The worst chess openings for white and black w/ pictures

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As players, we try to improve every aspect of our game from the opening, middlegame, and endgame. But I’ve found that the phase which is likely to waste people’s time will be the opening (since it takes so long to study and gives little value).

Which is why I decided to compile the worst chess openings out there in order to properly express what you should avoid, and provide a guide to correct learning.

As a chess player, here is what I know:

The worst chess opening for white is the Bongcloud attack since it is an opening that sacrifice’s the king’s ability to castle early on. The worst chess opening for black is the Zukertort Opening: Arctic defense since it makes it hard for black to develop its pieces.

Now this is just a personal opinion from someone who has been playing for years, others might have a different perspective. But I believe that a lot of people will agree with this list and I will tell you why.

What are the worst chess openings for white?

The worst chess openings for white include the Barnes opening, Bongcloud attack, Amar opening, Kadas opening, and Grob opening which all breaks fundamental laws of chess (in the opening) and will even negatively affect the middlegame.

Barnes opening

This opening was popularized in a primitive era of theoretical knowledge, a modern player would never consider this.

It has worked back then since there aren’t a lot of skilled players to really expose the weaknesses of this move, which is not the case now:

This is a picture of the barnes opening: 1. f3

The move f3 opens the dark square around the king that could be taken advantage of by a queen jump, opening all sorts of attacking potential.

This setup also limits the development of the g3 Knight while making the king castle precarious since the kingside is weakened.

A queen-side castle is still an option here (since kingside will just lure an attack) but will inevitably make white one step behind (tempo).

Not only does this move not accomplish anything, it actually gives negative consequences by limiting casting opportunities and piece development.

It will take a lot of tricky maneuvering just to get the white knight and bishop out (much less to even attempt a queen-side castle). This just completely nullifies the first-move advantage that white has and can even be worse if black even plays decently.

Bongcloud attack

This one is just the worst opening out there even among this list, there wasn’t a time where this was popular. It breaks all the guidelines in the opening, and just gives black the most advantage that should easily convert to a win:

This is a picture of the Bongcloud Attack: 1. e4 e5 2. Ke2

By moving the king to e2, the most vulnerable piece in the game (and most important) is exposed to attacks. The white bishop will also have a harder time developing since the king blocks the way (unless a fianchetto occurs).

And even if the bishop is in fianchetto (to develop) the kingside will be further weakened and easy to exploit. Black can choose to break the center and unleash the pieces since the white king has also lost the privilege to castle.

Different variations (of Bongcloud) have been invented to play a similar role to this (to be the worst opening) some are worse, some are better.

But fundamentally, the king should never move in the opening as it should be kept safe away from attacks (moving it means it cannot castle and can be attacked).

Amar opening

This is one of those “it’s not too bad but it will make your life a little bit difficult” more than other bad openings. It’s not like it will make you likely lose the game like the other ones (unless you were playing against a professional) but is still bad:

This is  a picture of the amar opening; 1. Nh3

The knight to g3 move voluntarily puts the white knight in a position where it cannot do much (in the corner). There is a reason why the pieces are put near the center early in the game (to control the most tiles on the board) which this doesn’t accomplish.

You would have to put the white knight in other tiles later on, wasting a bunch of moves that could have been used to other piece developments.

If not black is likely to trade that unplaced knight with the light-squared bishop ruining the kingside and making white’s life difficult.

It is just wasting time, black is now free to control the center and act as if it is white (even without having the first move) with the space that it can gain.

The white night will have a very bleak future seeing that there are no readily available squares to jump into (unless it wants to go back).

Kadas opening

This one is a little bit blurry if it is actually bad (but I personally think that it is) since it can be good in some situations.

I believe that for most people, this is one of the worst openings to implement with white although professionals can theoretically make it work:

This is a picture of the Kadas opening: 1. h4

The push on h4 really limits the option of white to castling (since the kingside is weakened) and this attracts some sort of attack on this particular side.

Black will now have an idea where white will castle (likely queenside) and can put up an attack there even if staying in the center.

This also wastes valuable time that could have been spent trying to fight for the center (this is a move on the corner) giving a chance for black.

If black can secure the center (which is not hard to do) it will bring a significant advantage even if black did not move first.

It is not really groundbreaking that it will make you lose instantly (since Levon Aronian does this all the time) but it will be difficult.

Most people who play are not professionals, and they are likely to suffer from attacks of the weak kingside as the game goes on.

Grob opening

Now this one is a little bit controversial, I’ve seen some people actually trying to promote this kind of opening which is really bad. It suffers from the same disadvantages as the Kadas opening but I believe is much worse and less flexible:

This is  picture of the grob opening: 1. g4

The pawn push on g4 severely weakens the kingside even more than h4 since it is the pawn that is supposed to be in front of the king when castled.

This means that any attempt of the king to castle on this side will be really weak, and probably easy to take advantage of as a pawn structure.

This one just wastes time, it doesn’t control the center and the pushed pawn is not even defended by anything (at least h4 is defended by the rook).

This means that it is a weak pawn, and any attack from black will make that pawn warrant a defense (which will waste another move).

Any structure that would have been made by that pawn g4 would be easily contested by a breakthrough like h5. Black in this case is free to take the center for itself and again, gain so much space even being the second to move.

What are the worst chess openings for black?

The worst chess opening for black includes the Borg defense, Damiano defense, Zukertort opening: Arctic defense, Goldsmith defense, and Polish defense since such schemes make it harder to play with the limited space.

