How to Get Better at Chess: Best Chess Openings for Beginners

The opening moves of a chess match can literally win or lose you the game. Unfortunately, for beginning players, chess openings are often when things go awry.  


The opening of a chess game establishes your early plans and sets the stage for the fight for the board. If you don’t know the openings and their counters, a beginning chess player can rapidly find themselves at a disadvantage.  


If you just started playing chess, you might be searching “how to get better at chess.”  


Playing chess is a challenging undertaking, and the best chess players in the world (i.e., Magnus Carlson) know all the best chess moves and modern chess openings. 

Why Should You Learn Chess Openings?

If you want to learn how to be a chess grandmaster, it starts by learning chess opening. With some study and practice, a beginner can get better at chess by becoming familiar with openings and their counters.  


When you are learning how to play chess, you do not have to reinvent the wheel and burden yourself by learning all of the openings. It can be easy to improve your chess skills by learning a few classic openings and sticking to your fundamentals (i.e., controlling the center and developing your pieces).  


To understand and implement our top chess openings, don’t be afraid to experiment and adjust. Every chess game is different, and it’s more important to understand the concepts behind the openings than to copy them move for move.  


If you learn and become comfortable with our recommended chess openings, you will be well on your way to becoming the best chess player you can be.  

How to Study Chess Openings

When trying to be the best chess player possible, memorizing as many openings as possible can be tempting. Memorization is not how to get better at chess.


When you are learning openings for beginners, become familiar with a few favorite openings. Additionally, don’t just memorize the moves but understand what each opening is trying to accomplish.  


Finally, put your favorite chess openings into action. Learning will only take you so far. You must use them in real games.  

Our Top Five Chess Openings for Beginners

A quick note, all of these openings are from the perspective of the White pieces. If you learn how White opens a game, you can easily counter if you are playing as Black.  

The Slav Defense

The Slav Defense is a relatively fast opening that emphasizes defending the d5-pawn with another pawn. This opening gives you control over the center and center-left of the board. This opening limits the amount of space that Black has to develop their pieces. Specifically, it is challenging for Black to develop their b8-knight.  


However, the Slav Defense also provides opportunities and a high chance of winning for Black.  


Move list:

  1. d4 d5
  2. c4 c6 

The French Defense

The French Defense is a classic strategic opening all the best chess players know. Knowing openings like this is an essential part of learning how to get better at chess.  


After the e5 pawn, both White and Black have pawn chains. This opening gives White center control of the board. However, it does make it difficult for Black to develop the c8 bishop.   


Move list:

  1. e4 e6
  2. d4 d5   

The Italian Game or Giouco Piano

The objective of the Italian Game or Giouco Piano is to take center control and then rapidly develop your bishop. It also allows White to castle. All levels of chess players play this opening.  


One of the critical concepts of this strategy is to take control of the center quickly. Center control is accomplished by the first move (e4). This also allows White to develop the f1 bishop and the queen. 


After this opening, White can opt to castle, move a knight to c2, d3, or develop the d1 bishop.    


Move List:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Knight f3 knight c6
  3. Bishop c4   

The Sicilian Defense

The Sicilian Defense is perhaps the most well-known and famous openings in chess. If you like to play aggressively as Black, it is one of the best openings and is the most popular defense against White opening 1. e4. It is used frequently at all levels of chess.   


As a follow-up, White will frequently play 2. Knight f3 and 3. d4 in an attempt to gain center control. If White attempts this, Black can trade a central pawn for a bishop’s pawn.    


Move List:

  1. e4 c5 


Black’s c pawn is usually traded at some point which provides an opportunity to develop the queen. Additionally, the Black’s queenside rook can provide additional pressure.  


The Sicilian Defense forces White to adapt to the Black’s defense and the avenues of counter-attack that the Sicilian Defense provides. As this opening develops, White usually has the advantage kingside while Black has the advantage queenside.    

The Ruy Lopez or Spanish Opening

The Ruy Lopez or Spanish Opening is one of the best chess opening moves for White. Learning it is an essential step in learning how to get better at chess. 


The concept behind this opening is for White to apply pressure on the e5 pawn as soon as possible. Additionally, White can develop the f1 bishop and prepare to castle if necessary.  


Move List:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Knight f3 knight c6
  3. Bishop b5 
  4. Kingside castle, c3, d4, or knight e5  


As you become more comfortable with the Ruy Lopez, you can begin to connect it to the middlegame. Mastering this opening will continue to give you many benefits as you continue to grow as a chess player.

Taking the Next Step  

After you have learned and practiced these openings, you are well on your way to learning how to get better at chess. Remember, it is vital to know the fundamentals behind each of these openings; understanding the strategy will teach you when to use each of these openings.  


As you become comfortable with these chess openings, you can take the next step and begin to add other openings to your repertoire and then begin focusing on the middle and end game. 


You will be the next Magus Carlson before you know it.