Chess is a game that has been played for centuries and has evolved to the point where there are numerous openings that can be used to begin the game. While some openings are very well-known and used regularly, there are also many unusual and half-forgotten openings that are less commonly used. These openings can be a surprise to opponents and can be effective in throwing them off their game. On this page, we will list blog posts that explore some of the most interesting ones.
There are a few reasons why people play unusual openings in chess. One reason is to catch their opponent off guard and gain an early advantage. Unusual openings can be unexpected and force the opponent to think on their feet, potentially making mistakes or using up valuable time on the clock.
Another reason why people play unusual openings is to break away from conventional opening theory. Popular openings such as the Sicilian Defense or the Ruy Lopez have been studied extensively and have well-established lines of play. By playing an unusual opening, a player can avoid well-trodden paths and force their opponent to think more creatively.
- Learn to play Van Geet Opening: Win by waitingLet’s begin the year by discussing an uncommon opening that actually goes by many alternative names. My favorite calling is the Van Geet Opening.
- Learn to play Breyer Gambit: King’s gambit with the queenGyula “Julius” Breyer was a Hungarian chess master, one of the best chess players of his time. In addition to winning the Hungarian Championship in 1912 and several other significant tournaments, he made his mark in chess history by setting a new record (in 1921) for blindfolded play, managing to compete against 25 opponents simultaneously.
- Learn to play Anderssen Opening: Voluntarily give up the first move advantageAnderssen Opening, named after the renowned unofficial World Chess Champion, Adolf Anderssen, gained its moniker due to his notable usage of the opening strategy during his 1858 match against the great Paul Morphy, employing it on three separate occasions.
- Learn to beat Panteldakis CountergambitAlthough the validity of the move 2. … f5?! can be doubted, I cannot overlook one of the oldest responses to the King’s Gambit, where Black declines the offered pawn with a sacrifice of their own.
- Learn to play Swiss Gambit: The clash of f-pawnsThe Swiss Gambit is an opening in chess that shares a common starting sequence but has two different versions. It begins with the moves 1. f4 f5, and from there, White employs the gambit by playing 2. e4.
- Learn to play Stafford Gambit: Risky and trickyBlack sacrifices a pawn and gives up all center pawns. In return, Black hopes to get the initiative and an attack on the kingside. The Stafford Gambit is undeniably not a strategically strong opening choice. Nevertheless, its deceptive nature makes it a compelling option, particularly in fast-paced blitz games, where it can lead to entertaining victories.
- Learn to play La Bourdonnais Variation against French DefenseNamed after Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais, possibly the strongest player in the early 19th century, this opening is defined by the following moves: 1. e4 e6 2. f4
- Learn to play Grob’s Attack: Yes, one of the least recommended openingsThe Grob’s Attack is an unusual chess opening where White starts with the move 1. g4. Despite having a small group of enthusiasts, it is generally regarded as one of the weakest opening choices for White. However, it does possess an element of surprise, catching many opponents off guard and leading them to make errors due to their unfamiliarity with it.
- Learn to play Harmonist Variation against Pirc DefenseFrom a technical standpoint, the move 2. f4 is considered to be slightly less strong compared to the more common 2. d4, but it is by no means a mistake. In fact, it can lead to interesting and sharp positions, catching some opponents off guard.
- Learn to play Elephant Gambit: Because you canIf you play the Latvian Gambit, you won’t be in a worse situation with this one. With its roots tracing back to the 19th century, this bold strategy has intermittently resurfaced as an unexpected weapon.
- Learn to play against Wayward Queen AttackSuppose someone attempts to employ this opening against us. In such a scenario, do you happen to be familiar with the most efficacious approach to defending ourselves while simultaneously setting up a counter-attack?
- Learn to play against Keene DefenseKeene Defense can serve as an unexpected and potentially surprising weapon. However, if White is well-versed in the King’s Gambit strategy, they should be able to navigate the game without encountering significant difficulties. Black must exercise caution and play defensively to achieve at least a balanced position, but the chances of playing for a win are relatively low.
