The Most and Least Drawish Chess Openings (A guide!)

I have been seeing a lot of angry posts on facebook complaining about the amount of draws in their games. This has surprised me since I rarely get a draw in my own games unless the endgame is reached. 

I think this stems from people watching super grandmaster games and being annoyed with the draws. Some people however genuinely think that chess is just all about draws, but it is not.

Today I will be talking about the most and least drawish opening lines for white and black. Hopefully this will help you avoid draws if you hate it so much, let’s get started. 

The most drawish chess openings for white

1.) Ruy Lopez

Ruy Lopez

The Ruy Lopez is probably one of the most drawish openings of all time, in the top level at least. If you had been watching  a top tournament I guarantee that you will be seeing a lot of Ruy Lopez, and guess what the result more often than not would be a draw. 

However from my experience this is not the same at the lower level, people do not play it as much. 

The theoretical plays of Ruy Lopez, often referred to as the Spanish Game, do not seem to have the same level of appeal as they formerly had.

The majority of people I’ve faced on Chess.com seem to go to whatever lengths necessary to evade having to play it as White. 

Regularly, I have been dealt the King’s Gambit, the Bishop’s Opening, the Vienna Game, and the Scotch Game; but, I have never been dealt the Ruy Lopez.

Because neither player has a particularly strong tactical edge, in my observation the edge for White lasts for a considerable length of time. 

This means that most games are drawish since there is no apparent tactical edge. While draws might be favorable in the top level it is considered to be a boring result in the lower level. Draws from the ruy lopez are uninteresting for most people. 

Intriguingly, I can think of twenty different variants that Black may play (mainly in the Closed Ruy Lopez), which ensures that the game is never dull for the player who has Black. 

If you don’t succeed with one version, try another. However, regardless of whether Black plays an open or closed version, the majority of the time, Black does not have any obvious benefit. 

One would imagine that White, what with all the chess resources that are running, would employ the Ruy Lopez variation a little bit more. But it seems that even with all our technology we still haven’t figured out  a way to make the ruy lopez “less drawish”.

2.) English opening

English opening

This is one of my most favorite openings to play after a long time of not playing chess. The positions that arise from the English Opening are silent and positional.

A lot of the lines are intuitive and do not really need a lot of theoretical reasoning, I like this particular aspect very much.

Due to this silent and positional treatment of the game however the English Opening has been deemed one of the most drawish openings of all time. 

After giving the English a number of goes, I can say with certainty that it is not an active enough approach for certain competitors to battle for an edge. 

When given greater room, black will undoubtedly get more relaxed; yet, he shouldn’t overuse it by being black.

A very long time ago, I believed that the color black was superior in English use. That is not the fact, but if you are okay with balancing with minor carry potential, there is nothing to fret about. 

The only caveat is that if you are not competent in defensive positioning, it may be difficult to manage on either side, particularly black.

I like it when I can acquire a little positional edge right out of the gate. When something like this occurs, it’s likely that you are the only one with an operational agenda that has to be adapted to the new circumstances.

If you don’t choose to transcribe to a d4 opening, I’ve found that English matches have an ability to imitate lengthy strategic intentions better than most other openings, especially if you don’t translate to a d4 opening. 

If you believe that this kind of competition is more interesting than an upfront tactical fight, then I believe that c4 suits are appropriate. You would be getting a lot of dull positions but it will be drawish, I think you can go for this if you are desiring a draw. 

3.) London System

London system

The London system is one of the openings popularized by magnus carlsen, I still remember the time where it was never played at the highest level. The biggest criticism is that it lacks some ambition to push for a win with white, it is too dull, too drawish. 

That is until magnus carlsen started crushing the field even with the london system, after that it has repeatedly surfaced in many top chess tournaments. 

Black has a reasonable chance of winning an equal match versus most chess openings. However, while playing against the London opening, this task is rather simple, and there are a number of methods to do it, including a couple that end the match entirely.

When players play the London opening against me, it makes me incredibly pleased since there is really no danger for black (unlike other mediocre openings that arise from e4 or d4 for example) to run into something unpleasant and planned. 

Personally, this makes me really delighted. Black has the ability to contest for the lead as early as move 2 (or even 3 if there is the worst Nf3 Bf4 setup on the board).

Magnus Carlsen is an exception to the drawish london, he is an endgame genius. He can convert drawn endgames into winning ones, which is why it doesn’t matter if he chooses drawish openings.

This is why it is still considered one of the most drawish openings even when magnus won a lot using it. 

The most drawish chess openings for black

1.) Berlin defense

Berlin defense

The Berlin defense is one of the most drawish openings of all time, its main line literally involves getting the match into a drawish endgame after only a couple of moves. 

Vladimir Kranik defeated Garry Kasparov who is known to be a tactical menace by playing the drawish berlin over and over again hoping for a positional mistake from garry.

The thing is it worked, he had become the world champion with Kasparov not even winning a single game. 

The Berlin Defense after 4…Nf6 have draw rates of 56% in my dataset, with a win ratio disparity of 8% between white and black in both cases. This makes it a good contender for the most sound drawish opening of all time. 

