Chess Opening Theory/1. e4

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King's Pawn Opening
a b c d e f g h
8 a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 g8 h8 8
7 a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7 7
6 a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6 6
5 a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5 5
4 a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 h4 4
3 a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3 3
2 a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2 2
1 a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 h1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position in Forsyth-Edwards Notation (FEN)

rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/4P3/8/PPPP1PPP/RNBQKBNR

Moves: 1. e4
ECO code: B00–B99, C00–99
Parent: Starting position
Responses:


1. e4 - King's Pawn Opening[edit | edit source]

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 favorite 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 generalization 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' center.

Black's responses[edit | edit source]

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. Attack 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 deal with it later.

Plan 1[edit | edit source]

a b c d e f g h
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black knighth8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black pawne7 black kingf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black kingc6 black kingd6 black kinge6 black kingf6 black kingg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black kingd5 black kinge5 black pawnf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 black kinge4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
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 2[edit | edit source]

a b c d e f g h
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black knighth8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black kingd7 black pawne7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black kingc6 black pawnd6 black kinge6 black kingf6 black kingg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black kingd5 black kinge5 black kingf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 black kinge4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
a b c d e f g h
1... c6   (Caro-Kann Defense)

a b c d e f g h
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black knighth8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black pawne7 black kingf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black kingc6 black kingd6 black kinge6 black pawnf6 black kingg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black kingd5 black kinge5 black kingf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 black kinge4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
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 3[edit | edit source]

a b c d e f g h
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black knighth8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black kinge7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black kingc6 black kingd6 black kinge6 black kingf6 black kingg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black kingd5 black pawne5 black kingf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 black kinge4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
a b c d e f g h
1... d5   (Scandinavian Defense)

a b c d e f g h
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black kingh8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black pawne7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black kingc6 black kingd6 black kinge6 black kingf6 black knightg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black kingd5 black kinge5 black kingf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 black kinge4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
a b c d e f g h
1... Nf6   (Alekhine Defense)

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

Plan 4[edit | edit source]

a b c d e f g h
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black knighth8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black kinge7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black kingc6 black kingd6 black kinge6 black kingf6 black kingg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black kingd5 black pawne5 black kingf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 black kinge4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
a b c d e f g h
1... d5

a b c d e f g h
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black knighth8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black kingd7 black pawne7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black kingc6 black kingd6 black kinge6 black kingf6 black kingg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black pawnd5 black kinge5 black kingf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 black kinge4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
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 5[edit | edit source]

a b c d e f g h
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black knighth8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black pawne7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black kingh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black kingc6 black kingd6 black kinge6 black kingf6 black kingg6 black pawnh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black kingd5 black kinge5 black kingf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 black kinge4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
a b c d e f g h
1... g6   (Modern Defense)

a b c d e f g h
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black knighth8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black kinge7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black kingc6 black kingd6 black pawne6 black kingf6 black kingg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black kingd5 black kinge5 black kingf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 black kinge4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
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, deal with it 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
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black kinge8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black kingh8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black kinge7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black kingc6 black kingd6 black kinge6 black kingf6 black kingg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black kingd5 black kinge5 white pawnf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 black kinge4 black kingf4 black kingg4 black knighth4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 black kinge2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white kinge1 black kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
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
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black kingh8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black kinge7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black kingc6 dad6 black pawne6 daf6 black knightg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 dad5 black kinge5 daf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 white pawne4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 white knightd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 black kinge2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 black kingc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
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 3... c5 or 3... e5, because neither White's e-pawn or c-pawn can defend it.

a b c d e f g h
8a8 black rookb8 black kingc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black knighth8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black pawne7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black kingc6 black knightd6 dae6 daf6 black kingg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black kingd5 dae5 daf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 uae4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 uae3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
a b c d e f g h
1... Nc6   (Nimzowitsch Defense)

a b c d e f g h
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black knighth8 black rook8
7a7 black pawnb7 black kingc7 black pawnd7 black pawne7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black kingb6 black pawnc6 black kingd6 black kinge6 black kingf6 black kingg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black kingd5 black kinge5 black kingf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 black kinge4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
a b c d e f g h
1... b6   (Owen Defense)

a b c d e f g h
8a8 black rookb8 black knightc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black knighth8 black rook8
7a7 black kingb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black pawne7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawn7
6a6 black pawnb6 black kingc6 black kingd6 black kinge6 black kingf6 black kingg6 black kingh6 black king6
5a5 black kingb5 black kingc5 black kingd5 black kinge5 black kingf5 black kingg5 black kingh5 black king5
4a4 black kingb4 black kingc4 black kingd4 black kinge4 white pawnf4 black kingg4 black kingh4 black king4
3a3 black kingb3 black kingc3 black kingd3 black kinge3 black kingf3 black kingg3 black kingh3 black king3
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 black kingf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishopg1 white knighth1 white rook1
a b c d e f g h
1... a6   (St. George Defense)

Plan 5 also covers a number of fringe options.

  • 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.

Rare Responses[edit | edit source]

Other rare responses include:

  • 1... f6?!, the Barnes Defense. A rare move that is not a good idea, as it removes the f6 square for the knight and weakens the kingside. Even so, Thomas Wilson Barnes (after whom it is named) beat Paul Morphy, one of the most influential grandmasters in the 19th century, with this opening. Its only benefit is that it gets out of theory.
  • 1... f5?!, the Fred Defense/Duras Gambit. This is not too good of an idea. Black gets a lead in development but little compensation for the sacrificed pawn after 2. exf5 Nf6. This can lead to another variation of the Fool's Mate after 2. exf5 g5?? 3. Qh5#
  • 1... b5?, the O' Neill Gambit, simply loses a pawn to 2. Bxb5.
  • 1...g5?!, the Borg Defense (opposite of Grob) is another option Black has, however it is a bad one because it does weaken the kingside severely. The g5-pawn can serve as a hook for White (h4) later on. This also can lead to a Fool's Mate for Black.
  • 1... h5?!, the Pickering Defense simply wastes a tempo and weakens Black's position.
  • 1... a5?!, the Ware Defense is equally weak as 1... h5. It just wastes a tempo.
  • 1... h6?!, the Carr Defense, is another time-wasting move, but it usually transposes into the Borg Defense anyways after 2. d4 g5.

Statistics[edit | edit source]

Approximate chances
White win 39%, Draw 29%, Black win 32%.
Estimated next move popularity
c5 43%, e5 25%, e6 12%, c6 7%, d6 4%, g6 3%, d5 3%, Nf6 2%, Nc6 0.6%, other moves less than 0.5%.

Theory table[edit | edit source]

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
Be3
e5
Nb3
Be6
f3
Be7
Qd2
O-O
=
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
c4
Nb6
f4
dxe5
fxe5
c5
d5
e6
Nc3
exd5
cxd5

Qh4+

+/=
Nimzowitsch Defence ...
Nc6
d4
d5
e5
Bf5
Nf3
e6
Bb5
a6
Bxc6+
bxc6
O-O
c5
c3
cxd4
cxd4
h6
=
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
+/=
Barnes Defense ...
f6
d4
e6
Bd3
Ne7
Nf3
c5
d5
d6
O-O
Ng6
Nc3
e5
Re1
Be7
Ne2
O-O
+/=

When contributing to this Wikibook, please follow the Conventions for organization.

References[edit | edit source]

  • 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.