Anderssen’s Opening (Variations, Move Order, Purpose & Strategy)

The world of chess is filled with exciting possibilities right from the very first move.

While traditional openings such as the Italian Game, the Sicilian Defense, or the French Defense dominate a significant part of chess games, there are still many lesser-known but intriguing options that lie outside the mainstream.

One such fascinating choice is Anderssen’s Opening.

This opening, characterized by the first move 1.a3, may appear unconventional but offers unique strategies and plans that steer the game into less explored territories.

Named after the renowned German chess master Adolf Anderssen, this opening brings its own charm to the 64 squares, providing a rich array of strategic options for players willing to step off the beaten path.

Move Order

Anderssen’s Opening, named after Adolf Anderssen, is a non-standard opening that begins with the moves 1.a3.

Anderssen's Opening, named after Adolf Anderssen, is a non-standard opening that begins with the moves 1.a3.

This might seem unorthodox compared to the more traditional first moves of 1.e4, 1.d4, or even 1.c4 and 1.Nf3, but the purpose of this move is to prepare for a solid setup without immediately contesting the center.

Strategy and Purpose

The overall strategy of Anderssen’s Opening is to avoid typical opening theory, while aiming to develop the pieces and control the center in an unusual way.

1.a3 doesn’t stake an immediate claim on the center of the board, which is a common goal in most standard openings.

Instead, it plays a more subtle role, making room for the rook and planning for a potential expansion on the queenside with b4.

It is a hypermodern opening in its nature, a style that doesn’t aim to control the center early with its pawns but looks to undermine and counter-attack the center controlled by the opponent.


There are numerous variations and possible continuations in Anderssen’s Opening, largely dependent on how Black chooses to respond.

A common reaction from Black is to seize the center with 1…e5 or 1…d5.

In such cases, White can respond with b4, known as the Polish variation, aiming for a queenside fianchetto and a solid pawn structure.

Another way to continue would be to play a delayed form of other standard openings, for example, transposing into a Sicilian Defense or a French Defense after several moves.

Let’s look at some other popular variations.

Anderssen’s Opening, Polish Gambit: 1…a5 2.b4

The Polish Gambit begins with Black responding to the Anderssen’s Opening with 1…a5. After 2.b4, White takes advantage of the pawn move by immediately creating tension on the a-file.

This gambit offers White a chance to open the queenside early, potentially destabilizing Black’s pawn structure and opening lines for their rooks.

Anderssen’s Opening, Bugayev Attack: 1…e5 2.b4

The Bugayev Attack sees Black claiming the center with 1…e5, after which White immediately challenges Black’s pawn structure by advancing the b-pawn to b4.

This move aims to distract Black from controlling the center and put immediate pressure on Black’s setup.

Anderssen’s Opening, Creepy Crawly Formation: 1…e5 2.h3 d5

In the Creepy Crawly Formation, Black responds to 1.a3 by staking a claim in the center with 1…e5. White then plays 2.h3, preparing for a potential g4 push, but refraining from committing to it immediately.

When Black continues with 2…d5, it signals a strong central presence which White may try to undermine later.

Anderssen’s Opening, Andersspike: 1…g6 2.g4

The Andersspike variation sees Black preparing to fianchetto the bishop with 1…g6, in response to which White plays 2.g4, an aggressive move that prepares for a potential pawn storm on the kingside.

This could lead to sharp, combative play as both players will have unusual pawn structures.

Anderssen’s Opening, Spider Sense Gambit: 1…d5 2.d4 Nc6 3.Nf3 Bf5 4.Bf4 e6 5.Nc3 Bd6 6.e3 Nf6 7.g3 h6 8.Bg2 Rc8 9.O-O O-O

In the Spider Sense Gambit, a more extended sequence of moves results in a complicated position.

Black claims the center with 1…d5, and after a series of developing moves, both players castle.

This variation involves a lot of piece development and dynamic pawn play. It is named the ‘Spider Sense Gambit’ probably due to the multiple ‘legs’ (lines of attack) that are extended in this variation.

Anderssen’s Opening, Sammarinese Gambit: 1…a6

The Sammarinese Gambit starts with 1…a6, a move that looks to control the b5 square and possibly prepare for a queenside expansion with …b5.

This gambit gives Black the ability to challenge any White pawn that comes to b5 and provides flexibility in pawn structure for later stages. It can also lead to a mirror position if White continues with b4.

