How do you meet 1.e4?

As the finishing line of Playing 1.e4 – Caro-Kann, 1…e5 and Minor Lines is in sight, a poll question came to mind: What is your usual defence against 1.e4?

If you happen to be a World Championship Candidate, then I guess your usual choice is the Sicilian or 1…e5, with some Caros and the occasional French thrown in, but I expect there will be a range. So what’s your line? Is it Sicilian, 1…e5, French, Caro-Kann, 1…d6, 1…g6, 1…d5, 1…Nf6 or Other?

I know this will only tell us your first move, not your favourite line. A Najdorf fanatic is a different animal from a believer in the Pin variation, and allsorts play 1…d6. But, like your first move, it’s a start.
Last week’s poll gave a wide spread of answers, with several posters for the lower brackets lamenting that they couldn’t play as much as they would like.

55 thoughts on “How do you meet 1.e4?”

  1. I m sure I’m not alone when I say I play more than one defence to 1.e4

    Playing in the same leagues for over 20 years I tend to pick my opening depending on the opponent I play I tend to alternate between the Dragon, 1…e5 and The French.

    I know people say you should onkywy one opening and stick to ot. But I don’t agree this may work for some and I would love to have loyalty to one particular opening but I enjoy playing different structures and having s broader repertoire has served me very well over the years.

    I would be interesting to hear how others think. Is it better to stick to be one opening or vary, or does it depend on your personality. I suppose there are pros and cons of either approach.

  2. At the moment I play 1…c6 according to Schandorff, but my plan would be to be able to play

    * 1…c6 with both 4…Bf5 and 4…Nd7 (I don’t really know a good book with that recommendation).
    * French with Ntirlis on the one hand and Berg third volume on the other, so I have almost always two move choice for each variation (remember Ntirlis has two options against Nc3 & Bg5).

    I agree with @The Doctor in that is better to have a bigger repertoire. For one, you are a better player, as you get to know different positions better, and another important factor is that you don’t get bored to always the same thing (and I do get bored!).

  3. Played the Najdorf for 35 yrs. Quit playing chess for 10 yrs Came back Played the Petroff, switched to Caro-Kann per Schandorff, flirted with Scandinavian for Club games. Switched to e5, Nc3 with the Open Spanish and Italian. Recently switched Italian to 2N’s. Pretty happy with that

    Flirted with adding the French a couple of time–Ntirlis & Berg being the most recent. However, I find its a lot of work to add the French. Also thought about bringing back the Caro-Kann for a second line–didn’t lose with it, but found it difficult to win.

    Decided instead to return to my first love, the Sicilian, but not the Najdorf. I like the Sveshnikov and am considering the Dragon because it reminds me of what I liked in the Najdorf originally,–the castled on opposite side simultaneous attacks racing to see who gets there first. Back in the late 60’s the 6.Bg5 Najdorf was that way. I already know quite a lot about Sicilian positions, so its easier than, the French for me.

    I know I’m all over the map and not a good example.

  4. Sorry meant e5, Nc6. Also all those years made me comfortable with the hole on d5 in the pawn structure, so the Sveshnikov doesn’t seem unusual.

  5. Nice to see the Caro-Kann being so popular, hopefully Jacob and Lars will take note and consider making a 2nd edition?

    I’m currently playing the Caro-Kann exclusively, however, I’ve bought Bologan’s 2 books giving a full 1…e5 repertoire so might start playing the Breyer and Marshall as well. I will also buy Nikolaos’s work on the Breyer when that’s out too. I use to play the Najdorf in the past but got fed up of facing the Anti-Sicilians. I will probably look at it again when Ftacnik and Aagaard finish the Najdorf and Anti-Sicilian books for GM rep series though.

    My reasons for playing the Caro-Kann is because I get solid positions with chances to outplay my opponent later in the game. I also like that the positions are asymmetrical.

  6. It’s the French for me! I follow Berg’s reportoire, with the Winawer Poisoned Pawn and 3…Nf6 against the Tarrasch. As a second option I also play 3…Nf6 against 3.Nc3 (following Playing the French), but I prefer the Winawer since I find it easier to generate winning chances and there is more variety than in the Steinitz.

