Chess Openings for White: Full Guide

The world of chess openings for white is vast and can be hard to explore. 

Take for instance 1.e4. 

Black has at least 10 acceptable replies. 

And each of those replies has dozens of possible lines that can be played. 

But that’s only after 1.e4. 

What about 1.d4?

Or 1.c4?

(Most common chess openings for white)

Hundreds of lines for each of those.

It sounds overwhelming, we know, but it doesn’t have to be.

This article attempts to clean up the options and leave you only with the best chess openings for white.

Whether you’re a budding pawn pusher or an aspiring grandmaster, this guide to chess openings for white will help you navigate the myriad of options available more easily

We’ll explore the most aggressive chess openings, the classics, and even some lesser-known but equally formidable opening moves, systems, defenses, and more.

Hopefully, you will find the chess openings that are more suitable to your playing style.

So buckle up, because we’re about to embark on a thrilling journey through the white side of the chessboard – one square at a time.

Why Are The Following Chess Openings Good for White?

The best chess openings for white allow you to seize control early, putting your opponent on the defensive. 

They help you establish a strong position, develop your pieces effectively, and set the stage for a successful middlegame and endgame.

Furthermore, these openings cater to a variety of playing styles. 

Whether you prefer aggressive play, positional strategy, or something in between, there’s a perfect opening out there for you!

Why Some Openings Are More Appropriate for Different Skill Levels

As a beginner, it’s important to choose openings that are straightforward and don’t require extensive theoretical knowledge. 

This allows you to focus on the basic principles of chess, such as controlling the center and developing your pieces.

Intermediate players, on the other hand, can benefit from exploring more complex openings. 

These often involve intricate tactical and strategic ideas, helping you to improve your calculation skills and overall understanding of the game.

Advanced players typically have a solid grasp of chess principles and can handle the complexity of any opening. 

They often choose openings based on their personal playing style or the specific opponent they’re facing.

Now let’s cut right to the chase and start with our handpicked catalog of the best chess openings for white.

Commanding the Board with 1.e4

Unleashing the Power of e4

If you’ve ever wanted to start a game with a bang, the e4 openings are for you. 

(Chess openings with 1.e4)

They’re aggressive, they’re powerful, and they’re sure to put your opponent on the back foot from the get-go.

The Ruy Lopez: A Royal Heritage

Dive into a chess opening that’s as old as the game itself. 

The Ruy Lopez is a testament to strategic depth and tactical prowess. 

It starts with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 (see below):

(Ruy Lopez, also known as Spanish Opening)

It’s a perfect opening for white beginners eager to improve their game while impressing their opponents.

There are many lines in the Ruy Lopez.

Some of the most common lines are:

  • 3… a6 – Main line
  • 3… Nf6 – Berlin Defense
  • 3… g6 – Fianchetto Defense (Smyslov/Barnes) 
  • 3… f5 – Schliemann Gambit
  • 3… Nge7 – Cozio Defense
  • 3… Bc5 – Classical Defense (Cordel)
  • 3… Nd4 – Bird’s Defense
  • 3… d6 – Old Steinitz Defense

Italian Game: A Renaissance Classic

Simple yet effective, the Italian Game is a popular choice for good chess openings for white. 

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 (see below):

(Italian Game)

It’s all about rapid development and control of the center, setting the stage for a tactical battle that beginners and intermediate players can navigate with ease.

The main responses by black are:

  • 3… Bc5
  • 3… Nf6
  • 3… Be7
  • 3… d6

Scotch Game: A Dram of Strategy

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4  

(Scotch Game)

If you’re up for a vibrant and aggressive game, the Scotch Opening is your best bet. 

It is a fantastic e4 chess opening for white, particularly popular among intermediate players for its dynamic playstyle and tactical richness.

After 3.d4, the main continuation is 3…exd4

(Scotch Game after 3…exd4)

Now white has 3 main options:

  • 4. Nxd4 – Main line
  • 4. Bc4 – Scotch Gambit
  • 4. c3 – Goering Gambit

In the following video, FM Yuriy Krykun explains one of the main lines in the Scotch Game: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5:

If you want to learn more about this opening, check out Krykun full course on the Scotch Game.

