Best Reply Against the Queen’s Pawn Opening: 8+ Factors

The Indian defense is the best reply for the queen’s pawn opening. After 1.d4 Nf6 has been the most popular reply that won a lot of games. Chess engines also favor Nf6 as it can lead to many solid variations for black.

The queen’s pawn opening is arguably the second most popular opening move for white. The most popular is e4, but the second most popular is probably d4. Due to its frequency in real life games it is important to discuss something.

What is the best move against it actually? I think this requires a more scientific approach. My research has found some interesting findings.

I have discovered a lot of things in this article. The data is complicated you see, there might not be one true answer to this. Nf6 is the common denominator, you should see for yourself.

Enjoy reading the article since it says so much about the queen’s pawn opening.

Best ten reply against d4 (based on popularity)

I’ve collected several statistics that would settle this debate. D4 is such a popular move that there are many data sets that we could analyze. Looking at this would give us an idea how to properly approach the d4 move as black.

This is sort of an analysis article from the data I’ve compiled looking at’s statistics. I have poured hours in order to get the data in order.

All data are taken from their website, wherein different databases might provide different results.

Queen's pawn opening

D4 is actually my personal favorite opening that I’ve used to win more games than I could count. It is silent yet deadly. There aren’t a lot of traps in this one unlike with the e4 option.

I prefer playing it and some of the people that I know. I would say that this is the second most popular first move for white after e4. Learning the best reply for it is important to deal against the opening better.

We will look at how people from online games have dealt with the move d4 and some other important categories. This will allow us to zoom in on a particular move and confidently say that it is the best.

So let’s see how most people deal with this first move d4, look at this!

Move No. of GamesLast playedWinning percentageDraw PercentageLosing Percentage
Nf6 648,184202036.5%34.2%29.3%
d5 321,965202039.9% 34.5%25.6%
e6 54,355202038.6%32.7%28.7%
f5               39,712202040.1% 29.1%30.7%
g6 34,035202038.1% 29.4% 32.5%
d6            31,996202036.9 %   32.1 %31 %
c5 16,818202039.9 %26.9 %33.2 %
c6       3,415202047.3 % 27.8 %25 %
Nc6       2,951202044.4 %25.3 %30.3 %
b6 1,968202045.2 %24.1 %30.7 %
Swipe left if you are on mobile to view the whole table.

Does the win-draw-loss ratio matter?

I think that the win-draw-loss ratio matters, but not too much. Remember most of this data is from beginners who can lose in the most absurd ways possible. To account for the deviation would be a lot of work, but I think it matters little.

In all chess games, white naturally comes on top even after playing the best moves for black.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that black cannot be better later in the game, only that white has an inherent advantage early on.

But it does mean that Black has to suffer a little disadvantage at the beginning of the game where little mistakes can be made. When it comes to beginners they might not even win the white pieces with all of the advantages they have.

I don’t mean to disrespect since I have been a beginner once too, everyone is at some point. But it is true, it taints the statistics. The win-draw-loss ratio matters little since the majority of the population don’t play the continuation of the openings correctly.

What do we see in the table?

It seems that Nf6 (Indian defense) is the one that is played the most online. It makes sense since the Indian defense can lead to many good openings for black. The king’s indian defense or benoni defense can unfold after Nf6.

Consequently one can also go for the Nimzo-Indian defense or even a Queen’s gambit declined after black has taken control of e6 and d5. The next most popular option is d5 which makes sense since it can also lead to the queen’s gambit declined.

Looking at the most popular moves allows us to discover what people are favoring in a particular position. Popularity is a good indication of the viability of a move since it’s likely that these are the ones with a lot of theory to be learned.

The worst openings in chess are usually decided by popularity.

I am going to be honest, these sets of moves are expected since I also see it online. But it is still interesting. To recall, here are the moves:

Among the dataset on the (human) sample taken the best five replies would be the following: Indian defense (Nf6), Queen’s pawn game (d5), Horwitz defense (e6), Dutch (f5), and Modern defense (g6). This is ordered from the most favored to the least favored.