  7. I play the Pirc exclusively for 20 years. There a plenty of my games in the databases, so preparation is quite easy against me, but I was outprepared only 5 times in all these years. Sometimes I still got positions that looked very ugly to anybody but me – and later on won them convincingly. I guess you have to have a special feeling for that opening. I could, for example never ever play the French, as I love to play against it. For some good reason I will broaden my repertoire with e6-Sicilian, which is of course a completly different animal then Pirc. I am really curious to see if this works out.

  8. James :
    Nice to see the Caro-Kann being so popular, hopefully Jacob and Lars will take note and consider making a 2nd edition?
    I’m currently playing the Caro-Kann exclusively, however, I’ve bought Bologan’s 2 books giving a full 1…e5 repertoire so might start playing the Breyer and Marshall as well. I will also buy Nikolaos’s work on the Breyer when that’s out too. I use to play the Najdorf in the past but got fed up of facing the Anti-Sicilians. I will probably look at it again when Ftacnik and Aagaard finish the Najdorf and Anti-Sicilian books for GM rep series though.
    My reasons for playing the Caro-Kann is because I get solid positions with chances to outplay my opponent later in the game. I also like that the positions are asymmetrical.

    There is the excellent work from Houska on the Caro-Kann, very high level analyses.
    Caro-Kann kind of suit me and is the defense I’ve played the most, but you need to change from time to time, which is easier now with more high level material around.
    Would be cool to have a GM Rep on the Alekhine, so little good material on this underestimated defense!

  9. I think 1…e5 is the best defence for me. I also was in love with the french sometimes, but that defence doesn’t love me. In my class (mid-1700s) 1….e5 is not that popular then at beginners or at really strong level. But often the white players are not well prepared, because they wonder more about the sicilian, french and so on. But there are also some holes, especially in the ruy. I hope the book will help me with there.

    One club mate says, that 1…e5 is a misstake at our level, because white has to much options. And then he plays some sidelines in the modern defence and fights for staying on the board alive in every game he has the black pieces…

  10. 1. …d6 was my usual move, but I’ve been adding 1. …e5

    I see the poll so far reflects the popularity of replies I see when I play 1. e4, i.e.

    The not surprising order of…

    1. Sicilian
    2. 1. …e5
    3. French
    4. Caro-Kann
    5. Others

  11. I’ve played the french for three years but the exchange french annoy me.
    I actually play …e5 and the petroff but i’m looking to change to the sicilian to spice up my play.
    I’m still hesitating between the classical and the Kalashnikov though…

  12. @Grimsey64:
    I actually welcome the Exchange French, for example two Quality Chess authors (Nikos + Berg) offer two interesting systems against it in which the game will be anything but boring. I’ve got a score of something like appr. 80% against the Exchange French with a system very similar to Berg’s recommendations. I wish I had a similar score against all white’s tries …

  13. I find I meet the French more than 1…e5, most of my opponents being in the 1900-2300 range. Otherwise the frequency of moves is in the same order, although not not the same proportions – I’d guess close to 50% of my White games are Sicilians.

  14. @Tim S

    I did a study about this, and according to my database (with the games played in my town) sicilian was about 40% and French, Caro and 1…e5 were another 40%.

  15. One problem I’ve got is to find an 1.e4 defence to match the Grunfeld. The Dragon is natural but the tactics aren’t as sound and nothing else works as well.

  16. My repertoire has been very stable against d4 and very unstable agaisnt e4 over the years. I now see the difference. I feel much more confortable agaisnt d4 than against e4. I like to change and study new openings but I’m not sure it’s very rewarding in the long run.
    I answered c5 and I hope the Taimanov I have played in recent years is here to stay in my repertoire.

  17. Out of curiosity, how well has the QC Caro-Kann book held up theoretically since it came out? In other words, if one were to start playing from it, how badly would one be trounced?

  18. BTW, I play mostly 1… e5, and go as far into a mainline Ruy as I am allowed. At my low level, that usually isn’t very far. I tried going for Najdorfs, but got lots and lots of Moscows instead. Perhaps trying the French or Caro would give me more mainline-ish games?

  19. I have been playing the Dragon in most cases for more than fifteen years now. No plans to switch, but in recent times I sometimes played the Alekhine or French.

