Observation of the day (lunch break pocket philosophy)

While looking at the 2014 leaflet, I noticed that with 1.e4 it is Black who decides what the opening is called, while with 1.d4 this is not the case as frequently (Catalan v Queen’s Gambit, Nimzo/QID/Catalan). Obviously we have a Scotch/Italian/Ruy Lopez issue, but I cannot really think of any other 1.e4 opening where it is not Black that decides?!

20 thoughts on “Observation of the day (lunch break pocket philosophy)”

  1. Bishopgame, kingsgambit, Vienna, Center game, Ponziani but also further in the big openings: Worall, Exchange variation, deferred exchange variation,… You also have many crazy gambits like Halaszgambit, Halloweengambit,… These are all names based on how white opens and start with 1.e4

    Not surprisingly these openings were popular in the 19th century but still are played regularly today on amateurlevels.

  2. Pensée de l’escalier—I suppose if one follows John Emms and opens the KIA with 1.e.4 then it could be included as “white deciding,” (granted Nf3 is the traditional route).

  3. Interesting observation. In general I feel that 1 e4 gives Black much more choice to what kind of game to play…from the solid Caro Kann to the dangerous Alekhine…while against 1 d4 Black’s choice is much more limited…even if you play the Grunfeld to seek counterplay, White has many options to dry the game…I think that in a philosophical sense it depends on the d4 pawn being already protected (by the queen d1)…White says – do what you want, my d4 pawn is already protected, you can’t stop my c2-c4 thrust in any way so my strategy is much more solid.

  4. Stefan Rosenbrand

    I noticed this once too. Interesting isn’t it? generally I think that e4 gives black a very good choice between moves. e5 into the berlin is very solid and so is the french. the winawar french and classical caro with 0-0 are a bit sharper while if black wants to go al out he can try one of many sicilians. Not to mention the huge amount of set-ups that black has against the Lopez (I still consider it critical).

  5. I think that after 1.d4 it’s usually black as well: Dutch, QGD, QGA, Slav, Semi-Slav, Vienna, Ragozin, Benoni, Nimzo Indian, Bogo Indian, Queen’s Indian, King’s Indian, Grunfeld, Old Indian…

    It’s primarily the Catalan, the “d-Pawn Specials” and the generic “Queen’s Gambit” that are white’s.

  6. The thing is that with 1.e4, apart from 1…e5, the opening immediately has a commonly used name. The difference isn’t between “white decides” and “black decides”, but between “name decided after move 1” and “name decided after move 3”. Presumably because 1.d4 allows more transpositions in the first few moves.

  7. @Remco G
    The Dutch, yes. But QGA and the next few of them. Sorry they are all lines in the Queen’s Gambit. Nimzo, Bogo and Queen’s Indian. I do not agree. They are to a great extend decided by White’s third move…

  8. OK, yes, and what? This is really unimportant. You play e4 or d4 for such or such reason, your play style, your philosophy… And even if you are in an opening decided by Black at first, you can always select the course of play at one place. E.g. you are in the Sicilian Najdorf. OK it’s Black who has chosen c5 and the play but at the 6th move it’s White who choose: Bg5, Be2, g3, Be3… and every move brings a different style of continuations. And White can also choose any Anti-Sicilian systems at the 2nd or 3rd move…

    So, really, this is absolutely unimportant and only half true.

  9. Jacob Aagaard :
    @Remco G
    The Dutch, yes. But QGA and the next few of them. Sorry they are all lines in the Queen’s Gambit. Nimzo, Bogo and Queen’s Indian. I do not agree. They are to a great extend decided by White’s third move…

    That is exactly why I switched back to the Grunfeld.
    I didn’t want to play 3 heavy loaded types of openings decided on the 3rd move. 🙂

  10. It is pure history pretty well explained in Kasparov predecessors books. As the open games were first to be played extensively, they first got a name. 1.e4 e5 was the norm in those early days. So Italian, Spanish came first. Anything deviating from the norm got a name so French, Sicilian, … were initially all considered as deviations. The 1.d4 openings were mainly developed in the 20th century (Nimzo, Gruenfeld,..) so followed a very different track than the 1.e4 openings.

  11. The Dutch I play is decided on move two, since I gambit dodge with 1…e6 then 2….f5. White decides on his move two—2. c4 (or some others), but 2. e4 and I must go to the French. It seems that where one ends up is a function of a series of reactions wherein each player has some input into where things are heading—the relation is more determinative than either relata. Are there lines by which black can force white out of the English?? 1…d5 usually forces a Scandinavian but white can try to resist and head to certain Caro-Kann lines. I suppose there is always the irrational that would be nameless, as might happen if a Dutch player just continued Dutch moves after 2. e4. The history of the names is interesting and informative, but I am struggling to find a rule that may tell us something non-trivial here.

  12. Brabo hits the nail on the head. Generally openings get a name when they deviate from what historically has been the norm.

    For example:
    1… e5 (no name b/c historically the norm; “deviations” like Sicilian, French, Caro … have a name.)
    2.Nf3 (name for all deviations: Pc3, Bc4, f4, d4 …)
    2… Nc6 (no name, in contrast to Petrov, Philidor …)
    3.Bb5 (Spanish! Because historically this was not the norm. (I guess there is no historical norm at this point.))
    3… a6 (not the Berlin, not the Schlieman, not the Steinitz … Sure, you can call it the Morphy var. but when did everyone ever say to you “Today, I played the Morphy variation of the Spanish.”?)
    4.Ba4 (not the exchange var.)
    Nf6 (not …)

    Aagaard’s reasoning makes little sense to me. (Catalan is an opening but QGA is just a line of the queens gambit? Nimzo, Bogo, QID is mainly decided by white? So no Benoni or QGD allowed?)

    I don’t see more openings ‘decided’ by white after 1.d4 than after 1.e4.

  13. One thing I notice is that with 1.e4, white’s main choice of answer to most defences is decided at move 3: Lopez or Scotch, Open Sicilian or Rossolimo/Moscow (or Closed or Grand Prix), 3.Nc3 or Tarrasch French, Main Line or Advance Caro-Kann. With 1.d4, it is usually later: Exchange, Main Line or Bf4 against QGD, Meran or Botvinnik Semi-Slav, Classical, Rubinstein or Saemisch Nimzo, Exchange or Russian Grunfeld, Classical, Saemisch or whatever against KID. I suspect this is because 2.c4 is a non-developing move.

    p.s. Does anyone else’s auto-correct insist on Caroline-Kann?

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