If we are talking about popularity then this tale shows how most people would deal with it. However just because people play it the most does not mean that it is the most optimal. This is why a second set of data is necessary.

What about the engine evaluation? I mean, I personally think that it matters more than how many people play it. The engines are the most capable entities on earth when it comes to playing chess.

I personally think that their opinion matters. The next subheading will show how the chess engines deal with the d4 move:

Best reply against d4 (based on engine evaluation)

I have compiled numerous data regarding this move d4. The chess engines have many things to say about it, which I think is important. The table below indicates many things about the d4 move (queen’s pawn):

Move No. of games playedEngine DepthEngine Evaluation
Nf6 648,18438+0.11
d5 321,96538+0.16
a6       187,66729+0.31
e6 54,35538+0.32
h6 94,01323+0.40
c6 3,41538+0.46
g6 34,03536+0.51
d6 31,99638+0.52
a5 20,67423+0.56
b6 1,96838+0.62
Swipe left if you are on mobile to view the whole table.

If you are wondering about the positive it means that the position is better for white. This may seem weird since it seems to indicate that whiteis better in all of these openings. Actually it is true, white is really better in all of these openings.

In fact that is the case in any other chess openings out there, the position will just be naturally better for white in the opening. White has the first move after all. The question is how much better is white in these openings?

It is not equal right? Even if white is better in all of them does not mean that they are all bad. Some limits the advantage for whote more than the others, and that is what we are looking for.

In other words, the lower the number in the engine evaluation the better the position is for black. It cannot be helped, if white plays reasonably then it would have the slight advantage in the opening.

As per engine evaluation here are the five best moves against the queen’s pawn opening: Indian defense (Nf6), Queen’s pawn game (d5), St. george (a6), Horwitz defense (e6), and Queen’s pawn game (h6). This is ordered from the best to worst.

The findings were a shocker. I have no idea why a6 and h6 made it all the way to the list. However for the sake of being impartial I will include them anyway, it really is the findings of my research.

How can we use this data?

All necessary information should be sufficient to provide a general picture in helping to bring the best out of you. From the perspective of black there are so many options.

This gives us a really good idea into what other moves to experiment since there are suggestions here that don’t seem to be so popular.

Playing the best positional initiative is the condition of the game, like literally, the thing is set to crown the player who is able to perform better decisions.

Hopefully this data will allow you to discover what WORKS for you and you can win many games with it.

Can this data be wrong?

Obviously this response to the 1.d4 move can be wrong, everything is just to show what the fruit of my research are. Things change, new things get upgraded and so is this data in the future.

Evaluating each move’s nature of course depends on several aspects of the game, not just one. This makes creating this article challenging. 

This fact implies that there are not means to evaluate which move is best in an absolute form. Everything is open ended and you can choose to play what works for you. 

A more detailed explanation I think would be necessary to justify some of the questionable moves in this data. I don’t care, I show what I have researched. I don’t want my preconceived bias to litter this website.


Personally I think that the opinion of chess engines is of a higher level. Sure, we humans can comprehend things that computers cannot and chess is complicated overall. However I would rather go with the scientifically proven opinion.

There might not be a “right” set of moves that is the best for the queen’s pawn opening. Human games might be different because people don’t really play the best moves. Who knows, maybe the popularity table is more relevant. But I am sticking my guns to the engines.

The best ten replies against d4 include: Nf6 (Indian), d5 (Queen’s pawn), a6 (St. George), e6 (Horwitz), h6 (unnamed), c6 (unnamed), g6 (Modern), d6 (unnamed), a5 (unnamed), and b6 (English) ranked from highest to lowest by evaluation provided by the engine.

Feel free to land on your own conclusion. That is what it should be all about, discussing and improving on learned knowledge. This article will just serve to stack your reference, thank you for reading.