    Did a research of my white games over the last 6 years (I’m an 1.e4 player):

    202 games:

    1. Sicilian (77)
    2. e5 (38)
    3. French (37)
    4. Caro-Kann (20)
    5. d6 (9)
    6. Scandinavian (8)
    7. g6 (7)
    8. Alekhine (4)
    9. Rest (2)

    The average rating of my oppontents was 2240 ELO.
    So obviously a clear lead for the Sicilian, with French and e5 fighting for the second place and the Caro following.
    The “big four” are obviously most popular.

    What is interesting though that in the last years, e5 has made a big leap in popularity, in the years prior to that statistic, I had nearly 2 French games for each e4 e5 game.

  20. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    @Sinclair – Perhaps the Winawer!? Neither the Grunfeld nor the Winawer is for me, but I noticed they go well together.

  21. @An Ordinary Chessplayer
    I agree. I’ve tried it in CC games and have 1 win and about 5 draws. I may well return to it since all my opponents played 3.Nc3. I like the French since it’s not so easy for white to liquidate to a draw.

  22. I play the caro-kann but I’m ready to go into the French and “Tiger” because the books I have from QC on these openings are very inspiring. Will definitely buy the book on 1. -e5 when it is published.

    @The Lurker: Schandorff’s book on the CK used to be my favourite opening book. Unfortunately, a lot of sharp line have been discovered in the meanwhile, so if you choose Schandorff’s recommendations and your opponent has the Negi books (1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 Sc3), you will be killed. On the other hand, if you have Schandorff´s CK and Houska’s new book on the CK, you have a very reliable defence. For the above classical variation, this is fine. However, for example in the Advance variation, I far prefer to play 3. -Lf5 as Schandorff recommends and not Houska’s 3. -c5, so therefore it is great to have both books.

  23. Think it is wrongly asked question: “What is your usual defence against 1.e4?” What about if someone is alternating say Sicilian and French like me? I answered Sicilian but it is wrong at all.

  24. I play Caro-Kann. I use Schandorff and the last book by Houska. Also Move by Move.
    I want to add the French. I have Maksimovic, Play the French 4th Edition and Moskalenko (first edition)

  25. @Sinclair
    Most top Grunfeld players seem to play …, e6 Sicilians, historically the Scheveningen, nowadays more often Najdorf (with …, e6), Taimanov, Kan or Classical (with …, e6). Another common option is the Open Lopez. This makes a lot of sense, as black gets free development, play against a semi-open centre which could become either dangerous or weak and a queenside majority, all like the Grunfeld. It seems to be out of fashion, but there is a very good book available! If you don’t mind being more off-beat, the Alekhine is a reasonable choice. Structurally, the closest to the Grunfeld is probably the Scandinavian with 2…, Nf6. I don’t know much about it, but nobody seems to play it so it might be a bit dodgy. The Winawer seems to me to be about as different from the Grunfeld as it is possible to be. In the French, the Ntirlis/Aagaard repertoire seems closer – at least you can usually swop your c-pawn for white’s d-pawn.

  26. @Steve
    I’ve tried the Alekine twice in CC. Both games were boring draws. The Czech players go for the Scheveningen but I’m afraid of the Keres attack. The Najdorf seems insanely complicated but there are some good books. I like the Scandinavian OTB but it’s a bit risky in CC. I’ve got the QC book on the Open Lopez without trying it. This may be my next project. The choice seems to be between risk and soundness.

  27. @Ray
    Everything about the Dragon is good in CC other than the Burnett variation. The Topalov variation is safe but quiet. I notice that Boris Avrukh plays the Classical Sicilian and Boris Gelfand the Nadjorf as well as the Grunfeld.

  28. Because I am working on my PhD I don’t have much time and was getting frustrated with my Sicilian, as well as my mainline 1 e4 as White. I felt I wa no longer having any fun, so I decided to switch over to gambits for all my openings.

    So far that has meant the Morra and King’s Gambit as white (using both Esserman’s and Shaw’s books) and most recently Smerdon’s Scandinavian as Black. I have only gone through about 20% of those three books, and my rating ~1750 has stayed about the same. I have lost plenty of long painful endgames, but at the same time I can’t believe the number of wins where I have simply blown my opponents off the board in 25 moves or less.

  29. Used to change my reply every few games. (played c5, e5 and Nf6)
    The main reason is because I never felt comfortable studying openings.
    So I watch some youtube clips go ahead and play.

