Best first move for White (With over 20 comparisons)

First moves in chess games give room in identifying which side has initiative and best positional preference for the player that has made the proper moves. I’m going to be honest this is definitely what I didn’t focus on especially when I’ve just learned Chess.

I almost feel like developing strategic and tactical vision always comes from middlegames and endgames, not openings, which is actually correct but is still an essential recipe that every player must acquire at some point to gain some kind of positional advantage.

The top 5 best first moves from white includes e4 (King’s pawn), d4 (Queen’s pawn, c4 (English), g3 (Hungary), and Nf3 (Reti) rounded by order according to ratings provided by the engine.

Popularity vs. Winning Differences vs. Engine Evaluations

Identifying which best move can be played for every player is really difficult as each player has their own unique strengths and weaknesses in which what applies to me may not apply to you and vice versa.

This made it pretty tricky for me to come up with the best answer without being subjective as I personally prefer some moves over the other (after all some worked lot more for me than others).

To make up for this shortcoming I’ve focused on not one, but three categories, immersing myself through actual hard statistics in hopes of giving you a better picture of the topic.

Three factors to consider whether a move is viable would be its popularity (how many people play it), winning differences (actual winning percentage of the players), and engine evaluations (ratings indicated by chess engines).

Looking at the data, each method of measurement on its own may not be absolute but collectively give us better insights into the quality a certain move can actually offer.

I mean personally I don’t really care how good a move is if it’s it’s just the first move since so many things can branch out from that moment.

Some people though are frantic (not good) so if you’re like that then this is for you. I’ve done the research and looked into 365 chess.com’s database (look at their site they’ve got really cool statistics).

Thousands and thousands of games and compare them side-by-side in hopes of bringing the ultimate guide to which first move is actually the best.

Popularity

The table below indicates the first move rankings for white sorted in order based on the Chess preference of thousands of players in the general database.

These are players ranging from beginners to professionals from 365 chess.com’s own numbers wherein other databases may give different results, yet should be sufficient enough to serve the purpose necessary for us to identify which move is actually the best.

Best to Worst first moves for White (According to popularity)

MovesNo. of games
played
Last playedWinning percentageDraw percentage Losing Percentage
e4 1,760,609202038.2%30%31.8%
d41,160,035202037.9%33.6%28.5%
Nf3305,871202037.3%36.6%26.1%
c4246,273202037.8%34.1%28%
g325,306202037.8%34.1%28%
f420,681202037.8%34.3%27.9%
b314,916202035%25.2%39.8%
Nc38,711202036%29.5%34.6%
b46,558202038.2%26.4%35.4%
e32,600202033.2%21%45.8%
d31,939202033.7%25.5%40.8%
a31,506202036.3%25%38.6%
g4855201937.5%17.9%44.6%
c3827202033.7%25.5%40.8%
a4288201928.8%45.5%25.7%
h3220201732.3%23.6%44.1%
h4208201933.7%24.5%41.8%
Nh3123202028.5%27.6%43.9%
f388201730.7%25%44.3%
Na332201440.6%25%34.4%

According to popularity, e4, d4, nf3, c4, and g3 are the best popular moves not only in a margin of thousands but some even millions! Imagine that for a move to be so dominant that almost everyone plays it.

Looking for the best move this way has its own advantage and disadvantages.

Advantage

  • General population of players usually gives an idea into how most beginners can find themselves comfortably playing (since most players are actually beginners) and should give us a better idea to which can be played for a beginner.
  • Popular moves are often very established and have known lines that have thousands of studies behind which makes finding resources to be more accessible.
  • A player can learn more about the general database since there are actual people that are likely to have experienced the same issue from the same move.

Disadvantage

  • This kind of data often times ignore the winning to losing percentage that reflects performance.
  • Although gives better insight into beginners’ mindset, doesn’t take into consideration popular moves from more advanced players that are necessary for improving games.
  • Popular moves often have well-known theoretical lines acknowledged by a lot of players making it a little bit harder to thrive in such openings.

Winning Difference

Now that we’re done with that it’s good to look into the actual winning to losing percentage of the moves like the fact that people play it doesn’t always necessarily mean that they perform better with it.

Here’s the table that ranks the top 5 best first move based on the difference between the winning and losing percentage as well as how many actual wins the move has over losses.

Top 5 Best move from White (Based on Winning percentage)

MovesNo. of games
played
Winning percentageDraw percentageLosing Percentage
e41,760,60938.2%30%31.8%
d41,160,03537.9%33.6%28.5%
Nf3305,87137.3%36.6%26.1%
c4246,27337.8%34.1%28%
g325,30637.8%34.1%28%
They’re the same! I did the math by percentages to rank them obviously :p

The result was kinda unexpected even for me! The moves actually got the same ranking as they were from the popular section, must be something as to why they are popular right?

Checking this though (winning difference) in this case allows us to confirm a couple of things but in general statistics, this kind of data gives the following advantage and disadvantages.

Advantage

  • Winning differences often reflect general players comfortability in playing since it’s an actual hard data related to the outcome of the game.
  • Unlike something that is just popular, winning differences gives the best moves applicable to the players (engines give the best move for perfect plays which humans are not).
  • This kind of data allows identifying ranks that break ties (moves with similar numbers).

