and even movies. The Queen’s Gambit, by Netflix, has helped to re-popularise chess and the eponymous move but that doesn’t take into account the hundreds of other opening move possibilities you have to choose from. Even though chess is inherently strategic with a lot of on-the-spot thinking, there are ways for you to swing the odds in your favor. The player with the white pieces will usually have the first move, which gives them a slight advantage. There are four types of opening moves too, which range from:

  • Open
  • Semi-Open
  • Semi-Closed
  • Closed


With open moves, the white player will take their E2 pawn and move it to E4. The black player will respond to this by moving their E7 pawn to E5.


White will move their pawn to E4, but the black player doesn’t respond by moving their black pawn to E5.


White moves their D2 pawn to D4. Black doesn’t move their pawn from D7 to D5.


White moves their pawn to D4 and black responds by moving theirs to D5.

Famous Chess Moves

There are over 1,000 moving combinations in the world of chess. Casula players can’t memorize them all effectively. If you want to become a better player, however, then there are ways for you to learn the most famous openings so you can build your repertoire. These combinations have all served master chess players in their time, so they are well worth studying.

Ruy Lopez

The Ruy Lopez opening is otherwise known as the Spanish opening. It was recorded by Ruy Lopez himself, and is as follows:

  • White pawn to E4, followed by black pawn to E5
  • White knight to F3 followed by black knight to C6
  • White bishop (light square) to B5, which pins C6 knight

Around the mid-19th century. This chess opening move gained a lot of traction. Carl Jaenisc, a Russian theoretician popularized its use. Grandmasters often like to use this opener. Magnus Carlsen is famous for it. The main reason why this is such a great move is because it helps to accomplish a lot of different things. It develops a piece on the board, and it sets up the chance to protect the king via the bishop. This is otherwise known as castling. In doing this, the black player is then put under a great deal of pressure to counter.

Giuoco Piano

This is otherwise known as the Italian opening. It adopts a less aggressive approach but it has a lot of different variations. As with a lot of different openings, this grew in popularity around the 19th century. Players such as Will Steinitz used it to gain an edge on his opponent. When this opening is used, you will be using your bishop as the white player to attack.

  • White pawn to E4, followed by black pawn to E5
  • White knight to F3, followed by black knight to C6
  • White bishop to C4, followed by black bishop to C5

The white player’s response to how the black player meets the bishop determines the variation engaged. You will opt for Evan’s Gambit or the Giuoco Piano. With this opening move, you have the power to control the center, as well as being able to develop a lot of different pieces. You can use these to then prepare, and castle the king.

Sicilian Defense

The Sicilian Defense is a very complex yet infamous strategy that involves the black player. There are a lot of variations to this approach. If you want to adopt this strategy then you can choose from open and closed variations. As a strategy, it involves the black fighting for central control of the board, by choosing not to mirror the moves of the white player. Instead, black attacks from c-file. Invented during the 16th century, the move was denounced during the late 19th century by famous players such as José Raúl Capablanca and Wilhelm Steinitz. The move was revived during the 20th century and is now seen as being one of the best opening moves, as it gives black the chance to win even with an E4 opening. Other variations of this move include the Najdorf and the Dragon.

The Dragon variation is aptly named because of how the pawn resembles that of the Draco constellation.

  • White pawn to E4, followed by black pawn to C5.
  • White knight to F3, followed by black pawn to D6
  • White pawn to D4, followed by black pawn taking white on D4
  • White knight takes the black pawn on D4 followed by black knight to F6
  • White knight to C3, followed by black pawn to G6
  • BIack bishop then moves to G7

If you are playing the Najdorf variation, which has been regarded as being one of the best moves by Bobby Fisher, you will start the same but then diverge.

  • White pawn to E4, followed by black pawn to C5
  • White knight to F3, followed by black pawn to D6
  • White pawn to D4, followed by black pawn taking white on D4
  • White knight takes D4, followed by black knight to F6
  • White knight to C3, followed by black pawn to A6

This gives protection on the B5 square from the white knight and the white bishop. Black then develops the queen-side bishop and then the knight.

French Defense

This is the most typical of chess openings. It was first noted around the 15th century but it wasn’t named until 1834. Paris Chess Club used the design in a match against the London Chess Club. The opening move resulted in them experiencing a victory. With a semi-opening, this defense is quite ambitious. It encourages the black player to engage. There are a lot of variations here, and they include the Rubinstein, the Exchange, Tarrasch and Winawer. If you want to learn how the French Defense is used then take a look below.

  • White pawn to E4 followed by black pawn to E6
  • White pawn to D4 followed by black pawn to D5

One risk of using this strategy is that you run the risk of developing a French Bishop. This usually happens when the black queenside bishop becomes trapped due to the competition between players. Black and white will often try and outflank each other in an attempt to emerge victorious. Using the French Defense tactic can create an impressive chain of pawns as well as a closed center. This can lead to a fun game that revolves around positioning.

Scandinavian Defense

This famous chess move is known as the center-counter-defense move. It’s loved by beginners and for a very good reason. It doesn’t require much knowledge regarding opening strategy and it also helps to put black in an immediate position to attack. This method of starting the game is said to be as old as the game itself. The first use of it dates back to Valencia in 1475. Not many masters use this opening tactic but Joseph Blackburne often used it when playing against competitors. The move is great because you do not adopt a serious opening strategy, and it also sets you up for a solid pawn structure.

