Flank Openings

Flank openings are chess openings that begin with anything other than the d- and e-pawn at the start of a game. Compared to the main e4-d4 variations, these openings tend to catch rivals off-guard and contain many diverse strategies.

English opening is a flank opening

English Opening (1.с4), for instance, often leads to strategic and positional games where both sides maneuver pieces and create pawn breaks to achieve a better position.

Bird Opening (1.f4), however, is a much more tactical and risky approach to the game. White weakens their Kingside to assault the enemy with an early expansion.

Benefits of deployment flank openings

Deploying flank openings can have pros and cons compared to the mainstream (d4-e4) openings. This depends on which first moves are played. Since the d4 and e4 lines are deeply studied by many players, they contain many benefits to outsmart the rival.
Some setups, such as King’s Indian Defense, allow players to create different ideas in the same pawn structure. Also, players can control key diagonals, leading to tactical games.

1. Surprise Element

One of the biggest benefits of these openings is to surprise the rival and get them out of the book. By taking the theory out of the game, the target that the opponent aims to reach can be avoided. Also, gaining experience in a specific opening can be advantageous. Players often make more inaccuracies and mistakes in these openings compared to the e4-d4 lines.

2. Flexible Pawn Structures

The pawn structure plays a crucial element. In some openings, such as King’s Indian Defense, players can create a setup and be flexible with the pawn structure. The pawns can be fixed or remain as they are to allow for further complications if desired.

KIA position - Flexible Pawn Structure

As the above example shows, Black can play e5, c5, or c6 and reach different games. If Black plays e5, the game can be played in a closed structure after White goes for e5. If Black plays c6, they can slide their Queen over the a5 square. If they play c5, they can open up the fianchettoed Bishop on the g7-square.

3. Control of the Key Diagonals

Another key advantage of the openings with the fianchetto is that the long diagonals can play a crucial role for that side due to the constant control of those squares. A flank attack often complements this and aims to exploit those squares with other pieces. It is crucial to note that keeping the Bishops as in the image is crucial because that diagonal can also be a weakness in the absence of control over that diagonal.


In the above example, Black seeks to go for b5-b4 and open up the b-file to reinforce the assault on the long ‘a1-h8’ diagonal.

4. Unconventional Play

Creating your own unique way of playing is another pro of these openings. Players can create their own repertoire and find ideas no one has ever thought of. Deploying these ideas in games will show the strengths and weaknesses behind the player’s thought processes.

Unconventional Play

As seen in the example, White gives up a pawn and a full b2-Bishop to trap the Queen. This will be an engine-like plan for an untrained eye. These ideas can be developed very early if the most common moves are considered during the study process.

5. Opportunities for Tactical Play

Some openings, such as 1.f4, allow the game to enter a tactical territory where many pieces will be attacked and opportunities will be available for both parties. This is especially beneficial for tactical players who tend to keep the dynamics alive and get a decisive lead at the early stage of the game.

5. Opportunities for Tactical Play

What are the best flank openings in chess?

English Opening (1.c4) and Zukertort Opening (1.Nf3) are two of the best flank openings used widely among all players.


1.c4 is regarded as one of the most solid and positional approaches and is often used among the top players. It is objectively sound and leads to an edge with White if the enemy is unaware of its nuances.

1.с4 - one of the best flanc openings


1.Nf3 is one of the most common first moves. It allows White flexibility by improving the Knight. White can continue by knowing what they will play against in the second move.

1.Nf3 - one of the best flanc openings

What are the worst flank openings in chess?

Grob Opening and Barnes Opening are the worst openings in chess due to the irreversible weaknesses created on the ‘e1-h4’ diagonal.


It is not advised to deploy this opening because the advanced g-pawn will be a constant target. Also, the King will not be safe on the Kingside against tactical chances.

1.g4 - one of the worst chess openings



With a similar idea to 1.g4, this opening weakens the ‘e1-h4’ diagonal and allows many chances from the get-go.

1.f3 - one of the worst chess openings

Should beginners use flank openings?

Beginners may utilize strong flank openings to improve their understanding of pawn structures and tactical abilities. It is worth being cautious about playing too dubious. The initial weaknesses might become a liability for the rest of the game.

Written by
Emre Sancakli, Сhess Coach
has a rating of 2400+ on chess.com and lichess.org, making him one of the top 5000 players in the world. He teaches many chess enthusiasts and even creates educational courses. As a writer, he keeps bringing his 'A game' to the content you will face on this website.
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