Which Chess Openings Does Stockfish Like? (Full list!)

Chess engines are a big thing in chess. Ever since Garry Kasparov lost to Deep Blue, they have kept getting stronger to the point that no humans can even come close.

If you want to analyze a line and make it as precise as possible, you better have the strongest chess computer by your side.

One of the strongest (and most popular) chess engines in the world is Stockfish. If you want to have an analysis that is beyond accurate, then stockfish is a good option to go for.

This is why one of the best things that you can do to identify the best openings is to look at the openings that stockfish like.

If one of the strongest chess engines in the world says that it is a good line, then it must be true.

It is kind of hard to disprove otherwise. This article will be talking about the openings that stockfish rated highly in order to give us some insights regarding the opening.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

How did I create this list?

I created this list by taking two things into consideration. One is the frequency in which a particular opening appears in the games of stockfish.

I have watched games played by stockfish and have made a list on how many times it has preferred a particular opening.

I have discarded the games where stockfish has been given an opening book (basically forced to play an opening), since it wouldn’t really count if stockfish didn’t play it.

Second, I have inserted different openings on the stockfish engine and let it analyze the position for a bit.

Then, I have taken stockfish’s analysis into consideration and moved some openings above the others on this list. This is how I have created this list. 

Best chess openings for the white pieces (according to stockfish)

According to my research, these are the favorite openings of stockfish for the white pieces:

1.) Ruy Lopez

Ruy lopez on an online chessboard.

The Ruy Lopez is one of the most played chess openings at the top level. This is for a good reason, white has a very good position after Ruy Lopez is played.

It is one of the most analyzed positions in chess since it leads to an interesting outcome.

For the white pieces, it seems that stockfish rates Ruy Lopez the highest. Even in the games where stockfish did not have any opening books, it  still played the Ruy Lopez the most.

In my opinion, I think stockfish like this because it keeps white’s positional initiative.

As I have seen from the games of this engine, it really likes playing positionally more than tactically. Since Ruy Lopez compliments the positional tendencies of white, it is rated the highest. 

2.) Queen’s gambit

Queen's gambit on an online chessboard.

This is the second favorite opening of stockfish. If this engine played d4 somehow, it would almost always be going to play the queen’s gambit afterwards.

Obviously, the queen’s gambit accepted is not as great as not accepting the gambit. Even if a stronger opponent does not accept the gambit, I think that there is still value in playing it.

That is at least what stockfish thinks, I think that this variation still gives the positional advantage for white.

By pushing c4 you are already fighting for the center so early in the game. This is actually the primary objective in the opening, to play for the center.

Not only that, you are grabbing so much space and if you manage to play e4, you will dominate the center.

This is not by any means a quick win, but it is definitely an advantage. One of the strongest chess engines in the world agrees and there should be some meaning to it.  

3.) English opening

English opening on an online chessboard.

The English opening is the one that is played by those who do not study the opening. The lines on this one are simple, it doesn’t have a lot of complicated lines and you can play well in most variations.

The objectives for white are clear, memorizing the moves doesn’t really take much effort. There aren’t a lot of traps in the English opening, you can do well as long as you have basic intuition for the game.

I think that stockfish rated this highly because black cannot really do much to push for anything. White will always come on top when it comes to activity, the english opening just doesn’t allow much complication for black.

We know that stockfish prefers playing positional rather than tactically, this might be a good reason why it prefers it.

This one should be higher but I placed it lower after looking at the evaluation bar.

This is because the English opening is still raw, it is literally only one move.

Anything can still happen in the English opening, but it is still a better opening than the other alternatives (at least via stockfish).

Best chess openings for the black pieces (according to stockfish)

According to my research, these are the favorite openings of stockfish for the black pieces:

1.) Berlin defense

Berlin defense on an online chessboard.

This is again, not a surprise since stockfish prefers the Ruy Lopez. The Berlin defense is a response after Ruy Lopez is played.

Positionally speaking, the Berlin defense is one of the best openings since it neutralizes a lot of things for white. It is one of the few openings in chess where some of its most popular lines directly lead to an endgame.

Yes, you heard that right, the most played variations of the Berlin defense includes skipping the middlegame and going straight for the endgame.

This is good for black since you get to skip the phase where activity matters the most, the middlegame. In the endgame, activity still matters, but not as much as in the middlegame.

Since the white pieces move first in chess, it is already up in activity at the start of the game.

The Berlin defense can neutralize this advantage and it provides a good solution.

Even if the opponent did not go for the variation that will lead to an endgame, the Berlin defense is still one of the most solid openings out there.

It is hard to gain a visible advantage as white against the Berlin defense. 

2.) Giuoco piano

Giuoco piano on an online chessboard.

During my initial creation of this list, the queen’s gambit declined was declared higher than the Giuoco piano.

After consulting the evaluation bar, I have placed this opening higher. This opening is a response to one of the most played openings for white, the Italian game.

Positionally speaking, this is a good opening for black since it keeps white’s advantage to a minimum.

Another alternative is going for the two knights defense which can cause complications (especially if white goes for the fried liver attack). The giuoco piano ensures that black still has space and can keep up with white.

The game will still go on after the giuoco piano, but white shouldn’t have so much advantage that it is winning. Most games that are from the giuoco piano lead to a safe middlegame.

There are sharp variations that are included in this opening, but with decent play you should be able to equalize.

Overall it is a solid opening that provides a lot of equality for black, also you can always play sharp in this opening (on some variations).

Stockfish says that the position is more or less equal, meaning that it is a good opening for black (since the white pieces should be better in the opening).

3.) Queen’s gambit declined

Queen's gambit declined on an online chessboard.

This one will not get off this list. Even before doing my research, I know that the queen’s gambit declined will be included somewhere. It is one of the most played openings at the high level for a reason.

Positionally, it is one of the most solid openings in chess. Just try breaking the queen’s gambit declined structure and you will see what I mean.

Most often than not, you cannot break the pawn chain in the center, doing so will also give risk for white.

It is so hard for white to push for anything against the queen’s gambit declined.

Even though it constricts black’s pieces a bit, the defense that it gives is phenomenal.

Personally I have a hard time pushing for anything (as the white pieces) against the queen’s gambit declined. Most of the time I can just gain space, but not enough that I will have a visible advantage.

This is true for most people and why this opening is one of the most solid, it just doesn’t allow much pushing.

You can say it is one of the best defensive openings for black, something that will ensure a safe middle game. 

Conclusion

According to stockfish, the three best openings for the white pieces are: Ruy Lopez, Queen’s gambit, and the English opening.

As for the black pieces, here are Stockfish’s recommendations: Berlin defense Giuoco Piano Queen’s gambit declined.

If we are going to take a look at these openings, you may have noticed a recurring trend.

All of these openings are positional, basically they are mostly about improving the position rather than attacking.

They don’t include a lot of tactics and they are those that beginners would call “defensive”.

Why it might be true that these are some of the most boring ways to play chess, data shows that these are some of the most consistent openings out there.

This will provide a good picture for those that are just getting into the openings, stockfish is one of the strongest chess engines after all.

That is all for this article, thank you for reading. 

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