Take note that a draw is not guaranteed in any way, shape, or form in Berlin, and that chess is in no way comparable to checkers’ solved theory. If this were the case, the color white would never be allowed to play the Ruy Lopez. 

It retains its drawish quality, but not completely. White has the opportunity to reach a Berlin endgame by playing the best moves during the first few moves of the game.

In order for Black to achieve an equalizing endgame, he has to have a highly in-depth and obscure understanding of the theory.

After that, it is an excellent strategy for achieving a strong endgame or a balanced middle game (if white does not go for the endgame line).

It is very difficult to play this opening for black at a level below that of a grandmaster, to the point that it may be considered a “simple draw.”

If you are hoping for an easy draw, you should bear in mind that in order to play this game, you will first need to commit tons upon tons of theory to memory.

Still the data does not lie, this is probably one of the drawish openings of all time if it is not the drawish line already. 

2.) Queen’s gambit declined 

Queen's gambit declined

The queen’s gambit declined has retained its second place for the most drawish opening line for black. Along with the Berlin defense the queen’s gambit declined is one of the most played openings at the highest level. 

This is because super grandmasters prefer playing it safe so as to not lose a single point, which means playing drawish lines like the queen’s gambit declined over and over again.

It is not as rampant with the draws as the Berlin defense but it definitely has its fair share. 

Seeing that the queen’s gambit declined does well against 1.d4, this is a very strong opening for white. 

If you want loose, more dynamic chess, you should use 1.e4, but if you prefer firm strategic chess, you should use 1.d4. In general, if you prefer robust strategic chess, you should play 1.d4. 

Despite the fact that this is a very broad generalization, it is required to recognize this reality. Since the queen’s gambit declined is so positional it tends to side with drawish results.

It is not as drawish as the Berlin defense (which can already take the match to an endgame in a couple of moves), but it is definitely up there. 

3.) Petroff defense

Petroff/petrov defense

This is also one of the most drawish opening lines for black.

I remember watching Carlsen vs. Caruana back in their 2018 world championship match and the commentators kept on saying how drawish the opening Caruana prepared (Petroff defense). 

After everything has been laid out in theory the petroff defense just becomes an equalizing line with minimal imbalance. It is hard to push for a win with both sides without taking in significant risks, which tends to make people play safe. 

Or is it?

The Petroff might be considered quite tragic in nature. It seems to be somewhat drawish, yet it isn’t at all. Both parties have a wide variety of choices available to them to shake things up a little. 

On the other hand, the majority of players that use it as black do not play it to win but rather play it to draw.

Because of this, it should not come as a surprise that it often results in a draw. I would say that it is somewhat analogous to the French Exchange version. 

Players like Morphy and Kasparov performed some highly fascinating matches with the white pieces and shown that the exchange variation (of the French) is anything from drawish. 

Despite this however the french exchanged variation is still called a drawish because most individuals who practice it as white aren’t interested in spectacular plays and simply want an easy draw.

I think a similar thing is happening in the petroff where it can actually be dynamic but people just don’t want to push.

Regardless it is still considered to be one of the most drawish opening line for black which is why it made this list. If you want to play for a draw with black maybe you should look up the petroff defense. 

Before you continue, maybe reading examples of bad chess openings might be a good reference for this topic. Check it out if you want.

Least drawish chess openings for white

1.) King’s gambit

King's gambit

The king’s gambit is probably one of the oldest gambit openings of all time. It existed even in the romantic era of chess, and yes the romatic era is a period full of queen sacrifices and pure attacking chess. 

The king’s gambit is definitely one of the most decisive opening for white if it is not the most decisive already. Not only that it is a gambit (a pawn gambit to be specific), but it also contain a lot of sacrifices even so early in the game.

Both white and black receives a lot of risks when the king’s gambit has been played, due to its complications the result is likely to be decisive. In other words, it what you play when you wake up and you want to show off. 

At lower tournament rankings you can expect that almost every game played with the king’s gambit would be a draw. 

At upper ranks it is used because it often provides white with a superior pawn arrangement and a more favorable endgame position. Basically still a reasoning that would only make sense if you are trying to go for a win. 

When determining whether or not you will employ it in your arsenal, everything relies on how greedy you are. If the thought of losing a piece on move 3 causes you to burst out in a state of anxiety, then this opening is not for you.

This opening is really dynamic. It is not drawish but the advantages can swing quickly and you might find yourself on the receiving side of things even if you studied it thoroughly. 

2.) Vienna game

Vienna game

The vienna game is quite complicated and is less studied. It is definitely one of the less drawish opening lines for the white pieces. 

I don’t have a lot of experience with this opening but I have played it minimally, the Vienna Game seems interesting.

It is possible to play it in a wide number of ways, ranging from strategic to very offensive, and it is effective in scoring points. Additionally, there is less theory to understand when compared to the Ruy Lopez.

The Vienna is a lovely and simple method to master. It is not that frequent, so it has a pleasant amount of shock factor, and the usual middlegame strategies are rather simple to understand and are extremely straightforward to put into action. 

