Chess Opening Theory/1. Nf3

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Zukertort 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)
Moves: 1. Nf3
ECO code: A04-A09
Parent: Starting position

1. Nf3 · Zukertort Opening[edit | edit source]

1. Nf3, the Zukertort opening, is the 3rd most popular initial move. It's a sophisticated way of stalling for time. White reckons that Nf3 will almost certainly be a useful move sooner or later, whereas every pawn move is an irrevocable commitment. 1. Nf3 has the benefit of preventing Black's 1...e5 reply, which is a move that Black likes to play for all the same reasons that White likes to play 1. e4. White's options are kept flexible since White could intend to play the Réti Opening or the King's Indian Attack, although it can easily transpose into something else, including the Sicilian Defence. Other reasons for playing 1. Nf3 go something along the lines of:

White hates playing against Variation X, but doesn't mind Variation Y.

White plays 1. Nf3 as a request for information. If Black attempts to transpose into Variation X, which White hates, White will refuse to allow it and play an independent line instead.

If Black attempts to transpose into Variation Y, White will go along with that.

As an example, a player who hates facing the Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD) but doesn't mind the Dutch Defence might play 1. Nf3. If it is answered with 1...f5, then they will play 2. d4 transposing into the Dutch. But, if 1...d5 appears instead, then they will go for a King's Indian Attack with 2. g3. A player whose preferences were the other way around might answer 1...d5 with 2. d4 (allowing a QGD) but 1...f5 with 2. e4!?, the Lisitsin Gambit (not allowing the Dutch.)

One general point though: Because 1. Nf3 prevents 1...e5, it has more in common with 1. d4 openings (and some 1. c4 openings) than with those following 1. e4. It is also a popular way for White to set up a King's Indian formation.

Black can play almost anything comfortably at this point, and the following options are merely some of the more common replies.

Statistics[edit | edit source]

Approximate chances
White win 37%, Draw 36%, Black win 27%
Estimated next move popularity
Nf6 41%, d5 28%, c5 11%, g6 6%, e6 3%, d6 3%, f5 3%. Other moves less than 2%.
move average (big) Chess Tempo (all) Lichess (masters) Lichess (database)
...Nf6 41.1% 45.4 45.8 47.4 47.1 19.7
...d5 27.9 27.2 28.1 28.2 28.1 27.8
...c5 11.3 11.5 11.2 11.4 11.9 10.2
...g6 5.5 5.5 5.1 5.0 5.0 6.7
...e6 3.3 2.1 2.0 1.7 1.5 9.1
...d6 3.2 2.9 2.7 2.2 2.5 5.9
...f5 2.6 3.1 2.9 2.7 2.5 1.6
...Nc6 1.7 1.4 1.1 0.6 0.6 4.9
everything else 3.5 1.0 1.1 0.7 0.8 14.0

Theory table[edit | edit source]

1. Nf3

1 2 3 4 5 6
d4 See
1. d4
2. Nf3

References[edit | edit source]

  • Nunn's Chess Openings. 1999. John Nunn (Editor), Graham Burgess, John Emms, Joe Gallagher. ISBN 1-8574-4221-0.

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

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