Chess Opening Theory/1. d4

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Queen'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)
Moves: 1. d4
ECO code: A40-A99, D00-D99 and E00-E99
Parent: Starting position

1. d4 · Queen's Pawn Opening[edit | edit source]

1. d4, known as the Queen's Pawn Opening, is a popular initial move in chess, ranking second only to 1. e4 in terms of games played. It is a cunning move by White to control the center of the board and prevent Black from easily playing ...e5. Additionally, it discourages Black from developing their b8 knight to c6, where it could be vulnerable to White's pawn advance to d5. The development of the c1-bishop is not a priority for White at this stage. Instead, 1. d4 is aimed at slowing down Black's development rather than accelerating White's.

At this point, Black must decide how to face White's aggression. Traditionally, the two most popular replies are 1...d5 and 1...Nf6, as most other moves tend to allow White a broad center with 2. e4. Allowing the broad center was frowned upon in classical times, but is more of a matter of preference today. Another reason 1...d5 and 1...Nf6 are the main replies considered is that many of the alternatives transpose into main lines anyway. One notable exception is the Dutch Defense (1...f5), whose character prevents 2. e4 whilst remaining unique. 1...d5 directly challenges White's plan to establish a broad center with a 2. e4 follow-up. If 1...d5, White can instead play 2. c4, the Queen's Gambit, hoping to divert Black's pawn from its job of attacking e4. The Queen's Gambit is the champagne and caviar of White openings and is a huge reason for the popularity of 1. d4. 1...Nf6 prevents an immediate 2. e4 while maintaining flexibility to play a number of Indian systems or move back into a system typical of 1...d5.

To play 1. d4 correctly, the White player should learn the basic Queen's Gambit positions, the King's Indian, Queen's Indian, Nimzo-Indian positions, and even some of the Benoni positions. This may seem intimidating to the beginner, but fortunately it is not as difficult as it may sound at first.

Furthermore, there are several practical advantages to becoming familiar with playing 1. d4 as White:

  • 1. d4 openings tend to be more forgiving than 1. e4 openings so far as traps are concerned. Pieces should be mobilized quickly, but it is less common for a natural-looking move to lead to a sudden demise, in contrast to several 1. e4 traps such as the Philidor Defense, Hanham Variation.
  • While there are many transpositions between the different 1. d4 openings, this is true because the underlying strategic goals are very similar. The Queen's Indian has much in common with some of the main variations of the Queen's Gambit Declined — much more so than the typical Caro-Kann has with the French Defense or Ruy Lopez in the 1. e4 world.
  • Today, at master level, the 1. d4 openings are more frequently encountered than 1. e4 openings, though the reverse is true of amateur level. 1. c4 and 1. Nf3 frequently end up transposing to a 1. d4 opening.
  • In world championships, 1. d4 openings are encountered 5 times as much as 1. e4 openings are.

Statistics[edit | edit source]

Approximate chances*
White win 38%, Draw 33%, Black win 29%.
Estimated next move popularity
Nf6 52%, d5 28%, e6 6%, g6 3%, d6 3%, f5 3%, c5 2%. Other moves 1% or less.

*May vary according to rating, higher rating groups tend toward draws at higher rates than others

move average 365Chess.com (big) Chess Tempo (all) chessgames.com Lichess (masters) Lichess (database)
...Nf6 52.0% 56.2 57.3 60.5 60.6 25.3
...d5 28.4 27.8 27.3 26.2 25.3 35.5
...e6 5.5 4.6 4.5 4.3 4.2 9.8
...g6 3.1 2.9 2.8 2.2 2.5 5.3
...d6 3.0 2.7 2.8 2.5 2.9 4.0
...f5 2.8 3.4 3.1 2.7 2.9 2.0
...c5 2.1 1.4 1.4 0.9 0.9 5.9
...c6 1.0 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.2 4.1
...e5 1.0 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.0 4.6
...b6 0.5 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 1.9
...Nc6 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.7
...b5 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2
everything else 0.2 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.7

Theory table[edit | edit source]

1. d4
  1 2 3 4 5 6 Evaluation Notes
Nimzo-Indian Defence ...
Nf6
c4
e6
Nc3
Bb4
e3
O-O
Bd3
d5
Nf3
c5
=  
Queen's Indian Defence ...
Nf6
c4
e6
Nf3
b6
a3
Bb7
Nc3
d5
cxd5
Nxd5
+/=  
Bogo-Indian Defence ...
Nf6
c4
e6
Nf3
Bb4+
Bd2
Qe7
g3
Nc6
Nc3
Bxc3
+/=  
King's Indian Defence ...
Nf6
c4
g6
Nc3
Bg7
e4
d6
Nf3
O-O
Be2
e5
=  
Grünfeld Defence ...
Nf6
c4
g6
Nc3
d5
cxd5
Nxd5
e4
Nxc3
bxc3
Bg7
=  
Benoni Defence ...
Nf6
c4
c5
d5
e6
Nc3
exd5
cxd5
d6
e4
g6
+/=  
Budapest Gambit ...
Nf6
c4
e5
dxe5
Ng4
Bf4
Nc6
Nf3
Bb4+
Nbd2
Qe7
+/=  
Closed Game ...
d5
c4
e6
Nc3
Nf6
Bg5
Be7
e3
O-O
Nf3
Nbd7
=  
Slav Defence ...
d5
c4
c6
Nf3
Nf6
Nc3
dxc4
a4
Bf5
e3
e6
=  
2. Bf4 - London System ...
d5
Bf4 =
Queen's Pawn/Semi-Slav ...
e6
c4
d5
Nc3
Nf6
Nf3
c6
e3
Nbd7
Bd3
dxc4
=  
Queen's Pawn: Modern ...
g6
c4
Bg7
Nc3
d6
Nf3
Nd7
g3
e5
Bg2
Ne7
=  
Neo-Old Indian ...
d6
c4
e5
Nf3
e4
Ng5
f5
Nc3
c6
Nh3
Nf6
=  
Dutch Defence ...
f5
c4
Nf6
g3
g6
Bg2
Bg7
Nf3
O-O
O-O
d6
=  
Old Benoni ...
c5
d5
e5
e4
d6
Nc3
Be7
Nf3
Bg4
h3
Bxf3
+/=  
2. Bf4 - London System

Indian Setup

...
Nf6
Bf4 =
...
c6
c4
d5
Less common, usually transposes to Caro-Kann (after 2. e4 d5) or Slav (after 2. c4 d5)
Englund Gambit ...
e5
dxe5
 
Less common
English Defence ...
b6
c4
 
Less common, could also transpose to Owen Defence (after 2. e4)
Polish Defence ...
b5
e4
 
Less common
Queen's Knight Defence ...
Nc6
d5
 
Less common
Borg Gambit ...

g5

Very rare, could transpose to Borg Defense

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References[edit | edit source]

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