What is the deal with opening names?
There are sequences of opening moves that are played over and over again. This is because the moves make sense in accomplishing the goals of the opening. These goals are:
- Develop the pieces off the back rank and into the game
- Fight for the center of the board
- Castle your king into safety
The names of openings have been assigned pretty much by accident over history. Openings can be named after:
- The first player who popularized the opening
- The city or country where the opening was first popular
- A descriptive name of the what is happening on the board
Do I need to learn all of the opening names?
No, you don't need to learn the names of all of the openings, but you should probably learn the names of the openings you play. The best way to do this is to write down the moves of your next game (if you are playing online, most servers will record the moves for you). After the game, look up the moves on the tree diagrams below and try to find the name of the opening you just played. If the moves you played do not have a name, you may have been playing inferior moves and should consider one of the moves from the diagram instead.
Once you know the name of the opening you play, you can search on the internet for more information about that opening. There are even videos that explain the finer points of each opening.
And now, the tree diagrams
I couldn't fit all of the openings on one diagram, so I broke them up according to the common classification system, which is explained in the first diagram. Note: There are many other openings that I did not include here. These are either very rarely played anymore, or are not suited for improving players.
Now that you know the name of the openings you like to play, you can make your own tree diagrams showing the variations and sub-variations of those openings. There are plenty of internet resources to guide you. Old school players like me still read about the variations in books.
You should also plan to spend some time learning about the openings your opponents might use to prevent you from playing your opening, For example, suppose you like to play the Scotch opening as White. From the diagrams, you will notice that Black does not have to follow the path that leads to the Scotch. After 1.e4 e5, 2.Nf3 Black does not have to play 2...Nc6. Black can choose to play 2...Nf6 (Petroff Defense) or 2...d6 (Philidor Defense) instead. Also, Black does not have to reply with 1...e5, but could choose any of the Semi-Open defenses instead.
I enjoy learning about the openings and I hope this information will help you get started improving your opening play.