Evans Gambit: Bold and Daring

The Evans Gambit is a daring opening that truly embodies the spirit of aggressive chess openings for white. 

It’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy that can lead to some of the most thrilling games you’ll ever play.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4

(Evans Gambit)

It’s part of the Italian Game

The plan in the Evans Gambit is to sacrifice the b pawn in exchange for a strong center, rapid development, and a semi-open file.

Black can either accept the Evans Gambit (4…Bxb4) or decline it (4…Bb6).

Watch FM Viktor Neustroev explain the main line in the Evans Gambit:

The full course on the Evans Gambit here.

King’s Gambit: A Royal Feast

1.e4 e5 2.f4

(King’s Gambit)

For those who enjoy taking their opponent by surprise, the King’s Gambit is a must-try. 

This opening is not for the faint-hearted, but if you’re up for a rollercoaster ride, this could be your new favorite.

White immediately decides to offer the f pawn. 

In exchange, it will get a rapid piece development, and an extremely open game, full of vibrant tactics and winning chances for both sides.

The Immortal Game, played between Anderssen and Kieseritzky in 1851, started with a King’s Gambit:

King’s Indian Attack: Eastern Promise

When it comes to best chess openings for white beginners, the King’s Indian Attack holds a special place. 

It’s easy to learn, but it packs a punch, providing a solid foundation for a successful middle game.

There is more than one way to the King’s Indian Attack.

A typical move order goes like this:

1.e4 e5 2.d3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.Nbd2 Bc5 6.Bg2.

See the moves below:

Main Responses From Black to 1.e4

After 1.e4, Black has a wide range of responses, some of the most common being:

  • 1…c5, the Sicilian Defense, a highly aggressive choice.
  • 1…e5, the Open Game, leading to the most classical setups.
  • 1…e6, the French Defense, offering a solid yet complex structure.
  • 1…c6, the Caro-Kann Defense, known for its resilience.
  • 1…d6, the Pirc Defense, allowing for flexible development.

Daring d4 Dances

Chess openings for white that start with 1.d4 are usually highly strategic, dynamic, and versatile, offering control and flexibility. 

1.d4 chess openings are ideal for players seeking a sturdy foundation.

(Chess openings with 1.d4)

When you start your game with 1.d4, you set the stage for an intricate web of strategies, often leading to complex, positional games. 

It paves the way to chess openings such as the Queen’s Gambit, Colle System, Trompowsky Attack, King’s Indian Defense, and Nimzo-Indian Defense, among many many others, each with their unique subtleties. 

Whether you’re a tactical genius or a positional guru, 1.d4 chess openings invite you to seize the center, set your own tempo, and guide the game to the pathways you command. 

Queen’s Gambit: A Strategic Masterpiece

A favorite among grandmasters and intermediate players, the Queen’s Gambit is a demonstration of strategy at its finest. 

This opening is a fantastic way to seize control of the center early in the game and develop your pieces effectively.

1.d4 d5 2.c4

(Queen’s Gambit)

Now black has a few options:

  • 2…c6 – Slav Defense
  • 2…e6 – Queen’s Gambit Declined
  • 2…dxc4 – Queen’s Gambit Accepted
  • 2…Nc6 – Chigorin Defense
  • 2…e5 – Albin Counter-Gambit

In the following video, IM Milovan Ratkovic analyzes one of the main lines in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted:

Master the Queen’s Gambit now!

The Colle System

The Colle System offers a harmonious blend of stability and attack

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.c3.

See the moves below:

This opening builds a strong pawn structure and enables a quick piece development, preparing for a potent kingside assault

Often underestimated due to its apparent simplicity, the Colle System secretly harnesses the power of strategic depth. 

It allows players to control the game’s tempo while setting up an unexpected and explosive attack, making it an ideal weapon for those cherishing the element of surprise.

Trompowsky Attack: An Unexpected Twist

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5

(Trompowsky Attack)

For those who love to shake things up, the Trompowsky Attack is a great choice. 

It’s a lesser-known opening that can catch your opponent off guard and put you in a strong position right from the start.

London System: Reliable and Robust

The London System is all about solid, consistent play. 

If you prefer a more cautious approach without giving up on aggression, this is the perfect d4 opening for you.