- Learn to play Italian Gambit to avoid quiet and closed linesThe Italian Gambit is commonly employed as an alternative to the quiet and closed variations of the Giuoco Piano or Giuoco Pianissimo openings. Black has three options in response, regarding the accepted gambit.
- Learn to play Kraków Variation of Giuoco Piano GameThe Kraków Variation of the Giuoco Piano Game is an interesting opportunity to divert from the most common lines in the opening that very often ends up as a draw by repetition. It is definitely worth checking out.
- Learn to play Nimzowitsch Gambit: The queen against the FrenchThe Nimzowitsch Gambit is a daring and aggressive opening choice that aims to disrupt Black’s development, seize control of the center, and launch tactical attacks. Although it may not be a mainstream option, it provides an exciting alternative for players seeking unbalanced positions and tactical challenges.
- Learn to play Bongcloud … or rather notThe Bongcloud opening owes its inception to the online chess community, particularly on platforms like Lichess.org. It was popularized by streamers and content creators who sought to inject humor and unpredictability into their games. At its core, the Bongcloud opening challenges traditional chess principles in favor of a daring, uncalculated approach.
- Learn to attack against Nimzowitsch variant of Sicilian DefenseThe Nimzowitsch Variation of the Sicilian Defense is an offbeat choice within the vast Sicilian Defense repertoire. By immediately deploying the knight to f6, Black aims to challenge White’s central control while deferring the development of other pieces.
- Learn to play Staunton Gambit against Dutch DefenseThe moves 1. d4 f5 2. e4 constitute the Staunton Gambit in the Dutch Defense. This opening is also known as the Staunton Gambit Accepted.
- Learn to play Van der Wiel attack against Caro-Kann DefenseWhite aims to exploit the weaknesses around Black’s king while gaining space and piece activity. Black, on the other hand, must navigate the complexities, maintain solid piece development, and seize any counterplay opportunities that arise.
- Learn to beat Steinitz Variation of Scotch GameIf the Scotch Game became one of your favorite openings to play as White, you should be ready for the Steinitz Variation, as the surprise queen’s strike can cause troubles if not met with a proper response.
- Learn to play Diemer-Duhm Gambit against the French DefenseThe Diemer-Duhm Gambit emerged in the mid-20th century, pioneered by Emil Josef Diemer (1908-1990) and Andreas Duhm (1883-1975). Diemer, a charismatic and unconventional chess player, was renowned for his unorthodox approach to the game, and the gambit that bears his name is no exception
- Learn to play Tal Variation against Caro-Kann DefenseThe Tal Variation 4. h4 is one of the less popular attacks against the Advance Variation of the Caro-Kann Defense, but it definitely belongs to the aggressive category. It was popularized by the eighth World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal, and it can become a dangerous weapon in an attacking player’s hands, so it’s probably good to know something about it.
- Learn to play Ponziani Gambit in Bishop’s OpeningThe Bishop’s Opening is one of the oldest openings to be analyzed. Black has a wide range of options for their second move, since White’s second move does not pose an immediate threat. The Ponziani Gambit, which involves White playing 3. d4, is a more assertive approach to countering the Berlin Defense. This move allows White to launch a direct attack in the center.
- Learn to play Nescafé Frappé Attack: Why was it named after a coffee product?Okay, that’s an unusual name for an opening, huh? I mean, we have openings named after famous players, cities, countries etc., but a coffee brand? I read a funny comment somewhere: “This is the future of chess. FIDE will start selling opening variations to businesses as a form of advertisement.”
- Learn to play Triple Muzio Gambit: Totally insaneThe Triple Muzio Gambit is a highly aggressive and risky opening that can lead to some spectacular games. It is not for the faint of heart, and it requires a lot of preparation and careful calculation to play it successfully. However, for players who enjoy taking risks and playing with fire, the Triple Muzio Gambit is an exciting option that can lead to some unforgettable moments on the chessboard.
