25 October 2015

The First Move

How do you begin a chess game? Do you aim for a tactical game or a positional game?

I tell beginners that they should begin with 1.e4 the first one hundred times that they have White. After they have gained an understanding of the types of positions that they encounter after 1.e4, they should switch to 1.d4 for another one hundred games. Only with a thorough understanding of openings that begin with these two moves can a player competently explore the English, Bird's, Reti, Sokolsky, Benko, or innumerable other.

From time to time, I am asked how I begin.

With many thousands of games saved in several databases, I am able to offer a detailed answer.

Under the name I used when I was active on ICC from 1999-2003 and Playchess for several years after that, I favored 1.e4 slightly over 1.d4. These games include blitz, longer standard (mostly game 15), and correspondence games. These statistics are based on a data set of over 46 thousand games.

These days I play more often on Chess.com under a name that I did not use until 2007. This data set includes a little more than 16 thousand games.

My play continues to reveal an abundance of games where I opened with 1.e4, but also that my preference has shifted to queen pawn openings.

I have played something over 500 games in over the board competition during the past two decades. In these games, my preference for opening with the queen pawn is much stronger than with the king pawn. Also, I venture forth with some other move a higher percentage of the time.

My higher scoring percentage with 1.e4 may reflect my tendency to employ that move against lower rated opponents. Even so, my highest rated tournament win came on the White side of the Spanish Opening.

Perhaps I should begin with 1.Nf3 more often in blitz to develop that aspect of my game more.

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