  • White pawn to E4, followed by black pawn to D5
  • White pawn takes D5 black pawn
  • Black queen takes white D5 pawn

There are a lot of variations here, but this option tends to be the one that is most favored when adopting this opening tactic.

King’s Gambit

During the 19th century, this was the most popular opening. It originated around the 16th century and it was used in the most famous game at the time. The Immortal Game was played between Lionel Kierseritzky and Adolf Anderssen. Anderssen chose to sacrifice most of his pieces so that he could win the game. He also went on to checkmate Kieseritzky. If you want to open the game with the King’s Gambit then you need to start by using the queen to control the center.

  • White pawn to E4 followed by black pawn to E5
  • White pawn to F4

If the black player wants to accept the gambit then they would move their pawn from E5, taking white on E4. Black players don’t have to, and don’t always accept the gambit though. They can easily choose another variation, and proceed with their own strategy.

Queen’s Gambit

The Queen’s Gambit is now widely known, as the result of Netflix’s limited series of the same name. It details a fictional character playing chess. It was often used during the Romantic period and it’s quite possibly the most sacrificial opening in the game of chess. It’s also a famous strategy that when done right, can pay off in more ways than one.

  • White pawn to D4 followed by black pawn to D5
  • White pawn to C4 which offers the gambit

When white has offered the gambit, it is possible for black to accept by taking the white pawn or they can decline and reinforce the black pawn on D5. This can be set up for a lot of different defenses, some of which include the Chigorin, Orthodox or Tarrasch. Using the Queen’s Gambit as an opening move is useful as it helps to give the white player the chance to control the center. This is because black is forced to react to the moves white is making, rather than being able to develop their pieces.

Chess Games that Utilize the Above Strategies

There are numerous games throughout history that utilize the above strategies. If you are interested in watching some of them for yourself or if you want to see what games are most popular then take a look below.

Kasparov vs. Topalov - 1999

Even though Garry Kasparov lost a game against Deep Blue, the computer engine, he was still at the top of his game in 1999. He won tournaments by huge margins and even managed to record the highest Elo rating to date. He has a long list of achievements to his name, and this game is a masterpiece. This is everything a chess game should be. Brilliance can be seen by both sides and numerous tactical themes are present. You have a king hunt that drives one king all the way to the other side of the board too. It’s hard to top this historic game but some serious contenders are emerging right now.

Morphy vs. Allies- 1858

This is often called the Opera game. Paul Morphy has shown time and time again that this is an informal masterpiece. It is played against the Duke of Brunswick and is the first complete game that was shown to beginner and intermediate players. It helps to illustrate how important it is to develop pieces and how to deal with issues that arise from centralisation. King safety is also highlighted in this game. It’s also a precise game that helps to highlight the beauty that is chess. Morphy ended up winning the game but then he retired from chess so he could pursue law in New Orleans. This is a game that we all wish we could play. You have to give up pieces one after another, and it ends in a crescendo with the ultimate queen sacrifice. There would be no purpose in studying chess if you didn’t end up having the ability to crush your opponent. The Opera game highlights just how you can do that.

Anand vs. Aronian- 2013

This is a much more recent game. Anand was the world champion from 2007 up until 2013. He is one of the most intuitive and fluid players in the history of chess. When his intuition served him best, was in the middle game. He played in advance of his match against the famous Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen would not qualify for several months though. Anand showed in this game that he had a strong attacking game. He shows how black can burst forward and when it does, it cannot be contained. Even though this game was relatively short, it’s a work of modern beauty. It’s top-level and it contains a lot of tactics as well. Anand considers this to be one of his strongest games to date and it’s not hard to see why.

Kasparov vs. Karpov- 1985

There is no greater rivalry in the history of chess than this game. The brilliant games have time and time again managed to appear at the top of the ranks. This game from 1985 shows Kasparov at his best. He offered a pawn sac right at the opening and he established a knight on D3. He then clamped down and the rest is history. This game is everything a good game should be and it helps to highlight crisp calculation as well as how important tactics are.

Fisher vs. Bryne- 1956

At the young age of 13, Bobby Fischer alerted the world to what he can do. He managed to win against Donald Bryne using black. This game shows the two greatest blows in chess history. In two moves, he decimated the position of white, which in chess, is quite a feat. With a lot of surprise, beauty and precision, this game has established itself as being one of the best there ever was.

Yusupov vs. Ivanchuk- 1991

The stakes could not be higher in this game. The game was played at a tiebreak in the world championship. Artur Yusupov did give it his all and he swung every piece into a full-blown assault. It was soon clear that he was able to overcome the competition with numerous attacks. For a lot of chess players, this is their top game of all time. It shows a strong opening, a tumultuous middle and a grand finale for the ages. If you have not seen this game yet, now is the time for you to do something about that.

So as you can see, a strong chess opening can influence the entire game, and if you give some of the above matches a watch, you'll soon see why it is so important to not only go in guns blazing but to also take a step back sometimes and defend the positions you have. Why not learn some of the above openings, so you can become a better player today?


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