Coming out of the vienna game with a drawish position is not the same thing as common, this is especially true at the club level where players put lesser thought on the opening. 

Coming out of the vienna game with straightforward equality is definitely rare.This is because he goals are so simple to strive towards and put into action, people also tend to not accept equality in exchange for a type of defined middlegame in this line.

Overall the vienna game is something that woll ensure a decisive result most of the time, the complication that it presents offer a lot of tactical opportunities. 

At the professional level I can imagine a draw from the vienna game, but I am sure that this is not the case with your typical club player. I am sure the game will be decisive if we are talking about the regar club player. 

3.) Scotch game

Scotch game

The scotch game is one of the most aggressive chess openings for white. The former world champion Garry Kasparov who is known for his attacking style used the scotch game regularly.

The thing with the scotch game is that it insinuates positions that are mostly open, basically those that have higher tactical opportunities. This means that most of the time there is going to be an aggressive move when the scotch game is played.

Apart from this one can easily opt for the scotch gambit, another highly complicated opening line that would most likely lead to a decisive result.

The scotch also features a lot of lines that look balanced at first but can explode any time, this is great for those who hate draws but don’t want too many complications. 

This is why the scotch doesn’t lead to as many draws, the positions cater to tactical advantages even when it is not noticeable. Draws can be made from this line but a decisive result is to be expected even at a higher rated game. 

Least drawish chess openings for black

1.) Yugoslav attack

Yugoslav attack

The Yugoslav attack is a pendulum swinging back and forth for both sides, this is because you usually don’t know who has the advantage since the lines are so complicated.

However this makes it one of the most decisive opening lines for the black pieces. 

In the Yugoslav attack, the black pieces have access to a large number of interesting line options. 

Many of these choices are seldom used at the grandmaster level, although they are commonplace among reasonably capable international masters and fide masters.

If you play black in the primary version of the Yugoslav, you might run into some difficulties, but new research has shown that black has several exchange sacrifice possibilities that will give him the edge.

This new development was uncovered by Kramnik on his own.

The traditional Chinese dragon is one option, but the Lasker variant, in my opinion, is more powerful. You’ll have a robust defense. You are not going to attempt an assault on white’s king, but at least your own king will be unharmed.

GM Simon Williams was the one who first identified the hybrid known as the Dragondorf, which is a mix between the Dragon and the Najdorf. 

It’s hardly a problem, but Carlsen found another Sicilian cross. The Dragonikov. You won’t have double f pawns to play with, in contrast to the standard Sveshnikov. The concepts are somewhat similar. Take a break with the f5 button.

Not to be overlooked is the variant in which White castles are located on the kingside. 

This is a really strong beginning. You may play the Korchnoi-Anand line if you wish to win, but you will receive a strategic game in return. Instead of white castles on the queen side, there are black castles on the queen side. 

You only have to move the h pawn forward, and the game is over. 

White has to be cautious because even if black may launch a tremendous caveman assault with his h-pawn, white still faces stress from black’s monster bishop on the queenside.

If you face the Sicilian dragon and desire a decisive game, maybe you should consider playing the yugoslav attack. 

2.) French defense

French defense

The French defense is one of those “solved lines” that almost completely disappeared from competitive chess. The fading of the french defense started when alphazero easily dismantled stockfish who kept on playing the french defense. 

Nevertheless it is still one of the most unbalanced openings for black, if you prepare well you may even come out on top. 

The French defense is a somewhat aggressive line (yet not noticeable). Although the white pieces of the French is considered to be the more comfortable position, playing it for any color is quite challenging from a strategic standpoint. 

Unbalancing the game while still playing for the victory is a very excellent defensive strategy, the french defense utilizes this strategy. 

It was a sharp offensive tactic that was utilized by Korchnoi, Uhlmann, and Short. The most significant disadvantage is that it will almost always be a difficult struggle, in contrast to e5, which makes it considerably simpler to achieve equality.

3.) Alekhine defense

Alekhine defense

The Alekhine’s defense is one of those unpopular openings that you don’t mind playing for random online matches but not on serious ones. The position is so imbalanced if one were to choose the alekhine’s opening, specifically white has more space.

Now there is a big debate on whether white actually have a winning advantage with the alekhine but one thing is for sure, white has a lot of space. 

White is the one pressing for the lead in the Alekhine opening, as is the case in every opening, but Black has ample protective options, and if White isn’t ready, Black may quickly get some counterplay going.

Still, in the Alekhine opening, White is the one pressing for the edge.

Black can still bounce back, but there will definitely be a lot of imbalance in the position and a decisive result is likely. This makes it one of the most decisive chess openings for the black pieces. 

Conclusion

Whether you want to lay for a draw or not there is a lot of openings that can accomodate you. There has been a lot of noise about chess being a game full of draws nowadays.

That might be true at the super grandmaster level, but I can bet that most people are not super grandmasters.

Most people are about club level or below, you don’t get to draw every game at this level. You have two options if you want to avoid draws, either avoid drawish openings or choose one with a lot of imbalance/complications. 

This article has surely opened your eyes to the other possibilities of the opening, thank you for reading. 

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