Ware Opening

The Ware Opening starts with 1.a4 and is considered a dubious flank opening. It violates the basic opening principles and is not played at the elite level in classical matches.

Ware Opening

Ware Opening is named after a chess player in the US who lived in the 1800s, and it is usually deployed among new players due to their lack of chess knowledge.

Winning percentages on both sides

Master Games Statistics

Results Rate
Victory for White 25%
Draw 50%
Victory for Black 25%

Statistics from 3 Million Amateur Games

Results Rate
Victory for White 44%
Draw 5%
Victory for Black 51%

Main Ideas of Ware Opening

The main goal of this opening is to bring the a1-Rook into the game. However, it is not a good idea to develop the Rook so early because the enemy’s minor pieces can attack it, and this would allow them to continuously improve new pieces. It is usually used as a handicap, indicating that White plays with an inferior position and tries to prove they can prevail against the odds.

Ware Opening Theory

1…a5 line is a symmetrical variation that often leads to balanced scenes.

1…d5 often leads to reversed French-type structures where White expands on the Queenside, and Black expands on the Kingside.

1…e5 often leads to reversed Benoni-type structures where White aims to create their ideal pawn break, and Black gets the space advantage in the center.

1…Nf6 is a flexible approach that can be transposed to the mentioned structures

1…a5 line

It occurs after Black responding with 1…a5. The goal of this move for Black is to have a symmetrical pawn structure and stop further a-pawn pushes. However, it creates long-term weaknesses for Black and does not take advantage of White’s first move.

Ware Opening 1…a5 line

If Black plays 1…a5, White can continue their play by following the common principles. The regular playable moves are 2.e4, 2.d4, or 2.Nf3. White can also aim to fianchetto the c1-Bishop on the b2-square by going 2.b3. This would give them a modern type of gameplay where they would try to strike to the center of the board with pawn breaks once the enemy plays d5 and e5.

One setup where White plays 2.b3 against Black’s 1…a5 could be 2…d5 (gaining space in the middle), 3.Bb2 (controlling the ‘a1-h8’ diagonal by fianchettoing the c1-Bishop), 3…Nf6 (improving the Knight), 4.Nf3 Bf5 (putting the c8-Bishop outside of the pawn chain before opening up the scope of the f8-Bishop), 5.g3 (creating a fianchetto square for the f1-Bishop on g2-square), 5…e6 (aiming to improve the f8-Bishop), 6.Bg2 Bd6 (Improving the dark-squared Bishop), 7.d3 (aiming e4-pawn pushes), 7…O-O (putting the King into safety), 8. O-O.Re8 (preparing for e5-e4 pawn advancements), 9.Nbd2 (securing the e4-square and improving the b1-Knight), 9…Nbd7 (developing the b8-Knight), 10.Re1 (finishing the preparation on the e4-pawn push), 10…Bg6 (retreating the Bishop not to allow e4-e5 to come with a tempo), 11.e4 dxe4 12.dxe4 e5 (stopping White’s e5 ideas), and 13.Nc4 (improving the Knight to c4 to assault the e5-pawn, and utilizing the a4-pawn’s protection since b5 is not possible by Black).

As seen in the example, c4 and c5 squares usually play a critical role in strategic positions, where White aims to put a Knight on c4, and Black aims to put one in the c5-square. Both a4- and a5-pawns prevent the enemy from pushing the b4- and b5-pawns and kicking those Knights away.

1…d5 variation

It begins after Black responds with 1…d5. It is one of the most common replies to the Ware Opening. Black intends to rein in the center and gain space. White has several moves, but objectively they are worse because they broke the opening principles, created irreparable weaknesses, and allowed the opponent to strike to the center first.

Ware Opening 1…d5 variation

From here, White can play the b3-Bb2 system, which we already covered in the 1…a5 section.
White can also expand on the Queenside by pushing the a-pawn forward (2.a5). These games can be similar to a reversed French-type structure where White aims to play d4, and the c4-pawn pushes to strike on the Queenside and oppress the d5-pawn of the enemy.

2.d4 can also be played to have a fixed pawn structure in the center of the board. These games can be more balanced, although Black would hold the initiative most of the time.

One sample line with 2.a5 could be 1…d5, 2.a5 (expanding in the Queenside), 2…e5 (controlling the center), 3.e3 (aiming to go for d4), 3…Bd6 (developing the Bishop), 4.d4 (striking the e5-pawn), 4…e4 (gaining space), 5.c4 (entering to a reversed French type structure where White expands in the Queenside and Black expands in the Kingside), 5…c6 (protecting the assaulted d5-pawn), 6.Nc3 (developing the Knight and increasing the pressure), 6…Nf6 7.Qb3 (adding another attacker to the Queenside), 7…O-O 8.h3 (preventing Ng4-Qh4 ideas), 8…Re8 9.Qa4 (intending to expand with the b- and c-pawns), 9…h6, and 10.b4. In the resulting position, White would aim to strike on the Queenside, and Black would try to be solid on the long side and attack the uncastled White King.

1…e5 line

This variation takes place after Black responds with 1…e5. This move allows Black to control the center and the f8-Bishop to cover the a3 square, prohibiting White’s Rook from landing there. According to the opening principles, ideas like Ra3 in the early stages of the game should be avoided because the Rooks can be the constant target of a minor piece.

