Opening the Game

First move by White and Black.

A player has twenty (20) available moves to make as his or her opening move. For White: Queen’s Knight to a3 or c3 and King’s Knight to f3 or h3 (four possible moves), or advance any pawn to the third or fourth rank (sixteen possible pawn advances). For Black: Queen’s Knight to a6 or c6 and King’s Knight to f6 or h6 (four possible moves), or any pawn to the fifth or sixth rank (sixteen possible pawn advances).

As we saw previously, a pawn – other than when capturing a piece or another pawn – may be advanced initially only straight ahead on its own file either one square-one rankw ahead or two squares-two ranks ahead.

Similarly, as we saw in Moving Pieces & Advancing pawns, a Knight may be moved into play onto any available empty square or to a square occupied by another opposing piece (except the opposing King) or pawn and thereby capturing that piece or pawn. At the opening moves for White and Black, naturally there is no piece or pawn occupying any of the available squares (eight total, four for White and four for Black) to which a player’s Knights may be moved. Consistent with the non-linear L-shape movement of the Knight and the principle that a player may not move a piece or advance a pawn to any square occupied by another piece or pawn of that player, then the only available squares at a player’s opening move to which he or she may move his or her Knights are for White a3 and c3 for the Queen’s Knight and f3 and h3 for the King’s Knight, and for Black a6 and c6 for the Queen’s Knight and f6 & h6 for the King’s Knight. Also, the Knight is the only piece which may jump over other pieces and pawns. That is why a player is restricted to commecning his or her opening of the game by moving either a pawn advance or moving a Knight.

The opening files upon which the Queens and Kings start out are often used to describe the most commonly played chess openings – d-pawn openings or e-pawn openings, also called respectively Queen’s-pawn openings and King’s-pawn openings. Generally speaking, the e-pawn openings are traditionally the safest standard opening for beginners to learn and practice, because d-pawn openings usually present far greater complexities and challenges. Typically, d-pawn openings lead to open games, while e-pawn openings usually lead to closed games (these concepts will be discussed in more depth in a later tutorial). The above observations are not to say that the e-pawn openings are either simple or not played significantly by more experienced players. Most openings are actually variations on the d-pawn and e-pawn openings, although there are other openings such as the true Four Knights Opening where the players develop their four Knights to c3, f3 for White, and c6, f6 for Black as their respective opening two moves. The permutations for openings are so varied and great that a simple expression does not, indeed cannot, encompass what players have learned and tried in thousands of years of playing chess.