The Golden Opening

 

Apparently, a local school chess coach recently suggested to his students that when playing White in a tournament, they should open with 1.e3 xx 2.d3 xx 3.Bd2 xx 4.Be2 xx 5.Nf3 xx 6.Nc3 xx 7.O-O. This is a variation of 'the golden moves of chess', a scheme to develop pieces very quickly in the opening. The opening supposedly gives White a good chance to get through seven moves with decent win prospects, regardless of Black's response to the scheme. But the opening does not develop any pawns beyond the third rank in the first seven moves, thus perhaps sacrificing later positional advantages. This unconventional opening does not appear in MCO-14, and there seems to be no discussion of it on the internet.

 

Using tChessPro to select Black's moves and optimize Black's defense against this no-brainer 'strategy' the following 6-1/2 move sequence resulted: 1 e3 d5 2 d3 e5 3 Bd2 Nf6 4 Be2 Bd6 5 Nf3 O-O 6 Nc3 Nc6 7 O-O: that sequence showed an evaluation of -0.41 points (a deficit for White). In self-play mode (20 seconds per move) tChessPro played to a draw on White's 85th move.

 

In comparison, tChessPro showed White's 'best' 7-move 1.e3 sequence (against Black's 'best' play) to be 1 e3 d5 2 d4 Bf5 3 Bd3 Bxd3 4 Qxd3 Nc6 5 Nf3 e6 6 Nbd2 Bd6 7 O-O, still giving White a deficit at -0.11 points.

 

So 1.e3 inherently does not seem to be a good opening. However, this "Golden opening" may be a handy no-brainer crutch for weak players in a tournament. It establishes a defended 7-move development position, but at that point White will have to shift into 'rational-chess' mode to recover from his approximately half-pawn deficit.

 

In comparison, playing one version of the Ruy Lopez (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 O-O Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3), White obtains a 0.23 point evaluation. Against a Sicilian game (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e5 7 Nb3), White's advantage is 0.37 points, 0.78 points better than the 'Golden' opening at 7 White moves. For one French Defense (1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3e5 c5 4 c3 Nc6 5 Nf3 Qb6 6Be2 c4 7 Nbd2), White is ahead by about 0.40 points at 7 moves.

 

Thus, White should probably not use the opening. Why squander a move-first advantage by sacrificing nearly half a pawn in seven moves? Analysis shows that the solid openings that we have covered are generally better choices for White. Furthermore, the 'Golden' opening does not appear anywhere in a database of three million games by proficient chess players. That suggests that there are other inherent weaknesses that this brief analysis does not cover.

 

The biggest advantage of this opening at pre-college tournaments is that it helps ensure that even the weakest players can always get through seven moves without a major blunder when they play White. Furthermore, if they watch for a Black blunder during the first six Black moves, they can occasionally seize early game control. These legal schemes may help a team accumulate a few extra points in any given tournament, but they do not reflect conventional 'good chess' principles. Similar trolling techniques like using the Bishop's opening to try to lure an opponent into a Scholar's Mate belong in the same category. The best defense is to discuss and demonstrate these openings in chess club to teach the new chessplayers how to avoid similar traps.