- Learn to play Smith-Morra Gambit: Open and attackThe gambit is characterized by White sacrificing a pawn on move three in exchange for rapid development and an open position. The idea behind the gambit is to seize control of the center and create attacking chances against Black’s king.
- Learn to play Wing Gambit: Gain control by deflectingThe term Wing Gambit is used to refer to a category of openings where White executes an early b4 move to redirect an opponent’s pawn or bishop from the c5 square, thereby enabling White to regain control over the vital central square, d4.
- Learn to play Benko Gambit: Attack from the flankIn this scenario, the player controlling the black pieces willingly gives up a pawn in exchange for facing consistent pressure on the queenside. It is then up to the player controlling the white pieces to decide whether or not they wish to accept the gambit pawn.
- Learn to play Belgrade Gambit: The power of knightsThe Belgrade Gambit is considered to be somewhat risky for White, as Black has several ways to defend against the attack and equalize the position. However, it can be a fun and aggressive opening to play, and it has been used successfully by grandmasters such as Alexei Shirov and Vassily Ivanchuk.
- Learn to play with English Rat 🐀 (the first emoji)Some chess players excel in only a few particular openings and exclusively use them in their games, regardless of the circumstances. While this strategy allows them to become highly skilled in those specific openings and difficult to catch off guard in the early stages of a game, it also makes it easier for opponents to prepare for the match since they can anticipate which opening lines the player will use.
- Learn to play Calabrese Countergambit: Pawns are strong!The Calabrese Countergambit is a bold and aggressive opening in chess that is not commonly played at the highest levels of the game. Nevertheless, it can be a formidable weapon in the hands of a skilled player who understands its intricacies and is comfortable with the risks it entails.
- Learn to play Bertin Gambit: The craziest King’s Gambit variantSacrifice three pawns, let the opponent totally devastate your king side, and hide the king behind an enemy pawn. Yes, that’s exactly you will do! On top of it, you will win the game, of course. What is the Bertin Gambit?
- Learn to play Intermezzo Variation of the Scotch GameThe Intermezzo Variation of the Scotch Game is a fascinating and dynamic opening that offers both players unique challenges and opportunities. It allows Black to steer the game away from well-known lines and potentially gain a psychological advantage, while also posing challenges for both sides.
- Learn to play Meitner-Mieses Gambit: The clash of queensWait a minute, what is this? Both queens were developed at the fourth move (which is pretty early for the strongest piece on the board), and now White voluntarily lets Black give a deadly looking check at f2? Let’s see how the game continued.
- Learn to play Bird’s Defense in the Ruy López OpeningBird’s Defense could be an appealing option if you wish to steer clear of theoretical lines early in the Ruy Lopéz Opening. By playing Bird’s Defense, Black sacrifices the defense of e5 and instead launches a counter-attack by threatening the bishop.
- Learn to play Alapin Variation: The best line against Sicilian?The Alapin Variation offers a less complicated alternative to the main lines of the Sicilian Defense, while still maintaining control over the center of the board.
- Learn to play Halász-McDonnell Gambit: Attack on the king sideAlthough there is no concrete evidence in the archives regarding the initial instance of the Halász Gambit being played, it is established that the gambit dates back to no later than 1840.
- Learn to play the Møller AttackIt is a sharp and aggressive line that aims to seize control of the center and launch a quick attack against the black king. The Moeller Attack was named after Jørgen Møller, a Danish chess player who analyzed this line in 1898.
- Learn to play From’s Gambit to exploit the opponentDespite these risks, the From’s Gambit can be a fun and interesting opening to play for those who want to try something different. It can be particularly effective in blitz or rapid games where opponents may not have time to fully analyze the position.
- Muzio Gambit: King’s Gambit on steroidsIf you are an experienced player who enjoys playing for the attack, the Muzio Gambit may be a great opening to add to your repertoire. However, if you are a more cautious player who prefers to play a more solid and defensive game, you may want to stick with more traditional openings.
