15 Best Chess Openings for White

In modern chess having a sound opening repertoire is an essential part of achieving success in tournaments. Professional players spend a lot of time working on the openings in-depth, sometimes until the possible endgames that can arise.  Having the best chess openings for White is especially crucial to fighting for an advantage.

However, for the club players, spending so much time inserting the moves that everybody knows by an engine and memorizing countless numbers of lines is not only a waste of time. But it can also negatively affect their understanding of the game.

At this stage, we recommend having a simple opening repertoire that is well-understood. It is more important to know the ideas behind a system and the common strategies to follow than to rely exclusively on memory.

In this article, we are going to give some Chess Openings for White that you could use in your tournament practice:

The London System

Chess Openings for White

With this system, white sidesteps all of the black’s sharp lines against 1.d4. For years, the London System has had the reputation of being a passive chess strategy for White exclusively played by those who did not want to enter into a tactical game.

However, nowadays the London opening is on the rise, with all the top players using it regularly with remarkable success. White has a guarantee that he will complete his development fast and will then adopt a strategy depending on how black plays. This makes it an easy chess opening for White to learn.

Among the top references of this opening, you can find players like Gata Kamsky, Magnus Carlsen, Boris Grachev, Vladimir Kramnik, and Alexander Grischuk.

To get started with this opening, check our [[previous articles]] where we present white’s plans depending on black’s approach.

The English Opening

English Opening

This opening is trendy amongst club players and players are on the rise. In recent times the English opening has become one of the best first chess moves for white in chess.

The English is an interesting chess opening as it offers a perfect balance between strategic and aggressive play. You can also play it by schemes rather than numerical theory, so there is plenty of room for creativity. Nowadays the main reference is the series of books written by Grandmaster Mihail Marin, although we recommend you start with an old but great book, “The Dynamic English” by Tony Kosten.

Queen’s Gambit

Queen’s Gambit

The evergreen Queen’s Gambit is played by masters and amateurs alike from time immemorial. It is a popular chess opening for white. It is a respected chess gambit for White. You can draw parallels from the King’s Gambit but it is a system on its own. Here the idea is not to achieve an advantage in activity but to have harmonious development.

White’s idea is to try and remove the d5 pawn and then achieve an ideal center with e2-e4. In many variations of the Queen’s gambit, this is the core idea.

The King’s Gambit

King’s Gambit

The King’s Gambit is a fun chess opening. It was all the rage during the romantic era of chess. The King’s Gambit produces the best chess attacks that can arise in the Open games. However, it disappeared with the advent of the positional school of chess.

For many decades it was considered as an obscure chess opening. It experienced a rebirth when grandmasters began to use it at the top level around the mid-1950s.

The basic premise changed from a violent attack on the f7 square to a way of conquering the center. There were also secondary ideas of simplifying to a favorable endgame.

Some of the notable players who helped to catapult it back to fame are Spassky, Keres, and Bronstein.

Vienna Game

Vienna Game

In this opening White establishes a stronghold in the center first and then decides to take further action. The strategy by White is to establish the d5 square as a strong square and plans are made for a subsequent f pawn advance. It was developed as an improved version of the King’s Gambit.

A modern way of playing it is to use the knight development as a solid development scheme with the bishop being placed on the a2-g8 diagonal or by a way of fianchetto.

Ruy Lopez

Ruy Lopez

The Spanish game or the Ruy Lopez is a time-tested weapon. It is a legacy opening in chess. It has the best-starting chess moves for beginners. The ideas are similar to the Italian game but the variety of structures gives the opening complexity. This makes it an advanced chess opening for masters to use as well.

As a club player, you can learn the typical Ruy Lopez structures better than your opponent and score a lot of wins. Especially from the Black side of the Ruy Lopez in some lines, it is not easy to find moves at the amateur level.

The Italian Game

Chess Openings for White

Good chess openings in chess follow the classical principles of development. This makes the Italian game a popular chess opening for White. You achieve the optimal setup of the pieces within the first four moves. This opening is an ideal choice for beginners and intermediates as it is an easy chess opening to learn.

However, the opening is not so simple that it can be played only at the lower levels. The Italian is an old and deeply analyzed opening. It had many different structures and plans that an advanced player could use as well. This factor makes the Italian a regular at top-level chess. Practically every 2700+ GM plays the Italian.