1.d4 d5 2.Bf4

(London System)

Main Responses From Black to 1.d4

Upon seeing 1.d4, Black might respond with:

  • 1…Nf6, leading to the Indian Games which include the King’s Indian Defense, the Bogo-Indian Defense, and the Nimzo-Indian Defense.
  • 1…d5, the Double Queen’s Pawn Opening, leading to openings such as the Queen’s Gambit.
  • 1…f5, the Dutch Defense, a rather aggressive choice.
  • 1…e6, aiming for a setup like the Queen’s Gambit Declined or the Nimzo-Indian Defense.
  • 1…d6, which could transpose into a variety of setups, including the King’s Indian Defense.

Championing c4 – The English Opening

The English Opening is a strategic masterpiece. 


(English Opening)

It allows white to maintain control of the center while developing pieces harmoniously. 

It’s a great choice for intermediate players looking to step up their game.

Main Responses From Black to 1.c4

After 1.c4, Black can opt for:

  • 1…e5, creating a reversed Sicilian setup.
  • 1…c5, the Symmetrical Variation, mirroring White’s setup.
  • 1…Nf6, aiming for a setup like the King’s Indian Defense or the Grünfeld Defense.
  • 1…e6, a flexible move that can lead to a variety of systems.
  • 1…c6, leading to a Slav-like setup.

Nimble with Nf3 – The Reti Opening

The Reti Opening is a hypermodern setup that is perfect for players who prefer positional play over immediate tactical battles


(Reti Opening)

It’s a sophisticated yet flexible opening that lends itself well to various game plans, making it an excellent addition to any white player’s repertoire.

Main Responses From Black to 1.Nf3

In response to 1.Nf3, Black has several options, including:

  • 1…d5, a solid and classical choice.
  • 1…Nf6, leading to a variety of setups including the Indian Games.
  • 1…c5, leading to the Sicilian-like setups.
  • 1…g6, aiming for a setup like the Modern Defense.
  • 1…f5, leading to the Dutch Defense.

Graceful with g3 – The Catalan Opening

If you’re a fan of fianchetto setups, the Catalan Opening will be right up your alley. 

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3

(Catalan Opening)

This opening is characterized by its solid structure and the powerful bishop on the long diagonal

This is a great option for intermediate players, offering a balance of solid defense and attacking possibilities.

Main Responses From Black to the Catalan Opening

Upon seeing the Catalan Opening, Black might respond with:

  • 3…d5, establishing a strong central presence.
  • 3…Bb4+, leading to positions similar to the Bogo-Indian Defense.
  • 3…c5, leading to setups similar to the English Opening.

Banking on b3 – The Larsen Opening

Lastly, we have the Larsen Opening, a hypermodern approach that focuses on control from a distance


(Larsen Opening)

By placing the bishop on the long diagonal, white aims to control the center from the flanks. 

This is a somewhat unorthodox opening, making it a fun and exciting choice for adventurous players.

Main Responses From Black to 1.b3

After 1.b3, Black can opt for:

  • 1…e5, a central strike aiming to seize the initiative.
  • 1…d5, a solid and classical response.
  • 1…Nf6, a flexible move that can lead to a variety of systems.
  • 1…c5, aiming for a symmetrical setup.


Stepping into the world of chess openings for white is like opening a treasure chest of strategic gems. 

Each one offers a unique blend of challenge, intrigue, and satisfaction

But remember, like any good chess player, the key is to:

  • Stay patient.
  • Practice regularly.
  • Always be ready to adapt your strategy.

Now that you’re equipped with an arsenal of white openings, it’s time to get out there and test them on the battlefield. 

Need more guidance? 

Head over to our store where you’ll find a wide array of chess courses designed to help you dominate the game, one move at a time.

Checkmate, and see you on the board!

Useful Resources

Opening Explorer – Dive deep in your study of chess openings for white with our Opening Explorer, that allows you to practice and test the lines that work best for you.

Chess Courses – Dive into our expansive library featuring 60 diverse chess courses. Within this treasure trove, you’ll discover the perfect course to help you master the opening you’re keen to conquer.

Your Openings Played by the Masters – Leverage our comprehensive chess game database to explore master-level games and gain insights into how the experts execute the openings you are studying.

Take advantage of our Chess Opening Trainer and practice all the lines in any opening you want.

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