  30. I’m a great fan of QC books but not of their excerpts/contents. After reading this one I still have no idea on what is proposed after 2 Nf3, e6 3 b3 or 3g3 or 3d3 or 3c3 (for this one I guess it’s the line dealt in expertsVS anti sicilians, with Nc6 not with b6, right?).
    I’ll probably end up buying this one blindly just because it’s Quality Chess, but I really, really would appriciate a bit more information please.

  31. @Isolani

    If you read the introduction it tells you quite s bit he recommends 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 Nf6 transposing to c3 lines covered earlier.

    I think he hints that he’ll cover 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6/d6 3.Bb5 d6/Nc6 in the Moscow/Rossilimo.

  32. Im very happy that have bought Avrukh Slav defence. Nice opening. Hope QC will publish something his on 1.e4.

    On 1.e4 have Lars Caro Kann and Im tired of playing this opening.

    Question: wILL Avrukh write opening book on 1.e4 for black?

    As it consider QC opening books I have trompovsky, avrukh 1.d4, 2. d4, Slav, lars queens gambit and indian, caro kann, trompovski, Beat KID. But like to see something like Avrukhs books on 1.e4 if its written like slav. Till i got this book, enjoyed Lars books heavily. Specially quotes from music, movies, ….

  33. I’m a Taimanov and Kalashnikov fan. I will probably play the Sveshnikov in the not so distant future but I have lots of opening work to do already. Until then I use the 2…Nc6 move order and if 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 you can choice between 4…e6 going into the Taimanov, or 3…e5 Kalashnikov, or 3…Nf6 Sveshnikov. If you play all three its very hard for most players to prep against you. However, you do have to study roughly 1150 pages of opening theory (Everyman chess Killer Sicilian, Quality Chess Sveshnikov Sicilian, and Chess Stars The most Flexible Sicilian.) Not mention the downside of the 2…Nc6 move order being the ever popular 3. Bb5 Rosolimo. Its a lot of study but it leads to some nice chess and a dynamic black repertoire.

  34. I like the kalashnikov. I think is more agressive than the accelerated dragon (for black) .
    The kalashnikov seems to have less theory than the sveshnikov

  35. The Doctor :
    If you read the introduction it tells you quite s bit he recommends 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 Nf6 transposing to c3 lines covered earlier.

    Thanks, Doctor but I noticed that. After 3.c3 many systems are still possible but I guess it’s one with an early Nc6 to cover all transpositions from 2….Nc6.
    I don’t ask for the whole index, but basically the only information guiven by the contents is that the position after 2…e6 is covered. Something obvious anyway. So I’ll probably wait for my copy to discover if it
    1 helps me to complete my current repertoire or makes a usefull second string.
    2 joins my collection of repertoire books I use at 20% or less.
    I understand the contents first use is to make the book practical for the reader, not to inform future buyers, it wouldn’t be a good idea to make it too heavy. So may be there should be some separate information just online or a more detailed introduction?
    I don’t want hijack this thread anymore, but I suppose this blog is also there to get some feedback from the readers.

  36. Sorry, a few more words.
    I just had a look at Negi’s upcoming book and it’s excerpt. I can guess ( guess, not read) he covers the very exciting knight sacrifice in the Sveshnikov allready covered by Pavlovic in his cutting hedge serie. This assumption made me immediatly switch from “Hmmm…I may buy it, it’s Negi after all…” to ” I need this one!”.But why hide such bombs!?
    Why should I speculate like that on what I’m buying? Why not simply be informed in advance a bit more?

  37. 1…c5 for me! Primarily a Taimanov player, but also play the Najdorf.

    That said, what I find a little humorous is that, based on the sample available and the table of contents, the upcoming book on Beating the Anti-Sicilians is labelled “Grandmaster Repertoire 6A”. The original “Grandmaster Repertoire 6” was based on the Najdorf Sicilian. Yet, in 6A, he is recommending 2…Nc6 against 2.Nc3. Najdorf players should be playing 2…a6!, as mentioned in a red cover book that I can’t name by another author because it’s from a different publishing company. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3, the Najdorf player is ready to cry!

    Given that I know the Najdorf, I actually still play 2…a6 against 2.Nc3 because I find the line as a whole, with 3…b5, 4…Bb7, 5…e6, and 6…d5, very strong for Black against Grand Prix or even Closed positions.

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