The Fried Liver

Fried Liver

The Fried Liver Attack or the Fegatello Attack is an aggressive chess opening for white. It produces positions that are undoubtedly double-edged and fun to play! The attacks in the opening were so dangerous that until the beginning of the 20th century 3…Nf6 was considered a losing move!

Soon resources were discovered for Black. After the standard reply ..d5 the positions are interesting to play. It is certainly one of the soundest and most fun chess opening

For the amateur player, this opening is a potent weapon. White doesn’t gambit a pawn like other opening chess gambits but you still get the activity of a gambit opening. You can use this opening to score many quick wins.

Bird’s Opening

Bird’s Opening

The top players of the 19th century played a couple of times this white opening. Henry Bird played it with the most success. He scored a positive result in over 80 games.

This white opening is an underrated and easy-to-learn opening. The Bird’s opening can transpose to a variety of openings. The f4 pawn controls the important e5 square but it comes at the cost of tempi for development.

Using a flank pawn white hopes to exchange it for a central pawn and establish an ideal center. One of the hallmarks of a good chess opening is that they strive to achieve ideal central control.

Smith-Morra Gambit

Chess Openings for White

This is an ideal opening for adventure lovers. It is an aggressive chess opening for white. The pawn sacrifice opens up the c and d files for the rooks. It is considered an obscure chess opening by masters but it can produce some of the best chess attacks.

More importantly, Black is denied his usual queenside play in the Sicilian Defense. In exchange for a pawn, Black obtains a passive and cramped position.

White has the initiative and Black has to play reactive chess. This is not so easy for the Black side of players at lower levels.  Therefore, it certainly is an interesting chess opening for players to look into.

Catalan Opening

Chess Openings for White

This is the starting position of this opening. It was first played by Tartakower in 1929. The game happened in Barcelona hence the name Catalan.

It is one of the best-starting chess moves for white when starting with 1.d4. The chess strategy is clear for the player to understand. This makes it a contender for the strongest chess opening at the amateur level.

The opening is also a regular visitor at the elite level and is in the repertoire of many Grandmasters. A top chess opening for white!

The structure may look similar to the Queen’s Gambit but the difference here is that instead of developing the bishop to e2 or d3 white fianchettos the bishop. This bishop helps to exert considerable pressure along the long diagonal.

The Catalan is a good choice for players who want a safe but small edge out of the opening.

Alapin Variation Opening

Chess Openings for White

This variation of the Sicilian defense deserves special attention because of its current popularity. In some sense 2.c3 is the most logical way to proceed.

In the opening moves White wants to create an ideal pawn center and if challenged capture back with the c pawn. You cannot effectively apply the same idea in 1.e4 e5 because after 2.c3 Black can play Nf6 attacking the e4 pawn.

In the Alapin variation if Black plays 2…Nf6 then white can reply with 3.e5 gaining space in the center.

It is a solid chess opening for white where white plays strategically for a small edge.

Many top-level players use the Alapin to mix things up and get new positions. It is also a good weapon against the Sicilian Defense when white doesn’t want to go for complications.

Reti Opening

Chess Openings for White

The Reti opening deviates from the classical opening ideas. It was a revolutionary idea when it was first introduced. It changed the approach of openings by the white side. Players at that time thought that it was an obscure chess opening idea.

It is an advanced chess opening to understand. The strength of the Reti opening is that it can transpose into a variety of openings. This provides an effective weapon for players to go for a favorable move order. This can catch their opponents off guard.

This opening is the bread and butter of every modern player’s technical repertoire.

Four Knights Game

Chess Openings for White

The Four Knights variation leads to an open game, without much tactical trouble. From the opening chess moves White emerges with a slightly superior pawn structure and tries to exploit the potential weakness of black’s hanging pawns.

One of the upsides of choosing this variation is that black does not have many options to avoid it, so you can learn it deeply up to the middlegame. We recommend you start by having a look at this [[article]] that we wrote on this system.

These are our recommendations for players in the range between 1700 and 2100. We hope you will find inspiration in these ideas and, as usual, if you have any questions feel free to contact us.

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Updated 02.23.2024