- Learn to play Budapest Gambit: A sharp weapon against Indian gamesPlaying the Budapest Gambit requires a certain amount of courage and willingness to take risks. Black sacrifices a pawn for rapid development and the initiative, so it’s important to play aggressively and seek active play in the center.
- Learn to play Ulvestad Variation against the Italian gameThis variation is not as common as some of the other lines in the Italian Game, but it has gained popularity in recent years due to its aggressive nature and the potential for Black to gain the initiative early on.
- Learn to play Evans Gambit: A Welsh sea captain’s inventionThe Evans Gambit has been played at the highest levels of chess, and has been employed by famous players such as Paul Morphy, Mikhail Tal, and Garry Kasparov.
- Learn to play Krejcik Gambit: A shocking anti-Alekhine’s lineThe Krejcik Gambit is an exciting and aggressive variation in the Alekhine’s Defense chess opening. It can be a powerful weapon in the hands of experienced players who are comfortable sacrificing material for positional advantages.
- Learn to play the Frankenstein-Dracula Variation: The monster and the countThe variation was given its name by Tim Harding in his 1976 book on the Vienna Game, in which he said that the bloodthirstiness of the character of play was such that “a game between Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster would not seem out of place.”
- Learn to play Jänisch Gambit: A surprise counterattackThe Jänisch Gambit is a risky opening that requires precise calculation and a good understanding of attacking play. White can gain an advantage by exploiting Black’s weakened pawn structure, but Black’s active pieces and counterattacking chances can also lead to a strong position.
- Learn to play Rousseau Gambit: Risky, but tricky counterattackOverall, the Rousseau Gambit is a creative and dynamic option for black that can catch white off guard and lead to powerful counterattacks. It requires careful calculation and a willingness to take risks, but for those who enjoy a complex and aggressive game of chess, it can be a very rewarding choice.
- Learn to play Traxler Counterattack: Not for the faint-heartedOverall, the game Reinisch vs Karel Traxler is a brilliant example of attacking chess, and has inspired many players to try the Traxler Counterattack in their own games.
- Learn to play Latvian Gambit: A blast from the pastLet’s say it in the beginning – the Latvian Gambit is a controversial opening, and…
- Learn to play Spielmann Gambit and jam your opponentAs you know, I usually pick a suitable game from my game site, BrainKing.com, to demonstrate the strategy and tactics of the opening in question. However, there was no real selection this time, as the only Spielmann Gambit game in the BrainKing.com database wasn’t actually played by strong players, so the commentary will be a little longer to highlight all blunders and suggest stronger lines.
- Play like Fischer and beat the King’s GambitRobert James Fischer, the eleventh World Chess Champion (1972-1975), once said that the rejection of any gambit begins with accepting it. After losing a game to Boris Spassky in 1960 (Fischer, as black, chose the Kieseritzky gambit), he decided to refute the king’s gambit once and for all.
- Learn to play Danish GambitA key to mastering a chess opening is to understand its fundamental idea. Without knowing the objective of the opening moves, we aren’t ready for any unusual response that could come from the opponent, which usually leads to losing any previously gained advantage.
Additionally, playing unusual openings can be fun and challenging. Chess players are constantly looking for ways to improve their game and try new things. Unusual openings can provide a fresh perspective on the game and offer new challenges to explore.
Finally, some players simply enjoy the aesthetics of unusual openings. Chess is a beautiful game, and unusual openings can add to its allure. Players may find the unusual patterns and positional considerations of such openings to be intellectually stimulating and aesthetically pleasing.
Of course, it is important to note that while unusual openings can be effective in certain situations, they should be used with caution. Unorthodox openings can often lead to unbalanced positions, where both players have a chance to win. Players should be aware of the risks associated with unusual openings and be prepared to adapt to their opponent’s response.