Continuation Lines from 1.a3

Continuation lines from 1.a3 might include:

1… c5 2. c3 e6 3. d4 d5 4. Bf4 Nf6 5. e3 Bd6 6. Bg3 O-O 7. Nd2 Qc7 8. Ngf3 Nbd7 9. dxc5 Nxc5 10. Bxd6 Qxd6 11. c4 

1… c5 2. c3 e6 3. d4 d5 4. Bf4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Bd6 6. Bg3 Qc7 7. dxc5 Qxc5 8. Nbd2 Qc7 9. Qc2 Nc6 10. Bxd6 

1… c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. d4 e6 4. Bf4 d5 5. Nf3 Bd6 6. Bg3 Bxg3 7. hxg3 Nbd7 8. e3 Qc7 9. c4 O-O 10. Qc2 cxd4 11. Nxd4 

1… c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. d4 e6 4. Bf4 d5 5. e3 Bd6 6. Bg3 O-O 7. Nf3 Bxg3 8. hxg3 Qc7 9. dxc5 Qxc5 10. Nbd2 Nc6 11. c4 

1… c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. d4 e6 4. Bf4 d5 5. e3 Nc6 6. Nf3 Bd6 7. Bg3 O-O 8. Nbd2 Bxg3 9. hxg3 Qd6 10. dxc5 Qxc5 11. c4 

1… c5 2. c3 d5 3. d4 e6 4. Bf4 Nf6 5. e3 Bd6 6. Bg3 O-O 7. Nd2 b6 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. Qe2 Qc7 10. Ngf3 

Chess Openings: Learn to Play the Anderssen’s Opening!

Evaluation of 1.a3

1.a3 is generally evaluated as -0.10 to -0.20 for white.


Adolf Anderssen, a German chess master, is the namesake for this opening, though it’s not documented that he regularly used it.

Anderssen was one of the strongest players of his time, famed for his creative and combinative style.

Despite being named after Anderssen, the opening has never been a significant part of top-level competitive play.

Most references to this opening as Anderssen’s Opening are made in a more honorary context, rather than indicating regular use by the player himself.

Whether it’s good for beginners or intermediates

Anderssen’s Opening could be a valuable tool for beginners and intermediates looking to avoid early theoretical battles and forcing lines of more mainstream openings.

By not immediately contesting the center, beginners can focus on solid piece development and understanding strategic concepts.

However, the lack of immediate central control might lead to a passive position if not handled properly.

Intermediates might find Anderssen’s Opening useful to surprise opponents, but should understand the intricacies of playing such a hypermodern system.

How often it’s played at the Grandmaster level

Anderssen’s Opening is rarely seen at the Grandmaster level of chess play.

Most Grandmasters prefer to start the game with more conventional openings that immediately fight for the center, like 1.e4 or 1.d4.

However, it’s not unheard of for it to appear occasionally as a surprise weapon or when a player wishes to avoid theory-heavy lines.

Despite its rarity, it doesn’t mean Anderssen’s Opening is ineffective, but rather that it leads to less explored and more original positions that many top-level players prefer to avoid.

Hikaru Nakamura will sometimes play 1.a3, but generally is less serious games.

Example High-Level Game of Anderssen’s Opening – 1. a3

In the game below, Komodo plays 1. a3 against Stockfish:

1. a3 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3 Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. exd4 d5 6. h3 Bf5 7. Bd3 Be4 8. Be3 e6 9. O-O Be7 10. Be2 h6 11. Nc3 O-O 12. Nxe4 dxe4 13. Ne5 Nd5 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Bc1 Qd6 16. g3 Bf6 17. c3 Rab8 18. Qc2 e3 19. Bf3 exf2+ 20. Qxf2 e5 21. Bxd5 Qxd5 22. dxe5 Bxe5 23. Be3 Qd7 24. Kh2 Qc7 25. Rad1 Rfe8 26. Bc5? Re6 27. Rg1 Rg6 28. b4 h5 29. Qf5 Bxg3+ 30. Kh1 Rd8 31. Qxh5 Qc8 32. Rxd8+ Qxd8 33. Qf5 Qd2 34. Rg2 Qxc3 35. Qc8+ Kh7 36. Qf5 Qxa3 37. Rg1 Qb3 38. Bxa7 Bd6 39. Bc5 Bxc5 40. bxc5 Qe6 41. Qf3 Rh6 42. Kh2 Qe5+ 43. Qg3 Rh5 44. Qxe5 Rxe5 45. Rc1 g5 46. h4 gxh4 47. Kh3 Kg6 48. Kxh4 Kf5 49. Kg3 Ke4 50. Re1+ Kd4 51. Rf1 Kxc5 52. Rxf7 Kd4 53. Rd7+ Rd5 54. Re7 c5 55. Kf2 c4 56. Rc7 Kd3 57. Ke1 Rh5 58. Rd7+ Kc2 59. Rc7 Re5+ 60. Kf2 c3 61. Kf3 Kd3 62. Kf4 Rb5 63. Rd7+ Kc4 64. Ke4 c2 65. Rd4+ Kb3 66. Rd3+ Kb4 67. Rd4+ Ka3 68. Rc4 Rb4 69. Ke3 Rxc4 70. Kd2 c1=Q+ 71. Kd3 Kb3 72. Ke2 Rc3 73. Kf2 Qb2+ 74. Ke1 Rc1# 

Komodo held a fairly drawish position against Stockfish until 26. Bc5 was played (instead of Bd4), which could have helped reduce material on the board and help sustain the even nature of the game.

