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King's Pawn OpeningEdit

1.e4Edit

White's assertive opening move opens lines for the queen and king's bishop and fights for control of the squares d5 and f5. This move is popular at all levels of the game and was the favoured opening move of world champion Bobby Fischer who called it 'best by test'.

Openings with 1.e4 are traditionally considered more sharp and attacking than those with 1.d4, but this is an extreme generalisation and both players will have many more opportunities to influence the type of position that appears.

With a pawn on e4, White's simplest plan is to play d4 on the next move, creating a strong 'classical' centre.

Black's responsesEdit

It's useful to think of Black's responses to 1.e4 as motivated by one of the following counterplans:

  1. Establish a pawn on e5, securing a share of the centre for Black.
  2. Establish a pawn on d5, securing a share of the centre for Black.
  3. Blow up White's e-pawn immediately.
  4. Leave White's e-pawn alone but prevent White from achieving the classical centre with e4 and d4.
  5. Ignore what White is doing, allow White to build the classical centre and blow it up later.

Plan 1Edit

  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1...e5   (Open Game)

Plan 1 (pawn on e5, share centre) can be carried out very simply with 1...e5. Black sees what White has and wants the same thing. However, White's argument is that moving first in a symmetrical position is eventually going to favour the player moving first.

Plan 2Edit

  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1...c6   (Caro-Kann Defense)
  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1...e6   (French Defense)

Plan 2 (pawn on d5, share centre) is the motivation behind 1...c6, the Caro-Kann Defence, and 1...e6, the French Defence. If Black tries to put a pawn on d5 immediately, White will capture it, so in order to maintain a pawn on d5 Black needs to be able to recapture with a pawn from either c6 or e6.

Plan 3Edit

  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1...d5   (Scandinavian Defense)
  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1...Nf6   (Alekhine Defense)

Plan 3 (blow up White's e pawn) leads to 1...d5, the Scandinavian Defence, and 1...Nf6, the Alekhine Defence.

Plan 4Edit

  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1...e5
  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1...c5   (Sicilian Defense)

Plan 4 (prevent White's e4 & d4) is a pleasant side effect of 1...e5 (mentioned above for Plan 1).

But, with 1...c5, the Sicilian Defence, Black can prevent White's d4 advance and also create an asymmetrical position of attack and counter-attack. The Sicilian is by far the most popular reply to 1.e4 among top players.

Plan 5Edit

  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1...g6   (Modern Defense)
  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1...d6   (Pirc Defense)

There are multiple ways of carrying out Plan 5 (ignore White's centre, blow up centre later).

1...g6, the Modern Defence, signals Black's intention to put a bishop on g7 controlling a swathe of the centre, before deciding on further action.

1...d6 is the Pirc Defense.

  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.e5 dxe5 4.dxe5 Qxd1+ 5.Kxd1 Ng4! Knight forks f2 and e5.
  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
The position after 3 moves of the Pirc Defence. White's d-pawn is next in line to be undermined.

In the Pirc Defense, the move 1...d6 prepares the move 2...Nf6. In Alekhine Defence (mentioned above for Plan 3), 1...Nf6 can be met by 2.e5 kicking the knight back. But, in the Pirc, after 1...d6 2.d4 Nf6, the move 3.e5 doesn't work because of 3...dxe5 4.dxe5 Qxd1+ 5.Kxd1 Ng4! forking the pawns on e5 and f2.

So instead, White's usual move to defend the e-pawn is 3.Nc3. Now, White's d-pawn is vulnerable to the advances ...c5 or ...e5, because neither White's e-pawn or c-pawn can defend it.

  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1...Nc6   (Nimzowitsch Defense)
  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1...b6   (Owen Defense)
  a b c d e f g h  
8                 8
7                 7
6                 6
5                 5
4                 4
3                 3
2                 2
1                 1
  a b c d e f g h  
1...a6   (St. George Defense)

Plan 5 also covers a number of fringe options.

After 1...Nc6, the Nimzowitsch Defence, Black is able to react to 2.d4 with a thrust of either the d-pawn or e-pawn.

1...b6 is a similar idea to 1...g6 but doesn't have the benefit of preparing kingside castling.

1...a6 is mostly famous for having been played by Tony Miles against then World Champion Anatoly Karpov, and having thus acquired the name St. George Defence.

StatisticsEdit

Approximate chances: White win 39%, Draw 29%, Black win 32%
Estimated next move popularity: c5 41%, e5 25%, e6 13%, c6 7%, d6 4%, d5 4%, g6 3%, Nf6 2%, Nc6 0.5%, other moves less than 0.5%

Theory tableEdit

For explanation of theory tables see theory table and for notation see algebraic notation

1. e4
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Sicilian Defence e4
c5
Nf3
d6
d4
cxd4
Nxd4
Nf6
Nc3
a6
Be2
e6
O-O
Be7
f4
O-O
Be3
Qc7
=
Ruy Lopez ...
e5
Nf3
Nc6
Bb5
a6
Ba4
Nf6
O-O
Be7
Re1
b5
Bb3
d6
c3
Na5
Bc2
c5
=
Caro-Kann Defence ...
c6
d4
d5
Nc3
dxe4
Nxe4
Bf5
Ng3
Bg6
h4
h6
Nf3
Nd7
h5
Bh7
Bd3
Bxd3
=
French Defence ...
e6
d4
d5
Nc3
Nf6
Bg5
Be7
e5
Nfd7
Bxe7
Qxe7
f4
O-O
Nf3
c5
Qd2
Nc6
=
Pirc Defence ...
d6
d4
Nf6
Nc3
g6
f4
Bg7
Nf3
O-O
Bd3
Na6
O-O
c5
d5
Rb8
Qe2
Nc7
Scandinavian Defence ...
d5
exd5
Qxd5
Nc3
Qa5
d4
Nf6
Nf3
c6
Bc4
Bf5
Bd2
e6
Nd5
Qd8
Nxf6
Qxf6
=
Modern Defence ...
g6
d4
Bg7
Nc3
d6
f4
a6
Nf3
b5
Bd3
Bb7
Qe2
Nc6
e5
Nh6
d5
Nb4
Alekhine Defence ...
Nf6
e5
Nd5
d4
d6
Nf3
Bg4
Be2
e6
O-O
Be7
c4
Nb6
h3
Bh5
Nc3
O-O
=
Nimzowitsch Defence ...
Nc6
d4
d5
Nc3
dxe4
d5
Ne5
Bf4
Ng6
Bg3
f5
Nh3
e5
dxe6
Bxe6
Nb5
Bd6
+/=
Owen Defence ...
b6
d4
Bb7
Bd3
e6
Nf3
c5
c3
Nf6
Qe2
Be7
O-O
Nc6
e5
Nd5
dxc5
bxc5
+/=
St. George Defence ...
a6
d4
b5
Nf3
Bb7
Bd3
Nf6
Qe2
e6
O-O
c5
c3
d5
e5
Nfd7
dxc5
Nxc5
+/=

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ReferencesEdit

  • Batsford Chess Openings 2 (1989, 1994). Garry Kasparov, Raymond Keene. ISBN 0-8050-3409-9.
  • Nunn's Chess Openings. 1999. John Nunn (Editor), Graham Burgess, John Emms, Joe Gallagher. ISBN 1-8574-4221-0.