Ware Opening 1…e5 line

The game can transition to the line we discuss if White proceeds with 2.a5 and Black plays the casual looking 2…d5. Then, White can play e3-d4 and strike on the Queenside, as mentioned. It is important to note that these lines are almost always questionable for White objectively but create imbalances, which is an essential element at the amateur level.

White can also play 2.e4, which can be met by 2…Nf6 (assaulting the e4-pawn). Then, Black can strike with 3…d5 and claim the space advantage. These positions are often advantageous for Black, without any specific plans or imbalances that can favor White.

White can also play 2.d3 and 3.e4 against 2…d5, resulting in an endgame after Black goes 3…dxe4. White can capture the e-pawn (4.dxe4), and Queen’s would be traded off on the d1-square (4…Qxd1 and 5.Kxd1). These endgames are balanced and symmetrical but do not reflect the nature of the opening.

Instead, Black can push the d-pawn forward (3…d4), leading to a reversed Benoni-type structure where White already played the a-pawn forward. These structures are often hard to crack if White is familiar with the regular maneuvers and pawn breaks. One possible continuation of this structure could be 4.Na3 (aiming to land on c4 and preventing the b5-pawn push), 4…c5 (gaining extra space), 5.g3 (creating a fianchetto square for the f1-Bishop), 5…Nc6 (developing the Knight), 6.Bg2 Bd6 (developing the Bishop), 7.Nf3 (improving the f1-Knight), 7…Nf6, 8. O-O O-O 9.Nc4 (assaulting the e5-pawn and d6-Bishop), 9…Bc7 (retreating the Bishop).

White would aim for a pawn break in the resulting position, preferably by Nf1 or Nh4 and f4. On the other hand, Black could strike on the Queenside by going Rb8, a6, and b5.

Crab Variation: 2.h4

This line starts after Black plays 1…e5, and White advances the other flank pawn, 2.h4. There is no good reason for playing this opening other than to give the opponent obvious chances to exploit White’s weaknesses.

Ware Opening Crab Variation - 2.h4

Since the g5-square is secured, White can place the c1-Bishop there to pin the f6-Knight occasionally. By fianchettoing the f1-Bishop to g2, White can sometimes pressure the d5-square and take advantage of this sequence. Objectively, White is in deep trouble due to their long-term weaknesses near their King and Queen sides.

A model line could be 2…d5 3.g3 Bd6 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.d3 (creating the regular fianchetto setup), 5…c6 (avoiding tactics on d5-pawn), 6.Nf3 (developing attempt), 6…h6 (preventing Bg5 ideas), 7.Nbd2 (aiming for e4-pawn push), 7…O-O, and 8.e4.

The resulting position would favor Black due to space advantage and White’s weaknesses along the light squares in the Kingside.

1…Nf6 line

This variation occurs after Black responds with 1…Nf6. This gives flexible options to White. The games starting from this opening can transition to variations we mentioned previously because Black usually develops the g8-Knight to f6 in most games.

Ware Opening - 1…Nf6 line

Since we mentioned most of the constructions, we will cover the London-type set-up for this variation. To achieve that, White can play d4-Bf4 and e3. Then, they can improve their g1-Knight to f3 and e5 to create an attack on the Kingside by pushing the g- and h-pawns up the board. If Black plays precisely, they will be slightly better due to White’s first move.

One sample line could be 2.d4 d5 (fixing the pawn structure), 3.Bf4 c5 (assaulting the d4-pawn), 4.e3 (protecting the d4-pawn), 4…Nc6 (increasing the pressure on d4 and improving the Knight), 5.Nf3 e6 6.Nc3 Be7 (getting ready to castle), 7.Ne5 O-O and 8.Bd3.

The difference between this and other London structures is that White can usually castle on the long side and assault on the Kingside. Since the a-pawn is pushed far away, the King will not be safe on the Queenside. White can avoid castling soon and go for h4-Rh3-Rg3 Rook lifts to add another player to the action. Objectively, Black can match this attack and create their assaults by activating pieces and opening up the c-file.

Ware Opening’s pros and cons

Pros Cons
Advanced a-pawn can be advantageous in some lines where White expands on the Queenside. White creates long-term weaknesses.
This move order is hard to punish in Blitz games because finding the Ware Opening counter might be challenging in a limited amount of time. Black is objectively better and can claim the center.
Move 1.a4 does not follow the basic opening principles and lacks a specific logic.
Black is often better in endgames due to White’s advanced pawns.


The Ware Opening is a rarely played flank opening where White pushes the a-pawn forward. It violates basic chess principles and creates long-term weaknesses. Due to a lack of logic, this opening is not recommended at any level.

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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Is the Ware Opening a good opening?

The Ware Opening, characterized by 1.a4, is not considered a good opening in chess. It’s rarely used in serious play and generally not recommended for competitive players, as it doesn’t contribute to early control of the center, a key principle in chess strategy.

What is the point of the Ware Opening?

Ware can be used as a surprise or unconventional tactic, aiming to take the opponent out of familiar territory. It’s more about psychological advantage and playing a less explored game rather than achieving a strong positional or developmental advantage.

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