Anderssen's Opening - 1. a3 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3 Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. exd4 d5 6. h3 Bf5 7. Bd3 Be4 8. Be3 e6 9. O-O Be7 10. Be2 h6 11. Nc3 O-O 12. Nxe4 dxe4 13. Ne5 Nd5 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Bc1 Qd6 16. g3 Bf6 17. c3 Rab8 18. Qc2 e3 19. Bf3 exf2+ 20. Qxf2 e5 21. Bxd5 Qxd5 22. dxe5 Bxe5 23. Be3 Qd7 24. Kh2 Qc7 25. Rad1 Rfe8 26. Bc5 Re6
Anderssen’s Opening – 1. a3 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3 Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. exd4 d5 6. h3 Bf5 7. Bd3 Be4 8. Be3 e6 9. O-O Be7 10. Be2 h6 11. Nc3 O-O 12. Nxe4 dxe4 13. Ne5 Nd5 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Bc1 Qd6 16. g3 Bf6 17. c3 Rab8 18. Qc2 e3 19. Bf3 exf2+ 20. Qxf2 e5 21. Bxd5 Qxd5 22. dxe5 Bxe5 23. Be3 Qd7 24. Kh2 Qc7 25. Rad1 Rfe8 26. Bc5 Re6

Bd4 could have reduced the threat on the diagonal that became powerful later in the game and helped Stockfish obtain a material edge and eventually go into a rook and pawn vs. rook endgame that eventually checkmated Komodo in 74 moves.

FAQs – Anderssen’s Opening: 1.a3

1. What is Anderssen’s Opening?

Anderssen’s Opening is a chess opening that begins with the move 1.a3. It is named after the 19th century German chess master Adolf Anderssen.

The opening move of 1.a3 aims to control the b4 square and to prepare for a potential expansion on the queen’s side.

2. What are the main strategic ideas behind Anderssen’s Opening?

Anderssen’s Opening does not aim to control the center immediately as is the norm with many other common openings.

Instead, it aims to avoid the well-trodden paths of opening theory, trying to get the opponent into less familiar territory.

The opening also prepares for a potential queenside expansion with b2-b4-b5, or it can support a future c2-c4 pawn thrust.

3. How effective is Anderssen’s Opening at the top level?

Anderssen’s Opening is not commonly played at the top level of competitive chess.

The main reason for this is that it does not fight for the center immediately, which is generally considered essential in chess strategy.

However, some players might choose it in games with less at stake to surprise their opponent or to steer the game towards less-explored territories.

In short, to get them out of their preparation.

4. What are some common responses to Anderssen’s Opening?

After 1.a3, Black has a wide range of reasonable responses.

The most straightforward approach is to occupy the center with 1…e5 or 1…d5. Other players might opt to mirror White’s move with 1…a6, aiming for a symmetrical setup.

5. Can I build a full opening repertoire around Anderssen’s Opening?

While you can certainly use Anderssen’s Opening as part of your repertoire, it is not generally recommended to base your entire opening repertoire around it.

The opening does not immediately challenge the center or develop the minor pieces, which are considered key principles in the opening.

It is more effective to have a diverse opening repertoire that includes openings which adhere to classical chess principles.

6. Is Anderssen’s Opening more tactical or positional in nature?

Anderssen’s Opening is often considered to be more positional in nature.

The opening often leads to closed positions, where the focus is more on pawn structure and maneuvering rather than tactical skirmishes.

However, the nature of the game can always change based on how both players decide to handle the position.

7. What are some famous games that featured Anderssen’s Opening?

One of the most notable games with Anderssen’s Opening is the game between Magnus Carlsen and Michael Adams at the London Chess Classic 2012, where Carlsen was able to secure a win with the unconventional opening.

However, it’s important to note that it’s not commonly seen in top-level play.

8. What are some recommended books or resources to study Anderssen’s Opening?

As Anderssen’s Opening is quite rare, there aren’t many books specifically dedicated to it.

However, general opening books that discuss a variety of less-common openings might include it.

Online databases provide extensive game databases and analysis tools that can be used to study this opening.


Anderssen’s Opening, with its characteristic move 1.a3, represents a chess opening that celebrates the richness of the game’s strategic diversity.

While it is not commonly used in top-tier competitive play, its unconventional nature provides an intriguing option for those looking to venture into less explored territories.

This opening may prove particularly useful for beginners and intermediates to learn and understand broader strategic concepts beyond the mainline openings.

It offers a valuable lesson in understanding that every move in chess, even a quiet pawn move to the edge of the board, can carry with it the potential for an interesting and dynamic game.

Despite its rarity at the grandmaster level, the Anderssen Opening serves as a reminder of the endless strategic possibilities that exist within the enchanting world of chess.

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