Disadvantages

  • Best moves by winnings haven’t always been well analyzed (although some do) and it could be that the featured difference doesn’t give enough leeway to be analyzed by strong players.
  • It’ss not a reliable data regarding the question of which is actually the best move human players often times after all don’t play the greatest of moves.
  • Winning differences doesn’t give us the data for how other players play (unlike popularity), and therefore may have a harder time looking for moves that are actually analyzed by people (although doesn’t apply in this case it might on others).

Engine Evaluations

The stuff I’ve been looking forward to in terms of crowning which move is actually the best for white due to their reliability in indicating advantages from a given position even by just a centipawn, Chess engines!

Centipawn is a form of measurement for humans and chess engines alike that serves a numerical value of approximately a hundredth of a single pawn (where one pawn is one and centipawn is 0.1).

The following data demonstrate the rankings by which chess engines prefer first from top to bottom in terms of their given numerical value for the following moves.

Best to Worst First move for White (According to Engine evaluations)

MoveNo. of games
played
Engine DepthEngine Evaluation
e41,760,60939+0.26
d41,160,035 40+0.24
c4 246,27340+0.24
g3 25,30638+0.20
Nf3 305,87138+0.19
b314,91638+0.15
e3 2,60038+0.07
c3 82738+0.02
a3 1,50638+0.00
b46,55838-0.12
Nc38,71138-0.16
h322029-0.16
d31,93938-0.23
Na33233-0.28
f420,68138-0.31
a428838-0.32
Nh312423-0.60
h420838-0.61
f38838-0.86
g485538-1.33

Choosing chess engines for deciding which move is best has its own advantage and disadvantage.

Advantage

  • Following lines laid out by the engine usually ends in a more favorable position than any other human can provide.
  • It is easier to analyze lines since the answer is not predicated on the presence of a static human and instead on a mobile engine.
  • In regards to the actual best move, engines have always shown time and time again a superior understanding of the game and therefore becomes a respected opinion all throughout the chess community.

Disadvantages

  • Differences in engines often give different conclusions to which describe the nature of the position therefore giving a somewhat more conflated answer to the query.
  • The actual best move doesn’t take into consideration the player’s compatibility and skill level that could actually be converted into a winning game.
  • Engines give the best one but don’t explain the principle behind them to deal with similar positions such as the one they study.

I mean the status is great and all, but how does it translate to in actual games? This all just for naught if people can’t even understand chess notations!

Virtual Chessboard with the moves

I myself looked like an idiot at the time I just joined my Chess club for not being able to read this (I don’t think it’s that important back then) so I’m looking at the board thinking “the heck is happening?”.

Here is a chessboard with the moves and engine evaluation embedded to make your life less miserable;)

Engine Evaluation Problem

Engine evaluation is a mechanism performed by chess engines to specify a rating for a particular move or position ranging from 0.01 centipawn and beyond in which 100 centipawn makes one pawn used as a measurement in identifying key advantages.

One thing that you might be confused about the engine evaluation table is why not freaking use the same depth in calculating the move’s viability? And yeah that is a perfectly reasonable question.

Engine depth is the term for how well a given calculation contains “plies” where a ply is a possible response from the opponent that branched out from a particular line (series of moves expected for a position to unfold taking into consideration likely move order).

The greater the depth usually always translates to greater accuracy and reliability, except well it’s not- there are multiple factors to consider underlying to index a measurement.

Here are reasons as to why lower depth from chess engines may actually give better results for the player.

  • The power of the actual medium (computer) by which the engine is being applied to.
  • The strength of the actual engine that would be performing the analysis ex. Stockfish, Houdini, etc.
  • The simplicity of the position where openings for example are better analyzed with lesser depths as there aren’t many things to consider.
  • The period of time by which the chess engine has been allowed to perform the analysis.
  • The variance requested by the player (variant being different lines the position can branch out from).

As you can see there are many factors that can affect the accuracy of the engine. Some become less accurate than the othes but how does this play into the equation? What is the chess engine problem? Hhhmmm, let’s see.

The Chess engine problem in this case would be using the same depth that doesn’t necessarily bring the desired results.

The data by which selected to be featured among the rankings by far is the best engine to be chosen in 365.com’s database wherein different databases may prefer other engine depths.

The depths are different to serve the best interests of the query and to rank the move properly adapting to the intricacies of the database which are fully acknowledged as the limitation of this data.

These statistics might be different from someone else (doesn’t make it wrong) but is just something to consider when looking between evaluations from different sources (which is the problem of engine depth).

Conclusion

To conclude, there is overwhelmingly big evidence that e4, d4, and c4 are the top 1, 2, and 3 best moves from White by which I suspect will be the only option to compete for the title.

Whatever it may actually be, it’s best to play within your own discretion and what you feel is the best for you! If you’re not comfortable playing any other of these then it’s ok (unless it is really that bad lol).

Just do reasonable moves specially in the opening, and you’ll be just fine.

So go out there and conquer! That’s what I’ve like you to be doing anyway my website is just a guide to help you get to the goal.

I hope this helps;) and check my other blog post with other awesome, I mean aweeesome piece of content good luck.

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