Classification of Openings

by Bill Wall


Here are some classifications of chess openings.


Open games are usually double king pawn games (1.e4 e5).


The most common response is 2.Nf3 (King's Knight Opening).  However, White can play:

2.a3 - Mengarini's Opening (normally arises after 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.a3)

2.Bb5 - Portuguese Opening

2.c3 - Lopez Opening or MacLeod Attack

2.c4 - Whale Opening (or the English Opening, Whale variation - 1.c4 e5 2.e4)

2.Nc3 - Vienna Game

2.Bc4 - Bishop's Opening

2.Bd3 - Tortoise Opening

2.d3 - Clam Opening or Leonhardt Opening or Indian Opening

2.d4 - Center Game

2.d4 exd4 3.c3 - Danish Gambit

2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4-  Center Game

3.Ne2 - Alapin's Opening

2.f3 - King's Head Opening

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 – Ruy Lopez

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Ponziani Opening

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 without 3…Nf6 – Three Knights Game

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nc6 – Four Knights Game

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 – Italian Game

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 – Giuoco Piano

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 – Evans Gambit

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Be7 – Hungarian Defense

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 – Two Knights Defense

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 - Scotch Game

2.Nf3 d5 – Queen Pawn Counter Gambit or Elephant Gambit

2.Nf3 d6 – Philidor Defense

2.Nf3 f5 Latvian Gambit

2.Nf3 Nf6 – Petroff’s Defense

2.Qf3 - Napoleon Opening

2.f4 - King's Gambit

2.Qh5 - Parnham's Attack or Danvers Attack or Wayward Queen Opening


Semi-Open games are 1.e4 without 1...e5


Black can play:

1...a6 - St. George Defense or Birmingham Defense

1...a5 - Ware Defense or Corn Stalk Defense

1...b6 - Owen's Defense

1...c5 - Sicilian Defense

1...c6 - Caro Kann Defense

1...Nc6 - Nimzovich (Nimzowitsch) Defense

1...d5 - Scandanavian or Center Counter Defense

1...d6 - Pirc (or Modern) Defense

1...e6 - French Defense

1...Nf6 - Alekhine's Defense

1...g6 - Modern (or Pirc) Defense

1...g5 - Basman Defense or Macho Grob or Borg

1...f5 - Fred Defense or From Reversed or Duras Defense

1...f6 - Barnes Defense

1...h5 - Pickering Defense or Goldsmith Defense

1...h6 - Carr Defense

1...Na6 - Lemming Defense

1...Nh6 - Adams or Hippopotamus or Wild Bull Defense


Closed games are the Double Queen Pawn openings (1.d4 d5)


The most common reply is 2.c4 (Queen's Gambit).  Other moves are:


2.Nc3 - Chigorin or Veresov

2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 – Richter-Veresov Attack

2.e3 - Stonewall Attack

2.e4 - Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (usual is 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3)

2.Nf3 - Zukertort Variation

2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 – Colle System

2.Bf4 - London System or Sarratt Attack

2.Bg5 - Bishop Attack or Zot or Levitsky Attack

2.f4 - Mason Attack

2.g4 - Zurich Gambit

2.Qd3 - Amazon Attack


The Semi-Closed Game is 1.d4 without 1...d5.


Black can play:

1...b5 - Polish Defense

1...b6 - Queen Fianchetto Defense

1...c5 - Benoni Defense         

1...c6 - Anglo-Slav Defense

1...Nc6 - Lundin or Van Geet Defense or Queen’s Knight Defense

1...d6 - Pillsbury Defense or Rat Defense or Wade Defense

1...e5 - Englund Defense                

1...e6 - Franco-Indian Defense

1...Nf6 - Indian Systems (the most common of the semi-closed openings)

1...f5 - Dutch Defense

1...g5 - Borg Gambit

1...g6 - Kotov-Robatsch Defense


Flank Openings are as follows:

1.b3 - Larsen's Opening

1.b4 - Sokolsky or Polish or Orangutan Opening

1.c4 - English Opening

1.Nf3 - Reti or King's Indian Attack or Zukertort Opening

1.f4 - Bird's Opening

1.g3 - Benko Opening


Irregular Openings are as follows:


1.a3 - Anderssen's Opening

1.Nh3 - Amar or Paris Opening

1.f3 - Barnes or Gedult's Opening

1.h3 - Clemenz Opening or Basman’s Attack

1.h4 - Despres or Kadas Opening

1.Nc3 - Dunst Opening

1.Na3 - Durkin's Attack

1.g4 - Grob's Attack

1.d3 - Mieses Opening

1.c3 - Saragossa Opening

1.e3 - Van't Kruijs Opening

1.a4 - Ware or Meadow Hay or Crab Opening


Tactical openings are usually gambits or sharp openings.


Positional openings are usually closed openings.


Don't play any opening you are not familiar with.  Study an opening book or play lots of games with your favorite openings.  Experiment with your openings after you have studied it a bit.  Watch out for opening traps.