Chess Openings For Juniors

One of the thorniest issues in chess coaching is what openings should be taught to juniors. The usual fare seems to be scholars mate (1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4 intending 4.Qxf7 mate) and the Fried Liver Attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7?!), both of which claim more than their fair share of victims. At least at first.

Yet neither of these openings feature particularly good models of play; 2.Qh5 brings the queen out very early and 4.Ng5 makes a second move with the same piece whilst development is incomplete. Accordingly more expert coaches recommend teaching ‘principles’ such as occupying the center and developing quickly. Yet whilst this certainly seems like a better idea I still wonder if they might be missing out on an opportunity.

Chess openings are very rich in tactical and strategic ideas, and this can only be discovered when you move beyond both the rote learning of tricks and principles which lack concrete illustration. A simple example is the sequence 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nxe4! which leads to a fork trick after 5.Nxe4 d5 and a broad pawn center for Black after 5.Bxf7+ Kxf7 6.Nxe4 d5.

Which openings should be chosen for the young? Certainly open games (1.e4 e5) are a good start because of their directness (making them relatively easy to understand) and rich tactical content. As a player improves then more sophisticated choices become reasonable, but I certainly wouldn’t rush into this.

Is there anything I would not recommend? Well flank openings tend to be way too sophisticated for anyone other than pensionable Grandmasters. This may seem like a controversial thing to say but I firmly believe it to be true. The flexible positions arising from openings such as the English can resolve themselves in any number of ways. And this means they will be incomprehensible, especially to the less experienced and knowledgeable of players.

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.