Borg defense

This one is like a reverse grob opening (but is played by black) and would give white a lot of attacking chances. I have never seen anyone play this ever (unless they are trolling) but I have to include this since it is one of the worst:

This is a picture of the borg defense: 1. e4 g5

First off, this just gives the freedom for white to take full control of the center (the white pawn is already on e4) and d4 will seal it. And second, black will have limited options for castling (since black’s kingside is already weakened).

And if you think that is worse enough for black, black will have the second move on this one. Which means such weaknesses like this (castling) will have a more amplified effect since black is naturally late to castle.

That g5 pawn is so easy to take advantage of by having an attack that it would be too costly to even defend it (black is naturally down a tempo).

Plus white is really flexible here with so much space and option to castle that black is likely to get too cramped to play for the rest of the game.

Damiano defense

Now this seems to be not as preposterous as my other choices at the worst opening, until you learn the combination hidden for white here. It is well known that nxe5 in here believe it or not, will lead to some sort of an advantage if not totally crushing for white:

This is a picture of the damiano defense: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f6

If white did play nxe5 then the intensity of the damage will depend if black can play right (qe7) but would still be ugly for black.

Besides this combination, the pawn weakens the kingside which could be taken advantage of (though I agree that it is not that much).

However, a bishop x-ray (or the queen) will have the opportunity due to the opened light-square diagonal which can prevent the black king from castling.

And since the pawn structure has been fixed as well, a queenside castle for white and launching an attack could also work.

Overall I do not think that this is the worst of the worst, thinking that this could actually work (will just require some maneuvering).

But I believe that this still earns the title as one of the worst openings since there are so many options for black here that could have achieved far more.

Magnus Carlsen vs. Garry Kasparov: Who is better?

(link will open in a new tab)


Zukertort Opening: Arctic defense

This one is just completely bizarre to me, thinking that nobody will make a theoretical extension of this opening (but it does exist). There are so many logical things about this move, it’s almost as if you will only play this if you are deliberately trying to lose:

This is a picture of the zukertort opening: arctic defense: 1. Nf3 f6

The f6 move suffers from one of the recurring themes of this list, which is it naturally weakens the kingside (therefore less usable for castling).

Not only that, it opens up the light-squared diagonal path near the king that could be taken advantage of by any queen jump (h5).

The f6 may just be a preparation for e5,l taking control of the center, but then we would just be transposing into the Damiano defense.

There are so many options in here that could have directly controlled the center (and gained space ) but have instead played this very weak move.

A d4 move from white would already prevent the push of e5, which really secures the center and the space in it.

White can also launch a Kingside attack here if they choose to (but would not be as potent), or just make it harder to castle Kingside with the opened light-squared diagonal.

Goldsmith defense

This is like the Kadas opening if it was played by black, which has the innate weaknesses of the said opening. Except it is actually worse here (compared to white) being second to move and having more disadvantages:

This is a picture of the goldsmith defense: 1. e4 h5

The a5 move here did not really accomplish anything, and putting it in an engine gives an evaluation of plus one (meaning it’s as if white is up a pawn). White can now push d4 uncontested and secure the center gaining the space and having a lot of flexibility.

Of course by the setup of black, it is likely that a kingside attack will occur here, but white can easily shift to queenside with no problem.

Black on the other hand will have a harder time going queenside since he wasted time pushing that pawn (and will be a step behind).

Not only this but I imagine the position will be somewhat cramped for black (since white has the center) and the pieces will be underdeveloped.

The a5 pawn push may seem like it is going for a reasonable attack, but is really just futile since white has so much time to react.

Polish defense

This one resembles the grob opening from white (borg defense) being the difference that it is for black, which also carries the same weaknesses.

I have seen some form of this during some of my blitz/bullet as a sort of a challenge, but nobody plays this seriously:

This is a picture of the polish defense: 1. d4 b5

b5 is a complete waste of time, not accomplishing anything that is useful in the opening (controlling the center, developing the pieces, castling early, etc.).

This move allows white to be able to control the center freely in exchange for control of the corner (which is not that important).

This is even worse when the borg defense since the pawn push is directed at the queenside, the side where white is unlikely to castle. The move can be easily challenged by a breakthrough likely a4 where the structure can be in shambles anytime.

White will be way ahead of development because of this attempt, even already attacking b5 with a move like e4 (which controls the center).

There are too many options for white here, such as normally castling and developing pieces since black will be worse in the long run.

What makes these openings the worst?

If you have finished the entire article then you might have noticed that some of my descriptions are the same, because it is. There are certain goals in the opening that you would want to accomplish, and these fail horribly to attain them.

Just as a recap, here are the recurring themes of the worst chess openings and why they are bad:

  1. Pieces in the corner- pieces in the corner are generally considered out of place since they do not control the center.
  2. Early King movement- the king is the most vulnerable piece and therefore should be tucked away somewhere safe.
  3. Kingside pawn pushes- the kings generally castle on the kingside, pushing any of the kingside pawns breaks the structure.
  4. Queenside pawn pushes- pushes on the queenside is in the corner and is therefore a waste of time not controlling the center.

These are the recurring themes of the bad openings and something you might want to look for in evaluating whether an opening movie is bad or not. These ideas will be useful in discerning positions that you have not memorized or studied beforehand.

Do you now know which are the worst chess openings?

In order for us to do things correctly we need to know what to avoid, which this article shows. You can play some of these during some practice blitz/bullet, but definitely do not consider when facing a serious matchup.

You are most likely going to lose if the opponent’s skill level is around equal to yours (since the ones above inevitably make the position worse).

But even more than that is you can actually see the pattern of why some of these don’t work, which you can then apply to understand the objectives of the opening.

That is what I am here for on a larger scale, to help you understand stuff using my years of experience (in chess). Hope you enjoyed this article, sleep well and play chess.

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