20 Possible Opening Moves in Chess (Names, Response, Balance)

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Most chess players, new or old are aware of the most popular openings in chess for the white pieces, and they really extend only to perhaps two, those being the King’s Pawn Opening 1. e4, or the Queen’s Pawn opening 1. d4. Both require a move of 2 squares for the pawn, but did you know there are in total 20 different opening moves possible?

There are 20 possible opening moves in chess. Each of the eight pawns can move one or two squares totaling 16 possibilities, making up the majority of the 20. The other four possibilities come from two options each for the two rooks on the board.

Some moves are better than others, and this guide provides a table of each opening move for white, how the balance of the game is affected from that very opening move, and also, the best reply to each move that black can make.

The 20 Possible Openings Moves in Chess and their Names

Each opening move in chess is the opening move of an opening and will have a name, before potential transposition into another opening in chess theory.

The table below explains the opening name attached to each move, the balance of play based on the opening move, and the best response for black pieces, so you know how to respond when playing black and going second,

Let’s get straight into it and give you the chess opening chart of 20 possible opening moves and what they mean, as well as the name of the opening, should the correct lines continue to be played.

1st MovePieceNameBalanceBlack Response
1. Nh3KnightAmar Opening-0.81…e5
1. a3PawnAndersson Opening01…Nf6
1. f3PawnBarnes Opening-1.11…e5
1. f4PawnBird’s Opening-0.31…d5
1. h3PawnClemenz Opening01…e5
1. c4PawnEnglish Opening0.41…c5
1. g4PawnGrob Opening-1.11…d5
1. h4PawnKádas Opening-0.51…e5
1. g3PawnKing’s Fianchetto Opening01…e5
1. e4PawnKing’s Pawn Opening0.31…e6
1. d3PawnMieses Opening-0.21…e6
1. b3PawnNimzowitsch-Larsen Attack-0.21…d5
1. b4PawnPolish Opening-0.71…e5
1. d4PawnQueen’s Pawn Opening0.51…e6
1. Nf3KnightReti’s Opening01…e6
1. c3PawnSaragossa Opening01…e5
1. Na3KnightSodium Attack-0.61…e5
1. Nc3KnightVan Geet Opening01…d5
1. e3PawnVan’t Krujis Opening0.21…Nf6
1. a4PawnWare Opening-0.21…d5

The balance figure is the advantage for white or black after the opening move. A negative figure signifies the advantage for black, a positive number, an advantage for white, or a zero signifies a level position.

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The Best Responses for Black to Each of the 20 Possible Opening Moves in Chess

This table could be a gold mine in a quest to find the best openings for black in chess.

As black pieces we have no choice and have to play second, waiting for white to start, and as we can see, can be behind in a game of chess instantly.

Now you have the table of best responses for black pieces regardless of any move white makes first from the 20 possibilities.

I would recommend memorizing each move.

Only 6 Moves to Remember for Black

You only have to consider 6 opening moves for black on this basis, although you’ll have to commit to memory which goes with each of the 20 possible moves for white.

It’s not so tricky to do and you could make a copy of the table above, and print off, to look at each day, before testing yourself, or having someone test you to see if you can remember each and every response to any of the 20 moves white may make.

The 4 best Openings when playing black pieces in chess
Click the image to read more about these 4 killer openings for black pieces

Click the image below to go to the full in-depth guide to the best first moves in chess, there may be 20 possibilities, but there are only 4/5 you should seriously consider.

In depth guide for the best first moves and grandmaster statistics

On Balance, these are the best and worst opening moves

Try to avoid the opening moves for white with the lowest balance figure. That is a figure with a minus attached.

These are the worst opening moves you can make as a white piece in chess and will put you at an immediate disadvantage against good players.

On the flip side, taking the largest positive numbers in the balance column you can identify the best opening moves for white, such as The Queen’s pawn opening (1.d4), or The English (1.c4)

Please note, these are based on just the single move, not a combination that would be considered a book opening like the King’s Pawn Opening (1. e4) which is the basis of the stronger opening theory for white.

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