Each game of chess is complex and unique, and between two evenly matched players it is often very difficult to predict who will be victorious until the very end. Players can attempt to take the lead early in the game by choosing how they play the opening, or the first few moves of the game. Chess enthusiasts study the theory of different possible openings, but which openings are the best is largely a matter of personal style and interpretation. One of the more controversial chess opening strategies is called the Bishop's Opening.
The Bishop's Opening
The Bishop's Opening is an uncommon opening , particularly among novice players, but has been used successfully by chess grandmasters and has even been championed by several chess theorists as the best opening for white. In algebraic chess notation, the Bishop's Opening is as follows: 1.e4 e5 2. Bc4. In case you don't understand this notation, here's a short description of the opening: First, white moves its king pawn forward two spaces. Then, black moves its king pawn forward two spaces. Then white moves its kingside bishop to c4 (the file occupied by the queenside bishops). Those three moves, and only those three moves, constitute the Bishop's Opening.
Advantages of the Bishop's Opening
For white, there are some advantages to playing the Bishop's opening. First, and most immediately, the bishop attacks black's f7 pawn. Although the bishop can't immediately capture that pawn, the pawn is only defended by the black king, which makes it a weak square. Later, if white can attack the pawn with another piece in addition to the bishop, white can safely capture the pawn without being recaptured. For example, depending on black's next move, white could move its queen to h5, creating a potentially powerful attack. White gains an advantage with the Bishop's Opening because black is forced to deal with this threat.
The Berlin Defense
Despite the small advantage for white, the Bishop's Opening is easy to respond to, and black has several good options. The most common response is 2. ...Nf6. This move has two advantages. First, it prevents white from moving its queen to h5 and attacking the f7 pawn, because h5 is now guarded by the knight. Second, it attacks white's pawn at e4. This is a good move for black because it prevents the main threat created by the Bishop's Opening and forces white to respond to the attack on the pawn, which gives black the initiative and thereby, the advantage. Traditionally, this response is called the Berlin Defense.
Another popular response to the Bishop's Opening is called the Classical Defense. In this defense, black mirrors white by moving its bishop: 2. ...Bc5. This does not directly respond to the threat that white will move its queen to h5, but because that queen move is often considered a bad move by experienced players, the Classical Defense is commonly used. The Calabrian Countergambit involves 2. ...f5 is occasionally played, but it is commonly thought to be a mistake because it can easily result in giving white the advantage.
Give it a Try
The Bishop's Opening is unpopular for several reasons, already noted. It is easy for black to respond in one or two established ways, sometimes resulting in black taking the advantage. Additionally, it is rarely used by beginning chess players because the rule of thumb for beginners is to move knights before bishops. However, some professional chess players have pointed out that the Bishop's Opening can be a surprising move and can present an alternative to certain undesirable scenarios early in the game. The best way to understand the Bishop's Opening, as with any chess move, is to try it out yourself.